The establishment of another
presidio north of the Monterey area was not in the original plans
of the Spanish Monarch. Spain had no knowledge of the large body
of water to the north. Vizcaino era maps did refer to a river
at the location of the Golden Gate but it was not explored and
the location was passed by. That all changed on July 14, 1769.
After establishing a precarious hold in San Diego, Portola took
a small party north in search of Monterey. An advanced party under
Sergeant Jose Ortega, a criollo born in Guanajuato in central
Mexico who would be destined to serve at the garrisons of San
Diego, Monterey, and Santa Barbara during his career, reported
that they had seen a "brazon del mar" - an arm of the
sea. The Spanish explorers noted this chance sighting. In 1770
Don Pedro Fages took it upon himself to forage a land route to
the north. Fages and a handful of lancers, along with some muleteers,
rode to the Santa Clara Valley. From there they went east, encamping
near the present city of Alameda. By November 28th, the men viewed
a large "bocana" or estuary mouth. Not being able to
cross the Punta de los Reyes, Fages halted and then made his way
back to Monterey. In March of 1772 Fages again returned north
with six soldiers, a muleteer, a Native American servant and the
Majorcan-born Fray Juan Crespi to gain a clearer understanding
of the large body of water to the north. From the east bay they
saw the Farallons and three islets within the bay that someday
would be known as Alcatraz, Angel Island and Yerba Buena. Armed
with this added intelligence, Fages's party concluded its journey
with a report and chart that prompted additional interest in the
Having read these reports,
Father Junipero Serra began to lobby the viceroy for two more
missions in the vicinity of what came to be called the Port of
San Francisco, one in the Santa Clara Valley and one at the opening
to the bay. Don Pedro Fages felt that he did not have enough soldiers
to support another missionary program. However, Viceroy Antonio
Bucarelli y Ursua championed Serra's cause, relieving Fages and
replacing him with Capitan Fernando Xavier de Rivera y Moncada
as military comandante of Alta California. Fages was sent off
to the Apache wars in Arizona.
Charged with another survey
of the "Port and River of San Francisco", Rivera commanded
16 lancers, a muleteer, two servants and one priest, another native
of Majorca, Fray Francisco Palou. The 21 riders left Monterey
on November 23, 1774. By December 4th, they halted at "a
long lake ending down at the shore" (now Lake Merced in the
southwestern part of San Francisco). Rivera continued on with
Palou and four troopers until they reached either what now is
called Land's End or perhaps present-day Point Lobos, where they
set up a cross. The next day they headed home making their way
to Monterey by December 13th.
The result of this exploration
was a plan and program to settle the area south of the Golden
Gate with a presidio and a mission. This was the northernmost
area of the Spanish possessions over which they could exercise
any control. The Spanish had no ships stationed in the area with
which to go further north and provide any meaningful control across
To facilitate his plans,
Viceroy Bucareli turned to Captain Juan Agustin Bautista de Anza
of the Tubac Presidio, in present day Arizona, to found the presidio
and provide the Christianized Mexican Native American settlers
for the missions. His effort to do so has already been discussed
in detail in the earlier introductory portion of the "presidio"
section of this volume.
In the meantime, 30-year-old
Juan Manuel de Ayala played another role in preparing the way
for Spanish settlement in northern California. As the skipper
of the packet San Carlos, Ayala sailed from San Blas with supplies
for the proposed colony. His other duties included the charting
of the bay and its shoreline, and ascertaining whether a navigable
passage existed to the inland waterway from the sea. Finally,
Ayala sought to learn whether a port could be established there.
On August 4, 1775 the San Carlos arrived just outside the present
day Golden Gate. The next morning, Ayala sent his first pilot,
Jose de Canizares, into the harbor with a longboat. That evening
he followed, anchoring somewhere near what became North Beach.
This was the first European ship to enter this great bay. During
the next 44 days Ayala and Canizares completed a thorough reconnaissance
before heading back to Monterey on September 18th. Shortly thereafter,
Ayala enthusiastically reported the fine harbor presented "a
beautiful fitness, and it has no lack of good drinking water and
plenty of firewood and ballast." He also concluded that it
possessed a healthful climate and "docile natives lived there".
A chart of the Bay of San Francisco was prepared by Jose de Canizares.
The de Anza party of 240
settlers and 1,000 head of domestic stock reached Monterey on
March 10, 1776. On March 23rd, Anza left his weary fellow sojourners
at this location and took an advanced party from Monterey to select
the new outpost of the empire.
According to an account
kept by Fray Pedro Font, on March 27th, "the weather was
fair and clear, a favor which God granted us during all these
days, and especially today, in order that we might see the harbor
which we were going to explore." After a march of four hours,
they "halted on the banks of a lake or spring of very fine
water near the mouth of the port of San Francisco," today's
Mountain Lake. This spot afforded a resting place for the tired
riders. Then, Anza took Font, another officer, and four soldiers
to scout further. Going to the northernmost tip of San Francisco
Bay's peninsula and looking down from White Cliffs, Anza had seen
enough. He ordered the party back to camp. There, Font set down
his somewhat over-optimistic impressions: "This place and
its vicinity has abundant pasturage, plenty of firewood, and fine
water, all good advantage for establishing here the presidio or
fort which is planned. It lacks only timber, for there is not
a tree on all those hills, though the oaks and other trees along
the road are not very far away. Here and near the lake there are
"yerba buena" and so many lilies that I almost had them
inside my tent." Font continued and, for one of the first
times, clearly used the term San Francisco as the name of the
great bay: "The port of San Francisco.is a marvel of nature,
and might well be called a harbor of harbors, because of its great
capacity, and of several small bays which it unfolds in its margins
or beach and in its islands."
On March 28th, Anza returned
to the Cantil Blanco (White Cliffs) of the previous day to erect
a wooden cross. This was at or near the present day toll plaza
on the south side of the Golden Gate Bridge. This action marked
the formal act of possession for Spain. Anza also selected the
ground where the cross stood as the spot for a presidio to protect
the region. Then the party further surveyed the immediate area.
Fray Font recorded: "On leaving we ascended a small hill
and then entered upon a mesa that was very green and flower-covered,
and an abundance of wild violets. The mesa is very open, of considerable
extent, and level, sloping a little toward the harbor. It must
be about half a league wide and somewhat longer, getting narrower
until it ends right at the white cliff. This mesa affords a most
delightful view, for from it one sees a large part of the port
and its islands, as far as the other side, the mouth of the harbor,
and of the sea all that the sight can take in as far as beyond
the farallones. Indeed, although in my travels I saw very good
sites and beautiful in all the world, for it has the best advantages
for founding in it a most beautiful city, with all the conveniences
desired, by land as well as sea, with that harbor so remarkable
and so spacious, in which may be established shipyards, docks,
and anything that might be wished. This mesa the commander selected
as the site of the new settlement and fort which were to be established
on this harbor: for, being on a height, it is so commanding that
with muskets it can defend the entrance to the mouth of the harbor,
while a gunshot away it has water to supply the people, namely,
the spring or lake where we halted. The only lack is timber for
large buildings, although for huts and barracks and for the stockade
of the presidio there are plenty of trees in the groves."
