On July 1, 1846, Commodore John Drake
Sloat and Commodore Jones, Commander of the Pacific Squadron,
anchored in Monterey Bay with three ships: the Savannah, the
Cyane, and the Levant. Mindful of Commodore Jones' blunder in
1842, Commodore Sloat remained at anchor in the harbor for almost
a week before becoming convinced that a state of war existed
with Mexico and that he should carry out his standing orders
of seizing and holding the ports of California, including that
of its nominal capital, Monterey. Accordingly, at 10:20 on Tuesday
morning, July 7, 1846, a force of 165 sailors and 85 marines,
under the command of Captain William Mervine, commanding officer
of the Cyane, came ashore at the small beach near the customhouse
and took possession of California for the United States.
Despite the fact that the American fleet
had been in the harbor for almost a week, no resistance was offered
or apparently even contemplated by the Mexican garrison - after
all, they had been through all this once before. Since the mood
of the captured populace was peaceful, nearly all of the sailors
were returned at once to their ships, leaving some Marines under
Captain Ward Marston as the permanent garrison. Work was begun
immediately to erect a more effective fortification than the
Mexicans had there to protect the harbor and town.
Five days after the landing, Commodore
Sloat wrote that: "There are no guns at this place and you
know the state of the forts. I am making a stockade around the
rear of the upper battery, and shall build a blockhouse there,
upon which I shall mount two or three of my 42-pounders to protect
that side: on the front I shall mount three or four of my long
32s to protect and defend the bay." The Mexican El Castillo
had no guns because they had been removed by the Mexicans to
San Juan Bautista where they were buried.
Under the direction of Ensign Baldwin,
C. T. M. Cecil, the carpenter of the Savannah, began to construct
above the old site of the El Castillo a new fort, consisting
of a blockhouse and a battery mounting three 42-pounders, both
surrounded by a ditch. This battery was at first called Fort
Stockton, after Commodore Robert F. Stockton who took over command
from Sloat on July 15, 1846, and then Fort Mervine, after the
commander of the first landing party.
The "upper battery" mentioned
by Sloat appears to confirm the existence of a second battery
begun by the Mexicans after the first American landing in 1842.
Writing on March 1, 1849, Henry W. Halleck, who eventually completed
the construction of Fort Mervine, stated that "another battery
in rear of and auxiliary to (the old battery) was begun by the
Mexicans previous to July 7, 1846 and afterward enlarged by the
Americans and occupied by them without intermission, to the present
time." The 1875 Guidebook to Monterey also reported "about
the year 1843 Gen. Micheltorena dug a deep ditch on the site
of the present fort, with two or three embrasures for guns which
were never mounted."
Construction of the new fort was taken
over by the U.S. Army when 113 men of Company F of the 3rd Artillery
landed in Monterey on January 28, 1847 from the USS Lexington.
Commanded by Captain Christopher Q. Thompkins, the company's
five officers included two Lieutenants who were to become generals
in the Civil War - E. O. C. Ord and William Tecumseh Sherman.
An Army Corps of Engineer, Henry W. Halleck, was also on board
charged with the construction of fortifications at Monterey and
This romanticized drawing
shows the landing by Commodore John Drake Sloat in 1846. It was
printed in 1902 to help raise funds for the construction of the
Sloat Monument on the Presidio Hill, which was dedicated in 1910.
Depicted to the right are the Sloop of War Cyane, the Flagship,
Frigate Savannah, and the Sloop of War Levant (Detail) Provided
by The Pat Hathaway Collection, Monterey, California.
