Conquering California, Part 10 of 17: A Revolting End
This is Part 10 of a 17-part series. If you’ve already forgotten what happened in the last part, do what I did, follow this link, and get yourself up-to-date.
To start at the beginning, follow this link.
A Revolting End
It was time for Plan B, for the Californios. All of Commandante General Castro’s forces in San Pablo retreated to Santa Clara, about 50 miles south. On June 30, 1846, they held a council of war, where they decided they needed to combine their strength with Governor Pio Pico’s southern forces. Then they could move north again and quash the Bear Flag Revolt.
On July 6, the army moved south again, to Mission San Juan Bautista, near Monterey, where General Castro was waiting. But the next day, somebody stopped thinking, and pondering, and mulling things over, and Plan B was dashed.
That someone who was thinking, pondering, and mulling things over, was Commodore John D. Sloat, of the U.S. Navy. He had received orders to seize San Francisco Bay and blockade California ports. But not until he was positive that war had begun. What a tricky order to follow! His superior officers knew how to cover their asses, by issuing such a vague order, and so Sloat had to figure out how to cover his own ass.
Sloat had been waiting in Monterey Bay since July 1 to obtain convincing proof of war.
He felt hesitant, but he finally decided it was better to err on the side of war, than do nothing and allow an opportune moment to slip by. He made this decison after several days of thinking and pondering and mulling over Fremont’s bold actions. He erroneously concluded that Fremont must have been acting on orders from Washington. Hell, he had to have been. After all, no normal military officer would have the audacity to do all the things Fremont was doing, without orders. Right? Hmm.
Sloat gave the go-ahead. And early in the morning of July 7, the frigate USS Savannah and the two sloops USS Cyane and USS Levant of the United States Navy, captured Monterey without firing a shot. And they raised the U.S. flag. Commodore Sloat had a proclamation in Monterey posted in English and Spanish, stating, “. . . henceforth California will be a portion of the United States.”
On July 9, Sloat’s forces raised the American flag in Yerba Buena (current-day San Francisco).
Around that same time, Navy Lieutenant Joseph Revere was sent to Sonoma from the USS Portsmouth, which had been berthed at Sausalito. And on July 9, he had the Bear Flag lowered in Sonoma, and replaced by the U.S. flag. Soon after, the same flag replacement occurred at Sutter’s Fort.
So just like that, without a sputter, fizzle, or whimpering protest, the Bear Flag Revolt and California Republic came to an abrupt end.
One can only wonder how history would have played out, had the Bear Flaggers been better organized, and more competent and capable at conducting a revolution. Suppose they’d had a strong, intelligent leader within their own ranks, who thought for himself rather than relied upon the vulpine brain of the calculating Fremont?
And suppose that leader had found a way to unite with Californios, for independence? Would they have capitulated so quickly to the ambitions of the U.S. government? Or would they have resisted, and would California have remained an independent republic to this day?
We can only speculate. But as it stands, the California Republic lasted a mere 25 days, from June 14 to July 9, 1846.
And with the end of the Bear Flag Revolt came a new beginning. The beginning of the California Campaign of the Mexican-American War, to capture the remainder of California from Mexico. The task won’t be easy. There will be blood.
Come on back in a few days, for Part 11: The California Campaign Begins.