Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Post at Mission San Diego de Alcalá
Mission San Diego de Alcalá
Post at Mission San Diego
By Justin Ruhge
Mission of San Diego was occupied by the Mormon Battalion led by Lieutenant Colonel Philip St. George Cooke who was followed by the 1st Regiment of New York Volunteers. When both were mustered out in 1848 the Mission was unoccupied until the arrival by Army transport of seven companies of the 2nd Infantry commanded by Brigadier General Bennett Riley at Monterey on August 6, 1849. Five companies were immediately shipped to San Diego. Two companies set up tents in the groves at Mission San Diego and the other troops went on to garrison Mission San Luis Rey. Part of this group made up the Boundary Commission commanded by Major Samuel P. Heintzelman temporarily located at the south end of San Diego Bay where today only salt flats exist.
Three years later, the Mission was inspected by Inspector General Colonel McCall on June 4, 1852. At the time of his inspection, the Mission buildings had not been occupied as a barracks. Colonel McCall reported as follows:
"The only building erected here by the troops is a frame one, containing ten small rooms, intended for Officers quarters. This affords sufficient quarters for the officers of one company of Artillery & the Military staff of the post. But there are no quarters for the enlisted men - and the latter are consequently still in tents. These tents are shedded so as to afford shelter from the sun but not so as to give any protection from wet & cold during the rains of winter.
There are no storehouses at the post; and the Government stores of all descriptions are now thrown together in the old building, where they are secure neither from the weather nor from theft.
If the troops are to remain here -the necessity for which, however, is not altogether apparent to me-the requisite buildings should be erected without delay. There would be required, Quarters for the enlisted men; a Hospital; and storehouses for the Quarter Master & subsistence stores. These are absolutely necessary in winter, during which season the rains prevail."


Two years later in 1854 the Mission was again inspected, this time by Colonel Mansfield. His comments as follows, were much more encouraging:
"This post is well selected, being six miles from old San Diego on San Diego River, and about 9 miles from New San Diego and 10 miles from the Playa (landing). It is thus convenient to water transportation for the embarkation or disembarkation of troops. It is 220 miles from, and auxiliary to, Fort Yuma. It is a good grazing region for animals and has abundance of tillable land. It is on our extreme southern boundary, and with all is well located to overawe the Indians and protect the white population in this quarter, which are quite limited, being confined to old San Diego and a few scattering ranches. Very little reliance can be placed on the white population about here. There are a few traders and a large proportion of native Californians.
The Indians within one hundred miles of this post number about 350 warriors, scattered into little localities among the mountains and some planting, and in the Jacum Valley of Lower California there are about as many more. This post is the proper place to store all supplies for the interior, as the troops here are at hand to guard them; whereas, New San Diego seems to have not merit-except the supplies are intended to be reshipped, which would be a remarkable proceeding, as all the supplies in this quarter come shipped from the Atlantic states direct or from San Francisco, with the exception of fresh beef and a few garden vegetables. For a sketch of this locality and positions see B and C hereunto appended.
This post was under the command of Captain H.S. Burton, 3d Artillery who has been in California since March 1847, and in command of this post since June 1853. It is properly a two-company post. Attached to this post are Assistant Surgeon C. C. Keeney and Chaplin Reverend John Reynolds and Ordnance Sergeant Richard Kerren. The post consists of Company I, 1t Artillery 86 in the aggregate… 1t Lieutenant F. E. Patterson in command of the company and acting commissary and quartermaster… and, Company F, 3d Artillery, 89 in the aggregate, Captain H.S. Burton in command of post… one sergeant and 7 privates on detached service at Jacum, an express route to Fort Yuma; 3 privates in charge of mission of San Luis Rey…
The discipline of this command is good, and their arms and equipments in good serviceable order. There is however but a limited supply of ammunition on hand, 500 rifles and 5,000 musket ball cartridges in addition to the supply of Company I, consisting of 1,399 six-pounder cartridge bags and 500 pounds of powder.
The quarters of the soldiers at present are worthless: Company I occupies some miserable old adobe buildings, and Company F are in tents. The quarters of the officers are quite indifferent and not suitable. They will answer for officers when new quarters can be put up. Captain Burton with his men is converting the old church of this mission into an excellent barrack for the soldiers, two stories high, the walls being thick and firm. But most of the other buildings, except the officers quarters, being merely ruins, should be leveled, and other buildings prepared and erected for store houses, laundresses &c. This is a beautiful locality on an eminence above the bottomlands of the river, is healthy, and there is a fine garden and olive grove attached to it, with abundant water in the bed of the river.
The Medical Department is in excellent hands, Dr. Keeney's. The north end of the old church has already been fitted for that purpose-dispensary below, and a fine airy wardroom above. The sick are well provided for.

