On July 4th 1865, two companies of an unusual cavalry unit observed Independence Day in traditional Californio style, with a bull-and-bear fight at a "grand arena" near the old mission town of San Buenaventura. Neither the men nor their officers seemed concerned that they were expected to ride in a parade some sixty miles away in Los Angeles that very day. Nearly a week late for their scheduled arrival at Drum Barracks in Wilmington, the troopers had stopped for a few days of rest and revelry-a break in a long overland march that would ultimately take them to a forsaken post on the Arizona-Sonora border.
These were men of companies A and B of the First Battalion, Native California Cavalry. It was immediately obvious to the casual observer that these troopers were different from the thousands of other loyal Californians who had joined volunteer units of the Union army since the beginning of the Civil War-more than half the horsemen carried lances, a throwback of sorts to the proud Hispanic heritage of California. The men themselves were heirs to that tradition, or, as one correspondent put it, they were of the "vaquero class ... natives of California or Mexico, and brought up from youth on horseback and accustomed to the use of the lasso and to simple fare and [the] rough herdsmen's life." 
As early as 1862, California state senator Remauldo Pacheco of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties had observed that California's Mexican-American population (or Native Californians in the vernacular of the day) comprised an exceptional pool of cavalry recruits already well versed in the arts of horsemanship and life in the field. A former officer in the Mexican army and a Union loyalist, Pacheco was eager to give his fellow Californios an opportunity to prove their patriotism. He proposed the formation of a regiment of "native cavalry," which would draw recruits from the vast ranches of Southern California and the central coast to serve as lancers in Texas. His novel idea was well received and, in January 1863, the War Department authorized raising a four-company battalion.
Initially, the unit was "to be commanded by a patriotic gentleman, Don Andreas [sic] Pico" The choice was at once inspired and ironic, for Andres Pico had commanded the Californio lancers who humiliated a force of regular cavalry and volunteers under Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny at the battle of San Pascual in 1846. In the process, they not only gave the United States its only clear defeat of the Mexican War, but also forced the previously unimpressed Americans to recognize the skill and mettle of the California vaquero. 
Pico's popularity and Union loyalty made him a good choice for the position. The aged caballero was not sufficiently healthy, however, to ride a horse or perform many of the other duties required of a field commander, and he never accepted his major's commission. It was not until the recruitment of the battalion was underway in August of 1864 that Maj. Salvador Vallejo replaced Pico. Like Pico, the crusty Vallejo was a member of an old and established Californio family. On the other hand, Vallejo seemed an unlikely choice for command because of his disdain for all things Anglo. Don Salvador was better known for his conflicts with American squatters on his Napa Valley property than for his admiration of the Union cause. It seems likely, given Vallejo's sentiments, that Confederate overtures to the French backed imperialist government of Mexico drove the dignified curmudgeon to set aside his hostility and don the blue uniform of a United States Army officer. 
Even as the paper battalion languished without a commander, a few prominent citizens, Californio and otherwise, took the initiative and began gathering recruits for the four companies. Jose Ramon Pico, a nephew of Andres and who later claimed to have also fought at San Pascual, enthusiastically started the process of organizing recruits weeks before official approval for the unit had come back from Washington, D.C. In a flowery letter to Governor Leland Stanford, Pico cited his credentials as a partisan Republican and, without the slightest hint of humility, demanded a captain's commissions 
Stanford granted the request, and Captain Pico immediately gathered recruits at his personal expense. On March 3, 1863, at his headquarters on the plaza in San Jose, he spoke to an assembled crowd in the "soul-stirring" manner for which the men in his family were renowned:
Sons of California! Our country calls, and we must obey! This rebellion of the southern states must be crushed; they must come back into the union and pay obedience to the Stars and Stripes. United, we will, by the force of circumstances become the freest and mightiest republic on earth! Crowned monarchs must be driven away from the sacred continent of free America!
The mention of "crowned monarchs" was an obvious reference to the emperor Maximilian, who enjoyed not only the support of France and conservatives in Mexico, but apparently of the Rebel government in Richmond as well. Clearly, Pico sensed that sentiments linking Imperial Mexico and the Confederacy as mutual enemies of California were rife within the Spanish-surnamed community.
Pico's bluster and fiery rhetoric "infused with martial spirit" the Native Californians of San Jose. Even before his speech, Pico had already enlisted more than fifty recruits, mostly from the San Jose area. Many of the Califormos showed up with their lassos, "a novel weapon of offense. . . which they are exceedingly expert at using on horseback." The eighty-one recruits of Company A trained at the Presidio of San Francisco that summer. By August, a dozen men had deserted, a sign of troubles that would plague the battalion during its entire existence.
Although the enlistees were skilled horsemen,
trained and drilled as lancers, it is unlikely that Company A
was quite what Senator Pacheco had in mind when he proposed a
unit of "native" cavalry. Many of the Spanish-surnamed
recruits were foreign born, primarily from Mexico and Chile, and
seem to have been former miners. The unit contained a number of
non-Hispanic recruits as well. A San Francisco journalist later
described the company as "truly a mixture of colors and tongues,
the men rugged and hearty-more than half being native Californians
and the remainder Mexicans, Chilenos, Sonorans, California and
Yaqui Indians, Germans, Americans, etc." 
