Monday, August 8, 2011

Rio San Gabriel Battlefield

Los Angeles County, May 25, 1995

Out in Montebello just a hair down Bluff road from the intersection with Washington Blvd. and by the Rio Hondo bike path, lies the marker along with two cannon that signify Mexico’s last stand in California. The area is still a river bed with plenty of vacant lots for re-enactors to stage their annual shindig.


After the battle of San Pasqual, the battered Army of the West commanded by General Stephen W. Kearny went to the headquarters of Commodore Robert F. Stockton at San Diego. That previous December, Kearny’s men holed up on Mule Hill, where they lost 17 men and forced to eat their mules to stay alive while Kit Carson and Edward Beale snuck off and got help from San Diego. Stockton's next objective was to recapture Ciudad de Los Angeles. That settlement had been previously captured by Stockton's forces, but was left in the command of Lieutenant Archibald Gillespie and had been lost to the Mexicans milita, commanded by General José Mariá Flores.

Kearny and Stockton initially disputed command. Although Kearny had rank and superior orders from the War Department, he had previously sent most of his troops back to Santa Fe, believing that the war in California was over. Stockton had a larger force, and knew the area, so Kearny did not initially dispute Stockton's command of the campaign to recapture Los Angeles, which departed San Diego in late December with Stockton's force of over 500 seamen and marines, as well as Kearny's remaining force of about sixty dragoons.

In ‘odd couple’ fashion, Kearny ordered the artillery to cover the crossing but Stockton countered the order and began to move across the river. The crossing proved to be especially difficult as Flores was in a good position to contest the crossing from the heights across the river and the ford had patches of quicksand at the bottom of the knee deep water.The U.S. force came under fire as it crossed, but due to poor ammunition and bad aim the Mexican artillery proved to be ineffective. Stockton directed the artillery, which silenced both Mexican cannon. The left flank took a Mexican hilltop position and held it against a counterattack. Then the whole main position charged forward shouting "New Orleans, New Orleans" in honor of Andrew Jackson's victory there in the war of 1812. The charge took the heights and Flores withdrew in good order. The battle had lasted only an hour and a half, but it was decisive in the campaign for Los Angeles. Even though the battle of New Orleans was 31 years prior, it still seems like the word was yet out that that battle took place weeks after a treaty was signed.  

NO. 385 RIO SAN GABRIEL BATTLEFIELD - Near this site on January 8, 1847, American forces commanded by Captain Robert F. Stockton, U.S. Navy, Commander in Chief, and Brigadier General Stephen W. Kearney, U.S. Army, fought Californians commanded by General José María Flores in the Battle of the Río San Gabriel.
Location: NE corner of Washington Blvd and Bluff Rd, Montebello
Los Angeles County, May 25, 1995
Google 33.992059,-118.11122

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