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The Defeat of the Californios

Tremendous tension existed from the beginning between the Kearny and the Stockton. Due to poor communications with Washington, and conflicting orders from the War and Navy Departments, it was unclear who exactly was in command. Kearny, a brevet Brigadier General, possessed superiority in rank, but Stockton, with his four capital ships, sailors, marines, and technically the California Battalion, (although Frémont was somewhat of a free agent) had more forces under his direct authority, compared to Kearny and his battered battalion of less than 100 dragoons. Although fierce conflict later arose between the two men about the establishment of a military government, the urgency of the situation produced a compromise. Stockton would be technically the "commander-in-chief," but Kearny would be the commander of forces on the ground. This suited Stockton well, as he had no experience in land warfare, and was relying on Kearny to drill his sailors into makeshift infantrymen. For Kearny came the honor of being the general in the field, who could take immediate credit for any victories won (although he refused to accept any blame for his conduct at San Pascual). 15

After several months of training and preparations, the Americans were ready to march on Los Angeles, and their superior force and weaponry would bring about a rapid end to the revolt. The Californio cavalry was repelled at in a sharp engagement at San Gabriel, and finally routed on the plains of Los Angeles in the Battle of Mesa. Kearny and Stockton thus occupied Los Angeles, and the Californios retreated north. Meanwhile, Frémont and his battalion, which had recently suffered defeat in a sharp skirmish at La Natividad, had been advancing ponderously southward from San Juan after pausing to refit and recruit. The Californios, realizing that they were stuck in between two sizable American forces, elected to surrender. Their leaders approached Frémont, and on January 13th, 1847 signed Articles of Capitulation at Cahuenga Pass, brining the revolt to an end. Although Frémont could have executed many of the participants of the revolt, violators of military parole, he generously and wisely chose to extend a general pardon to all of the rebels.

The revolt of the Californios was rather representative of both the mindset and political loyalties of the Californio populace. It was more of an attempt to retain their machismo image than to actually expel the Americans. Many Californios were dismayed when their self-appointed leader, the Mexican Jose Maria Flores, spoke of fighting to the death for the sake of their distant country, and there was even a brief mutiny against Flores harsh military leadership. Most Californios fought to defend their honor, which they felt had been impugned by the American occupation policies. Having put up a good show at Los Angeles, San Pedro, La Natividad and San Pasqual, they laid down their arms and once again submitted before the superior American force.

Thus, by the end of the first month of 1847, the Americans were in possession of all the vital bays and harbors of California, the British had been ruled out as a threat, and all Californio resistance had been permanently eliminated. The United States had effectively conquered California.

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