In December, the colorful lances adorned with red pennons were replaced by Sharp's carbines and Company A sailed north by steamer to Humboldt Bay, where it joined an ongoing campaign against the Hupa, Wintun, and other Indians in the northern region of the state. Its duties in the redwood country included escorting prisoners, livestock, and supply trains, but little actual fighting. While the company was posted at Fort Gaston in February 1864, four more men deserted and this time robbed a local civilian. A detachment rode out in pursuit and quickly apprehended the culprits.
While Company A campaigned in the northern part of California, Capt. Ernest Hippolite LeGross was recruiting Company B in San Francisco. A French expatriate who had served with the Corps d'Afrique in Algeria and the Crimea, he was commissioned in part on Pico's recommendation. Contrary to Pacheco's original vision for the battalion, the majority of Captain LeGross's original recruits were Frenchmen, including at least two fellow veterans from Algeria. Like Company A, Company B was inducted into federal service at the Presidio of San Francisco, where it remained until January 1865.
Recruitment of vaqueros from the vast ranches in the southern part of the state-the so-called "cow counties"-did not begin until early 1864. A drought had devastated many of the old ranches in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties and even the prominent de la Guerra family was forced to sell much of its vast holdings. Newly unemployed ranch hands from the area formed the core of Company C, recruited by Capt. Antonio Maria de la Guerra. State Senator Ramon J. Hill, a secessionist elected from San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, lamented the choice of de la Guerra, pointing out that he "does not even write fluently in his own language, knows not one word of English, knows not what figures are-but is an experienced horseman." Still, even Hill later admitted that "the men will not be kept together for any other captain."
Company C was very much a de la Guerra family operation, which explains its high morale and low desertion rate. Other de la Guerras in the company included Ist Lt. Santiago de la Guerra and 1st Sgt. Juan de la Guerra. Also present was 2d Lt. Porfirio Jimeno, the captain's nephew and stepson of Dr. James Ord, brother of a Union general as well as a prominent surgeon and rancher. Educated at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., the twenty four-year-old Jimeno was the most intellectually well equipped of the battalion's officers and would prove to be one of the best.
Mustering of the company was delayed until July because of rumors that raised suspicions about the officers' loyalty. In the intervening two months, the already financially strapped Antonio Maria de la Guerra quartered the full-strength company of recruits at his own expense. According to the de la Guerra family and their political allies, the rumors arose from a clique of political rivals, who sought to diminish the de la Guerras' influence by preventing them from receiving officers' commissions. The issue was apparently resolved by late June and, by late August, Company C was on the march toward' Drum Barracks. 
Meanwhile, Capt. Jose Antonio Sanchez had already recruited Company D in Los Angeles. He was anxious to reverse the work of his brother, Sheriff Tomas Sanchez, a Democratic Party boss who, early in the war, had provided militia arms to Rebels operating in Arizona and New Mexico. Again taking advantage of anti-imperialist sentiment among the Spanish-surnamed Angelenos, Sanchez enrolled eighty-nine volunteers. As with Company C, politics and doubts about officers' loyalty delayed mustering in until March at nearby Drum Barracks. At the same time, Juan J. Moreno, another prominent local citizen, took the initiative in April and recruited forty men for a Los Angeles company. But after languishing at Drum Barracks without any word from department headquarters, Moreno and his volunteers apparently lost interest in federal service and dispersed by the end of May. 
Sanchez's enthusiasm for military service also quickly waned. Already overwhelmed by the paperwork involved in commanding a company, in June Sanchez and 1st Lt. Jose Redona resigned in frustration over what they saw as poor treatment of their men, exacerbated by a currency crisis in Los Angeles caused by an influx of nearly worthless federal scrip. While Sanchez remained active in promoting the Union cause in secessionist southern California, command of his men went to Capt. Edward Bale, promoted from Company B. A native-born Californian proficient in Spanish, Bale was respected in the Californio community 
In September, de la Guerra's Company C joined Bale's Company D at Drum Barracks. Post commander Col. James Curtis apparently had a low opinion of the native troopers and put them to work on a massive irrigation project to carry water from the San Gabriel River to Wilmington. Although other officers protested the treatment of the Californios and the use of federal soldiers for a private project, the construction continued until January 1865 with the troopers also marching in parades and patrolling the waterfront and guarding federal property at nearby San Pedro amd Wilmington. 
Frustrated by ditch digging and the general dullness of service, Major Vallejo resigned at the end of February, gruffly dismissing his tour of duty as "devoid of interest." Three weeks later, Maj. John C. Cremony transferred from the Second Cavalry, California Volunteers, and took command of the battalion. 
Although an Anglo, Cremony possessed many assets that well-suited him for his new command. First, he was adept at languages, including Spanish and four other tongues. Second, the colorful officer and sometime journalist seemed to understand and have a fondness for the Californios, even affecting the flamboyant dress of a vaquero. Third-and perhaps most important in the coming year-he was a veteran campaigner in Apacheria, including a stint (1851-1852) as interpreter for the Bartlett Boundary Commission, as well as his more celebrated (and exaggerated) role with the California Column in 1862. 
As it happens, Vallejo quit just as things
were becoming more interesting for the battalion. In November
of 1864, bandits John Mason and Jim Henry held up a stage on the
road from Watsonville to Visalia, killing three men and vowing
to "slay every Republican they would meet." Under the
pretense of being Confederate guerrillas, Mason's and Henry's
gang terrorized Monterey County and its environs for the next
Company B, newly posted to Camp Low at San Juan, comprised the entire cavalry force in the county. In a letter to Governor Frederick Low, post commander Maj. Michael O'Brien, Sixth California Infantry, described the arrival of the troopers in late January 1865:
The gay and gallant Spanish lancaroes [sic] came dashing through the town with the lances in their hand, a flag flying from each of them. I assure you that they presented a warlike appearance, the people here had never seen a soldier in their lives-Yes sir! they even stampeded the Spanish cattle that were so poor before that they could scarcely stand alone.
