Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

and, on hailing, were answered by voices which directed us where to

cross. Our knowledge of the language was limited, but we managed

to understand, and to founder through the sand and water, and

reached a small adobe-house on the banks of the Salinas, where we

spent the night: The house was a single room, without floor or

glass; only a rude door, and window with bars. Not a particle of

food but meat, yet the man and woman entertained us with the

language of lords put themselves, their house, and every thing, at

our "disposition," and made little barefoot children dance for our

entertainment. We made our supper of beef, and slept on a

bullock's hide on the dirt-floor. In the morning we crossed the

Salinas Plain, about fifteen miles of level ground, taking a shot

occasionally at wild-geese, which abounded there, and entering the

well-wooded valley that comes out from the foot of the Gavillano.

We had cruised about all day, and it was almost dark when we

reached the house of a Senor Gomez, father of those who at Monterey

had performed the parts of Adam and Eve. His house was a two-story

adobe, and had a fence in front. It was situated well up among the

foot-hills of the Gavillano, and could not be seen until within a

few yards. We hitched our horses to the fence and went in just as

Gomez was about to sit down to a tempting supper of stewed hare and

tortillas. We were officers and caballeros and could not be

ignored. After turning our horses to grass, at his invitation we

joined him at supper. The allowance, though ample for one, was

rather short for three, and I thought the Spanish grandiloquent

politeness of Gomez, who was fat and old, was not over-cordial.

However, down we sat, and I was helped to a dish of rabbit, with

what I thought to be an abundant sauce of tomato. Taking a good

mouthful, I felt as though I had taken liquid fire; the tomato was

chile colorado, or red pepper, of the purest kind. It nearly

killed me, and I saw Gomez's eyes twinkle, for he saw that his

share of supper was increased.--I contented myself with bits of

the meat, and an abundant supply of tortillas. Ord was better

case-hardened, and stood it better. We staid at Gomez's that

night, sleeping, as all did, on the ground, and the next morning we

crossed the hill by the bridle-path to the old Mission of San Juan

Bautista. The Mission was in a beautiful valley, very level, and

bounded on all sides by hills. The plain was covered with

wild-grasses and mustard, and had abundant water. Cattle and

horses were seen in all directions, and it was manifest that the

priests who first occupied the country were good judges of land.

It was Sunday, and all the people, about, a hundred, had come to

church from the country round about. Ord was somewhat of a

Catholic, and entered the church with his clanking spars and

kneeled down, attracting the attention of all, for he had on the

uniform of an American officer. As soon as church was out, all

rushed to the various sports. I saw the priest, with his gray

robes tucked up, playing at billiards, others were cock fighting,

and some at horse-racing. My horse had become lame, and I resolved

to buy another. As soon as it was known that I wanted a horse,

several came for me, and displayed their horses by dashing past and

hauling them up short. There was a fine black stallion that

attracted my notice, and, after trying him myself, I concluded a

purchase. I left with the seller my own lame horse, which he was

to bring to me at Monterey, when I was to pay him ten dollars for

the other. The Mission of San Juan bore the marks of high

prosperity at a former period, and had a good pear-orchard just

under the plateau where stood the church. After spending the day,

Ord and I returned to Monterey, about thirty-five miles, by a

shorter route, Thus passed the month of February, and, though there

were no mails or regular expresses, we heard occasionally from

Yerba Buena and Sutter's Fort to the north, and from the army and

navy about Los Angeles at the south. We also knew that a quarrel

had grown up at Los Angeles, between General Kearney, Colonel

Fremont, and Commodore Stockton, as to the right to control affairs

in California. Kearney had with him only the fragments of the two

companies of dragoons, which had come across from New Mexico with

him, and had been handled very roughly by Don Andreas Pico, at San

Pascual, in which engagement Captains Moore and Johnson, and

Lieutenant Hammond, were killed, and Kearney himself wounded.

There remained with him Colonel Swords, quartermaster; Captain H.

S. Turner, First Dragoons; Captains Emory and Warner, Topographical

Engineers; Assistant Surgeon Griffin, and Lieutenant J. W.

