Californmia State Military Department
The California State Military Museum
Preserving California's Military Heritage
Californians and the Indian Wars
The Yuma Revolt, July 17, 1781
by Michael R. Hardwick

Fernando de Rivera y Moncada was a captain and governor of Baja California. In 1769 he led a division of cuera dragoons from Loreto in Baja overland to San Diego. Rivera was appointed military governor of Upper California in 1773, succeeding the Catalonian, Pedro Fages. Philipe de Neve replaced Rivera as governor in 1777 and asked him late in 1779 to recruit soldiers and settlers for Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. Rivera died at Yuma crossing in 1781 after sending most of the colonizing party on to California.

Kw’tsa’n View of the Revolt

The Spaniards neglected to build irrigation ditches, prepare their fields, and plant crops. They would publicly embarrass the Kw’tsa’n (pronounced Quechan) by locking offending Kw’tsa’n in stocks or giving public whippings.

The Kw’tsa’n resumed their warfare against neighboring tribes despite the efforts of Father Garces to keep peace. The Indians objected to the settlers taking control of farmland near the rancheria, and resisted the teachings of Roman Catholicism.

The final insult came in 1781 when a Spanish expedition allowed 257 livestock to trample and eat the crops in the Kw’tsa’n fields. On the morning of July 17, two groups of Kw’tsa’n and Mohave warriors launched surprise attacks against Spanish settlements killing 131 settlers, priests and soldiers, including Capitan Rivera. Prisoners were released but other Spanish military commanders periodically battled the Kw’tsa’n . They failed to defeat the Kw’tsa’n , and Spain never reestablished control of Yuma.

Mexico attempted to reopen the route in 1822 and established a fort or fuerta at Laguna Chapala

 


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