Shortly thereafter, O'Brien received intelligence about the location of Mason's and Henry's hideout. Early one Sunday morning a detachment of a dozen Native cavalrymen under 1st Lt. John Lafferty rode out to find the bandits. Unfortunately, Lafferty was unsuccessful and the gang continued its depredations.
Meanwhile, drastic changes were taking place for Company B. In March of 1865, Captain LeGross resigned in the face of declining morale that produced forty desertions in a little less than a year. Promoted from Company C, Capt. Porfirio Jimeno, the new company commander, replaced the mostly French and Anglo deserters with Hispanic recruits. This improved morale somewhat by making the company more "native" in character.
In April, word arrived at San Juan that the Mason-Henry gang had struck at Firebaugh's Ferry. Captain Jimeno, temporarily in command of Camp Low, sent Lieutenant Lafferty and a detachment of five men in pursuit of the bandits. Hoping to cut off the gang at Panoche Pass, the lancers rode south along the western flank of the Diablo Range and encountered Mason the next morning. As the bandit spurred his horse in a desperate attempt to escape, Lafferty fired, wounding Mason in the hip and felling his mount with a single bullet. Although the soldiers captured the outlaw's horse, somehow Mason managed to elude them. At six that evening, Lafferty and his troopers returned to Camp Low with the horse in tow. Captain Jimeno boldly vowed to continue the pursuit of Mason and Henry, unaware that he and his new command soon would be otherwise occupied.
Similar troubles erupted in the Mohave Valley, where secessionist sentiment ran high, and Chimehuevi Indian depredations plagued the local residents. In response, Captain Bale and Company D were sent to Camp Cady on the road from Cajon Pass to Fort Mohave. Only thirty of Bale's men were mounted as cavalry; the bulk of the company served on foot and was equipped with model 1842 muskets left over from the Mexican War. The Californios performed routine garrison and patrol duties through March and were back at Drum Barracks by April 9, in time to prepare for a new assignment.
In March 1865, Brig. Gen. John S. Mason, newly appointed commander of the District of Arizona, announced that the battalion of Native Cavalry would be traveling east to fight Apaches. Company A assembled at Benicia Barracks on the mouth of the Sacramento River in early April, where it began preparations for the nearly thousand-mile march. Meanwhile, Major Cremony arrived at Camp Low with headquarters and Company B.
Reports of President Abraham Lincoln's assassination reached the West Coast on April 15, delaying the departure of the two Native companies. Major Cremony, Captain Jimeno, and Lieutenant Lafferty served on the committee that planned Monterey County's memorial observance, and on April 19, Company B participated in a procession through the streets of San Juan. Meanwhile, detachments of both companies were assigned to quell violence and arrest men caught "rejoicing" at the news of the president's death. Disturbances occurred across the state, and in response, detachments were sent as far away as Grass Valley, where twenty-five troopers of Company A under Lt. Marcelino Jimenez arrested ten individuals after a skirmish that left two Native Cavalrymen wounded.
By June, companies A and B were united at San Juan. On June 3, the eve of the Californios' scheduled departure for Arizona, two secessionists arrested in the wake of President Lincoln's death escaped from the Camp Low guard house. Major Cremony detailed both companies to hunt for the fugitives. After a week of fruitless searching, on June 16, troopers began the long march that would take them first to Drum Barracks and then to their new station at Tubac, Arizona Territory. Although they were expected at Drum Barracks by the Fourth of July, the cavalrymen marched leisurely south along the coast, their pace slowed not so much by their sizeable stock train that included "14 fine mules and some 300 horses," as by their frequent stops for fandangos and bull-versus-bear fights.
The arrival of Major Cremony's column at Drum Barracks on July 9 represented the first time that the First Battalion, Native California Cavalry, was assembled in one place. Companies C and D were now fully mounted and armed, thanks in part to Captain Pico's uncle, don Pio Pico, who supplied the garrison with horses. Capt. Thomas Young, a veteran of service in New Mexico and Arizona, was now in command of Company D, replacing Captain Bale who had resigned in May. 
Like the California Column three years earlier, the Native California Cavalry departed at staggered intervals in order to conserve water and forage on its journey across the desert. Company A left Drum Barracks on July 13, followed by Company B on the fifteenth and Company D on the twenty-first. For reasons that are unclear, Company C with Major Cremony and his staff remained behind until September. During the two-week march to Fort Yuma, the three companies spread out for seventy-five miles along the famous Overland Road. 
Captain Jimeno, for one, questioned the wisdom of crossing the Mojave and Sonoran deserts in July and August. In a letter home, the gloomy and cynical commander of Company B warned his uncle Pablo de la Guerra of the perils of such a journey:
For Heaven's Sake never come out here if you can help it; you will surely melt. Thermometer every day in the shade 112 to 116-wind none-Scorpions thick as molasses, flies still worse and when we want to drink cool water we have to boil it and drink it immediately or else it will get hotter. Es imposible dan una description de esta punto. 
Dallying at Fort Yuma only long enough to bivouac for a few days, the Californios continued on toward Tubac. The route would have been familar to the ancestors of most of the California-born men of the battalion, as well as to many of the troopers of Mexican birth, since it was the same route they had followed in the opposite direction from Sonora to California years before. On August 9, Company D once again took up the rear of the column, escorting a supply train that included two light artillery pieces.
