Alta Hensley Biography & Facts
The California Battalion (also called the first California Volunteer Militia and U.S. Mounted Rifles) was formed during the Mexican–American War (1846–1848) in present-day California, United States. It was led by U.S. Army brevet lieutenant colonel John C. Fremont and composed of his cartographers, scouts and hunters and the California Volunteer Militia formed after the Bear Flag Revolt. The battalion's formation was officially authorized by Commodore Robert F. Stockton, commanding officer of the U.S. Navy Pacific Squadron.
Hostilities between U.S. and Mexican forces had been underway in Texas since April 1846 resulting in a formal declaration of war on 13 May 1846, by the U.S. Congress. On 17 May 1846, unofficial word reached the U.S. Navy fleet of four vessels at anchor in the harbor of Mazatlán, Mexico, and that hostilities had begun between Mexico and the United States. Commodore John D. Sloat, commander of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Squadron, dispatched his flagship, the frigate USS Savannah, and the Sloop USS Levant to Monterey harbor where they arrived on 2 July 1846. The Pacific Squadron captured Monterey, California on 7 July 1846 and began taking over the ports in Alta California. The Bear Flag Revolt was converted into a U.S. occupation of California and the Bear Flag was replaced by the Stars and Stripes.
In 1846, U.S. Marine Lieutenant Archibald H. Gillespie was sent by President James K. Polk with secret verbal messages to the U.S. Consul Thomas O. Larkin in Alta California's Capital in Monterey, Commodore John D. Sloat commanding the Pacific Squadron and U.S. Army Captain John C. Frémont doing cartography work in California. Traveling secretly across Mexico, Lt. Gillespe caught a ship from Mexico to Monterey, California where he delivered his messages to Thomas Larkin and Sloat. Finding that Fremont was on his way to Oregon he borrowed a horse and hurried north where he caught up with Fremont's party near what is now the Oregon border. After delivering his messages, Gillespie and Frémont with his about 30 U.S. Army Cartographers, etc. and 30 scouts and hunters turned around and headed back to California where Frémont spurred on and took over the command of the Bear Flag Revolt of California. Frémont signed up American immigrants into California at Sutter's Fort who were willing to fight for independence from Mexico. Frémont was the only army officer in California after the outbreak of the Mexican–American War. He and his volunteer California battalion took over Sonoma, followed by the creation of the Bear Flag Republic. When it became clear that the U.S. Navy was taking action to secure California, the Bear Flag Revolt was converted into a U.S. military action.
Since there was no U.S. Army present in Alta California except Fremont's few cartographers (and wouldn't be until December 1846), Stockton needed additional men to garrison and help keep the peace in the various California towns rapidly coming into U.S. control. Stockton had three frigates with a crew of 480 each, three to four sloops with a crew of 200 men each plus three store ships at his disposal. The marines on his ships were used mostly to board or repel boarders or engage in close in ship to ship fighting and were trained in infantry tactics. The marines and some sailors could be reassigned shore duties and while leaving the ships short handed but still functional. He looked to employ his reassigned 300-400 marines and blue-jacket sailors only where needed.
Battalion in Mexican American War
The California Battalion was officially authorized a few days later on 23 July 1846 under Commodore Robert F. Stockton (U.S. Navy), the senior military officer in California who replaced Sloat in July 1846. Frémont was given the (brevet) rank of Lieutenant Colonel with U. S. Marine Lieutenant Archibald Gillespie, second in command, promoted to major. Commodore Stockton was in charge of the Pacific Squadron of the U.S. Navy that occupied Monterey, California on 7 July 1846 and Yerba Buena (to be renamed San Francisco) on 9 July 1846.
A compact was drawn in early July 1846 for all volunteers to sign, which in part read: "Not to violate the chastity of Women; conduct their revolution honorably; and pledge obedience to their officers." With the signatures or marks of the men, the California Battalion was formed. On formation of the battalion, Frémont requested the Battalion's volunteers to elect their officers from the ranks. Most were emigrants over the California Trail of 1845 and members of Fremont's own exploration party. Frémont's men were officially mustered into the armed forces on 23 July 1846 and authorized $25.00/month pay. The approximate 34 Mission Indians eventually part of the battalion's roster were paid with trade goods as was customary then. The men in the battalion were all volunteers formed from the 60 men of Captain Frémont's Corps of Topographical Engineers (roughly half were soldiers the rest Indians and mountain men) and initially from the Bear Flag Republic members from Sutter's Fort who had started the rebellion in California. There were volunteers from several nationalities including several Californios and a company of Indians from Sutter's Fort who were more than happy to get rid of the dysfunctional Mexican and Californios government.The first job given to the California Battalion and was to assist in the capture of San Diego and Pueblo de Los Angeles. On 26 July 1846 Lt. Col. J. C. Frémont's California Battalion of about 160 boarded the sloop USS Cyane, under the command of Captain Samuel Francis Du Pont, and sailed for San Diego. They landed 29 July 1846 and a detachment of Marines and blue-jackets, followed shortly by Frémont's California Battalion from Cyane, landed and took possession of the town without firing a shot. Leaving about 40 men to garrison San Diego, Fremont continued on to Los Angeles where on 13 August, with the Navy band playing and colors flying, the combined forces of Stockton and Frémont entered Pueblo de Los Angeles, without a man killed nor shot fired. Marine Lieutenant Archibald Gillespie, Frémont's second in command, was appointed military commander of Los Angeles with from 30 to 50 troops stationed there to keep the peace.
In Pueblo de Los Angeles, the largest city in California with about 3,000 residents, things might have remained peaceful, except that Major Gillespie placed the town under martial law, greatly angering some of the Californios. On 23 September 1846, about 200-300 Californios under Gen. José María Flores staged a revolt, the Siege of Los Angeles, and exchanged shots with the Americans in their quarters at the Government House. Gillespie and his men withdrew from their headquarters in town to Fort Hill which, unfortunately, had no water. Gillespie was caught in a trap, badly outnumbered by the besiegers. John Brown, an American, called by the Californios Juan Flaco, meaning "Lean John", succeeded.... Discover the Alta Hensley popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Alta Hensley books.