Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman


Text to Speech

EARLY RECOLLECTIONS OF CALIFORNIA--(CONTINUED).

1849-1850.

The department headquarters still remained at Monterey, but, with

the few soldiers, we had next to nothing to do. In midwinter we

heard of the approach of a battalion of the Second Dragoons, under

Major Lawrence Pike Graham, with Captains Rucker, Coutts, Campbell,

and others, along. So exhausted were they by their long march from

Upper Mexico that we had to send relief to meet them as they

approached. When this command reached Los Angeles, it was left

there as the garrison, and Captain A. J. Smith's company of the

First Dragoons was brought up to San Francisco. We were also

advised that the Second Infantry, Colonel B. Riley, would be sent

out around Cape Horn in sailing-ships; that the Mounted Rifles,

under Lieutenant-Colonel Loring, would march overland to Oregon;

and that Brigadier-General Persifer F. Smith would come out in

chief command on the Pacific coast. It was also known that a

contract had been entered into with parties in New York and New

Orleans for a monthly line of steamers from those cities to

California, via Panama. Lieutenant-Colonel Burton had come up from

Lower California, and, as captain of the Third Artillery, he was

assigned to command Company F, Third Artillery, at Monterey.

Captain Warner remained at Sacramento, surveying; and Halleck,

Murray, Ord, and I, boarded with Dona Augustias. The season was

unusually rainy and severe, but we passed the time with the usual

round of dances and parties. The time fixed for the arrival of the

mail-steamer was understood to be about January 1, 1849, but the

day came and went without any tidings of her. Orders were given to

Captain Burton to announce her arrival by firing a national

salute, and each morning we listened for the guns from the fort.

The month of January passed, and the greater part of February, too.

As was usual, the army officers celebrated the 22d of February with

a grand ball, given in the new stone school-house, which Alcalde

Walter Colton had built. It was the largest and best hall then in

California. The ball was really a handsome affair, and we kept it

up nearly all night. The next morning we were at breakfast:

present, Dona Augustias, and Manuelita, Halleck, Murray, and

myself. We were dull and stupid enough until a gun from the fort

aroused us, then another and another. "The steamer" exclaimed all,

and, without waiting for hats or any thing, off we dashed. I

reached the wharf hatless, but the dona sent my cap after me by a

servant. The white puffs of smoke hung around the fort, mingled

with the dense fog, which hid all the water of the bay, and well

out to sea could be seen the black spars of some unknown vessel.

At the wharf I found a group of soldiers and a small row-boat,

which belonged to a brig at anchor in the bay. Hastily ordering a

couple of willing soldiers to get in and take the oars, and Mr.

Larkin and Mr. Hartnell asking to go along, we jumped in and pushed

off. Steering our boat toward the spars, which loomed up above the

fog clear and distinct, in about a mile we came to the black hull

of the strange monster, the long-expected and most welcome steamer

California. Her wheels were barely moving, for her pilot could not

see the shore-line distinctly, though the hills and Point of Pines

could be clearly made out over the fog, and occasionally a glimpse

of some white walls showed where the town lay. A "Jacob's ladder"

was lowered for us from the steamer, and in a minute I scrambled up

on deck, followed by Larkin and Hartnell, and we found ourselves in

the midst of many old friends. There was Canby, the adjutant-

general, who was to take my place; Charley Hoyt, my cousin; General

Persifer F. Smith and wife; Gibbs, his aide-de-camp; Major Ogden,

of the Engineers, and wife; and, indeed, many old Californians,

among them Alfred Robinson, and Frank Ward with his pretty bride.

By the time the ship was fairly at anchor we had answered a million

of questions about gold and the state of the country; and, learning

that the ship was out of fuel, had informed the captain (Marshall)

that there was abundance of pine-wood, but no willing hands to cut

it; that no man could be hired at less than an ounce of gold a day,

unless the soldiers would volunteer to do it for some agreed-upon

price. As for coal, there was not a pound in Monterey, or anywhere

else in California. Vessels with coal were known to be en route

around Cape Horn, but none had yet reached California.

The arrival of this steamer was the beginning of a new epoch on the

Pacific coast; yet there she lay, helpless, without coal or fuel.