At present all supplies of ammunition &c are very badly stored, but as well as the means at command would allow. Great credit is due to Captain Burton for his efforts to make his command comfortable, and I doubt not he will succeed perfectly.
The chaplain of the post has a small school, but is not at all popular, and no doubt the officers would be glad to get rid of him.
Detachments from this post are stationed at Jacum and at San Luis Rey. The former is on the express trail route to Fort Yuma, where there is a change of mules for the express rider who passes only twice a month. One sergeant and thirteen men are here stationed for this object only and must necessarily have supplies sent to them. This trail only shortens the distance, and it appears to me it would be better for the express rider to keep the wagon road and dispense with this detachment, which is not strong enough to defend themselves if attacked by the Indians. The later is an old mission forty miles to the northward that has been reserved, but is of no use, except to turn over to the Indians as a reservation. It has no military merit at all.
1t Lieutenant F. E. E. Patterson has in his hands as assistant quartermaster, 381 dollars; as assistant commissary, 451 35/100, and as recruiting officer 112 dollars-all of which is kept in an iron safe. There is no post fund here but a balance on that account due Lieutenant Patterson of 2 90/100 dollars. All supplies come from New San Diego and are good.
There is at this post belonging to Company I two brass 6-pounder guns and two brass 12-pounder howitzers for the field.
For a sketch of this position see C hereunto appended.
The previous commanders of this post were Brevet Major S. P. Heintzelman and Brevet Lieutenant Colonel J. B. Magruder, and it was last inspected by Colonel McCall, late Inspector General. The American population within fifty miles capable of bearing arms might number one hundred."


End of the report by Colonel Mansfield.
The Jacum, or Jacumba, Valley lies in both the United States and Mexico. The United States portion is in southeastern San Diego County. The present town of Jacumba is just north of the Mexican border. The spring, which exists at this place, is called Jacum and a Diegueno Indian village of the same name once occupied the site. In an effort to speed the movement of supplies to the Fort, a military pack train route was laid out in 1851 by Nathaniel Lyon, running almost along the Mexican border from San Diego to Fort Yuma. The route crossed the Jacumba Mountains, which rise immediately east of the Jacumba Valley, by way of Jacum Pass.
The Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, which had been secularized in 1834, was first occupied by the Mormon Battalion in 1847 and irregularly afterwards. As was stated earlier in this section, General Riley stationed three companies there in 1849. They left in June 23, 1849. On April 18, 1850, however, a new post was established at Mission San Luis Rey. Permanent frame barracks were built at that time. Beginning in 1851, it was treated as a sub post of the Mission San Diego. Except for a detachment to guard the property, the mission was not occupied after July 1852. Although Colonel Mansfield was of the opinion that the Mission San Luis Rey was without military merit, Major Osborne Cross, two years earlier, had reported: "I know of no place so well calculated as this for mounted troops, in consequence of fine grass throughout the valley as well as a plenteous supply of water" …. Cross to Thomas S. Jessup, August 31, 1852, in 32 Congress, 2 session, House Executive Documents, II, p. 85.
A map of San Diego prepared by Colonel Mansfield in 1854. Courtesy of the National Archive.
A sketch of the Army Post at Mission San Diego in 1854 by Colonel Mansfield. Courtesy of the National Archives.
The Mission of San Diego was first occupied by troops in 1847 and again in 1849. The mission buildings and property deteriorated rapidly under the care of the military, virtually everything movable disappearing, while the vineyards and olive grove went uncared for. The mission, the mission garden and the olive grove were restored to the church on December 18, 1855 as a result of the land claim filed by Joseph Sadoc Alemany, Bishop of Monterey in 1851. The land was surveyed in 1860 and the restoration finalized on May 23, 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln. Troops continued to occupy the mission until 1858.
The church and mission are just south of the U.S. Marines' Camp Pendleton. They have been restored and the ruins of the soldiers barracks are on the site located three miles east of Oceanside.
Post at Mission San Diego de Alcalá
By CW4 (CA) Mark J. Denger, California Military Heritage Command
Twenty two years after Mexico achieved independence from Spain, the United States declared war on Mexico. The old Mission of San Diego would once again figure prominently in a brief contest which would place California under the rule of the United States.

The war led to the American take-over of San Diego and its mission. The first military camp of the United States to be stationed at San Diego was in 1846, established by the Navy at Fort Stockton. It was followed by the establishment of San Diego's first military post at the San Diego Mission. This took place when the Mormon Battalion, under command of Lieut. Colonel Philip St. George Cooke (2), made camp at the San Diego Mission on January 29, 1847.

General Kearney placed Company B at Fort Stockton to garrison Fort Stockton with seven artillery pieces while he sent the rest of the Battalion on to Los Angeles.

