Series (History): Conquering California

Conquering California, Part 14 of 17: The Battle of Rio San Gabriel

This is Part 14 of a 17-part series. There’s no need for embarrassment. Everyone has dementia to some degree. So If you’ve forgotten what happened in the last part, you can follow this link, and get yourself up-to-date.

To start at the beginning, follow this link.


The Battle of Rio San Gabriel


After the Battle of San Pasqual, General Kearny spent several weeks in San Diego, licking his wounds.

Then he decided it was time to retake Los Angeles. But could he? General Jose Maria Flores seemed invincible. Against all odds, he had defeated a force much larger than his, at the Battle of the Old Woman’s Gun. There’s no doubt Americans felt a little apprehensive about facing Flores again.

But on December 28, Kearny and Commodore Stockton decided to give it a try. However, unlike in the Battle of the Old Woman’s Gun, this time they brought along horses, wagons, and most importantly, six cannons, to take care of that gun. They led a 600-man force on a 120-mile march toward Los Angeles.

General Flores awaited with 300 men and two cannons, while dug in on a 50-foot high bluff above the San Gabriel River. His position was at a key ford of the river, with the intent to block an approach on Los Angeles from the south. It was about 10 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles, in the current-day city of Pico Rivera.

On January 8, 1847, they clashed in the Battle of Rio San Gabriel. And Flores proved to be not quite so invincible after all. The six American cannons quickly silenced the two Californio cannons. Flores’ men bravely charged the Americans, but they only had makeshift ammunition, and little gunpowder. They were easily repulsed.

The Battle of Rio San Gabriel.

Then Kearny’s men charged, with overwhelming numbers. Flores’ men could not hold out, and withdrew in retreat. The battle lasted just 90 minutes.

Stockton and Kearny’s forces pursued, and on January 10, 1847, encountered Flores’ Californio militia at a place called La Mesa. This is near where the city of Vernon now stands, and is about 4 miles south of Los Angeles.

Here, the Battle of La Mesa, the last battle of the California Campaign, was fought. Within 15 minutes, Flores’ forces were defeated by the overwhelming firepower of American artillery.

Most of his men had had enough. They deserted the battlefield and went home. Flores held a final council, where he transferred command to General Andres Pico. He released all his prisoners, and then fled to Mexico.

The Siege of Los Angeles was over, and within a few days the pueblo was reoccupied.


The Treaty of Cahuenga


Three days after the Battle of La Mesa, on January 13, 1847, General Andres Pico and Lieutenant Colonel John C. Fremont approached each other alone, in the Cahuenga Pass. This is the present day site of Universal City, and Universal Studios, in the Hollywood Hills. And this was a very apt place, because the scene could have been straight out of a Hollywood movie.

John C. Fremont

A few weeks earlier, in Santa Barbara, a Californio woman named Bernarda Ruiz de Rodriguez had all the audacity to ask for ten minutes of Fremont’s time. He went ahead and granted it.

Those ten minutes stretched to two hours. She used every diplomatic skill at her disposal, and urged Fremont to negotiate a generous peace. She held his hand and asked that he agree to pardon Pico, release prisoners, guarantee equal rights for all Californians, and respect property rights.

Fremont felt moved. He was initially suspicious, but finally concluded that her intentions were good. He agreed to keep her wishes in mind, should the opportunity for a peace treaty arise.

Bernarda accompanied Fremont as he continued his march south toward Los Angeles, while reclaiming territory for the United States. On January 12 they came near the camp of General Andres Pico and his formidable lancers, at the Cahuenga Pass. Tensions rose. It seemed a new battle was looming.

Bernarda then left Fremont and traveled alone to Pico’s camp. She told him of the peace agreement that she and Fremont had been discussing. It sounded interesting to Pico, and he agreed to meet with his adversary.

The next day, January 13, 1847, Pico and Fremont approached each other alone, man-to-man. And without firing a shot, they agreed to the peace treaty that Bernarda had been pushing.

The treaty was put to paper, with the first seven articles written almost exactly the way Bernarda had suggested. Fremont and Pico signed it, ending all hostilities and bringing a lasting peace to Alta California.

The Treaty of Cahuenga was also influential in the drafting of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed on February 12, 1848, which ended the Mexican-American War.

A generous peace was guaranteed for both sides. Everyone could return to business as usual. Except that now, Alta California belonged to the United States.