The newly appointed Monterey alcalde,
Walter Colton, ship's chaplain of the Congress, observed that
the Lexington was "laden with heavy battery guns, mortars,
shot, shell, muskets, pistols, swords, fixed ammunition, and
several hundred barrels of powder. She also has a quantity of
shovels, spades, ploughs, pickaxes, saws, hammers, forges, all
the necessary utensils for building fortifications of the first
Lieutenant Sherman noted before disembarking
that: "on a hill to the west of the town had been built
a two-story block-house of hewn logs occupied by a guard of sailors
under command of Lieutenant Baldwin, United States Navy
It was soon determined that our company was to land and encamp
on the hill at the blockhouse." Lieutenant Ord assumed command
of Company F on April 1847, two days after complaining that "my
company is destined to stay here and build a fort...'Tis disagreeable
work and makes the men grumble and desert." Sherman was
at this time Ord's second in command, but left the company shortly
thereafter to become adjutant to Colonel R. B. Mason, 1st. Dragoons,
U. S. Military Commander at Monterey. In May of 1847, Sherman
noted that "the company of artillery was still on the hill
under the command of Lieutenant Ord, engaged in building a fort
whereupon to mount the guns we had brought in the Lexington,
and also in constructing quarters out of hewn pine-logs for the
By June 23, 1847 the fortifications had
progressed to the point where Colonel Mason could inform the
Adjutant General that: "The garrison of the place being
of a mixed character, I have exercised the command myself, and
caused the construction under the immediate superintendence of
Lieutenant Halleck of engineers, of a redoubt in the form of
a bastion, on a hill overlooking the town and anchorage. It has
twenty 24-pounders mounted, and four 8-inch mortars on platforms.
All the shot and shells brought out by the Lexington are piled
within the redoubt. In the rear of the redoubt, I have caused
to be constructed, mostly by contract labor, a stone house, 75
feet by 25, with an excellent shingle roof, containing ample
room to store all the valuable ordnance stores sent out in the
Shortly thereafter this redoubt came to
be known as Fort Halleck, although it was referred to for a short
period as Fort Savannah. An additional source of confusion in
naming the Fort is the fact that the old Mexican Fort of El Castillo
was occasionally referred to as Jones' Fort and the hill on which
both forts stood was often referred to as Fort Hill. The deserted
remains of the old Mexican Fort were located just below the new
An Act of Congress on May 13, 1846 authorized
the formation of a regiment of volunteers, commanded by Colonel
Jonathan Drake Stevenson of New York City. The volunteers were
to sail around Cape Horn to hold the land acquired from Mexico
in the Mexican War and to settle the land by developing farms,
ranches and cities. The majority of volunteers picked were young,
single tradesmen. Ten companies of men were formed as a result
of the recruitment efforts of the company officers. Mustered
in at New York in August 1846 were 38 officers and 729 men, 188
additional men joined a month later. The regiment was named the
1st N. Y. Volunteers by the War Department. The regiment was
to be a part of the force under General Kearny. The regiment
departed New York on September 26, 1846 on three transports.
The Thomas E. Perkins, of 697 tons, carried companies B, F and
G with Colonel Stevenson. The Loo Choo, of 639 tons, carried
companies A, C and K. The Susan Drew, of 701 tons, carried companies
D, H and I. Company E was divided between the three ships. The
fleet was under the convoy of the U. S. sloop-of-war Preble.
Each ship was loaded with arms and munitions for the occupation.
The voyage of all the transports was uneventful, except for seasickness.
The Perkins arrived first at San Francisco
on March 6, 1847, followed by the Drew on the 19th and the Loo
Choo on the 26th. The Preble arrived on April 19th. By this time
offensive military operations in California were at an end and
General Kearny was at Monterey. Therefore the regiment was put
on construction and garrison duty.
Assisting in the occupation of Monterey
were companies A, B and D. The Volunteers were garrisoned in
Monterey itself in the old Mexican barracks, El Cuartel. With
no military operations to keep them busy, the Volunteers amused
themselves as best they could by producing amateur minstrel shows
The end of the Mexican War and the discovery
of gold in California effectively put an end to any military
presence in Monterey. The news of the discovery of gold reached
Monterey on May 29, 1848. In a report to the Paymaster General,
William Rich stated that on October 23 and 24, 1848 Companies
A, B and D of the New York Volunteers were mustered out and that
nearly all of Company F of the 3rd Artillery had deserted by
that time for the gold fields. One unforeseen result of this
mustering out was the creation of Monterey's first theatre. The
amateur actors of Stevenson's regiment persuaded a saloonkeeper,
Jack Swann, to use his establishment for paid theatricals. The
opening performance was "Putnam, or the Iron Son of '76".