Neither Font nor Anza, however,
would have to wrestle with the actual establishment of a settlement
since both men left the bay area for Monterey on April 5th, arriving
there some three days later. By April 14th the two men departed,
once again this time setting out for Mexico, where Anza would
receive another promotion and a new assignment destined to take
him away forever from California.
Father Font was another
of the gifted Franciscans to chronicle early California history,
but only for a short period because he was there in connection
with the second Anza expedition. Born in Gerona, Catalonia, he
came to Mexico in 1763. Within a decade, he moved to Sonora as
a missionary among the Pimas. Upon his return with Anza in 1776,
he went to Ures. There the priest completed the short version
of the diary that gained him fame, the longer edition being completed
in 1777. Three years later, Father Font died at Caborca. Font
included a map of the Port of San Francisco in his diary.
Thus it fell to Anza's second-in-command,
Jose Joaquin Moraga, to lead the final leg of the colonizing expedition
northward. Setting out from Monterey on June 17, 1776, some 193
settlers (both soldiers and civilian, some with families and other
single adventurers) made ready for a new life. By June 27th, this
contingent under Moraga arrived in the Bay Area and halted at
the site of what became the Mission Dolores. There the group rested
and waited for supplies which the San Carlos carried. The next
several weeks passed with Moraga actively exploring the region.
On these forays he concluded that a plain to the southeast of
the Cantil Blanco seemed more advantageous for a military outpost.
Indeed, Moraga realized cold fogs often shrouded this windy spot
favored by Anza. Consequently, he may have desired a slightly
milder climate than the exposed cliffs selected by Anza. Certainly
he sought convenient sources of water, which he found on "a
good plain in sight of the harbor and entrance, and also of its
interior. As soon as he saw this location the lieutenant decided
that it was suitable for settlement." With this in mind,
Moraga relocated the main force to the spot he selected. On July
26th Moraga's main force arrived at a clearing overlooking the
bay and immediately began work on a chapel and some crude shelters
for the garrison.
Moraga served both as comandante
and habilitado of the Presidio of San Francisco from its founding
until his death on July 13, 1785. The son of Jose Moraga and Maria
Gaona, he hailed from Mission Los Santos Angeles de Guevavi, in
today's Arizona, and was born on August 22, 1745.
In the early stages the
main priority was to survive while awaiting sea borne supplies.
During this time Moraga's force remained in its rudimentary encampment
without any special military preparations. That situation changed
when the San Carlos finally arrived on August 17th. After the
ship's captain, its pilot and the ship's chaplain came ashore,
they concurred with Moraga's selection for the fort and presidio.
With this, the pilot Canizares laid out: "A square measuring
ninety-two varas (ninety yards square each way) with divisions
for church, royal offices, warehouses, guardhouses and houses
for soldier settlers, a map of the plan being formed and drawn
by the first pilot." To expedite construction a squad of
sailors and two carpenters joined in to complete a warehouse,
the comandancia and a chapel while the soldiers worked on their
own dwellings. On September 17, 1776 with sufficient progress
being made, the San Carlos crew joined the soldiers and citizens
and four missionary priests at a solemn high mass. The ceremony
of formal dedication was followed by the singing of the Te Deum
Laudamus accompanied by the peal of bells and repeated salvos
of cannon, muskets and guns. The roar and sound of the bells doubtless
terrified the heathens, who did not allow themselves to be seen
for many days.
The Royal Regulations of
1772 required that the presidios be constructed of adobe brick.
This was a suitable material and design for presidios on the Southern
Spanish Provincias Internas but it was never suitable for the
northern climate of Monterey or San Francisco with their high
winds and heavy rains. The Moroccan design was meant for the arid
climate but the Spanish bureaucracy could not adjust to geography.
Wooden or stone buildings were more appropriate for those climates.
However the Spanish soldiers followed orders and planned a design
with an adobe wall and bastions that followed the 1772 regulations.
Consequently, from the beginning the San Francisco Presidio was
subject to continual rebuilding. The Presidio was dependent on
the supply ships from San Blas for basic food needs and there
were often food shortages.
In mid-June of 1778 the
ship Santiago arrived after a 3½ -month voyage from San
Blas but did little to reduce the shortages of food. In fact,
the demands increased by the 1777 order to found the pueblo on
the Rio de Guadalupe. Work at the Presidio was delayed so Moraga
could spend much of his time in the autumn of that year establishing
the civilian settlement. Five settlers with their families and
nine soldiers with some knowledge of farming left San Francisco
in November 1777 for the site of the new town to the south. The
governor selected San Jose de Guadalupe from Loreto as the name
for the settlement. The Hispanic male population in the San Francisco
district increased by almost a third during the year due to those
associated with the presidio and missions; however only two new
soldiers joined Lieutenant Moraga's military force.
to undermine efforts toward improvements in the first years. When
the new governor of both Californias, Felipe de Neve made an inspection
in April 1777, he noted that while Moraga began work on enclosing
the quadrangle with a wall, the completed comandante's quarters
and warehouse, both of adobe, appeared to be very substantial,
a finding which tended to indicate that Moraga's 1776 plan reflected
what he had hoped to construct rather than what had been built.
Neve found all other structures to be "mere huts." Consequently,
the governor ordered future construction to be of adobe built
atop stone foundations. Unfortunately, this prescription came
too late. During the winter of 1778-1779, the Presidio suffered
heavy damage from the weather. Severe storms, especially in January
and February, destroyed a major part of the palisade walls, the
warehouse and a casa mata, this last-named structure possibly
standing outside the quadrangle near the entrance to protect the
gate. By 1780, none of the buildings erected in 1778 and little
of the walls stood, having been toppled by the intense rains and
Neve, born in Baylen, Kingdom
of Andalusia in 1728, became the first Governor of both Baja and
Alta California to reside in Monterey, which then became the capital
when he relocated there on February 3, 1777. A lieutenant colonel
when he first came to Monterey, Neve received his promotion to
colonel on January 5, 1778. On September 10, 1782 he terminated
his governorship in California and assumed the position of Comandante-Inspector
of the Provincias Internas. By August 12, 1783, he rose to Comandante
General of this same jurisdiction, having gained his brigadier
generalcy earlier that year. Neve died on August 21, 1784 at Hacienda
de Nuestra Senora de Carmen de Penablanca, Nueva Vizcaya.
Further damage to the Presidio
occurred on October 11, 1779. In September 1778 the Spanish ships
Princesa and Favorita, under the command of Lieutenants Igancio
Arteaga and Juan Francisco de la Bodega Y Quadra, arrived at San
Francisco on a return trip from explorations to the northwest
coast. They laid over for about six weeks while the men recuperated
from scurvy. During this respite at the Presidio a fire destroyed
the hospital tent used by the two crews and gutted one of the
Another problem, which undermined
the morale and discipline on the Spanish frontier, was due to
Spanish white supremacy and social inequality. Any enlisted man
who could show an official certificate attesting to his pure white
ancestry (criollos or peninsulares) could be granted the status
of a soldado distinguido and assume the honorific title of "don"
along with enjoying certain other privileges, which included the
right to wear swords such as those carried by officers, exclusion
from menial labor, and extra considerations for promotions. At
San Francisco usually only sons of officers qualified for this
distinction since regularly the enlisted men were mestizo, mulatto,
or of other mixed blood. This represented one example of the class
distinctions based on European or colonial heritage which grew
up in Spanish California and throughout Spain's New World holdings.
