California and the Mexican War
The Battle of Los Angeles
by Justin Ruhge
 
 
 
 
Commodore Stockton sailed from Monterey with 360 marines and seamen for San Pedro on August 1,1846 in the Congress. They arrived on the 6th where they raised the flag and prepared to march inland to the Pueblo of Los Angeles. Major Fremont from San Diego met the marine's force just outside the town and at about 4 pm on the 13th the combined armies entered the capital where the flag of the United States was at once raised with the usual ceremonies and here as elsewhere in California without the slightest demonstrations of opposition or disapproval on the part of the inhabitants. A few guns were mounted on the hill above the Pueblo, a garrison organized and stationed in the Mexican barracks and the marines marched back to the Congress at San Pedro. U. S. Marine Gillespie was commissioned commandant of the southern department of California and left with a garrison of 50 men.
 
Stockton imposed martial law on the Mexican inhabitants on departing. The rudeness of this decision infuriated the docile Mexicans and fanned the flames of revolt. Mexican General Flores retook Los Angeles and sent the American garrison packing to San Pedro. It was necessary to reconquer the once docile city of Los Angeles. Commodore Stockton had to return with the marines and the army under General Kearny. Los Angeles was surrendered to Stockton and Kearny on January 10, 1847. General Flores's army, which had been defeated by the American troops in the battle of Paso de Bartolo January 8th and in the battle of La Mesa, January 9th, was still in the neighborhood of the city. Commodore Stockton decided to erect fortifications not only to resist an attack should one be made by Flores but also in the event of another revolution to enable a small garrison to hold out until aid might come from other cities.
 
On the 11th Lieutenant Emory, of General Kearny's staff, was detained to select a site and place a fort capable of containing one hundred men. On the 12th the plan of the fort was marked out and ground was broken. Work was continued on it up to the 17th by the marines and soldiers.
 
In the meantime, Andres Pico, in command of the Mexican troops, surrendered to Colonel Fremont at Cahuenga and the war was over. Work on the fort ceased. Commodore Stockton and Brigadier General Kearny having quarreled, Kearny left for San Diego. Stockton and his sailors rejoined their ships at San Pedro and Lieutenant Emory was sent east via Panama with dispatches. Fremont's battalion, numbering about five hundred men, was left in command of the city.
 
On the 20th of April, 1847 reports supposed to be reliable reached Los Angeles stating that the Mexican Congress had appropriated $600,000 for the conquest of California and that a force of 1,500 men under command of General Bustamente was advancing by way of Lower California against Los Angeles. On April 23, work was begun on a second fort planned by Lieutenant J. W. Davidson of the First Regiment U.S. Dragoons. Its location was identical with Lieutenant Emory's fort but was twice the size of that earthwork. The Mormon Battalion constructed it. This Battalion of four companies was recruited from the Mormons in the spring of 1846. They were encamped at Council Bluffs, Iowa preparatory to their migration to Salt Lake. The Battalion came to California under the command of Colonel Phillip St. George Cooke, arriving at Los Angeles March 16, 1847 via San Diego. The Battalion numbered 500 men at the start but a number gave out on the march and were sent back. Colonel Cooke was placed in charge of the Southern Division by the Army covering San Diego and Los Angeles.
 
On April 24, 1847 Colonel Cooke issued his now famous order No. 9 directing the Mormon Battalion to erect the fort later called Fort Moore in honor of Captain Benjamin Moore, U.S.
Army, who was killed in the battle of San Pasqual on December 6, 1846. The order read as follows: "The Mormon battalion will erect a small fort on the eminence which commands the town of Los Angeles. Company A will encamp on the ground tomorrow forenoon. The whole company will be employed in the diligent prosecution of the labor for one week, but there will be a daily detail of a non-commissioned officer and six privates for the camp guard. The hours of labor will be from half past six o'clock until 12 o'clock and I o'clock until 6 o'clock. The guard will mount at half past 5 o'clock. Lieutenant Davidson, first Dragoons, will trace tomorrow on the sight selected, his plan, which has been approved of, a fort with one small bastion, front for at least six guns in barbette, assisted by the Company Officers. He will have the direction as Superintendent, which pertains to an officer of engineers. As assistant quartermaster, he will procure the necessary tools." Company A commenced work immediately upon their arrival at the new camping place. Twenty-eight men of each company worked for four days before being relieved.
 
A flagpole was erected in the middle of the Fort. According to James S. Brown, private in Company D, in his autobiography entitled Life of a Pioneer, "a Spaniard was hired to haul a liberty pole from San Bernardino Canyon, a distance of eighty miles, and as he dared not undertake the journey without military escort, Corporal Lafayette Shepard (Company A, Mormon Battalion) and fourteen other men among whom the writer was included, were sent to protect the Spaniard and help get the pole down to the fort. We hastened back to the fort with our charge, the logs in the rough being about fifty feet each, the two making a pole between ninety and ninety-five feet long when completed, which was done by the members of the Battalion at the Fort."
 
The Fort was dedicated on July 4, 1847 when the American flag was raised there for the first time. The troops were formed in a hollow square at the Fort and Stephen C. Foster read the Declaration of Independence in English and Captain Stuart Taylor read it in Spanish. To Lieutenant Davidson, who planned the Fort and supervised the work on it, was given the honor of raising the flag to the top of the flagpole. A salute was fired from the field works on the hill.
 