Six men deserted Company A during the first five days out of Fort Yuma, while Company B lost twenty men. Because the desertions occurred as the column passed through the lower Gila Valley, where the prosperous but short-lived mining camp of Gila City had existed only a few years before, it may be that the abscounders, some of whom were ex-miners, ran away to try their hand at placer mining, either near Gila City or a few days north at La Paz. It is also possible that some of the fugitives fled south along the Camino del Diablo, which linked up with the Overland Road in the same area, and sought sanctuary in Sonora.
A night march across the forty-mile desert, a week or so out of Fort Yuma, brought Company D to the Maricopa villages. After more than three weeks on the trail, the Native cavalrymen cast envious eyes on the melons ripening in the fields. According to 1st Sgt. Juan Robarts, the "men having a sneaking regard for the fruit," but having no hard currency, paid the enterprising Indians with "their shirts, drawers, and other articles of apparel." In Robarts's estimation, the Maricopas "got the best of every trade that was made."
Arriving in the Old Pueblo on August 30, Robarts had nothing nice to say about what he sarcastically referred to as the "flourishing and extensive city of Tucson." After a day's rest, Company D resumed its march south on September 1. Two nights later, a corporal on guard duty spotted "eight or ten" Apaches, the Califormos' first encounter with the desert warriors. Apparently the Indians had "only come to see if they could find a horse or mule loose, or picketed outside of camp," and nothing came of the brief sighting.
The following day the Los Angeles company arrived at Tubac, only to find the ancient presidio all but abandoned and the military post moved a dozen miles south to the old hacienda of Calabasas. There they joined companies A and B and three companies of the Seventh Infantry, California Volunteers, all under the command of Lt. Col. Charles Lewis, a competent and decisive officer who led the "Hungry Seventh." 
Named Fort Mason after Gen. John S. Mason, who commanded the District of Arizona from his Fort Whipple headquarters near Prescott, the new post could hardly be called a fort, consisting instead of tents and brush shelters and only a few permanent buildings. The site, selected by Colonel Lewis, was the former location of Camp Moore, occupied by two companies of the First Dragoons for a few months in 1856.
Lewis probably did not foresee the problems that would plague Camp Mason. Unusually heavy monsoon rains in August and September swelled the Santa Cruz River and its tributaries. Water that accumulated in the arroyos and cienegas provided an ideal environment for mosquito-borne fever that prostrated the garrison throughout the fall and winter. Five enlisted men of the Native California Cavalry and two of its officers, 1st Lt. Crisanto Soto of Company A and Capt. Thomas A. Young of Company D, eventually died of the disease. At one point, between one-third and one-half of the garrison was laid low. The fever slowed construction of the post to a near standstill and delayed serious forays against the Apaches.
Despite its problems, Fort Mason was strategically located on the most important road leading from Tucson into Sonora. Stationed at an important listening post less than ten miles from the border, the men of the Native California Cavalry found themselves only a few hours ride from Mexico, a nation occupied by a foreign power and mired in turmoil that threatened the United States.
Sonora was so far removed from Mexico's central government that in many ways it was effectively independent. The political chaos that consumed the rest of the country did not leave the frontier province untouched, however. Governor Ignacio Pesquiera, a Liberal of convenience, had been fighting to retain the governorship since 1855 against partisans of his predecessor, Conservative Manuel Gandara, who sought forcibly to unseat him. Gandara's support collapsed in 1861, and he was exiled just in time to miss the coming French invasion.A supporter of the Republicans under President Benito Juarez, Pesquiera was friendly to the Union cause during the American Civil War. He resisted overtures from Confederate agents and cultivated friendships with federal officers, including Colonel Lewis and Col. James Carleton of the California Column. These amicable relationships were born not only out of pragmatism, but also out of partisanship, for the French-backed Imperialists maintained ties with the Confederacy, while the Union generally favored the Republican faction. 
While Sonora remained more or less unaffected
by the war in central Mexico, Pesquiera managed to retain his
governorship during the early part of the French Intervention.
That changed in 1865 when French regulars landed at Guaymas in
hopes of seizing the fabled Sonoran silver mines and using the
loot to defray the high cost of supporting Maximilian's monarchy.
The French movements alarmed United States officials in California,
who had received reports that the Imperialists sought to overturn
the Gadsden Purchase and reclaim Arizona. Sonoran Conservatives
were encouraged. They assisted a small-but-disciplined foreign
force in destroying Pesquiera's ragtag and demoralized army, forcing
to flee to the safety of his friends north of the border.
Major Cremony, who was not yet present at Fort Mason, later wrote an account of Pesquiera's September 6 arrival at the post that seemed to imply that the exiled governor stumbled into American territory with a force of French regulars in rapid pursuit at his heels. The reality seems to have been somewhat different. Accompanying the governor was a sizeable entourage that included his family, sheep, goats, a thousand head of cattle, a hundred horses, and a military escort. Col. Federico Ronstadt, an infantry officer in the Republican army, rode ahead of the party and requested permission to camp in the valley below Fort Mason. According to Sergeant Robarts of Company D, "Colonel Lewis replied that he and his officers would do themselves the honor to wait on the Governor of Sonora, which accordingly they did, and offered the protection and hospitality of the post." Pesquiera camped with his entourage in the shadow of the fort before briefly taking up residence at the nearby hacienda of Calabasas. He then moved on to Tubac and established a sort of capital in exile, where he could gather financial resources and recruits for a new army. 