Davidson. Fremont had marched down from the north with a battalion

of volunteers; Commodore Stockton had marched up from San Diego to

Los Angeles, with General Kearney, his dragoons, and a battalion of

sailors and marines, and was soon joined there by Fremont, and they

jointly received the surrender of the insurgents under Andreas

Pico. We also knew that General R. B. Mason had been ordered to

California; that Colonel John D. Stevenson was coming out to

California with a regiment of New York Volunteers; that Commodore

Shubrick had orders also from the Navy Department to control

matters afloat; that General Kearney, by virtue of his rank, had

the right to control all the land-forces in the service of the

United States; and that Fremont claimed the same right by virtue of

a letter he had received from Colonel Benton, then a Senator, and a

man of great influence with Polk's Administration. So that among

the younger officers the query was very natural, "Who the devil is

Governor of California?" One day I was on board the Independence

frigate, dining with the ward-room officers, when a war-vessel was

reported in the offing, which in due time was made out to be the

Cyane, Captain DuPont. After dinner, we were all on deck, to watch

the new arrival, the ships meanwhile exchanging signals, which were

interpreted that General Kearney was on board. As the Cyane

approached, a boat was sent to meet her, with Commodore Shubrick's

flag-officer, Lieutenant Lewis, to carry the usual messages, and to

invite General Kearney to come on board the Independence as the

guest of Commodore Shubrick. Quite a number of officers were on

deck, among them Lieutenants Wise, Montgomery Lewis, William

Chapman, and others, noted wits and wags of the navy. In due time

the Cyane anchored close by, and our boat was seen returning with a

stranger in the stern-sheets, clothed in army blue. As the boat

came nearer, we saw that it was General Kearney with an old dragoon

coat on, and an army-cap, to which the general had added the broad

vizor, cut from a full-dress hat, to shade his face and eyes

against the glaring sun of the Gila region. Chapman exclaimed:

"Fellows, the problem is solved; there is the grand-vizier (visor)

by G-d! He is Governor of California."

All hands received the general with great heartiness, and he soon

passed out of our sight into the commodore's cabin. Between

Commodore Shubrick and General Kearney existed from that time

forward the greatest harmony and good feeling, and no further

trouble existed as to the controlling power on the Pacific coast.

General Kearney had dispatched from San Diego his quartermaster,

Colonel Swords, to the Sandwich Islands, to purchase clothing and

stores for his men, and had come up to Monterey, bringing with him

Turner and Warner, leaving Emory and the company of dragoons below.

He was delighted to find a full strong company of artillery,

subject to his orders, well supplied with clothing and money in all

respects, and, much to the disgust of our Captain Tompkins, he took

half of his company clothing and part of the money held by me for

the relief of his worn-out and almost naked dragoons left behind at

Los Angeles. In a few days he moved on shore, took up his quarters

at Larkin's house, and established his headquarters, with Captain

Turner as his adjutant general. One day Turner and Warner were at

my tent, and, seeing a store-bag full of socks, drawers, and calico

shirts, of which I had laid in a three years' supply, and of which

they had none, made known to me their wants, and I told them to

help themselves, which Turner and Warner did. The latter, however,

insisted on paying me the cost, and from that date to this Turner

and I have been close friends. Warner, poor fellow, was afterward

killed by Indians. Things gradually came into shape, a semi-

monthly courier line was established from Yerba Buena to San Diego,

and we were thus enabled to keep pace with events throughout the

country. In March Stevenson's regiment arrived. Colonel Mason

also arrived by sea from Callao in the store-ship Erie, and P. St.

George Cooke's battalion of Mormons reached San Luis Rey. A. J.

Smith and George Stoneman were with him, and were assigned to the

company of dragoons at Los Angeles. All these troops and the navy

regarded General Kearney as the rightful commander, though Fremont

still remained at Los Angeles, styling himself as Governor, issuing

orders and holding his battalion of California Volunteers in

apparent defiance of General Kearney. Colonel Mason and Major

Turner were sent down by sea with a paymaster, with muster-rolls

and orders to muster this battalion into the service of the United

States, to pay and then to muster them out; but on their reaching

Los Angeles Fremont would not consent to it, and the controversy

became so angry that a challenge was believed to have passed

between Mason and Fremont, but the duel never came about. Turner

rode up by land in four or five days, and Fremont, becoming

alarmed, followed him, as we supposed, to overtake him, but he did

not succeed. On Fremont's arrival at Monterey, he camped in a tent

about a mile out of town and called on General Kearney, and it was

reported that the latter threatened him very severely and ordered

him back to Los Angeles immediately, to disband his volunteers, and

to cease the exercise of authority of any kind in the country.