In the end this discrimination was one factor that led to the
Mexican revolution of 1810 and 1822.
The decade of the 1780s saw few improvements to the buildings at the Presidio of San Francisco. In a few cases the soldiers had to build palisade huts for their families when their adobe houses did not stand up well in unfavorable weather. By this time, one account indicated that the Comandante lived in an adobe while four walls of varying heights from 2.5 yards to 4 yards surrounded the compound, which also enclosed a stone facility and palisade with earth structures that served as stores, the church and habitations of the garrison. This undistinguished record resulted from a lack of timber and tules near the post, poor quality adobe and a shortage of skilled workmen among the 15 to 20 soldiers, who with their families, regularly made up the garrison during the late 1770s and early 1780s.
In 1782 Moraga was promoted
to the rank of Lieutenant. The crown also approved $1,200 expenditure
for the Presidio of San Francisco's construction some six years
after the fact. As this amount had been spent long before, the
troops and servants would be reimbursed for their labors. In many
instances big and small, the home government moved at a snail's
The chapel was completed
in 1784 but a gale blew down one corner of the presidial square.
Moraga's effort to build a guardhouse during the same year came
to a similar end when the strong winds of October destroyed the
partially completed structure because the men wanted for proper
materials to tie down the roof and brace the walls.
Moraga toiled as the first
Comandante of the San Francisco Presidio until his death on July
13, 1785. On that day, the command passed to Lieutenant Diego
Gonzalez, who reported from Monterey, while the alferez of the
company, Ramon Lasso de la Vega, became the new habilitado. Both
men experienced considerable trouble during their assignments
at San Francisco. Before coming to his new post, Gonzalez had
been arrested once for a variety of minor offenses. At San Francisco
he continued his irregular conduct despite reprimands and warnings
from the governor. Finally Nicolas Soler, the Adjutant-Inspector,
ordered Gonzalez's confinement. After two or three months under
house arrest, Gonzalez went to Sonora.
Alferez Ramon Lasso de la
Vega succeeded Gonzalez, followed by Alferez Hermenegildo Sal.
Jose Dario Arguello followed him, after an equally negative rating
as the previous two comandantes.
Jose Arquello was born in
1753 in Queretero, Mexico. He became a soldier of the Regiment
of Dragoons of Mexico on September 20, 1772, serving in expeditions
against the Apaches and helping to found settlements along the
Colorado River. On July 14, 1781 Alferez Arguello arrived in San
Gabriel. He assisted in the founding of pueblos in Los Angeles
and San Buenaventura. On February 9, 1787 he gained promotion
to lieutenant and eventually reached captain on December 1, 1806.
In California he first served at the Presidio of Santa Barbara,
being posted there even before the fort's construction. Arguello
remained at Santa Barbara as Alferez until his promotion to lieutenant
took him to San Francisco as comandante. His tenure lasted until
1806 when, as a captain, he left and took command of Santa Barbara
from 1807 through 1815. From July 24, 1814 through August 30,
1815, he served as Governor ad Interim of Alta California and
then became Governor of Baja California from 1815 through 1822.
He retired in 1822 in Guadalajara where he died sometime between
1827 and 1829.
Besides their duties at
the Presidio a small detachment of escoltas was stationed at each
of the missions where they protected the missions and missionaries.
The soldiers assisted in overseeing the neophytes at their daily
chores and kept guard even during church services. The corporal
sometimes served as the mission's majordomo and took charge of
criminal justice, punishing minor offenses, making investigations
and sending periodic reports and suspects for more serious matters
to the Presidio. At the mission, soldiers lived in a common barracks
arrangement if single, and in small quarters if married. Bachelors
gave their rations to the spouses of their married comrades. The
wives prepared the meals as well as assisted with other domestic
chores. The same circumstances existed at the Presidio of San
If not sent to the mission,
soldiers carried on numerous other tasks. A noncommissioned officer
(comisionado) provided a similar function for the Pueblo of San
Jose to that of the corporals overseeing the mission escoltas.
Other men carried messages, dispatches and the mail, much as pony
express riders would in a later U.S. era. Some guarded officials
as they traveled in the district or looked after prisoners assigned
to public works. Sentry duty, usually given out as a punitive
measure to those who had committed some minor infraction, was
a regular requirement with an average stint being three hours
at a time. Exploration parties and expeditions against the local
Native Americans took up considerable energies, too.
When not occupied in strictly
martial pursuits, the men watched over the growing herds of livestock
at the Rancho Del Rey where their vaquero functions extended to
roundups, branding, castrating bulls, and slaughtering. Each presidio
maintained a Rancho Del Rey to provide fresh meat to the troops
and their families. Each presidio had its own brand for the cattle.
Likewise, they maintained plots for vegetables, as well as worked
at various other food production-related tasks. They gathered
wood and performed different jobs to help maintain their families.
Those with skills of carpenters, smiths, tailors, shoemakers and
potters found ample extra work, as these craftspeople were in
short supply in California. Individuals without specialized trades
might hire on as common laborers, although much of this type of
work went to prisoners or Native Americans who performed either
for pay or as unpaid captives. Moreover, if a soldado distinguido
had to do fatigue duty, he supposedly received an additional bonus
of ten reales in advance. At a later date when some men refused
to do such manual labor because Arguello did not have the funds
to pay them, the comandante placed the strikers in the stocks,
evidently they did not remain there for very long, especially
since one of those who led the "no pay, no work" faction
was Arguello's young brother-in-law.
With many problems, the grand vision for the Presidio waned as the decade of the 1780s came to an end. Its defects as a barren site with harsh climate and remote location from the rest of New Spain weighed heavily against the garrison's success. In fact, the adjutant-inspector of California even advocated the abandonment of the site but this suggestion went unheeded. The need for an outpost to protect the northernmost missions and the strategic position of San Francisco Bay made it impossible to entertain the withdrawal of the troops. Yet, after more than a dozen years of precarious existence, San Francisco stood as an impotent sign of defense rather than a bastion of empire. Subsequent events would espouse the sham in the not-too-distant future.
In March 1791 Lieutenant
Jose Arguello relocated to Monterey. Hermenegildo Sal and Jose
Perez Fernandez managed the affairs of the Presidio through to
1796. Ex-governor Fages made a visit to the Presidio during the
spring of 1791 while the supply ship Aranzazu arrived during the
summer. On September 25th Sal led a party to Santa Cruz to dedicate
the new mission there.
In his March 4,1792 report
to Governor Jose Antonio Romeu, Sal includes a drawing of the
presidio describing the "as built" structures at that
time. Sal describes the on-going work and the continued futility
of building with mud and adobe in the northern climate. What is
built one day is washed away the next. On December 29,1792 Sal
wrote to the new Governor at Monterey Arrillaga, "The labor
spent on the Presidio is incredible and yet there are now but
slightly more or less buildings than at first."
