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The Revolt of the Californios

With the departure of Commodore Sloat came an end to the mild occupation policy the Californios had previously enjoyed. Stockton declared martial law, and imposed a 10:00 curfew. Such restrictions did not well suit the easy-going Californios, although Stockton did give his subordinates considerable flexibility in enforcing American occupation policies. He made a mistake, however, in offering Captain Gillespie command of the Los Angeles garrison. Gillespie quickly proved a petty tyrant, enforcing martial law to its harshest and most unreasonable letter, and treating the civilians of the town like a population in rebellion.13 He arrested and personally convicted numerous citizens of minor offenses, such as selling liquor, walking in the street with another person and holding home meetings. Houses were searched and citizens imprisoned on the slighted suspicion.

Thus it is not surprising that the aggravated Californios did revolt, displaying a newfound martial rigor. They besieged Gillespie and his tiny garrison of 47 on a hill, and Gillespie was finally forced to capitulate, on the terms that he and his men would be able to march safely to San Pedro with weapons and military honors. The Californios, short on gunpowder and wanting to avoid an actual engagement, generously offered these terms, and thus the Americans evacuated towards San Pedro. However, in San Pedro, Gillespie met up with the captain of the American frigate USS Savannah, and a combined force of sailors and marines set off in a march back towards Los Angeles. The Americans soon came upon a force Californios, armed with a surprisingly effective brass gun, which had previously been used ceremoniously in the Los Angeles town plaza. This horse drawn mobile artillery piece proved impossible for the Americans on foot to capture, and thus they withdrew after suffering four men killed and another six wounded. Bloodied in the "Battle of Old Woman's Gun," also known as the Battle of San Pedro, they retreated and boarded the Savannah and sailed up the coast, leaving the Californio militia victorious.

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