The native Californians, who had never seen a steamship, stood for

days on the beach looking at her, with the universal exclamation,

"Tan feo!"--how ugly!--and she was truly ugly when compared with

the clean, well-sparred frigates and sloops-of-war that had

hitherto been seen on the North Pacific coast. It was first

supposed it would take ten days to get wood enough to prosecute her

voyage, and therefore all the passengers who could took up their

quarters on shore. Major Canby relieved me, and took the place I

had held so long as adjutant-general of the Department of

California. The time seemed most opportune for me to leave the

service, as I had several splendid offers of employment and of

partnership, and, accordingly, I made my written resignation; but

General Smith put his veto upon it, saying that he was to command

the Division of the Pacific, while General Riley was to have the

Department of California, and Colonel Loring that of Oregon. He

wanted me as his adjutant-general, because of my familiarity with

the country, and knowledge of its then condition: At the time, he

had on his staff Gibbs as aide-de-camp, and Fitzgerald as

quartermaster. He also had along with him quite a retinue of

servants, hired with a clear contract to serve him for a whole year

after reaching California, every one of whom deserted, except a

young black fellow named Isaac. Mrs. Smith, a pleasant but

delicate Louisiana lady, had a white maid-servant, in whose

fidelity she had unbounded confidence; but this girl was married to

a perfect stranger, and off before she had even landed in San

Francisco. It was, therefore, finally arranged that, on the

California, I was to accompany General Smith to San Francisco as

his adjutant-general. I accordingly sold some of my horses, and

arranged for others to go up by land; and from that time I became

fairly enlisted in the military family of General Persifer F.

Smith.

I parted with my old commander, Colonel Mason, with sincere regret.

To me he had ever been kind and considerate, and, while stern,

honest to a fault, he was the very embodiment of the principle of

fidelity to the interests of the General Government. He possessed

a native strong intellect, and far more knowledge of the principles

of civil government and law than he got credit for. In private and

public expenditures he was extremely economical, but not penurious.

In cases where the officers had to contribute money for parties and

entertainments, he always gave a double share, because of his

allowance of double rations. During our frequent journeys, I was

always caterer, and paid all the bills. In settling with him he

required a written statement of the items of account, but never

disputed one of them. During our time, California was, as now,

full of a bold, enterprising, and speculative set of men, who were

engaged in every sort of game to make money. I know that Colonel-

Mason was beset by them to use his position to make a fortune for

himself and his friends; but he never bought land or town-lots,

because, he said, it was his place to hold the public estate for

the Government as free and unencumbered by claims as possible; and

when I wanted him to stop the public-land sales in San Francisco,

San Jose, etc., he would not; for, although he did not believe the

titles given by the alcaldes worth a cent, yet they aided to settle

the towns and public lands, and he thought, on the whole, the

Government would be benefited thereby. The same thing occurred as

to the gold-mines. He never took a title to a town lot, unless it

was one, of no real value, from Alcalde Colton, in Monterey, of

which I have never heard since. He did take a share in the store

which Warner, Beator, and I, opened at Coloma, paid his share of

the capital, five hundred dollars, and received his share of the

profits, fifteen hundred dollars. I think also he took a share in

a venture to China with Larkin and others; but, on leaving

California, he was glad to sell out without profit or loss. In the

stern discharge of his duty he made some bitter enemies, among them

Henry M. Naglee, who, in the newspapers of the day, endeavored to

damage his fair name. But, knowing him intimately, I am certain

that he is entitled to all praise for having so controlled the

affairs of the country that, when his successor arrived, all things

were so disposed that a civil form of government was an easy matter

of adjustment. Colonel Mason was relieved by General Riley some

time in April, and left California in the steamer of the 1st May

for Washington and St. Louis, where he died of cholera in the

summer of 1850, and his body is buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery.

His widow afterward married Major (since General) Don Carlos Buell,

and is now living in Kentucky.

In overhauling the hold of the steamer California, as she lay at

anchor in Monterey Bay, a considerable amount of coal was found

under some heavy duplicate machinery. With this, and such wood as

had been gathered, she was able to renew her voyage. The usual

signal was made, and we all went on board. About the 1st of March

we entered the Heads, and anchored off San Francisco, near the

United States line-of-battle-ship Ohio, Commodore T. Catesby Jones.