In 1792 the Presidio had
just one three-pounder brass cannon. Sal felt that he needed 10-12
cannon to defend the harbor from foreign attack. The Spanish had
supplied California with twenty-three bronze cannon, large and
small, as part of the stores brought with Portola.
On November 14, 1792 Captain
George Vancouver arrived at Yerba Buena Cove in the ship H.M.S.
Discovery. Sal used his lone cannon to welcome them with two salutes
from the same gun. Vancouver was warmly received by the Spanish
and given food, wood and water. Vancouver's visit was part of
a world tour, which included surveying the Spanish holdings in
California and to assessing their strengths. Vancouver's comments
about the San Francisco Presidio which he visited on November
17 appeared in his report to the Admiralty on his return to England
as follows: "We soon arrived at the Presidio, which was not
more than a mile from our landing place. Its wall, which fronted
the harbor, was visible from the ships, but instead of the city
or town, whose lights we had so anxiously looked for on the night
of arrival, surrounded by hills on every side, excepting that
which fronted the port. The only object of human industry, which
presented itself, was a square area, whose sides were about two
hundred yards in length, enclosed by a mud wall, and resembling
a pound for cattle. Above this wall, the thatched roofs of their
low small houses just made their appearance. On entering the Presidio
we found one of its sides still unenclosed by the wall, and very
indifferently fenced in by a few bushes here and there, fastened
to stakes in the ground. The unfinished state of this part afforded
us an opportunity of seeing the strength of the wall, and the
manner in which it was constructed. It is about fourteen feet
high, and five feet in breadth, and was first formed by uprights
and horizontal rafters on large timber, between which dried sods
and moistened earth were pressed as close and as hard as possible,
after which the whole was cased with earth made into a sort of
mud plaster, which gave it the appearance of durability, and of
being sufficiently strong to protect them, with the assistance
of their firearms, against all the force which the natives of
the country might be able to collect." Vancouver correctly
states that the Presidio is adequate to defend against the "natives
of the country" but would not withstand an assault from a
European force, for which it was never intended.
Vancouver's party inspected
the inside of the Presidio and then made a three-day journey to
Missions Delores and Santa Clara, from November 20th to 23rd.
Vancouver's party was the first foreign power to penetrate into
the Spanish hinterlands in California. The British expedition
departed on November 26, 1792 for Monterey. The Governor ad interim,
Jose Arrillaga reprimanded Sal for allowing the British such freedom
to inspect the Spanish possessions.
Jose Joaquin de Arrillaga
came from Aya, in the Basque Province of Guipuzcoa, where he was
born in 1750. A bachelor, he came to Nueva Espana as a member
of the Volunteer Company of the Presidio of San Miguel de Horcasitas
in Sonora, serving there from May 25, 1777 through March 30, 1778
when his promotion to alferez brought a transfer to duty in Texas.
He continued to rise in rank. As a captain, he transferred to
the Presidio of Loreto in Baja to assume dual assignments as commander
of that post and as lieutenant governor of the Californias, assignments
he held from 1783 through 1792. On April 9th of that year he assumed
the position as Governor ad Interim of the Californias and remained
in this capacity until May 14, 1794 when Diego de Borica replaced
him. Again, between January 16,1800 and March 26, 1804 he fulfilled
this same duty. In between time, he continued as lieutenant governor
and commander at Loreto. He became a lieutenant colonel on December
15, 1794 and a colonel sometime in 1809. Arrillaga died at Mission
Nuestra Senora de la Soledad, Alta California on July 24,1814.
As a result of the English
visit and despite the censure from Arrillaga, Comandante Sal received
long overdue support to strengthen the presidial district. The
viceroy had selected a fortification at the site originally chosen
by Anza in 1776. By 1793, a temporary earthwork with six mounted
guns had appeared on this site. This structure was to be replaced
by a more permanent work consisting of 10-foot thick embrasures
on the seaward side of adobe faced with brick and mortar. Behind
this stood an esplanade on which the heavy guns with their four-wheeled
siege-type carriages rested. The esplanade, made of heavy timbers,
had a plank flooring about 20 feet wide, held together by nine-inch
spikes. On the land side, the walls of unfaced adobe stood only
five feet thick. There lighter guns on two-wheeled carriages sat
on the ground.
Superintendent of construction
for the Department of San Blas, Francisco Gomez, provided his
expertise. Master gunner Don Jose Garaicochea directed the placement
of the cannon. These men and three sawyers had come up from Mexico
aboard Aranzazu originally bound for Bodega Bay before being reassigned
to the Castillo. Antonio Santos also arrived with the ship and
took charge of the manufacture of tile and burnt brick. The master
worked with Christian Native Americans provided by the missions
and non-converted native people brought up from the area around
Santa Clara. Woodchoppers went into the hills west of San Mateo
for timber, going a distance of more than 10 leagues to secure
the redwood. It took about a week to bring back the lumber (weather
permitting) while 23 yoke of oxen hauled the material northward.
Additionally, the laborers made many bricks and tiles before the
rains halted work in January 1794. In early March 1794 when the
rains ceased, efforts resumed and continued throughout the year.
With all the heavy masonry and timberwork completed and after
an expenditure of 6,400 pesos 4 reales and 7 granos, the new Castillo
de San Joaquin was dedicated on December 8, 1794.
As mentioned earlier, one
of the duties of the Presidio was to provide protection for the
missions from the Native Americans. However, that was easier said
than done. In 1795, the number of troops stationed in the presidia
district was Lieutenant Jose Arguello, one sergeant, four corporals
and 31 soldiers scattered over this large area. With these figures,
little wonder that in September 1795, 280 neophyte men and women
felt confident enough to run off from Mission Dolores. Their numbers
included several who had lived at the place for a long time. Troops
could do little to respond, and lacking a sufficient force to
pursue these runaways, recapture proved all but impossible. Native
Americans living at Mission Santa Clara also tried to escape but
efforts were made to retrieve them. The captives faced whippings
and a month of labor at the Presidio, probably wearing shackles
for the duration of their punishment.
On June 27, 1795 the new Governor Diego de Borica visited San Francisco and recommended that a new presidio be built at the present site of Fort Winfield Scott and the old location abandoned. No action was taken.
Borica was a Basque who came from Bizcaya. He became a cadet in the Infantry Regiment of Seville at 21. He served in this unit from March 15, 1763 through July 31, 1764 when his appointment as a lieutenant of Infantry Regiment of America brought him to New Spain. For a decade he served in Mexico until a transfer to the cavalry in 1774 brought him to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Thereafter, he performed a number of duties, eventually earning the rank of lieutenant colonel on February 5, 1785 and only 12 days later became a colonel. Borica came to California as governor, a post he held from May 14, 1795 through January 6, 1800. He returned to New Spain on a leave of absence because of ill health and died in Durango on July 19, 1800.