Feeling a natural curiosity to see Fremont, who was then quite

famous by reason of his recent explorations and the still more

recent conflicts with Kearney and Mason, I rode out to his camp,

and found him in a conical tent with one Captain Owens, who was a

mountaineer, trapper, etc., but originally from Zanesville, Ohio.

I spent an hour or so with Fremont in his tent, took some tea with

him, and left, without being much impressed with him. In due time

Colonel Swords returned from the Sandwich Islands and relieved me

as quartermaster. Captain William G. Marcy, son of the Secretary

of War, had also come out in one of Stevenson's ships as an

assistant commissary of subsistence, and was stationed at Monterey

and relieved me as commissary, so that I reverted to the condition

of a company-officer. While acting as a staff officer I had lived

at the custom-house in Monterey, but when relieved I took a tent

in line with the other company-officers on the hill, where we had a


Stevenson'a regiment reached San Francisco Bay early in March,

1847. Three companies were stationed at the Presidio under Major

James A. Hardier one company (Brackett's) at Sonoma; three, under

Colonel Stevenson, at Monterey; and three, under Lieutenant-Colonel

Burton, at Santa Barbara. One day I was down at the headquarters

at Larkin's horse, when General Kearney remarked to me that he was

going down to Los Angeles in the ship Lexington, and wanted me to

go along as his aide. Of course this was most agreeable to me.

Two of Stevenson's companies, with the headquarters and the

colonel, were to go also. They embarked, and early in May we

sailed for San Pedro. Before embarking, the United States

line-of-battle-ship Columbus had reached the coast from China with

Commodore Biddle, whose rank gave him the supreme command of the

navy on the coast. He was busy in calling in--"lassooing "--from

the land-service the various naval officers who under Stockton had

been doing all sorts of military and civil service on shore.

Knowing that I was to go down the coast with General Kearney, he

sent for me and handed me two unsealed parcels addressed to

Lieutenant Wilson, United States Navy, and Major Gillespie, United

States Marines, at Los Angeles. These were written orders pretty

much in these words: "On receipt of this order you will repair at

once on board the United States ship Lexington at San Pedro, and on

reaching Monterey you will report to the undersigned.-JAMES

BIDDLE." Of course, I executed my part to the letter, and these

officers were duly "lassooed." We sailed down the coast with a

fair wind, and anchored inside the kelp, abreast of Johnson's

house. Messages were forthwith dispatched up to Los Angeles,

twenty miles off, and preparations for horses made for us to ride

up. We landed, and, as Kearney held to my arm in ascending the

steep path up the bluff, he remarked to himself, rather than to me,

that it was strange that Fremont did not want to return north by

the Lexington on account of sea-sickness, but preferred to go by

land over five hundred miles. The younger officers had been

discussing what the general would do with Fremont, who was supposed

to be in a state of mutiny. Some, thought he would be tried and

shot, some that he would be carried back in irons; and all agreed

that if any one else than Fremont had put on such airs, and had

acted as he had done, Kearney would have shown him no mercy, for he

was regarded as the strictest sort of a disciplinarian. We had a

pleasant ride across the plain which lies between the seashore and

Los Angeles, which we reached in about three hours, the infantry

following on foot. We found Colonel P. St. George Cooke living at

the house of a Mr. Pryor, and the company of dragoons, with A. J.

Smith, Davidson, Stoneman, and Dr. Griffin, quartered in an

adobe-house close by. Fremont held his court in the only two-story

frame-house in the place. After sometime spent at Pryor's house,

General Kearney ordered me to call on Fremont to notify him of his

arrival, and that he desired to see him. I walked round to the

house which had been pointed out to me as his, inquired of a man at

the door if the colonel was in, was answered "Yea," and was

conducted to a large room on the second floor, where very soon

Fremont came in, and I delivered my message. As I was on the point

of leaving, he inquired where I was going to, and I answered that I

was going back to Pryor's house, where the general was, when he

remarked that if I would wait a moment he would go along. Of

course I waited, and he soon joined me, dressed much as a

Californian, with the peculiar high, broad-brimmed hat, with a

fancy cord, and we walked together back to Pryor's, where I left

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