The year 1846 saw the realization of the
American plan of manifest destiny to conquer and include the
entire North American continent to the Pacific Ocean under one
government and one flag. Mexico's 24 years of internal strife
since its revolution weakened its northern possessions and made
the Mexican citizens in Northern California disgusted with its
petty revolutions and inane leaders sent from Mexico City 3,000
miles away with nothing but mule track roads connecting the northern
possessions to the south.
Mexico was very aware of the desires of
the United States to possess the California territory with its
25,000 inhabitants. Offers to purchase first San Francisco and
then the whole territory of Alta California were rejected ten
years earlier by the Mexican government. The premature landing
of the American Navy at Monterey in 1842 was a clear message
of the resolve and readiness of the eastern government to act.
The American Navy could put more men on shore in one landing
than were garrisoned at all of the Mexican presidios.
The Monroe Doctrine of 20 years earlier
had warned European powers away from coveting this territory.
So, on July 1,1846, the long anticipated event happened. The
Pacific Squadron appeared off the Alta Mexico capital of Monterey
and on July 7 landed naval forces that raised the American flag
there to start the occupation and conquest of the soon-to-become
great State of California.
For months the Pacific Fleet and the British
Pacific squadron had been shadowing each other to anticipate
each other's intentions. The Americans had been waiting off Mazatlan,
Mexico for the rumored declaration of war against Mexico. When
this finally came, the American squadron sailed for Monterey
to claim California before the British could do so. Historians
have argued this issue afterwards but there was a feeling at
the time that the British might step in to take California.
The Navy took the initiative to raise
the flag at key spots in California, first at Monterey, then
landing at San Pedro and marching to Los Angeles and on to San
Diego. Occupying forces were also sent to Sonoma, Sutter's Fort
and the Smith Ranch at Bodega Bay. Lieutenant John Fremont and
his American Topographical Engineers were the only land forces
in the area at the time. Late in 1846, the Army appeared in the
form of General Kearny and his column of Army troops from Santa
Fe, New Mexico.
In 1847 the First New York Regiment of
Volunteers arrived to help occupy the State and to send troops
to occupy Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, and La Paz in Baja
California; and Guaymas, San Blas and Mazatlan on the Mexican
The details of the occupation and the
ensuing battles with the Mexicans have been thoroughly presented
by H. H. Bancroft in his History of California for the years
1846 to 1848 and need not be presented here further except as
background for the main discussion of the forts and facilities
established by the occupying Americans. Numerous other works
have been prepared by those present at the events in those years
and are listed in the Bibliography of this history. The main
effort in this section of this work is to describe the permanent
and temporary forts and installations prepared by the Americans
on their arrival.
When the Americans arrived, they brought
with them their military bureaucracy the likes of which the Mexicans
had never seen. The Americans changed everything to their way
of thinking, overnight. California became an American base, first
with temporary fortifications then with more permanent installations.
The Army was the government of occupation that provided the law
and order to the new territory. In 1849, after a constitutional
convention was held in Monterey, and a civil government was elected,
the Army turned over control of the State to the California representatives
and quickly faded into the background.