Spanish and Mexican California
Battle of Cahuenga Pass
 

The Battle of Cahuenga Pass of 1831 was fought between the unpopular Mexican Governor of California (Manuel Victoria), and local settlers.

A small group made up of the more wealthy citizens of Alta California got together and petitioned Governor Victoria asking for democratic reforms. Victoria called two of the men "traitors" (Jose Carrillo and Abel Stearns), and said the men must be executed; he then "stayed" his execution orders and had the two men banished from Alta California

The previous governor, Jose Maria de Echeandia, was more popular, so the leading wealthy citizens, the two "traitors," and several other land owners suggested to Echeandia that Victoria's stay as governor would be coming to an abrupt end soon. They built up a small army, marched into Los Angeles, and "captured" the town.

Victoria thought that act insulting, so he gathered a small army and went to fight the upstart army, leading it himself. He met the opposing army on December 5th., 1831, at Cahuenga Pass.

The armies were made up of brothers, sons, uncles, nephews, and friends of each other and by no stretch of the imagination could it be even considered that they would harm each other, let alone kill each other.

Victoria's army was less than half the size of his enemy's army. Victoria was undaunted by the challenge, and he ordered his men to shoot at the other army: they did so, more or less---- they all, to a man, shot over the heads of the enemy. The rebels answered by firing a volley over the heads of Victoria's army. The two opposing forces then stood staring at each other.

Unfortunately, when Victoria ordered his men to shoot, one of his captains, Captain Pacheco, misunderstood: he thought the order was to charge the enemy on horseback.... which he did, alone. He was armed with a lance; when he discovered he was the only one charging the enemy, he halted his horse between the two armies and sat there looking and no doubt feeling foolish.

Captain Avila, of the rebel army, took offense at Captain Pacheco apparent fierce bravery, so Avila went out to meet Pacheco on a horse armed with a lance, for single combat.

The two fighters were excellent horsemen, and neither had an advantage over the other. Both armies relaxed to enjoy the show; some climbed nearby trees to get a better look of the fight. Pacheco's horse was black, and Avila's horse was white.

They charged each other three times, and each time they managed to evade each other's lances. On the forth charge, Pacheco struck Avila's lance from Avila's hands and it fell to the ground. The loss of his lance infuriated Avila, so he drew his pistol and shot Pacheco out of the saddle, and Pacheco died. Avila was shocked at his own behavior, and sat his horse in a kind of horrified stupor.

Victoria, upset at such a unchivalrous act, drew his pistol and shot Avila to death.

Captain Portilla felt that shooting Avila to death was uncalled for, so he charged Governor Victoria and put his lance through Victoria's face, ripping off a chunk of flesh and cartilage. Governor Victoria fell off his horse and writhed on the ground in agony.

Governor Victoria survived, but he resigned the governorship of Alta California. The previous governor, Echeandia, took the job, which he did until Jose Figueroa took over on January 14th., 1833.

This battle should not be confued with the Battle of La Providencia which is also known as the Second Battle of Cahuenga Pass

Copyright (C) 2000,2001,2002 Free Software Foundation, Inc., 51 Franklin St, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110-1301 USA. Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.

 
 
 
 
 
Search our Site!
Google
Search the Web Search California Military History Online
 
Questions and comments concerning this site should be directed to the Webmaster
 
Updated 8 February 2016