Californians and the Military
Ignacio Martinez
Cadet, Royal Presidio of Santa Barbara 1799-1805
By Michael R. Hardwick
Cadet Ignacio Martinez, native of Mexico City, was sent to California with other cadets to "save the presidio accounts". He began his service at the Presidio of Santa Barbara in 1799. He arrived on the packet boat Princessa from San Blas after two weeks at sea. His commanding officer at the time was Felipe de Goycoechea, who had been at the presidio for 15 years. Don Ignacio had his own house and while he did his duty in the ranks with the soldiers, by custom he lived and fraternized with the officers.

Don Ignacio worked alongside the soldiers, trained in the use of the musket, pistols, broadsword and lance, the saddling and care of his cavalry horse and use of heavy leather equipment for the protection of himself and horse against brush and arrows. Don Ignacio's other duties were to act as clerk and get to know the regulations and military law that he would be required to enforce.

In 1802 Ignacio Martinez de la Vega married María Martina de Arellano from the Pueblo of Los Angeles in the chapel of the Presidio of Santa Barbara.

Governor Arrillaga promoted Don Igancio to Alférez in 1805, and in 1806 the viceroy confirmed his promotion. Alférez Martinez was reassigned to the Presidio of San Diego to take over the habilitación (office of paymaster).

As habilitado, Don Ignacio ordered and dispensed supplies, handled complaints, and kept the company accounts for each officer and soldier. Martinez administered pension funds and was the postmaster. He managed money collected from tobacco sales, which were considerable. The largest revenue at the presidios came from the sale of tobacco. In one year at Santa Barbara alone tobacco sales netted 2000 pesos from the sale of 5,345 paper cigars and 25,331 cigarettes.

In 1818 Lieutenant Martinez was reassigned again to Santa Barbara under the command of Captain Jose de la Guera.

References: Martinez, Carmel G. Don Igancio Martinez - Life and Times of a Presidial Officer in California 1799-1848, 1992. Manuscript on file, Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

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Updated 8 February 2016