Friday, September 17, 2010

California Historical Landmark #214

Site of Battle Between Forces Under General Vallejo
and San Joaquin Valley Indians

California State Historical Landmark #214

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This landmark is located at the Indian Valley Resort, 200 yards southeast of confluence of San Joaquin and Stanislaus Rivers on north bank of Stanislaus River, Salida, California. There are 24 other California State Historical Landmarks in San Joaquin County. The GPS coordinates for this location are N 37° 39.910 W 121° 14.440.

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California Historical Landmark #214

In 1829, the Governor-General of California directed Vallejo to punish the Cosumnes Indians for their raids on local ranches. The battle is one of the few fought in California in which cannons were actually used.

Hubert Howe Bancroft discusses this battle in his History of California, Chapter II of Volume III (1825-1840), published in 1886:

"In 1829 took place the somewhat famous campaigns against the native chieftain Estanislao, who has given his name to the Stanislaus river and county. Estanislao was a neophyte of more than ordinary ability, educated at Mission San José, of which establishment he was at one time alcalde. He ran away probably in 1827 or early in 1828, took refuge with a band of ex-neophytes and gentiles in the San Joaquin Valley, and with his chief associate, Cipriano, soon made himself famous by his daring. In November 1828 he was believed by the padres of San José and Santa Clara to be instigating a general rising among the neophytes, and Comandante Martinez was induced to send a force of twenty men against him. The expedition was not ready to start till May 1829, Estanislao in the mean time continuing his onslaughts and insulting challenges to the soldiers.

"On May 5th Alférez Sanchez left San Francisco with about forty men and a swivel-gun. On the morning of the 7th, his force having been increased at San José by the addition of vecinos and Indian auxiliaries, he reached the spot where the foe was posted in a thick wood on the river of the Laquisimes. The fight, opened by the enemy, raged all day, muskets being used on one side and arrows with a few muskets on the other. The swivel-gun proved to be damaged and ineffective, while the muskets of the foe were loaded with powder only. No advantage was gained, and at sunset Sanchez withdrew his men to a short distance. Next morning he divided his force into six parties of six men each. He stationed one to guard the horses and ammunition, and two others to protect the flanks and prevent the escape of the foe, while with the other three, under corporals Piña, Berreyesa, and Soto, he marched up to the edge of the wood. As before, the fight lasted all day, and as before, nothing was effected; though two of Piñia's men, who were so rash as to enter the wood, were killed. Ammunition being exhausted, the men tired out, and the weather excessively hot, the siege was abandoned, and Estanislao left unconquered. Two soldiers had been killed and eight wounded, while eleven of the Indian allies were also wounded, one of them mortally. About the losses of the foe nothing was known.

"A new expedition was prepared, for which the troops of San Francisco under Sanchez were joined to those of Monterey under Alferez Mariano G. Vallejo, who was also, by virtue of his superior rank, commander in chief of the army, now numbering one hundred and seven armed men. Vallejo had not yet had much experience as an Indian-fighter, but he had just returned from a campaign in the Tulares, in which with thirty- five men he had slain forty-eight Indians and suffered no casualties. Having crossed the San Joaquin River by means of rafts on May 29th, the army arrived next day at the scene of the former battle, where it was met as before by a cloud of arrows. The wood was found to be absolutely impenetrable, and Vallejo at once caused it to be set on fire, stationing his troops and his three-pounder on the opposite bank of the river. The fire brought the Indians to the edge of the thicket, where some of them were killed. At 5 P. M. Sanchez was sent with twenty-five men to attack the foe, and fought over two hours in the burning wood, retiring at dusk with three men wounded.

"Next morning at 9 o'clock Vallejo with thirty-seven men again entered the wood. He found a series of pits and ditches arranged with considerable skill, and protected by barricades of trees and brush. Evidently the Indians could never have been dislodged from such a stronghold except by the agency that had been employed. Traces of blood were found everywhere, and there were also discovered the bodies of the two soldiers killed in the previous battle. The enemy, however, had taken advantage of the darkness of night and had fled. Vallejo started in pursuit. He encamped that night on the Rio Laquisimes, and next morning surrounded a part of the fugitives in another thicket near their rancheria on the Arroyo Seco. Here there were some negotiations, but the Indians declared they would die rather than surrender, and late in the afternoon the attack was begun. A road was cut through the chaparral with axes, along which the field-piece and muskets were pressed forward and continually discharged. The foe retired slowly to their ditches and embankments in the centre, wounding eight of the advancing soldiers. When the cannon was close to the trenches the ammunition gave out, which fact, and the heat of the burning thicket, forced the men to retreat. During the night the besieged Indians tried to escape one by one, some succeeding, but many being killed. Next morning nothing was found but dead bodies and three living women. That day, June 1st, at noon, provisions being exhausted, Vallejo started for San José, where he arrived on the fourth.

"One phase of this campaign demands further notice. One of the contemporary narratives, the diary of Piña, represents that at least six of the captives, including three or four women found alive in the second thicket, were put to death, most of them by the order or with the consent of the commander. Osio in his history tells us that some captured leaders were shot or hanged to trees, and Padre Duran made a complaint, to which no attention was paid. Vallejo in his official report says nothing respecting the death of the captives. At the time, however, Vallejo was accused by Padre Duran, but claimed to be innocent. Echeandia ordered an investigation of the charge that three men and three women, not taken in battle, had been shot and then hanged; and the investigation was made. From the testimony the fiscal decided that only one man and one woman had been killed, the latter unjustifiably by the soldier Joaquin Alvarado, whose punishment was recommended. There is no doubt that in those, as in later times, to the Spaniards, as to other so-called civilized races, the life of an Indian was a slight affair, and in nearly all the expeditions outrages were committed; but it would require stronger evidence than exists in this case to justify any special blame to a particular officer."

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