Californians and the Military
José Velásquez
Alferéz, Presidio de San Diego
By Michael R. Hardwick
José Velásquez was born in San Ildefonso de Ostímuri in 1717. San Ildefonso today is in the southeastern part of modern Sonora. José Velásquez began his military service at Loreto in January of 1751. In 1768 at the age of 51, Velásquez was promoted to the rank of corporal. By that time he had served 17 years in Baja California. According to his service record,
"He remained 10 years on detached service on the frontier with the heathen Indians of Old California, during which time he made many journeys to their villages and into the Sierra in search of recent Christian fugitives. On 4 occasions they made war on him and he came out wounded in one of them."

Corporal Velásquez came to Alta California with Captain Rivera y Moncada in the first land expedition of 1769. He was with Portolá on the 2nd successful March to Monterey. He was first to carry mail from Monterey in Alta California to Todos Santos in Baja. The mail notified the governor of successful occupation of Monterey. Corporal Velásquez made a journey of 1440 miles in 49 days to deliver the mail.

In 1771 Corporal Velásquez was promoted to Sergeant. He became an Alferéz in 1773 and transferred to San Fernando de Velicatá as military commander of the Escolta de la Frontera. Velicatá was an important supply depot for Alta California. While at Velicatá, Alferéz Velásquez participated in the founding of 3 new missions and explored new territory on orders from Governor Felipe de Neve.

In 1780 Alferéz Velásquez was posted at the Presidio of San Diego as second in command under Lieutenant José Francisco Ortega. In San Diego, Velásquez was given field assignments related to the founding of Los Angeles. In 1782 he participated in the Yuma campaign. In 1783 he explored a southern route to Yuma. Alferéz José Velásquez died in 1785 at the age of 68 and was buried at Mission San Gabriel.
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Updated 8 February 2016