Spring of 1796 saw the arrival
of the special infantry unit from Spain called the Catalonian
Volunteers. Most of the unit of 75 men arrived aboard the Valdes
and San Carlos with their leader, Lieutenant-Colonel Pedro de
Alberni. The catalyst for this activity was the beginning of the
war between Spain and France that began with the rise of republicanism
and Napoleon Bonaparte.
The Volunteers were to support
the leather-jacketed soldiers in their efforts to control the
Native Americans, help settle the land and assist in the construction
of new coastal batteries to protect New Spain from possible attack
from France, England or Russia.
Alberni was born about 1745
in Tortosa, Catalonia. His military life began in 1757 while he
was but 12. By 1762, he served as a cadet in the Second Light
Infantry Regiment of Catalonia. Over the next five years he rose
to second sergeant and first sergeant. With that rank, he volunteered
for service in the New World, where he went in 1767 as a sub-lieutenant
in "the newly organized Company of Catalonian Volunteers."
After a stint in Sonora on campaigns from 1771 to 1781, Albrni
served in the garrison at Guadalajara in Jalisco and Mesa del
Tonati in Nayarit. In 1782, Alberni assumed command of the Volunteers.
At that point his rather ordinary career transformed into a more
important one. After eight years as captain of the company, he
and his 80 men received orders for Nootka where they were to guard
Spanish vessels and reestablish fortifications. Alberni received
the title of comandante of arms and governor of the fort. Alberni's
two years in the Northwest demonstrated his many abilities. He
returned to New Spain where he attended to his family and soldierly
duties until 1795. In that year war with France stimulated action
on Spain's part to send reinforcements to California. In 1796,
Alberni headed some 75 men and became the commander at the San
Francisco presidial district. As a lieutenant colonel in the Spanish
army he was the highest-ranking man in the Californias. He remained
in the Bay Area until 1800 when he relocated to Monterey as comandante.
Alberni died there on March 11, 1802 from dropsy, leaving all
his estate to his widow.
New quarters were erected
along the east side of the Presidio walls for the Catalonians.
Along with Alberni the viceroy sent the military engineer from
the Royal Corps of Engineers, Alberto Cordoba. Cordoba spent two
years helping to improve the fortifications in Alta California.
He recommended rebuilding the Presidio in San Francisco on another
location and assisted with the founding of the Villa Branciforte,
a fortified pueblo at Santa Cruz. With his help the San Francisco
Castillo de San Joaquin was improved and fortified but Cordoba
felt that the location and construction were useless for defense
of the entrance to the Golden Gate. Cordoba recommended a counter
battery across the Golden Gate and another battery further along
Spain and France settled
their differences but fighting between Spain and England resumed
in late winter 1797.
The second San Carlos, alias
El Filipino was lost in a storm in the Bay on March 23, 1797.
The ship broke up on the shore. The three new cannon for the Castillo
were off-loaded and left on the shore before this mishap. The
original San Carlos used in the Portola Expedition had been lost
at sea two years earlier.
In May 1797 the supply vessels,
Concepcion and Princesa arrived and contributed to local defenses
by using their sailors to help rebuild the Presidio and the Castillo.
These sailors received two extra reales a day as additional pay.
The counter battery recommended
by Cordoba was not built but the Bateria de San Jose at Yerba
Buena composed of five small guns of no use at the Castillo were
placed in a small enclosure of eight embrasures between April
and June 1797.
In the spring of 1800, Alberni
took several of his infantrymen and their families to Monterey.
Their relocation left the outpost with a token force of 13-foot
soldiers, five gunners and no soldados de cuera at the San Francisco
Presidio. The post reverted to a semi-caretaker status and a hardship
In 1799 the Americans began
to arrive. The first "Boston Men' sailed into port aboard
the armed merchant ship Eliza. In 1803 the Alexander followed
by the Hazard arrived at San Francisco. The latter carried 22
cannon and 20 swivel guns with a crew of 50 to man them. The Spanish
had no more than eight men in the garrison. In addition the remaining
Catalonian Volunteers were ordered back to Mexico.
Native Americans continued
to revolt and to be arrested by the escolta and made to work on
the Presidio or Castillo. On March 10, 1806 Luis Arguello became
comandante of the Presidio. Don Jose Arguello transferred to Santa
During the winter of 1805-1806,
members of the Russian settlement at Sitka suffered near starvation
and scurvy. The imperial inspector visiting the colony at the
time, Chamberlain Nikolai Patriotic Rezanov, resolved to sail
to California to get food for his men. The Russian ship Juno
arrived at San Francisco on March 28,1806 with a load of merchandise
to be used in trade for food supplies for its scurvy-ridden crew
and the colonies to the north. The Russians were instructed to
anchor in front of the Presidio. The Russians and Spanish could
not understand each other's language but found Latin to be a common
language that both could understand. The ship's doctor and naturalist,
G.H. von Langsdorff, was not impressed with the Presidio. He described
it as having "the appearance of a German farmstead rather
than a fort." The first known rendering of the Presidio was
prepared by Langsdorff and published in the journals of the voyage.
Alfrez Arguello informed
Rezanov that he was forbidden to trade with the Russians. However,
he had notified the governor and arrangements might be worked
out to provide needed supplies. In the meantime the Presidio presented
the ill crew of the Juno with cattle, sheep, onions, garlic,
cabbages and several other sorts of vegetables and bread to combat
the effects of poor nutrition. The fresh food restored them to
good health and gave an indication of the potential bounty of
the area for agriculture.
After ten days passed, Governor
Arrillaga made his way to San Francisco with an entourage that
included Lieutenant Jose Arguello. When Arrillaga arrived, a salute
from the guns of the fort and the battery greeted him, the booms
from the cannon hidden further within the harbor surprising the
Russians since the Yerba Buena battery could not be seen from
the anchorage. Later, the Russians managed to have a closer look
at this emplacement. Renzanov made the following comments in his
report: "Weak as the Spanish defenses are, they have nevertheless
increased their artillery since Vancouver's visit. We later secretly
inspected the battery (Yerba Buena). It has five brass cannons
of twelve-pound caliber. I heard that there are several guns in
the fortress (the Castillo). As I have never been there
and in order to disarm suspicion did not allow others to go either,
I do not know if there are more or less guns there."
Further surveys by the Russians
indicated that the north shore of the Bay offered some excellent
positions for forts that could control the entrance without any
danger of retaliation from the Spanish battery as the proposed
sites for Russian defenses rose higher than those of the Spanish
on the south side of the harbor and also was out of range. The
Russians could not help but notice that a ship could slip past
the Castillo's guns by hugging the out-of-range northern shore
as it entered port. In the meantime talks continued with Governor
Arrillaga to arrange a mutual trade agreement. At the time the
viceroy opposed commerce with foreigners.
Rezanov became romantically
involved with Donna Conception Arguello and requested permission
of marriage. This event led to one of California's memorable love
stories. A marriage contract was drawn up but no marriage could
be performed until Rome authorized the union because Rezanov was
not a Catholic. As a result of this arrangement, Governor Arrillaga
agreed to permit trading with the Russians. As the world now knows,
Rezanov was killed in a horse riding accident in Russia while
on his way to obtain the Czar's permission to marry Donna Concepcion.
