LOS CALIFORNIOS


California became an easy target for America, because of Mexico's unstable government and policies. After the War of Independence of 1821, Mexico had severed all ties with Spain, and in dealing with their own problems back home, began to neglect California. The Californios lacked experience in government, however wanted to be independent and not be under control of a foreign power, like America. Pio Pico, the civil governor, controlled the northern part of the province that met in Los Angeles. Jose Castro, the military commandante, controlled the southern part of the province in Monterey. These two leaders had alot of animosity towards one another and began to raise armies to fight against one another, rather than uniting to fight against a foreign invasion.

On July 12, 1846 Pico with his army of one hundred soldiers met with Castro and his army just north of San Luis Obispo. The two leaders wanted to make an attempt at uniting their forces against the American Navy, who had just arrived in Monterey. This attempt failed and both armies marched separately to Los Angeles.

On August 7, Castro wrote Commodore Robert F. Stockton at his headquarters in Los Angeles, suggesting a willingness to end hostilities. Stockton in his reply said that a treaty could be made only on the condition that Castro raise the American flag over Los Angeles. Castro refused Stockton's proposal and evacuated Los Angeles the same day.

On August 10, Pio Pico decided, after the evacuation of Castro, to leave with his army back to Mexico. Before he left he told the Californios that the Mexican Army was "...completely lacking in all resources to carry on a war." He also pled with the people to not give in to America's promises for freedom and wealth.

Los Angeles was handed over to America with no opposition, following the departure of Castro and Pico, however lack of opposition to America did not last long for the Californios. Stockton had made Captain Archibald Gillespie the military commandant of Los Angeles and Gillespie's strict, harsh, nature did not sit well with the Californios. On September 30, a large group of Californios surrounded Gillespie and his men in the pueblo, and forced the army to retreat to San Pedro.

After their successful victory in Los Angeles the Californios elected Jose Maria Flores, a lieutenant-colonel, Jose Antonio Carrillo, a native Californian who served under Castro, and Andres Pico, a former lieutenant, as their leaders of their newly formed army. With these new leaders, especially the leadership of Andres Pico, the Californios united, trained, and became a real threat to America's Manifest Destiny.

By November, 1846, the Californios had gained back control of all the territory south of San Francisco, leaving America in control of just San Diego and Monterey. The Californios had many advantages over America that contributed to their victory at the Battle of San Pasqual on December 5. The Californios, for nearly two months, had harassed the Americans, and made very difficult for them to acquire livestock and supplies. The Californios were also fighting on their homeland, which made it easier for them to acquire their necessary supplies. Above all, the Californios were extremely skilled horseman and lancers, which made it very difficult for the weakened American soldiers to fight back. The Californios, in combination with their skills, also had courage and pride, which allowed them to fight and defend their homeland with everything in them.


1. Painting of a Californio, by Charles Waterhouse, courtesy of MCRD Command Museum, San Diego

2. Picture of Stockton, from The Life of the Late Rear-Admiral John Drake Sloat, by Edwin A. Sherman

3. Picture of Andres Pico, from The Life of the Late Rear-Admiral John Drake Sloat, by Edwin A. Sherman


Go to next page: American Leadership
The Battle Page
The Aftermath
San Pasqual Today
San Pasqual
Home Page