The Battle of San Pasqual

The War with Mexico began in May 1846. The United States was, at this time, expanding its boundaries, which conflicted with Mexico, who had already laid claim to the land. The territory that was in conflict is , today , known as the states of Texas, New Mexico, and California. California, occupied by the Californios, proved to be a challenge for the United States, who had up to the point of occuping California had relatively no opposition in their quest for territory. For a history of the origins of the war, see The Mexican War from The History of Arizona, by Edward H. Peplow, Jr. The Californios choose to defend their homeland rather than turning it over to the United States. The First Dragoon's, the United States Army of the West, led by General Stephan Watts Kearny, proved to be no match for the Californios lancers. The First Dragoon's suffered many losses on their march to the Pacific Coast, their mules were nearly dead, and their horses were uncontrolable and unruly after the 100 mile march. On December 6, 1846, Kearny's army and the Lancers enagaged in a bloody battle at the Valley of San Pasqual. The First Dragoons were no match for the skilled Lancers. The United States suffered many casualties, and was entrenched on a hilltop for four days, as the lancers stopped the Dragoons advance into San Diego. It wasn't until naval reinforcements from San Diego, were the Dragoons able to march on to San Diego and complete their mission of territory in Los Angeles. Although the war for California was won by the United States, The Battle of San Pasqual proved to be an important victory for the Californios. Today there is a national park and museum dedicated to the Battle of San Pasqual.

Los Californios

Native Californians lassoing a steer by Auguste Ferra from>Bancroft Library
[click here for the large jpg image from >Bancroft Library, UCB at the Digital Library SunSITE ]

The Californios proved to be a unexpected threat to the Army of the West. With the leadership of Andres Pico, and the brave Californios soldiers, the Californios defeated the Army of the West at one of the most signifigant battles in The War with Mexico, The Battle of San Pasqual.

American Leaders

[picture of General Stephen Kearny from, "The Life of the Late Rear-Admiral John Drake Sloat", by Edwin A. Sherman]

Many American leaders contributed to the failure of the Battle of San Pasqual, however also, ultimately to the victory of Americans in conquering California. Three signifigant leaders were, President Polk, General Stephen Kearny, and Captain John C. Fremont.

The Battle of San Pasqual

[painting by Charles Waterhouse, courtesy of MCRD Command Museum, San Diego]

The Battle of San Pasqual took place between The Army of the West, lead by General Stephen W.Kearny, and the Californios, lead by Major Andres Pico. Although this battle was only one out of several battles fought in the War with Mexico, it proved to be very signifigant. The Army of the West was left weakened and defeated, by the unexpected and underestimated Californios.


[painting by Charles Waterhouse, courtesy of MCRD Command Museum, San Diego]

Although the Californios won the Battle of San Pasqual, the aftermath was that the Americans ultimately won in the end and aquired all of California.

San Pasqual Today

[The San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park Visitors Center]

Today the battlesite of San Pasqual has been preserved by the San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park , which includes a museum of artifacts, maps and displays related to the historic battle.


Johns, Sally Cavell. THE BATTLE OF SAN PASQUAL, University of San Diego Libaries, Alcala Park, San Diego 1973

Price, Peter. THE BATTLE AT SAN PASQUAL DEC. 6, 1846 & THE STRUGGLE FOR CALIFORNIA, Pembroke Publishers, P.O. Box 371428, San Diego, CA, 92137-1428

"The U.S. Marine's Role in the Conquest of California ," by Joe Rychetnik, in The Californians: The Magazine of California History, vol 13, no. 1.

"San Pasqual Reconsidered:An Unnecessary Battle," by Powell Harrison, in The Californians: The Magazine of California History, vol 13, no. 1.

This page was written May 1, 1996, by Sarah St. Pierre