One thrust of the saber is worth a dozen cuts; and depend upon them more than upon the carbines and rifles.”
California Acquired by the United States, featuring a series of excerpts selected from Battles of the United States by Sea and Land by Henry B. Dawson published in 1858.
Previously in California Acquired by the United States. Now we continue.
It appeared that after the General had taken Santa Fe (on October 1st.) he had moved from that city with the regular cavalry which he had brought there. Soon afterward (October 7th.) he had reduced his force to one hundred men — sending the remainder back to Santa Fe — and after an interesting march overland, on December 3, 1846, he had reached Warner’s “rancheria”, the outpost of civilization in California. From there a letter had been dispatched to San Diego by Mr. Stokes, an Englishman who lived in a neighboring “rancheria”; and on the 4th the command had moved fifteen miles nearer to the city.
On the receipt of General Kearney’s letter, Commodore Stockton dispatched Captain Gillespie to meet him, with a letter of welcome. The Captain was accompanied by Lieutenant Beale, Midshipman Duncan, ten seamen, Captain Gibson’s company of riflemen (twenty-five men), and a fieldpiece; and on the 5th. he reached the General’s camp; when, having learned on his way that the insurgents were encamped at San Pasqual, nine miles from the camp, Lieutenant Hammond was sent out by General Kearney to reconnoiter the enemy’s position.
At a very early hour on the 6th. the troops were put in motion, Captain Johnston, with twelve dragoons, forming the advance-guard; the main body of the General’s party, under Captain Moore, following next; after which moved Captain Gillespie, with Captain Gibson and his small company; and Lieutenant Davidson, with the General’s howitzers brought up the rear. When the column had reached a hill which overlooked the valley of the San Pasqual, the insurgents’ encampment, it was halted, and the General gave the final orders to his command: “One thrust of the saber is worth a dozen cuts; and depend upon them more than upon the carbines and rifles.” Without further delay the column advanced down the hill; and as soon as Captain Johnston had struck the plain with his twelve dragoons, having mistaken the purport of an order from the General, he uttered a yell, and, without waiting for the support of the main body, dashed on the heavy ranks of the enemy, falling a victim of his own indiscretion.
The main body hastened, by a flank movement down the hill, to support the charge of the advance, and received the enemy’s fire from an Indian village on its right flank; but the enemy waited to do no further mischief, and fled from the charge of the advance before the line could be formed. Perceiving the defection of the enemy, Captain Moore, with a portion of his command, pursued the fugitives down the right of the valley, while Captain Gillespie, with his volunteers, did the same on the left side — the latter taking prisoner Pablo Beja, the insurgents’ second officer. In this pursuit, however, the ranks of the Americans were greatly broken; and as the Mexicans far outnumbered them, they soon afterward made a stand, using their lances with good effect. Captain Moore fell, pierced in the breast by nine lances; the General was severely wounded, and his life was saved, from an attack on his rear, by a ball from Lieutenant Emory. Captain Gillespie was attacked by seven Californians, received three wounds, and saved himself with great difficulty; Captain Gibson received two wounds; Lieutenant Hammond received nine lance wounds in the breast, and many others were severely injured. For five minutes the enemy held the ground; when, the main body of the Americans having come up, he again turned and fled.
In this spirited affair about eighty Americans were engaged; while of the Californians there is said to have been one hundred sixty, under Andreas Pico. Of the former, Captains Moore and Johnston, Lieutenant Hammond, and sixteen men were killed; and General Kearney, Captains Gillespie and Gibson, Lieutenant Warner, and eleven men were wounded; while of the latter it is said twenty-eight were killed and wounded.
The dead were buried as soon as night closed in; the wounded were properly attended to by the single surgeon who was with the party; and ambulances were prepared for their conveyance to San Diego, thirty-nine miles distant; and on the morning of the 7th the order to march was given — the column taking the right-hand road over the hills, and leaving the River San Bernardo to the left — the enemy retiring as it advanced. A proper regard for the comfort of the wounded compelled the column to move slowly, and it was afternoon before it reached the San Bernardo rancheria (Mr. Snook’s). After a short halt at that place the column moved down into the valley; and immediately afterward the hills on the rear of the column (around the rancheria) were covered with Californian horsemen, a portion of whom dashed at full speed past the Americans to occupy a hill which commanded the route of the latter, while the remainder of the party threatened the rear of the column. Thirty or forty of the enemy quickly occupied the hill referred to; and as the column came up six or eight Americans filed off to the left, and, under Lieutenant Emory, charged up the hill, when the Californians delivered their fire and fled, five of their number having been killed or wounded by the rifles of the assailants.
The wounded having been removed with great difficulty, the cattle having been lost, and the danger of losing the sick and the packs being great, the General determined to halt at that place and await the arrival of reinforcements, for which messengers had been sent to San Diego on the morning of the 6th. Accordingly the Americans occupied the high ground on which the action had been fought, bored holes for water, killed their fattest mules for meat, and awaited the arrival of their friends, until the morning of the 11th, when they were joined by one hundred seamen and eighty marines, under Lieutenant Gray, who had been sent out to meet them by Commodore Stockton; and, on the afternoon of the 12th, the combined parties entered the town in safety.