The old Mission, under Company B, would become the army's strategic post in the area. The old Mission stood on an eminence, at a point in the valley of the San Diego River which commanded a view of the entire valley to the sea on the one side, and of the mountain passes on the other. The main building, about ninety feet long, extended from north to south, with the main entrance being at the south end. The Mission's massive walls, about four feet in thickness, was found to be more than sufficient for the protection of the troops now quartered there.

With the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the end of the Mexican era ceased. For nearly a decade the old Mission of San Diego would continue to serve as an army post.

Heintzelman (2), Magruder (3), Burton (4), Winder (5), and Fauntleroy (6) commanded the post at different times. Post San Diego Mission quartered troops at the Old Mission until 1856.
(1) Major General Philip St. George Cooke was a cavalry officer, whose military career spanned almost half a century beginning with his graduation from West Point in 1827 to his retirement in 1873. He was born at Leesburg, Virginia, on June 13, 1809, and entered West Point in 1823, and upon graduation, received a brevet to 2d lieutenant, Infantry, July 1, 1827. He served in garrison at Jefferson Barracks and Fort Snelling before being assigned to frontier duty. He participated in the Black Hawk War, Mexican War, the Indian Wars, and the Civil War. A native of Virginia, General Cooke remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War. Perhaps his most enduring achievement came when as a lieutenant colonel during the Mexican War, where he led a battalion of Mormons from Missouri to California. He was in command of the celebrated Morman Battalion, from Santa Fe to California. The route led by Colonel Cooke in 1847 opened the first wagon route to California and today the railroad follows much of the early wagon trails. Breveted to lieutenant Colonel, February 20, 1847, for meritorious conduct in California. During the opening days of the Civil War, Cook was promoted to Brigadier-General, November 12, 1861, and placed in command of Regular Cavalry in the defense of Washington. Breveted to Major-General, March 13, 1865, for gallant and meritorious services during the Rebellion. He retired from active service on October 29, 1873 after more than fifty years of service. He died at Detroit, MI, on March 20, 1895, and was buried in Elmwood Cemetery. Camp Cooke (now Vandenburg Air Force Base) was named in his honor.
(2) Samuel P. Heintzelman, Major-General, US Army, was born in Pennsylvania, on September 30, 1805. A graduate of West Point in 1826, he entered the army as 2d lieutenant of infantry. He spent several years in border service, and fought in the Seminole War. He served during the Mexican War with the rank of captain. At Huamantla he won distinction for bravery, and on 9 October, 1847, he was brevetted major. He organized a battalion of recruits and convalescent soldiers at Vera Cruz, and marched them to the city of Mexico. From 1849 till 1855 he served in California, where he had some rough experience with the Coyote and Yuma Indians, and established Fort Yuma on the Colorado river. In 1859-'60 he was in command of the troops in the Cortina War on the Rio Grande against Mexican marauders (border war between U.S. and Mexicans under Cortina, in 1859) which is the subject of a book by Jerry Thompson, published in 1997, entitled "50 Miles And A Fight", the substance of which was taken from Heintzelman's journals located in the Library of Congress, approximately 15,000 pages of journals spanning 40 years. In May, 1861, he was breveted lieutenant-colonel for meritorious services against the Indians in California, and ordered to Washington to take the office of Inspector-General. In May of the same year he was commissioned colonel of the 17th regular infantry. On 17 May he was appointed brigadier-general of volunteers, and ordered to the command of a brigade at Alexandria. He commanded a division of McDowell's army at Bull Run, and was wounded. During the organization of the army under General McClellan, in the winter of 1861-1862, he retained command of his division. When the Army of the Potomac began to move, in March, 1862, Heintzelman was in command of the 3d Army corps, was in the battle of Williamsburg on 5 May, was made major-general of volunteers on the same day, where he commanded the 3d and 4th corps, and for his gallantry was breveted brigadier-general in the regular army. He was appointed to the command of the Department of Washington, and of the 22d army corps. He was relieved in October, 1863, and in January of the following year was put in command of the Northern Department, embracing Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. In March 1865 he was breveted major-general, and resumed command of the 17th infantry, in New York harbor and in Texas. On 22 February, 1869, he was retired with the rank of colonel, and on 29 April, by special act of congress, was placed on the retired list, with the rank of major-general. His public career ended with his retirement from the army. Heintzelman was also instrumental in creating the legislation that made Arizona a state. He also owned two silver mines in Arizona. Samuel Heintzelman died in Washington, D. C., on May 1, 1880; Buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, New York. Plot: Section T, Lot 7, West
(3) John Bankhead Magruder, Major-General, Confederate, dubbed "Prince John," was born in Virginia in 1807. Magruder attended the University of Virginia, before entering the military academy. Graduating from West Point in 1830, Magruder embarked upon three action-packed decades of service in the U.S. Army, taking him from Florida during the Seminole Wars to the frontiers of Maine, New York, and Texas. In 1847, his pivotal leadership of General Winfield Scott's forces was instrumental in defeating Santa Anna at the gates of Mexico City. By the spring of 1861, Prince John Magruder had risen to commander of the Washington garrison. When secession and war became imminent, Magruder resigned his duties as the president's bodyguard to race home to Virginia to answer the Confederate call to arms. In the opening engagements of the Civil War, Prince John's initiative and audacity earned him both admiration and acclaim. Magruder was transferred to the district of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. When the war ended, he headed for Mexico, serving in the government of Emperor Maximilian. Magruder, once more, with enemy forces closing in, attempted to arrange an escape plot for the doomed ruler. When the plan failed, Magruder fled to Cuba, eventually returning to the United States, where he died in 1871.
(4) Henry S. Burton, Brigadier-General, U.S. Army, was born in New York in 1818. He was appointed to West Point from Vermont and gradutated in 1839. He served as a 2d lieutenant of the 3d artillery in the Florida war, 1839-1842, and was made 1st lieutenant, November 11, 1839, and was an instructor at West Point, 1843-1846. He served in the Mexian War as lieutenant-colonel of New York volunteers, distinguishing himself by his defense of La Paz, Lower California, and was also engaged at Todos Santos. Burton was promoted to Captain, September 22, 1847, serving as commander of Post Mission San Diego, when he married Maria Amparo Ruiz. She was born in La Paz, Baja California and came to California in 1849. In 1852 Maria and her husband purchased Rancho Jamul in San Diego. Maria's great uncle, Francisco Ruiz had been the comandante of San Diego in the early 1800s. In California she studied English under a tutor and was a life-long friend and correspondent with Mariano Vallejo. She would later write to Vallejo of her aspirations:

"...I am persuaded that we were born to do something more than simply live, that is, we were born for something more, for the rest of our poor countrymen."

Captain Burton remained in California on duty in various forts until 1862, when, having been promoted to major, May 14, 1861, the Civil War began. He was made colonel of the 5th artillery, August 11, 1863, and assumed command of the artillery reserve of the army of the Patomac, 1864. He was breveted brigadier-general, March 13, 1865, for services at the capture of Petersburg, and stationed in various forts until his death at Fort Adams, Newport, R.I., April 4, 1869. After her husband's death, Maria returned to San Diego where she wrote two novels, "Who Would Have Thought It?," published in 1872, and "The Squatter and the Don," published in 1885, under pen name C. Loyal, becoming California's first Mexican-American woman writer. While living on rancho Jamul, the Burtons had made improvements on it and submitted title to the Court of Land Claims. For the next few decades Maria would be involved in dozens of lawsuits trying to retain title to her land. All the while she was involved in litigation over Jamul and eventually her attorney fees for the litigation and the costs of unpaid mortgages forced her into bankruptcy. She traveled to Chicago to find help for her fight for her rights to another rancho that had been in her family, Rancho Ensenada de Todos Santos. There she died in 1895 trying to get political support for her claims.
(5) Captain Winder, who later resigned from the army to remain in San Diego, came to the post in 1854, with two companies of the 3rd Artillery. On March 26, 1855, he and his company marched from San Diego as an escort to the first Pacific Railroad Survey, under Lieutenant Parke, of the Topographical Engineers.
(6) Thomas L. Fauntleroy, Brigadier-General, US Army, was born in Virginia, and was commissioned a lieutenant in the U.S. Army during the War of 1812. Commissioned a Major of Dragoons, June 8, 1836, he served in the Seminole War. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, 2d Dragoons, June 30, 1846. From this duty he commanded the cavalry of General Scott's army in Mexico. In 1849 he was in command of the 1st Dragoons, commanding troops on frontier duty in Texas. From here, he was assigned to San Diego and was promoted to Colonel, July 25, 1850. In the winter of 1854-1855 he conducted a campaign against the hostile Indian tribes of the Rocky Mountains and made another mid-winter campaign against the Indians in New Mexico. He led several expeditions against the Apaches in the company of Kit Carson and from 1859-1861 commanded the Department of New Mexico. On the eve of the Civil War, in May 1861, he resigned his commission and was appointed by the governor of Virginia as Brigadier-General of the Provisional Army of Virginia. But after the organization of the Confederate government he refused to confirm his commission. He was relieved on August 25, 1861, having never held Confederate rank. He died on September 12, 1883, and was buried in Mount Hebron Cemetery, Winchester, Virgina.


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Updated 8 February 2016