The bride never heard of these events until late in life. She
had spent her single life waiting for Rezanov to return.
The Juno's crew filled
the ship's hold with provisions. They made ready to sail in the
third week of May, leaving 11,174 rubles (an estimated $24,000)
worth of goods in exchange for 2,000 bushels of grain, five tons
of flour and other edibles. As the Russian ship sailed out of
San Francisco Bay, she exchanged cannon salutes with the Spaniards
at the entrance to the harbor. The Russians' last glimpse of the
Spanish settlement was the large group on the high white cliff
- Governor Arrillaga, the whole Arguello family and many others
all waving goodbye with hats and handkerchiefs.
In 1809, the Russian-American
Company began fur-collecting activities from an initial base at
Bodega Bay. Local soldiers arrested Alaskan Indians caught chasing
sea otters and fur seals in the Bay. Likewise deserters from the
Russian base appeared in the presidial district. The Spanish promptly
took them into custody.
During the French invasion
of Spain, the soldiers in California, like Spanish Americans generally,
remained loyal to the imprisoned Spanish royal family. To assure
continued support however, the authorities required the men to
take an oath of allegiance to Ferdinand VII.
With the mother country
under Napoleon, political unrest heightened in Central and South
America. The effects made their way to San Francisco. In 1810,
insurgents on the high seas captured supplies and equipment destined
for California. From this date until the end of the Spanish period
in California, the soldiers never again saw their pay. The semiannual
supply ships, called memorias, rarely made the trip to California,
dictating that the presidios had to rely on foodstuffs from the
All during the early part
of the year 1811, many Russian-directed Native Americans appeared
around the bay. Mission Native Americans sent out to report on
the interlopers' activities spied 130 canoes in the vicinity of
the harbor's entrance, all hunting fur seals. The Russian supply
ships for the fur-collecting expedition anchored in Bodega Bay.
Some time during July the intruders left the area and were not
seen again until the following year.
In mid-1812 Arguello sent
Gabriel Moraga with four men to explore the area for intruders.
He discovered a Russian brigantine about 8 leagues north of Bodega.
It carried 80 men from Unalaska and Kamchatka to the California
site where Russians had already begun to construct a small fort
(destined to become Fort Ross) some 150 yards square with cannon
mounted behind the walls. In spite of the armament, Moraga noted
the Russians treated the Spanish soldiers in a friendly manner.
Gabriel Moraga was only
about 10 when the native of Santa Rosa del la Fronteras went with
his father, Josef Joaquin Moraga to start a new life in California
as part of Anza's Second Expedition. He joined the San Francisco
Company as a private in 1783 when his father still commanded there.
During his military career he rose through the ranks to sergeant
and by 1806 obtained his commission as an alfrez. He would become
a brevet lieutenant in 1811 and a lieutenant some six years later.
By 1820 he boasted a 37-year record as a soldier and had served
in 46 expeditions against Native Americans in the San Francisco,
Monterey and Santa Barbara presidial districts where he served.
In 1813, Lieutenant Moraga
again made his way to Fort Ross for exchange of views on occupation
and to deliver 20 cattle and three horses. The Russians wanted
to trade for food supplies in exchange for items needed by the
Spanish due to the lack of supplies from San Blas.
During 1814 two British
ships visited the port of San Francisco. The war between Spain
and Britain was now at an end. One of the ships was the armed
merchantman Isaac Todd and the other was the man-of-war Raccoon.
The captain of the 28-gun Raccoon requested and received permission
to repair his vessel at San Francisco, the ship having been damaged
during the War of 1812 in an attack and capture of the American
trading post at Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River. Eventually
the ship would be repaired in Marin County on the beach across
from Angel Island, thereby giving its name to the body of water
now known as Raccoon Straits. The 130 crewmen of the British naval
vessel spent a month in the Bay Area. After buying provisions
and a thousand pounds of gunpowder, Raccoon set sail for the Sandwich
Islands on its mission to destroy American shipping.
In 1814, Lieutenant Moraga
visited Fort Ross, after which he prepared a short report describing
the fort. He observed that forty gente de razon and many Kodiak
Native Americans lived there. A number of cannon guarded the place.
The house built for the comandante and his pilot boasted a most
remarkable luxury for the remote area - it had glass windows.
On this journey to Fort
Ross, Moraga carried official requests, orders and threats warning
the Russians to withdraw from Spanish territory. At the same time
however, Moraga and the Russian commander made additional arrangements
for what became an illegal, yet thriving, trade between the subjects
of Spain and Russia, with the unofficial blessing of Governor
Arrillaga. Consequently, the governor did not discourage the activity,
which he regarded as a profitable channel for obtaining much needed
supplies for his province. At least three Russian shiploads of
goods were exchanged for foodstuffs at San Francisco during 1815.
Both the interim governor, Jose Arguello, and the new one, Pablo
Vicente de Sola, made feeble gestures in the direction of stopping
the contraband exchange. Neither of them carried out any serious
effort to enforce the orders of the Spanish government in this
Pablo Vincente de Sola,
a Basque from Villa of Nondragon, Viscaya, was born in 1761 into
the Hidalgo class. From November 11, 1805 to February 20, 1807
this bachelor served as ad interim habilitado general of the Californias.
On December 31, 1814 his appointment as Governor of Nueva California
was made, although he did not reach Monterey to take charge until
August 30, 1815. He remained in this office until late November
1822 when he set sail for Mexico. After that few details are known
about this last Spanish governor of the province.
In 1815, the old chapel,
which had been badly damaged by the 1812 earthquake, was torn
down to the foundations. Work started on a provisional chapel
until a new chapel could be completed in 1817. New roofs of tile
finally replaced the old ones of tule, which so frequently had
been destroyed by wind and rain. More significantly the Castillo
was rebuilt into a completely new structure, based on a horseshoe
design, in response to the Russian presence at Fort Ross.
In 1816, the American ship
Prisionera visited California and traded tools for needed
On October 2, 1816, the
Russian brig Rurik arrived and anchored in front of the Presidio.
The world voyage, under the command of Lieutenant Otto von Katzebue
of the Russian Imperial Navy, came as a scientific expedition
but the visit to San Francisco no doubt also served as an opportunity
to check on the power of the Spanish government in California.
Fortunately for posterity
the Russians came to observe more than just the state of defense.
They brought with them Dr. Ivan Eschscholtz, surgeon, Adelbert
von Chamisso and Martin Wormskhold, naturalists and Louis Choris,
Eschscholtz provided some
of the first scientific information about the flora of present-day
California. They identified and named species during the course
of their work including Eschsholtzia Californica, the "Golden
Poppy" which was to become the state flower.
The artist Choris provided
the second rendering of the Presidio since the Renzanov visit.
The Spaniards and the Russians
hoisted their respective flags and exchanged cannon salutes. After
the ship anchored in front of the Presidio, the officers went
ashore to meet Luis Arguello, Comandante. The Spanish commander
sent some fruits and vegetables on board the ship for the crew
and dispatched a courier to Monterey with the news of the visitors'
By October 4th the Russians
had set up a camp on the shore in sight of the Presidio, which
Kotzebue said still appeared as it had in Vancouver's descriptions.