As was the universal custom of the day, the crew of the California

deserted her; and she lay for months unable to make a trip back to

Panama, as was expected of her. As soon as we reached San

Francisco, the first thing was to secure an office and a house to

live in. The weather was rainy and stormy, and snow even lay on

the hills back of the Mission. Captain Folsom, the quartermaster,

agreed to surrender for our office the old adobe custom house, on

the upper corner of the plaza, as soon as he could remove his

papers and effects down to one of his warehouses on the beach; and

he also rented for us as quarters the old Hudson Bay Company house

on Montgomery Street, which had been used by Howard & Mellua as a

store, and at that very time they were moving their goods into a

larger brick building just completed for them. As these changes

would take some time, General Smith and Colonel Ogden, with their

wives, accepted the hospitality offered by Commodore Jones on board

the Ohio. I opened the office at the custom house, and Gibbs,

Fitzgerald, and some others of us, slept in the loft of the Hudson

Bay Company house until the lower part was cleared of Howard's

store, after which General Smith and the ladies moved in. There we

had a general mess, and the efforts at house-keeping were simply

ludicrous. One servant after another, whom General Smith had

brought from New Orleans, with a solemn promise to stand by him for

one whole year, deserted without a word of notice or explanation,

and in a few days none remained but little Isaac. The ladies had

no maid or attendants; and the general, commanding all the mighty

forces of the United States on the Pacific coast, had to scratch to

get one good meal a day for his family! He was a gentleman of fine

social qualities, genial and gentle, and joked at every thing.

Poor Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Ogden did not bear it so philosophically.

Gibbs, Fitzgerald, and I, could cruise around and find a meal,

which cost three dollars, at some of the many restaurants which had

sprung up out of red-wood boards and cotton lining; but the general

and ladies could not go out, for ladies were rara aves at that day

in California. Isaac was cook, chamber-maid, and everything,

thoughtless of himself, and struggling, out of the slimmest means,

to compound a breakfast for a large and hungry family. Breakfast

would be announced any time between ten and twelve, and dinner

according to circumstances. Many a time have I seen General Smith,

with a can of preserved meat in his hands, going toward the house,

take off his hat on meeting a negro, and, on being asked the reason

of his politeness, he would answer that they were the only real

gentlemen in California. I confess that the fidelity of Colonel

Mason's boy "Aaron," and of General Smith's boy "Isaac," at a time

when every white man laughed at promises as something made to be

broken, has given me a kindly feeling of respect for the negroes,

and makes me hope that they will find an honorable "status" in the

jumble of affairs in which we now live.

That was a dull hard winter in San Francisco; the rains were heavy,

and the mud fearful. I have seen mules stumble in the street, and

drown in the liquid mud! Montgomery Street had been filled up with

brush and clay, and I always dreaded to ride on horseback along it,

because the mud was so deep that a horse's legs would become

entangled in the bushes below, and the rider was likely to be

thrown and drowned in the mud. The only sidewalks were made of

stepping-stones of empty boxes, and here and there a few planks

with barrel-staves nailed on. All the town lay along Montgomery

Street, from Sacramento to Jackson, and about the plaza. Gambling

was the chief occupation of the people. While they were waiting

for the cessation of the rainy season, and for the beginning of

spring, all sorts of houses were being put up, but of the most

flimsy kind, and all were stores, restaurants, or gambling

-saloons. Any room twenty by sixty feet would rent for a thousand

dollars a month. I had, as my pay, seventy dollars a month, and no

one would even try to hire a servant under three hundred dollars.

Had it not been for the fifteen hundred dollars I had made in the

store at Coloma, I could not have lived through the winter. About

the 1st of April arrived the steamer Oregon; but her captain

(Pearson) knew what was the state of affairs on shore, and ran his

steamer alongside the line-of-battle-ship Ohio at Saucelito, and

obtained the privilege of leaving his crew on board as "prisoners"

until he was ready to return to sea. Then, discharging his

passengers and getting coal out of some of the ships which had

arrived, he retook his crew out of limbo and carried the first

regular mail back to Panama early in April. In regular order

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