Meanwhile in Sonora, Jose Moreno, prefect of the military district of Altar, moved "300 or 400 Mexican Imperialists" to Magdalena, some fifty-five miles south of Fort Mason, apparently with the intention of crossing the border to seize the governor. Colonel Lewis belligerently declared, "Let him come and try it!" War seemed inevitable, and the boredom and misery of garrison life only amplified the tension. 
The situation may have been too much for fifteen men of companies A and B, who deserted shortly after Pesquiera's arrival and fled south with thirty horses and "numerous" pistols and carbines. Receiving word that the deserters were at Magdalena, Captains Pico and Jimeno, along with Lt. William Emery of the Seventh California Infantry and thirty men of Company A, Native California Cavalry, set out to recover the deserters and the stolen property.
A two-day ride brought the detachment to the outskirts of the Sonoran community, where Captain Pico sent Emery forward as a messenger. Impatient for Emery's return, Pico selected eight to ten men and charged into the town. Stopping in front of Prefect Moreno's office, the Californio boldly demanded the return of the deserters and stolen property, as well as safe passage for himself to Altar and Hermosillo. During the ensuing heated argument, Pico arrogantly declared that as an American officer, he did not recognize the Imperial government. A crowd that assembled in the plaza cheered the blue-coated invaders. Like everyone else in Magdalena, Moreno assumed that Pico was there to start a fight. Consequently, he assembled ten to twenty cavalrymen in a line opposite the Californios and sent for an infantry detachment camped nearby. "A single gun fired at this moment would have started a general fight," one California soldier later wrote.
For some reason, perhaps the intervention of the cooler headed Lieutenant Emery, the situation calmed somewhat and Prefect Moreno agreed to send a courier to Hermosillo for instructions. Captain Pico, for his part, agreed to send Captain Jimeno and the bulk of the detachment, who still remained outside the town, back across the line. During the eight-day wait for the messenger to return, Republican sympathizers in Magdalena treated Pico, Emery, and the small escort of Native cavalrymen who had been permitted to stay with them to "three fine dinners." Pico's request for safe passage into the Sonoran interior was refused and the proud Californian was forced to return home empty-handed. On the way back, the Californios spotted five Apaches in the hills overlooking the road. So that the expedition would not be a total loss, Pico ordered his troopers to give chase. Lieutenant Emery narrowly escaped injury as his horse lost its footing on the steep and rocky incline. Captain Pico burned himself severely when his pistol discharged as he fell with his horse. The incident no doubt humiliated Pico, who had a reputation as one of California's finest horsemen. He called off the chase and the humbled Californians returned to Fort Mason on September 15. The next day, word arrived that Moreno's men had auctioned off the federal property the deserters had stolen. 
In the wake of Imperialist protests against Pico's belligerent behavior and an apparent accompanying buildup of French and Imperialist troops near the border, Colonel Lewis established an outpost at Sylvester Mowry's recently abandoned Patagonia mine and sent a twenty-man detachment from Company D to patrol the line. Meanwhile, a rumor reached California that Pico was being held prisoner in Mexico and would be executed by the French-backed Imperialists at Hermosillo. 
Major Cremony finally arrived at Fort Mason, together with Captain de la Guerra and Company C, in early November. A three week delay at Fort Yuma-possibly due to flooding-and Cremony's visit with the ailing Governor Pesquiera at Tubac had slowed the march from Drum Barracks. Now the Native California Cavalry battalion was once again assembled, just in time to respond to a threatened Imperialist invasion of southern Arizona. 
Late on the night of November 24, word reached Fort Mason from Patagonia that a large Sonoran force had attacked the ranching community of San Rafael, just north of the border. About 350 Opata volunteers under the command of Col. Refugio Tanori, an Opata leader commissioned in the Imperial Army, had crossed the line on an apparently botched raid that left an American citizen wounded. Believing that the raid was an attempt to capture Pesquiera, Major Cremony quickly assembled a detachment from companies C and D and rode across the Patagonia Mountains, reaching San Rafael early the next morning. From there, Cremony crossed the border and entered the town of Santa Cruz, where he learned that Tanori's command had retreated farther south. The major sent ahead 1st Lt. Edmund W. Coddington of Company D and ten troopers to make contact with the Imperialist colonel. After a forty-mile ride, the troopers reached Imuris only to find that Tanori and his irregulars had melted into the countryside. After resting a few days at Santa Cruz, the command returned to Fort Mason, where it arrived on November 30. 
By the time of Tanori's raid, the French regulars had largely withdrawn from Sonora. Pesquiera and the Republicans, while, had successfully raised a small army to challenge Imperialist authority in the frontier state. Increasingly through December and January, Republican forces engaged the Imperialists in battle in the heart of Sonora. Although the war was far from over, the Imperialists would never again molest the northern regions.
At the same time, frontier privations and the especially miserable conditions at Fort Mason took their toll on the men of the Native California Cavalry. Company returns signed by Cremony in December show a battalion that, although fairly well disciplined, was scarcely ready to fight. Arms for companies B, C, and D, including the distinctive lances that were once such a source of pride, were listed as unfit for service. Accoutrements and clothing were also in bad shape. Despite the Californios' evident unreadiness for field service, General Mason was contemplating a campaign against Cochise that involved the 'men of Fort Mason. 
