They next built fires about him and burned him out; but in doing so they did not capture or injure him, and he pushed through the mountains for Monterey . . . .
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.
While these difficulties were surrounding Captain Gillespie at Los Angeles, Lieutenant Talbot, at Santa Barbara with his nine men, was not less dangerously situated; and when the former had made terms with the insurgents, Manuel Garpio with two hundred men moved against Lieutenant Talbot, surrounded the town, and demanded his surrender, offering two hours for his deliberation. As the men had resolved that they would not give up their arms, and as the barracks were untenable with so small a force, the Lieutenant resolved to abandon the town and push for the hills; and, strange to say, he marshaled his men and marched out of the town without opposition — “those who lay on the road retreated to the main force, which was on the lower side of the town.”
Having reached the hills, he encamped, and remained there eight days, when the Californians endeavored to rout him out, but were repulsed with the loss of a horse. The insurgents then offered him his arms and freedom if he would engage to remain neutral in the anticipated hostilities, but “he sent word back that he preferred to fight.” They next built fires about him and burned him out; but in doing so they did not capture or injure him, and he pushed through the mountains for Monterey; and after a month’s travel, in which he endured unheard-of hardships and suffering, he reached that place in safety.
Intelligence of the insurrection having reached Commodore Stockton at San Francisco and Lieutenant-Colonel Fremont at Sacramento, both took immediate steps to check its progress and to punish the offenders. In conformity with the Commodore’s orders Lieutenant-Colonel Fremont hastened to San Francisco, whence he embarked, with one hundred sixty men, on the ship Sterling, for Santa Barbara, to which port the frigate Savannah (Captain Mervine) had previously been ordered; while, on the same day, the Commodore in person sailed for the same port in the Congress.
The latter vessel reached San Pedro on October 6th, and at sunrise on the 7th. Captain Mervine landed with his seamen and marines; and after being joined by Captain Gillespie and his brave-hearted little party, he found himself at the head of three hundred ten men, “as brave and as valiant as ever were led to battle upon any field.” At eight o’clock the party commenced its march toward Los Angeles, Captain Gillespie being in advance, and when the column reached the hills of Palo Verde the insurgents showed themselves and opened a fire with their “escopetas”. The march was rapid; and the jolly tars, unused to such extended journeys, appear to have suffered from its effects; in consequence of which, although the enemy gradually fell back before the advancing column, between one and two o’clock, when near the Rancho de los Domingos, fourteen miles from San Pedro, it became necessary to halt and encamp for the night.
As may have been expected, the sailors and marines were ashore, and the strict discipline which “the deck” had inculcated appears to have been left on board the frigate. As a necessary consequence the camp displayed but little of the order which such a locality should have insured; and many and marvelous were the adventures of that night; while, on the other hand, the enemy profited by the delay, by the moral effect of the disorder with which the march had been conducted, and by the entire absence of any artillery.
On the following morning at daylight the column was again put in motion; and with Captain Gillespie’s men in front, in still greater disorder than on the preceding day, it moved toward Los Angeles, twelve miles distant. It had marched only three miles, when, posted behind a small stream which intersected the line of march, the advance of the insurgents — seventy-six men, with a small fieldpiece, under Jose Antonio Carrillo — was discovered in front; and, as the column approached, a fire was opened on it, which was answered with a characteristic shout. The volunteers — Captain Gillespie’s command — pressed forward; and by taking advantage of the neighboring shelter they drove the enemy and compelled him to abandon his fieldpiece; but before it could be reached and taken possession of, Captain Mervine gave orders to withdraw. With great indignation, therefore, the volunteers discontinued the action, and after picking up his killed and wounded — harassed by the enemy who pressed after the column, and covered by the volunteers and sixteen marines, under Captain Gillespie — Captain Mervine slowly and sadly fell back to San Pedro, where he arrived about dark on the same day, “Thirteen noble tars were buried on the island in front of San Pedro,” the victims of this badly managed expedition.
On October 23rd. the Commodore reached San Pedro — Lieutenant-Colonel Fremont meanwhile having returned to Monterey–and on the 31st he sailed for San Diego, which had been invested by the insurgents and needed assistance. He reached that port a few days afterward; and, with the assistance of Captain Gillespie’s command, the besiegers were repelled, and a fort was erected to protect the town from similar troubles in future.
Strenuous efforts were made to obtain horses for the use of the troops, with some degree of success; and Commodore Stockton sailed toward San Pedro again. During this temporary absence of the Commodore the insurgents appear (on November 18, 1846) to have moved against San Diego a second time, and were again driven back by Captain Gillespie and the volunteers and marines under his command; and on December 3rd. a messenger came into the town bearing a letter from General Kearney, apprising the Commodore of his approach, and expressing a wish that a communication might be opened with him that he might be informed of the state of affairs in California.