California and the Indian Wars
The Temecula Massacre

The Temecula Massacre took place in December 1846 east of present day Temecula, California.

The Temecula Massacre was the Californios' military response to the Pauma Massacre. The Pauma Massacre was the execution of eleven Californios by the Luiseno Indians. The eleven Californios were executed for stealing horses from the Pauma band of Luiseno Indians.

The news of the Pauma Massacre reached General José Mariá Flores in Los Angeles. He sent José del Carmen Lugo with a group of men to kill the tribal leaders responsible for the Californios' deaths. Lugo had Chief Juan Antonio, leader of a group of Cahuilla Indians, join forces with him while in route to the Temecula Valley. The two groups set up camp along the Santa Gertrudis Creek. Lugo was to wait for reinforcements from Los Angeles. Lugo heard that Don José Ramón Carrillo and a group of men were at the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia. He sent word to Carillo requesting assistance.

Carillo and his men joined Lugo and Antonio. Word had reached the Temecula village that Californios from Los Angeles were headed to the valley. The Luiseno Indians went east into the canyon and hid. Lugo sent a few men to find the Luiseno Indians. The men reported back that the Luisenos were hiding in the canyon. Lugo knew if his men went into the canyon they would be trapped. He decided to draw the Luisenos out of hiding and into a trap of his own.

Just west of the canyon was a small meadow with two rolling hills on either side. The Cahuilla Indians positioned themselves on one hill and Lugo positioned his men on the other hill. Carillo and his men went into the canyon where the Luisenos were hiding. Carillo and his men feigned fatigue. The young Indian warriors saw an opportunity to take the Californios. The chiefs tried to calm the warriors, but their wisdom went unheard. The warriors came out of hiding and fell on the Californios.

Carillo and his men retreated out of the canyon and into the meadow. The warriors followed in pursuit. Once the war party was in the meadow the Cahuilla Indians broke from hiding and fell on the Luisenos. Carillo's men stopped running, turned, and began fighting the Luisenos. Lugos men came down from the other hill and closed in on the warriors. Many warriors died, others surrendered. A few warriors escaped and headed toward Aguanga.

The prisoners were turned over to the Cahuilla Indians. Lugo and a few men pursued the escaped Indians. When Lugo returned Juan Antonio had slaughtered the prisoners. The Californios and the Cahuilla Indians regrouped at their campsite. A group of soldiers, led by Don Diego Sepulveda, joined Lugo at the campsite. Sepulveda's men were the delayed joining Lugo.

After the massacre, the dead Luiseno warriors were gathered up quickly and buried in a common grave near the Temecula village. The Mormon Battalion arrived shortly afterwards. The Luisenos asked the battalion to guard them as they buried the dead. Historians disagree on how many Luiseno warriors were killed at the massacre. Some report thirty-three and still others report one hundred and twenty-five.


The Californio leaders of the massacre all died tragic deaths. Ramon Carillo was assassinated, his murderer never found. Juan Antonio died from a smallpox epidemic. Jose del Carmen Lugo, once a very rich land owner, died a pauper.


The Historic Valley of Temecula. The Temecula Massacre, by Horace Parker. Booklets published by Paisano Press.
The Indian Cemetery at Old Temecula, by Kevin Hallaran, Allene Archibald, Lowell J. Bean, Sylvia B. Vane



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Updated 8 February 2016