For much of the Native Cavalry's service at Fort Mason, the much-talked-about Apaches were nowhere to be seen in the Santa Cruz Valley. A few patrols caught glimpses at a distance of small parties of less than a dozen, and Captain Jimemo reported killing one Apache in a brief exchange in October. Cochise had greatly curtailed his activities north of the border, partly in response to the troop buildup during the summer and fall that accompanied General Mason's arrival in Arizona. 
Mason's plan called for troops from Forts Mason and Bowie to conduct a two-pronged campaign against the Chiricahua Apaches. Colonel Lewis's command, including men from the Native Cavalry and his own Seventh California Infantry, started from Fort Mason in late December, then split into three detachments that scouted the San Pedro Valley and the Huachuca and Dragoon mountains. Captain Jimeno's cavalry tracked a party of Apaches to an encampment at Sulphur Springs on Christmas Eve. Attacking from ambush, the Californios killed one Indian, wounded two others, and scattered the remainder.
Several days later, Lewis and the rest of the expedition joined Jimeno's troopers at the ambush site. Striking north and west, the California Volunteers eventually reached Fort Bowie, where they were joined by noted scout Merejildo Grijalva. By January 6, the command was in the field again, tracking Cochise's band in: the Chiricahua Mountains. Although at one point the Californios observed sixty to seventy warriors at a distance, the Apaches constantly remained a few steps ahead of Lewis's troops. The pursuit continued as far south as Fronteras, Sonora, where the frustrated colonel turned back toward home, blaming the expedition's failure on Captain Jimeno, despite the fact that the Native troopers produced the only tangible success of the campaign. Fortunately for Jimeno, department headquarters in San Francisco, unaware that the Chiricahua Apaches had largely withdrawn from Arizona in the pervious months, proclaimed the expedition a success, since it appeared to them that Cochise had been driven into Mexico. 
Even before Major Cremony arrived at Fort Mason back in November, orders had been issued for the dissolution of his battalion. On October 21, 1865, department headquarters at San Francisco instructed the Native California Cavalry to return to Drum Barracks for mustering out. By early December, detachments that had remained behind to guard federal property at Camp Low, the Presidio, and Angel Island had been relieved by regular troops and discharged. A few more months would pass, however, before regulars arrived in Arizona. So the bulk of the battalion remained at Fort Mason until late January, when it began its long march home. 
Reaching Tucson on January 31, 1866, the Californios retraced their route along the Overland Road to the Colorado River opposite Fort Yuma, where high water from heavy autumn rains forced them to stop for over a week. As soon as they were able to ford the river and reach the fort, the battalion split up, with companies A, B, and D marching overland to Drum Barracks, while Major Cremony and Company C boarded a steamer for the Presidio. The Santa Barbara company may have received this special treatment because of the poor health of Captain de la Guerra. Suffering from a social disease that he caught some time during his service, the captain had been confined to quarters during much of his stay at Fort Mason and was likely unable to withstand the rigors of a road march. 
Lagging behind the other two companies traveling over land, Company D reached Drum Barracks on March 8, joining companies A and B who had arrived there a week earlier. Captain Jimeno and Company B were mustered out on March 15; the other two companies were discharged five days later. One news paper correspondent tersely summarized the Californios' tour of duty. "They have done good service," he wrote. 
The journey home for Major Cremony and Company C took somewhat longer. Together with a company of the Seventh California Infantry and two companies from the Second California Infantry, the remaining Californios boarded a Colorado River steamer at Fort Yuma and sailed south to Cabo San Lucas at the tip of Baja California. After a few days stopover, they continued the voyage around the peninsula and then north to San Francisco, where they docked on March 27. 
At the Presidio on April 2, the men of Company C were mustered out, given their back pay, and let loose in San Francisco, where they were "to be seen on every street corner. . . spending their greenbacks with great liberality." The ex-lancers, threadbare after their frontier service, spent most of their newly issued scrip at clothing stores. 
The veterans of the Santa Barbara company were welcomed home with a parade down the dusty lane that would become State Street and a two-day fiesta in De La Guerra Plaza. The events of the Civil War and their political fallout had given the old families of Spanish California power and prestige that they had not enjoyed since the American conquest. Now, the return of the vaqueros, who had served their country in the best tradition of the valiant lancers of San Pascual, gave the Californios a chance to celebrate this brief moment when the glory and romance of Old California seemed restored. Perhaps they knew that it was not to last. 
Porfirio Jimeno was offered a commission in the postwar regular army, but turned it down. Instead, he went to Mexico, possibly to join members of his father's family, or, according to some reports, throwing in with the American Legion of Honor, a band of ex-California Volunteers who aided the Republican cause in Mexico. Either way, he died a commissioned officer in the Mexican Army at Mexico City in 1870. 
Antonio de la Guerra continued to suffer from the illness he contracted in the service. Treated with injections of mercury, he died blind and toothless at age fifty-six in 1881. 
The other officers and men of the Native California Cavalry returned to their civilian lives. Like most of the California Volunteers, they faded into obscurity, forgotten by nearly everyone except when the proud veterans appeared at the battalion reunions held at Drum Barracks until 1923. The last Californio lancer, 1st Sgt. Juan de la Guerra of Company C, died at Santa Barbara in 1945. 