Vancouver's earlier reports had been circulated around Europe
and were the reason for this and many subsequent visits to California
by many of the European powers of the time.
Governor Sola requested
of Lieutenant Kotzebue that Fort Ross be abandoned but the Russian
refused. On October 28 flag-hoisting and artillery fire provided
Rurik with an exciting departure from San Francisco after nearly
a one-month stay. The visit of Rurik marked the end of opposition
to foreign trade by Governor Sola. A critical need for supplies
outweighed strict royal orders.
Many ships visited California
in the five waning years of the Spanish government. One of these
was the French merchant vessel Le Bordelais under the command
of Lieutenant Camille de Roquefeuil of the French Navy in 1817.
This vessel was sent on a voyage around the world between 1816
and 1819 by its government.
In 1818 Lieutenant Ignacio
Martinez became the new comandante replacing Lieutenant Gabriel
Moraga who was posted to Santa Barbara. A native of Mexico City,
Martinez had entered the Santa Barbara Company some 25 years earlier
as a cadet. He did not welcome the new assignment at first because
he had to relocate with his four daughters but he and his wife
had five more children, did so and remained in the Bay area for
the rest of their lives. Martinez would hold many positions after
leaving the military, including appointments at San Rafael and
elsewhere. He died around 1850 at his ranch in Contra Costa County
where the county seat was named in his honor.
On November 20, 1818 Hippolyte
de Bouchard appeared before Monterey in the Argentina and Santa
Rose de Chacabuco and proceeded to sack the Presidio. The San
Francisco Presidio was asked to send reinforcements. However when
they arrived they drilled but did not engage the enemy. As pointed
out by Vancouver, the Spanish defenses could not withstand a determined
attack from a European force. The government sent reinforcements
from San Blas in the summer of 1819. San Francisco received 40
foot soldiers from the San Blas Infantry. In 1820, 20 artillerymen
came from Mexico under sub-lieutenant Jose Ramirez. Their arrival
represented the last important reinforcements to be sent from
Two years later in April
1822, the Mexican Empire was formed under Agustin Iturbide. Don
Luis Arguello, Comandante of the San Francisco District, remained
in command. However in November 1822 Arguello became the acting
governor of Alta California. A year later Agustin Fernandez San
Vicente came from Mexico to replace him. Arguello returned to
his position as comandante. With the fall of Iturbide from power
in March 1823, San Vincente left California for Mexico. In January
1825 Arguello decreed that presidial company strength should stand
at 70 to 75 soldiers, a considerable increase over previous official
levels. The funds to carry out such well-meaning plans were nonexistent.
To add further insult, pay continually fell in arrears. The Mexican
government responded by issuing a cargo of paper cigars in lieu
On February 6, 1824 Arguello
reported to the minister of war in Mexico City that he would be
obliged to muster out the entire San Blas and Mazatlan Companies
as well as provisionally retire several presidial soldiers if
money were not immediately forthcoming. Increasing numbers of
men left the service voluntarily to take up what they hoped would
be more lucrative employment on ranchos or at the Pueblo San Jose.
Without loyalty and payroll benefits little remained to hold a
soldier in the service of the Mexican Republic.
Otto von Kotzebue returned
to San Francisco in 1824 and reported that little had changed
since his last visit in 1816.
A second Russian ship, the
frigate Cruiser, also visited in 1824. One of its officers, Dimitry
Irinarkhovich Zavalishin commented as follows: "But as danger
of attack from savages diminished or, at least, became to affect
only the more remote missions, they (the Spanish) began to permit
outside buildings at the presidios, and as a result it became
necessary to make passageways through the heretofore blank outer
wall. Lately, even Russian expeditions have had bakeries attached
to the outer wall for the baking of both fresh bread and rusks
for cruise. This is how San Francisco's presidio became a rather
formless pile of half-ruined dwellings, sheds, storehouses, and
other structures. The floors, of course, were everywhere of stone
or dirt, and not only stoves but also fireplaces were lacking
in the living quarters. Whatever had to be boiled or fried was
prepared in the open air, mostly on cast brick; they warmed themselves
against the cold air over hot coals in pots or braziers. There
was not glass in the windows. Some people had only grating in
their windows. The entrance doors to some compartments were so
large that one passed from the interior courtyard to the outside
through the wall on horse-back."
These comments point to
a practice begun during the Spanish regime, commanders received
permission to grant building lots to soldiers and other residents
within the range of 4 square leagues, 2 leagues in each direction
from the center of the presidio square. In 1825 American captain
Benjamin Morrell indicated that 120 households lived in the district
with approximately 500 gente de razon. Morrell also referred to
the walls around the Presidio that stood 10 feet high made of
freestone and surrounding the compound, the houses (in the Presidio)
and church. Several frame structures were recorded which may have
been built by the Russians.
The Royal Navy officer Captain
Frederick William Beechey anchored his ship, H.M.S.Blossom
at San Francisco on November 6, 1826. He immediately presented
his papers to Comandante Don Ignacio Martinez. Beechey departed
on December 28th but returned briefly in 1827. His comments were
similar to others from Europe, in that he found an unimpressive
group of buildings and low morale among the soldados.
The Mexican government had not missed the disarray and discontent, so obvious to Beechey and other visitors but the measures they were willing to take to improve defenses in their California outposts amounted to little more than rhetorical proclamations. The arrival of a new governor, Jose Maria Encheandia, and some reinforcements in the form of a 40-man infantry unit known as the Fijo del Hidalgo, bound for Monterey, caused ill will rather than increasing a sense of martial preparedness among the Californios who increasingly sawthemselves as a people apart from the Central Republic. This basic discontent led to the grass-roots revolt of the soldados at Monterey led by the dissident, Joaquin Solis from Mexico. They demanded not only back pay and back rations but also the removal of both the governor and the new comandante general. The revolt moved to San Francisco on November 5th, where Martinez was dismissed from his post as comandante. The rebellion came to an end in 1830. Sixteen of the major conspirators were sentenced to deportation. Governor Echeandia was replaced by Colonel Manuel Victoria. Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo was appointed comandante of the San Francisco Presidio.
Vallejo joined the Mexican
military on January 8, 1824 as a cadet at Monterey serving with
the presidial company there for three years. He became a corporal
in 1825, rather than advancing directly to ensign as had been
the practice during the Spanish regime. The next year he went
on to become a sergeant, proving "an apt student, who learned
quickly, and had a great liking for discipline, authority, and
activities of military life." On July 30, 1827 just a week
before his 19th birthday, this aptitude and interest brought the
young Vallejo an ensignship when a vacancy came open at San Francisco
with the transfer of Santiago Arguello to San Diego. He would
remain at Monterey until April 1830 when he joined the garrison
in the Bay Area. Thereafter his career continued to move upward.
At age 29 he earned a captaincy and by 1836 held a commission
as a colonel. The man became a prominent figure in northern California
history and enjoyed a long life.
Again a new governor was
appointed. Jose Figueroa arrived in California in January of 1833.