The Fort, which was the first to be erected in Southern California, was a simple earthwork with six embrasures for cannon. It was not enclosed in the rear. Two hundred men could have held it against a thousand if the attack had come from the front but could have been captured from the rear by a small force. The army decommissioned the Fort in 1853 but it stood intact for about thirty years. It was demolished when the streets that pass through its site were graded and the lots it crossed were built upon. No trace of Fort Moore now remains.
 
 
A sketch of Fort Moore by William Rich Hutton on July 10, 1847 shortly after it was dedicated (Detail).
 
 
Fort Moore shown on the hill relative to the Pueblo of Los Angeles in 1847 by Artist William Rich Hutton. Courtesy of the Huntington Library, San Marino
 
 


Two drawings of the Fort come down to us. William Rich Hutton made the first in July 10, 1847 right after the Fort was dedicated. The view is looking up from the Pueblo. The second is a rendering that appeared in an article about the Fort Moore Hill history in the Los Angeles Times for April 1, 1934. These are the only two records that the author has found anywhere.
 
The work of the Mormon Battalion was highly praised by General Kearny. According to Daniel Tyler in his A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War, Kearny made the following comments: "On May 10, 1847, the Battalion was addressed by General Kearny. No commander ever did or could eulogize or give a greater meed of praise to any corps of veterans that was given this little band by the Commander of the Army of the West. In conclusion he said he would take pleasure in representing our patriotism to the President and in the halls of Congress, and give us the justice our praiseworthy conduct had merited."
 
General Kearny left Los Angeles on May 13, 1847 with an escort of 18 members of the Mormon Battalion led by Captain Jefferson Hunt of Company A.
 
Colonel J. D. Stevenson of the First Regiment of New York Volunteers succeeded Colonel Cooke in the command of the Southern Military District. Stevenson gave the orders and presided over the dedication of the Fort. Cooke went on to have a town named after him in Utah and to have a fort named for him in California during the Second World War, to be discussed in a later section.
 
In 1857, the Fort Hill was the site of a gallows hanging of a bandit named Juan Flores who was lynched by the vigilantes. One of two Los Angeles cemeteries was located there. Many prominent Los Angeles families built their homes on the Hill. In 1887 Center High School was erected there. In 1901 tunnels were excavated through the hill for the extension of Broadway and the right-of-way for the Pacific Electric line.
 
In 1903 the Native Sons and Daughters of California, The Pioneer Society, the G. A. R. and the Historical Society sponsored a memorial in the form of a flagpole. It was to be erected on the crest of Fort Hill at the head of Broadway just over the Broadway Tunnel.
 
The pole was procured in Siskiyou County and was brought by water to San Pedro from where it was hauled by wagon. The pole was too long to be handled by the railway. It was a fir tree 127 feet long, fourteen inches in diameter at the base and eight inches at the tip, and straight as an arrow. The flag raising occurred one hundred yards south of where the American flag was first raised over fifty-six years before. 2,000 people witnessed the event on December 19, 1903. Featured at the event was a son of Captain Moore, a daughter of General Fremont and William Beddome, one of the soldiers who helped build Fort Moore and who witnessed the first flag raising.

 
 
An outline of the Fort Moore works relative to present day streets in Los Angeles as presented in the Los Angeles Times for April 1, 1934. The walls of the fort faced toward the sea. The numbers identify the pioneer homes on the hill at the time of this article.

 
In 1949 the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors initiated a second memorial. It was a wall, waterfall and flagpole with sculptured reliefs on Hill Street at the base of the administration buildings of the Los Angeles City Board of Education. The 400-foot long, 45-foot high memorial with an 80-foot long waterfall was dedicated on July 3, 1958. Mrs. Norman Chandler, Mrs. Moses Cozzens Davis, Mrs. Daniel H. McAllister, the Los Angeles Governments, the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints and the Sons and Daughters of Utah Pioneers supported the project. Today, 2003, the Fort Moore Memorial is a derelict, abandoned by the City of Los Angeles and the home of homeless people.
 
 
References: Old Fort Moore by J. M. Guinn, pg. 141, Annual Publication of the Historical Society of Southern California and Pioneer Register, Los Angeles, 1898; Portrait of Captain Benjamin Davies Moore, pg. 4; A Flag Staff and Flag for Fort Moore, pg. 5, Evening Express; Flag Raising on Site of Fort Moore, pg. 6, Daily Times; Fort Moore by J. M. Guinn, pg. 7; Captain Benjamin Davies Moore by M. J. Moore, pg. 10; all articles appeared in Publications of the Historical Society of Southern California, Volume VI, 1903, Los Angeles, California; Fort Moore Hill Today, Yesterday and Tomorrow, Los Angeles Times, April 1, 1934; The Mormon Battalion and the Winning of California, pg. 5, The Pioneer Vol. 5 No. 7, Winter Edition 1953, Official Organ of The National Society of the Sons of Utah Pioneers, Salt Lake City, Utah; Fort Moore Pioneer Memorial, Dedication Ceremonies, July 3, 1958; The City Then and Now , L.A. Scene, Los Angeles Times, November 9, 1992.
 
 
 
The Fort Moore Memorial to the California Pioneers dedicated on July 3, 1958. The wall is 400 feet long and 45 feet high. The waterfall is 80 feet wide. The memorial is located on the west side of Hill Street north of the Hollywood Freeway and below the Administration Building of the Los Angeles City Board of Education in 1958. Photograph from the Dedication Pamphlet.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Updated 8 February 2016