Well before Sergeant de la Guerra's death, the tradition that the Native Cavalry represented had become a throwback, seen only in popular novels like Ramona and The Mark of Zorro. Even as the battalion served in California and Arizona, the big ranches were being broken up and sold. The end of the war brought an influx Anglos ignorant of California's past and thus unable to respect the contributions of their Spanish-surnamed predecessors. The charge of the lancer, with brilliant pennon fluttering in the wind blowing in from the sea, had become as quaint a romantic notion as the sprawling rancho and the vaquero. The service of the First Battalion of Native California Cavalry was one last chance for the proud California vaquero to ride into glory. 
1. San Francisco Bulletin, July 11, 1865; Wilmington Journal, July 1, 8, 1865.
2. Officially, the armament
of the lancer companies of the Native California Cavalry consisted
of a Colt army revolver, a saber, and a lance manufactured at
the Benicia arsenal.
Special Order 65, Headquarters, District of Southern California, Drum Barracks, in The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 70 vols. in 128 pts. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), Series I, vol. 50, pt. 2, p. 1035 (hereinafter cited as O.R.); San Francisco Bulletin, July 8, 1865.
3. Richard H. Orton, Records of California Men in the War of the Rebellion (Sacramento: State of California, 1890), p. 304; Sacramento Union, January 28, 1863.
4. Orton, Records of California Men, p. 304; Leonard Pitt, The Decline of the Californios: A Social History of Spanish-Speaking Californians, 1846-1890 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), p. 34.
5. Orton, Records of California Men, p. 304; Pitt, Decline of the Californios, pp. 230, 233.
6. Wilmington Journal,
March 10, 1866 J. R. Pico to Governor Stanford, San Jose, January
2, 1863, Box 6, Military and National Guard Collection (MNG),
7. Alta California (San Francisco), March 11, 1863
8. Ibid., March 11, 20,1863; Orton, Records of California Men, pp. 307-310.
9. Muster and Descriptive Roll, Native California Cavalry (NCC), MNG; San Francisco Bulletin, July 8, 1865.
10. Aurora Hunt, The Army of the Pacific: Its operations in California, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, plains region, Mexico, etc. 1860-1866 (Glendale, Calif.: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1951), pp. 246-48; A. J. Bledsoe, Indian Wars of the Northwest: A California Sketch (Oakland, Calif.: Biobooks, 1956), pp. 234, 249-51; Alta California, February 18, 1864.
11. San Pose Patriot, January 18, 1863. J. R. Pico to Governor Stanford, September 9, 1863, Box 6; and Muster and Descriptive Roll, Company Returns, Company B, NCC, both in MNG.
12. A. Dibblee Poett, Rancho
San Julian: The Story of a California Ranch and Its People
(Santa Barbara: Futhian Press, 1990), pp. 3-38. Maj. S. Vallejo
to Lt. Col. Richard C. Drum, Drum Barracks, April 13, 1864;
Raymond Hill to Governor Low, Santa Barbara, April 24, 1864; Hill
to General Kibbe, Santa Barbara, May 16, 1864, Box 7, MNG. Muster
Descriptive Roll, Company C, NCC, ibid.
13. Constance Wynn Altshuler,
Cavalry Yellow & Infantry Blue: Army Officers in Arizona
Between 1851 and 1886 (Tucson: Arizona Historical Society,
1991), pp. 178-79; Stella
Haverland Rouse, "Civil War Volunteers," Noticias (Santa Barbara Historical Society), vol. 27 (Fall 1981), pp. 58-59.
14. Pablo de la Guerra to Low, Los Angeles, May 26,1864; W. G. Still to Low, Los Angeles, May 27, 1864, Box 7, MNG. Alta California, June 18, September 11, 1864.
15. Pitt, The Decline of the Californios, p. 231. Jose J. Moreno to Low, Los Angeles, April 28, 1864; Still to Low, May 27, 1864, Box 7, MNG. Post Returns, Drum Barracks, March 1864, Records of the U.S. Army Commands (RUSAC), Record Group 94, National Archives.
16. William P. Reynolds
to Low, Los Angeles, June 9, 1864, Box 7; Vallejo and Pico to
Stanford, Presidio of San Francisco, November 30, 1863, Box 6,
MNG. Alta California,
June 24, 1864. Post Returns, Drum Barracks, July 1864, RUSAC.
17. Post Returns, Drum Barracks, September 1864, RUSAC; Reynolds to Low, Los Angeles, March 28, 1864, Box 7, MNG; Wilmington Journal, January 14,1865; Haverland Rouse, "Civil War Volunteers."
18. Pitt, Decline of the Californios, p. 233; Orton, Records of California Men, p. 301.
19. Altshuler, Cavalry Yellow & Infantry Blue, p. 85.
20. Parajo Times (Watsonville), November 12, 1864.
21. Alta California, January 24, 1865; Michael O'Brien to Low, Camp Low, San Juan, February 1, 1865, Box 8, MNG.
22. Vallejo to Low, Drum
Barracks, February 23, 1865; Captain de la Guerra and Lieutenant
Jimeno to Low, March 17, 1865, Box 8, MNG. Orton, Records of California
23. Alta California, April 12, 13, 1865.
24. OR., pp. 1150-51; Post Returns, Drum Barracks, March and April 1865, RUSAC.
25. Sacramento Union, March 11, 1865; Alta California, April 12, 1865.
26. Pajaro Times, April 29, 1865; Sacramento Union, April 28, 27, 1865; Alta California, May 14, 1865; Orton, Records of California Men, p. 305.
27. Monterey Gazette, June 9, 1865; San Francisco Bulletin, July 8, 1865.
28. Post Returns, Drum Barracks, July 1865, RUASC. Alta California, April 12, 1865. Company Returns, Company D, NCC, June 1865, MNG; Gilbert C. Smith to Low, May 24, 1865, Box 9, ibid.