For the U.S. government, the conquest of California was finally complete.

Come on back in a few days, for Part 15: California After Conquest.

33 replies »

  1. A 120 mile march. I think that’s how long the bridge was in Vancouver that we walked across! Give or take a few or more miles! 😉
    A woman saved the day! Well…that shouldn’t be a surprise! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Remind me to avoid that bridge, if I ever visit Vancouver.

      Yes, a woman saved the day. Which is precisely why we need more women in combat. Maybe they can make peace with the enemy.


      • LOL! It’s called the Lion’s Gate bridge.

        Hmmm….interesting thought. I sat next to a guy on one of the trains we were on and he was telling me about his military exploits. He had served in Iraq. He was very nice and said how joining the military was the best thing he had ever done.
        Then he asked if I had ever thought of joining! I did my best to not laugh at him but I told him I wouldn’t have survived boot camp! My gosh , when I would have to run the mile in gym class I thought I would die! LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

        • When I joined, I worried about surviving boot camp, also. But prior to boot camp I started a jogging program, and eventually worked myself up to a few miles per day. So boot camp was actually easy for me. But most of my fellow recruits didn’t prepare, and boy did they ever suffer on those runs.


      • Now wait a second. Now that you’re agreeing with her, let me give this more thought. I’m not sure women are such great peacemakers. Haven’t you ever been in a fight with another female?


                • Okay did you think about what you would do?
                  A mom of a 17 year old guy was trying to pick up my daughter by lying about who she was!!

                  I asked the Mom what the plans were and she told me again how “Hope” and my daughter would watch “Hope’s” younger siblings and then she would bring my daughter back the next day.
                  I looked at her and said “Did you dye your hair?”
                  Her smiling face suddenly looked confused! Then I said. “Yeah, when I met you in Walmart the other day I am sure it was a different color.”
                  Now came the deer in headlights look on her face. She didn’t say a word! That was fine for I had plenty. I told her it would be in her best interest to back her car up and leave and never come back!!

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Now that I’ve seen this, I realize I would have done something similar to what you actually did (see my comment on your other comment). That lady must have felt very embarrassed. Did she follow your suggestion and leave?


                    • We think alike I see. 🙂
                      Oh trust me I felt like pounding her head against the steering wheel!
                      She was speechless with embarrassment, her eyes were just big and no she didn’t leave right away but pretty quickly. I think she was just too frozen in shock at first that this “perfect plan” had been foiled!
                      On the other hand my daughter went into the house pretty quickly. LOL!

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • I really think this would make a great post. Although your daughter might not appreciate her dirty laundry being hung out in public.

                      This reminds me of a time when I bought a device that allowed my wife and me to listen in on our daughter’s phone conversations, undetected. I know that it’s illegal and unethical, but this did allow us to intercept her secret plans to lose her virginity. And she never suspected we’d heard those plans over the phone.


                    • We never confronted her. That was the beauty of it. By learning her plans, we were able to make things happen that made her plans unworkable. And without having to confront her, or tipping her off that we’d heard her phone conversation.


            • Okay. Will try to make a long story short. My daughter was 14-15years old and she asked to spend the night at Hope’s house. She said her friend’s mom would pick her up and take her back to the house where her friend was watching her younger siblings. I had my suspicions that she was instead meeting up with an older guy who she knew I didn’t approve of. But I didn’t say a word. Instead I looked him up on Facebook and found a pic of his Mom.

              I also didn’t tell her that I had met the Mom of the friend who she said was picking her up.

              Daughter pacing floor looking out window. Car comes and she is out the door and so am I. We go to the car and the lady sticks out her hand to me and says “Nice to meet you, I am Hope’s Mom.”
              It took all the control I had to shake her hand and say Hi.
              I knew it was the guy’s Mom that I saw on FB, not Hope’s Mom!!
              (To be continued…..) I am curious what would you do?

              Liked by 1 person

              • Very smart of you to do your FB homework like that. So, I would have grabbed that “Hope’s Mom” by the hair, pounded her head upon the steering wheel, and told her to introduce herself to me again, the right way.

                Okay, maybe I’d just be thinking about doing that. But I would for sure have commented that she did not look like the “Hope’s Mom” I’d met before, and then wait for her to squirm and explain. This would be a good opportunity to develop some understandings.

                Liked by 1 person

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