He was instructed to restore confidence in the Mexican Government,
watch the Russians and American activities along the coast, and
to move toward the secularization of the missions. The latter
required the division of mission lands into self-supporting ranchos
and the replacement of the Franciscan missionaries by regular
parish priests. Seventy-five officers and men were assign to help
carry out these directives.
In April 1833, Governor
Figueroa ordered Vallejo to survey the areas north of the bay
with an eye to the establishment of another outpost. Vallejo was
given the title of Military Commander and Director of Colonization
of the Northern Frontier. These titles were contained in a letter,
which Vallejo kept secret, as requested, until 1847 when he revealed
them to the American Occupation forces under General Kearny and
caused them to be published in several newspapers probably to
strengthen the legality of titles to lands he had granted. The
letter set forth that the principal object of the northern expansion
is to arrest the progress of the Russian settlements of Bodega
and Ross. Two days later, Governor Figueroa authorized the establishment
of a pueblo in the valley of Sonoma entrusting full responsibility
for the new enterprise to the young lieutenant not yet turned
twenty-eight. Along with this authority came the effort to build
a barracks for the Mexican troops stationed there.
In 1834, Vallejo moved part
of San Francisco's garrison to Sonoma after severe storm damage
dictated another rebuilding, which never occurred because of lack
of funds. Rains caused deterioration at the Presidio and near
destruction of much of the Castillo. Toward the end of the year,
Vallejo recommended that the unrepairable conditions made it desirable
to sell off what could be salvaged at the Presidio to private
individuals in order to obtain some back pay for the troops. The
Presidio's stock could be transferred to Sonoma to start a national
ranch there. The governor agreed to the relocation and the scheme
to sell portions of the Presidio so long as a part of the reservation
remained for a barracks to lodge troops.
In 1835, Vallejo had transported
not only the last of the San Francisco garrison but also his own
family, to the new northern outpost. Soon the Presidio declined
to a caretaker status. The movement to the north placed the Spanish
closer to the Russians, provided a healthier environment for the
troops and signaled a new approach to housing and organization,
that of using barracks outside of walls and horse soldiers to
provide the main defense along with infantry and field cannon,
instead of fixed garrison defenses. Modern European armies were
already organized in this fashion. Vallejo constructed two-story,
wide balconied adobe barracks, which faced Sonoma's central plaza
to house Mexican army troops. The construction took place in stages
but was completed in 1840. Vallejo's family residence was a part
of these buildings, which also included some of the vacated mission
buildings. Called "El Cuartel" the barracks housed a
maximum of 40 Mexican troopers. Vallejo kept the mission chapel
active. A prominent part of his "Casa Grande" was a
three-story tower, which he used to oversee rangelands and farms
through a telescope. Several drawings were made over the years
of these buildings.
In the years after 1835,
more than 100 military expeditions set out from Sonoma with the
object of subduing the Wappos, Cainameros, or Satisyomis Native
Americans who more than once rose up and attempted to throw off
Mexican domination of the country around Sonoma. Many of these
expeditions were led by Vallejo himself but others were led by
Vallejo's younger brother, Salvadore, or by Sem-Yeto, the tall
chief of the Suisunes Native Americans whose Christian name was
Francisco Solano, and who came to be one of Vallejo's closest
and most valuable allies.
Movement to the north also
coincided with the establishment of the Pueblo of Yerba Buena.
The new settlement was destined to become the City of San Francisco.
In 1834 the presidial-pueblo of Yerba Buena was set up with a
six-man district council and an alcalde. A San Blas infantryman,
Francisco de Haro, was the first to hold that position. The anchorage
also moved to Yerba Buena as did some of the population who began
to strip the main garrison and the Castillo as well of what little
useful building materials they could find. However Vallejo did
leave a detachment of six artillerymen under Juan Prado Mesa to
maintain a token presence at the Presidio when the main force
relocated to Sonoma.
A forecast of the interest
of the United States in the California territory occurred in August
1834. Then the charge d'affaires in Mexico City approached the
central government with an offer to buy the San Francisco Bay
Area for $5 million dollars. The Americans wanted the harbor to
serve as a base for American whalers in the Pacific. Mexican authorities
gave consideration to accepting the offer but British diplomats
finally convinced them to hold onto the territory.
originally built to protect the population, had meanwhile all
but disappeared. The artillery stood unused and uncared for although
Vallejo recommended that the Castillo be rebuilt. As it was in
San Francisco, only one artilleryman remained to man the last
six cannon since Vallejo had ordered the relocation of several
of the serviceable guns to Sonoma.
According to Bancroft's
History of California, Vol. IV, pgs, 197-198 and 701, by
1841 only 24 artillerymen remained in all of Alta California and
they had charge of 43 serviceable pieces and 17 useless guns along
the coast. Eleven years earlier the ordnance inventory consisted
of 54 cannon, three of 24 pounds, two of 12 pounds; 18 of 8 pounds;
19 of 6 pounds; 11 of 4 pounds and one of 3 pounds. Twenty-three
of the guns were brass and 31 iron according to Bancroft, History
of California, Vol. II, Pg. 673.
In the next few years as
English, French, Swedish and American expeditions and travelers
visited the San Francisco Presidio, all had about the same comments.
The French government's representative, Duflot de Mofras in his
book Travels on the Pacific Coast, Vol. I, Pgs 228-229,
comments as follows: "the fort has been so completely abandoned
that a ship could easily send its small boats over the shore below,
and without attracting attention from the Presidio, carry off
the cannon that could be rolled down the cliff. The Presidio of
San Francisco is falling into decay, is entirely dismantled, and
is inhabited by only a sub-lieutenant and 5 soldiers-rancheros
with their families. The Castillo consisted of a horseshoe-shaped
adobe battery with 16 embrasures for cannon. Only three obsolete
guns and two good bronze pieces of 16 caliber, cast in Manila
were in place, all on wooden gun carriages which date from 1812
and are partially decayed. In the center of the horseshoe, the
barracks, used originally to house the soldiers, have fallen into
ruins. No one lived there nor did a ditch or other protection
to the rear exist to keep the place from being overtaken from
the side should the battery be manned."
In 1843, a Swedish visitor
G.M. Waseurtz af Sandels, " the King's Orphan", made
two crude illustrations of the Presidio and the Castillo that
are the last known before the American conquest. They illustrated
the above comments by de Mofras, but show both to be occupied.
Russia withdrew from Fort
Ross in 1841. In 1842 Mexico sent a new Governor with a ragtag
army, Brigadier General Manuel Micheltorena. He lasted no longer
than the rest.
Mexico's inability to protect
California invited foreign seizure. In October 1842 Commodore
Thomas Ap Catesby Jones of the American Pacific Squadron landed
at Monterey Bay and claimed Alta California's capital for the
United States based on information that the United States was
at war with Mexico. There was no opposition to this action. While
this action was premature and the claim was surrendered in a few
hours, it was the forerunner of future actions.
On the diplomatic side, in 1842 the United States sent John Slidell to Mexico City in order to reopen the negotiations that had broken off in 1835 for the purchase of the Bay Area. This time he was offering $25 million for all of the California territory. Once again Mexico refused the offer.