The ex-Volunteers and some of their wives made up the bulk of
the cast and discharged soldiers most of the audience. Tickets
were five dollars each and on opening night the
house was packed with an audience of about 95 men and recorded
five females of dubious virtue. The war ended on May 30, 1848.
The unoccupied men were mustered out on August 7, 1848.
In 1847, a field map by Lieutenant Warner
showed Fort Mervine as a diamond-shaped construction, about 650
feet long and 400 feet wide, with ravelins at each corner. The
stone house reported by Colonel Mason was shown in the western
corner. In June 1849 a traveling artist, William Hutton, sketched
the Fort, labeling it the Monterey Redoubt. Hutton's sketches
showed two wooden buildings behind a log palisade and an earthwork
rampart mounting ten 24-pounders, "5 each face." In
August 1852 Company F of the 3rd Artillery departed, leaving
the Fort empty of troops but with a considerable number of military
stores on hand. The post was designated as the Monterey Ordnance
Depot in 1852; the title and function were discontinued in 1856.
On September 15, 1855, Jacques A. Moerenhout
wrote that: "the fort of Monterey has been disarmed in part.
There were no more than ten pieces of twenty-four, the other
ten having been transported to San Francisco. The powder, which
has been here for five or six years, deposited under a wooden
shed, could serve for no other purpose than for that of saluting.
It is going to be transported to Benicia and only the projectiles,
the cannon balls, bullets and small shells will remain here."
Moerenhout's information was accurate, for most of the guns were
soon sent to Benicia Arsenal. A few guns remained, however; two
of which can still be seen in front of the Larkin House, thrust
muzzle down in the earth and badly rusted. One served as a hitching
post, while one on the corner was placed there to keep carriages
from cutting the corner too sharply.
On February 17, 1865 the old Fort on the
hill was returned to temporary life by the arrival of 6 officers,
156 enlisted men and a surgeon, all under the command of Major
C. O'Brien. These were Company G, 6th Infantry and Company B,
1st Battalion, Native Cavalry, both of California volunteers,
stationed at Monterey in the closing months of the Civil War.
Two log huts were erected at the site of the old Fort to house
these troops and the Fort was renamed Ord Barracks. Later occupied
by Company B of the 2nd U.S. Artillery, which departed on October
18, 1865, the redoubt was finally abandoned completely in August
View of Monterey by William
R. Hutton in May 1847. To the far right is the berm of the new
Fort Mervine and to the left of that is the Mexican El Castillo
(Detail). Courtesy of The Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino.
A rendering of Fort Mervine
by William R. Hutton in June 1849 shortly after the fort was
completed (Detail). There were ten 24-Pounders, five on each
face. Note the two chimneys on the blockhouse. Courtesy of the
Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino.
Monterey", Fort Mervine, as drawn by Henry Miller in 1856
(Detail). Courtesy of the Bancroft Library, University of California,
Map of Fort Hill
by Lieutenant Warner 1847 showing the Monterey Redoubt (Detail).
From A History of the Presidio of Monterey by the Defense Language
Institute Foreign Language Center.
A drawing of Fort
Mervine and the Town of Monterey by Army Inspector General Joseph
Mansfield in 1854. National Archives.
At this time the military reservation consisted of about 158
acres, as established by an executive order of November 23, 1866
and according to Warner's survey. Through an error in a subsequent
survey by S. W. Foreman, only about 140 acres were actually occupied.
With the departure of the troops, this land was left in the informal
charge of a discharged veteran, Francis Doud, sergeant-at-arms
of the Constitutional Convention of 1849 and founder of the well-known
Doud family of Monterey, with the request that he keep an eye
on it. The log barracks eventually disappeared, although the
blockhouse lasted into the twentieth century. Eventually only
the military cemetery remained, along with the old dug-out jail,
or calabozo, of El Castillo, which was still used until the end
of the nineteenth century to sober up an occasional drunk.