29. Wilmington Journal July 29, 1865; Post Returns, Drum Barracks, July-August 1865, RUSAC.
30. Jimeno to Pablo de la Guerra, August 3, 1865, Folder 554, de la Guerra Collection, Santa Barbara Mission Archives.
31. Los Angeles Tri-Weekly News, October 24, 1865.
32. Orton, Records of California Men, pp. 307-314.
33. Los Angeles Tri-Weekly News, October 24, 1865.
34. Ibid.; Constance
Wynn Altshuler, Chains of Command: Arizona and the Army, 1856-1875
(Tucson: Arizona Historical Society, 1981), pp. 41-44.
35. Constance Wynn Altshuler, "Camp Moore and Fort Mason," Journal of the Council on Abandoned Military Posts, vol. 26 (Winter 1976), pp. 34-36; Sacramento Union, October 19, 1865.
36. Rodolfo F. Acuiia, Sonoran Strongman: Ignacio Pesquiera and His Times (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1974), pp. 79-87.
37. John C. Cremony, "How
and Why We Took Santa Cruz," Overland Monthly, vol. 6
(April 1871), pp. 335-40; Los Angeles Tri-Weekly Times,
October 24, 1865; Thomas Edwin
Farish, History of Arizona, vol. 4, p. 118, typescript, Special Collections, University of Arizona Library, Tucson; Edward F. Ronstadt, ed., Borderman: Memoirs of Federico Jose Maria Ronstadt (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1993), p. 4.
38. San Francisco Bulletin, October 23, 1865.
39. Ibid.; Sacramento Union, October 19, 1865; Los Angeles Tri-Weekly News, October 24, 1865.
40. Returns, Company D, NCC, October 31 to December 31, 1865, MNG; Porfirio Jimeno to Josefa Maria de la Guerra, October 30, 1865, Folder 551, de la Guerra Collection; San Francisco Bulletin, October 23, 1865.
41. Muster Roll, Field & Staff, NCC, August 31 to October 1865, MNG; Cremony, "How and Why We Took Santa Cruz," p. 337.
42. Cremony, "How and Why We Took Santa Cruz," pp. 337-40; Wilmington Journal, December 30, 1865.
43. Acuna, Sonoran Strongman, pp. 87-93.
44. Returns, Companies A, B, C, and D, NCC, MNG.
45. Jimeno to Josefa Maria de la Guerra, October 30, 1865, Folder 551, de la Guerra Collection.
46. Edwin R. Sweeney, Cochise: Chiricahua Apache Chief (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991), pp. 239-40.
47. Sacramento Union, October 26, 1865; Los Angeles Tri-Weekly News, December 15, 1865; Returns, Company B, December 1865, NCC, MNG.
48. Wilmington Journal; February 17, March 17, 1865; Returns, Company D, January 31, 1866, Company C, October 31 to December 31, 1865, NCC, MNG; Diblee Poett, Rancho San Julian, p. 42.
49. Wilmington Journal, March 3, 10, 1866; Orton, Records of California Men, pp. 307-14, 317-20; San Francisco Bulletin, March 30, 1866.
50. Don McDowell, "Vaqueros en Azul," Drumbeats, vol. 3 (October 1989); Alta California, March 27, 1866.
51. Orton, Records of California Men, pp. 315-17; Alta California, April 4, 1865.
52. McDowell, "Vaqueros en Azul"; Pitt, Decline of the Californios, pp. 241-42.
53. Altshuler, Cavalry Yellow & Infantry Blue, pp. 178-79.
54. Diblee Poett, Rancho San Julian, p. 42; McDowell, "Vaqueros en Azul."
55. McDowell, "Vaqueros en Azul."
56. Pitt, Decline of the Californios, pp. 247-76.
The Pima County Board of Supervisors appointed Tom Prezelski to the House of Representatives in February 2003 to fill the vacancy left in District 29 by Representative Victor Soltero, who resigned to accept an appointment to a vacancy in the State Senate.
Representative Prezelski is a Tucson native with deep roots in the Old Pueblo and Southern Arizona. His father had a distinguished twenty-two year career in the United States Air Force, retiring with the rank of Senior Master Sergeant. His mother, who had a long and varied career at the University of Arizona, is a descendent of several pioneer families of the Arizona-Sonora border region, including some ancestors who served as soldiers in the Spanish garrison at Tucson in the 18th Century. His familys tradition of public service extends at least as far back as his grandfather, Francisco Ronquillo Villa, a cowboy, rancher, union railroad worker and Cochise County Democrat who served on a school board in the San Pedro Valley in the 1930s.
Representative Prezelski is a graduate of the University of Arizona, where he was active in the Arizona Students Association and received a degree in Geography.
Representative Prezelski is an amateur historian, and some of his articles have seen print. For this article he received the James F. Elliot II award for the best article by a non-professional historian. He has worked as a docent and volunteer at the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson. He also participates in a reenactment group that recreates the Segunda Compania de Voluntarios de Cataluña, a Spanish infantry company that served in what is now Arizona, California and Sonora in the 1780s. In 1995, he was appointed to the Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission, a board that advises local government about historical and cultural preservation issues in the greater Tucson area.
Representative Prezelski worked as a planner for the Tohono Oodham Nation from since 1999 to 2003.
Representative Prezelski lives in the Barrio Viejo neighborhood of Tucson on the same block where his grandmother grew up.