In the town, El Cuartel continued to deteriorate.
In 1875 it was described as a "two-story, ruinous looking
adobe building, with a balcony running around it." In 1880
Lady Duffus Hardy wrote that "in the heart of the town there
is a long, low range of deserted buildings formerly occupied
by the military; the windows are all broken, the worm-eaten doors
hang, like helpless cripples, on their hinges, and only the ghostly
echo of wind goes wandering through the empty chambers".
Shortly after the turn of the century El Cuartel had vanished
Up on the hill overlooking the town, the
old fort fared little better. There is a classic Monterey story
that about 1890, the Mayor of Monterey, Bob Johnson, wrote the
War Department, suggesting that the deserted fort and its lands
be given to the city as a park. The return letter from the War
Department is supposed to have denied the request but to have
thanked the mayor for "calling our attention to our land
in Monterey, which we did not know we had". Rather like
Isaac Graham's cannonball, however, the story is more colorful
than the facts. Somebody in the War Department knew they owned
the land because in 1889 a license was issued to the Southern
Pacific Railway Company to construct a line of track across the
reservation and in 1890 the War Department issued another license
to Mrs. Jane L. Stanford to erect a monument to Father Serra
on the post.
In 1905 the Sloat Monument was constructed
on the site of Fort Mervine as a memorial to those that conquered
and settled California.
The American Military Governors of California:
Commodore John D. Sloat July 7, 1846
Commodore Robert F. Stockton July 29,
Lieutenant Colonel John C. Fremont January
General Stephen W. Kearney February 23,
Colonel Richard B. Mason May 31, 1847
General Persifer F. Smith February 28,
General Bennett Riley April 12, 1849
The arrival of the First
Regiment of New York Volunteers in 1847 at San Francisco As Rendered
in 1847 by William F. Swasey. From the lithograph published in
1886 by the Bosqui Engraving and Printing Company and published
in California Pictorial by Jeanne Van Nostrand and Edith M. Coulter
1948, Plate 21 pg. 48. Shown from Left to Right are the Ship
Vandalia (C), Coasting Schooner (D), U.S.S. Portsmouth (A), and
U. S. Transports Ships, Loo Choo, Susan Drew and Thomas H. Perkins
(B). Other Numbers in the Drawing are Identified in the Captions
for Plate 21.
Upper, photograph of the
Fort Mervine Blockhouse circa 1905. Note the double chimneys
in this and the sketch by Hutton in 1849 shown earlier. Photograph
taken by L. S. Slevin. Courtesy of the Henry E. Huntington Library,
San Marino. Lower, photograph of the Mexican El Cuartel
in Monterey circa 1890. Courtesy of The Pat Hathaway Collection,
At the site of Fort Mervine,
the Granite Eagle Sculpture by Arthur Putnam sits atop a pedestal,
sculpted by Earl Cummings. A granite sculpture below the eagle
bears a portrait of Commodore John Drake Sloat. The monument
was started in 1886 and dedicated in 1910 to the capture of Monterey
on July 7, 1846 by Americans under the command of Sloat. This
symbolic monument was a joint effort of the Federal government,
the State of California, and the Masonic Order of California.
The base is 24 feet square, the number of hours in a day: the
base stones are 4 feet long, the number of hours in a sailor's
watch and 2 feet wide, the number of hours in a "Dog Watch."
There are three layers of stone blocks, representing the fact
that Sloat was a Master Mason of the 3rd Degree. The eagle's
pedestal is 13 feet high, the number of original states. On September
9, 1850, California was the 31st state to be admitted to the
Union and this fact is represented by the total height of the
monument-31 Feet. Photograph Courtesy of the Defense Language
Photograph of Fort Hill in
Monterey showing the Sloat Monument on the far right at the original
location of Fort Mervine. To the right and below is a cross which
marks the location of the founding of the Presidio of Monterey
by the Spanish in 1770, and to the far left is a monument to
Father Serra Located near the position of El Castillo.
Photograph courtesy of the Defense Language Institute.
Questions and comments concerning
this site should be directed to the Webmaster