Californians and the Military
Captain Antonio Maria de la Guerra
by Edson T. Strobridge
The following article was originally published in the Summer 2000 issue of La Campana, the quarterly journal of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. It is republished with permission of the author.
Antonio Maria de la Guerra was the youngest son of Jose Antonio Julian de la Guerra y Noriega, an officer of the Spanish and Mexican armies and military Comandante of the Royal Presidio of Santa Barbara, and an uncle to Mrs. Thomas B. Dibblee. The father, Captain Jose de la Guerra, was born a Spanish noble in 1779 in Santander on Spain's northerly coast on the Bay of Biscay who had been sent to Mexico to live with an uncle at the age of 13, where he eventually became an officer in the Spanish Royal Army.
He came to California in 1801 as a young officer, was first assigned to the Presidio in Monterey, and shortly thereafter assigned to the Presidio in Santa Barbara. By 1810 he had been promoted to captain and was named Quartermaster General of all Upper and Lower California, a position he held for twenty-seven years. He became military Comandante of Santa Barbara in 1816.
In 1819 Captain de la Guerra began building a large adobe home known today as the Casa de la Guerra, one of the best preserved buildings from the Spanish period in Santa Barbara, where he and his wife Maria Antonia Carrillo raised fourteen children. In 1822 he represented Santa Barbara at the junta in Monterey which voted to break California's ties with Spain and become part of an independent Mexico. The Mexican government awarded him several large land grants and with his other acquisitions he became the owner of over 385,000 acres of land.

Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega retired from military service in 1842 and spent the remainder of his life at his casa grande respected by citizens of all nationalities. He died in 1858 and is buried with his wife under the altar of the Santa Barbara Mission.

Don Antonio, the youngest de la Guerra son, was born in 1825 and was educated by mission padres with his formal education in a Chilean College where he spent several years. He became secretary to the ayuntamiento, or city council, of Santa Barbara, in 1849 at the age of 24. In 1853 he served in the California Senate, and in 1857 was appointed Adjutant General for the Santa Barbara District of the militia. He served as Mayor of Santa Barbara and several terms on the County Board of Supervisors, during one of which he was elected Chairman. His photograph as County Supervisor hangs in the hall on the fourth floor at 105 East Anapamu Street.

On July 27, 1864, he entered the United States Military service as captain of Company C, 1st Battalion, Native California Cavalry with 99 Cavalry Volunteers he had organized among the native people of Santa Barbara, to "serve three years or the duration of the war." After the company's cavalry training at Drum Barracks at Wilmington in southern California and under orders from his superiors, he led his company against hostile Indians in Arizona.

While in the service he fell sick with fever and was disabled for active duty. He returned to Santa Barbara ahead of his company in February 1866 after nearly two years of service, and was mustered out April 2nd of that year with his men, who by this time had been returned to Drum Barracks.

In impaired health, from which he never recovered, his eyesight commenced gradually to fail and by 1873 or 1874 he had become totally blind. His family physician had found his system was completely prostrated by the effects of mercury administered to him during his illness in Arizona. Various fragments of bones from his palate were missing, and soon after more came out, together with a piece of his jawbone. He was eventually paralyzed for about a year, losing the use of his limbs, and suffered greatly during the last years of his life. He died on November 28, 1881, at the age of 56 years and was buried at the La Patera Cemetery located in the Goleta District on the Goleta Road [Hollister Avenue]. The cause of his death has been variously reported as having died of cancer of the jaw or paralysis of the heart, but more than likely he died of mercury poisoning. Captain Antonio Maria de la Guerra left no family, never having married.

The final tragedy to the ending of the life of this famous member of the Santa Barbara de la Guerra family who contributed so much to the history of California and especially to Santa Barbara resulted after his death. There has been no official record found to date as to the location of Captain de la Guerra's grave and as a result his place of honor in Santa Barbara's history has been nearly forgotten. The burial records of the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish of Santa Barbara (1873-1912) record Antonio Maria de la Guerra as "burial #461" at the time the Cieneguitas/La Patera cemetery on Hollister Ave. was the most active Catholic burial grounds in the Parish. No mention of his having been buried with his family at the Old Mission or at any other location was made leaving researchers to draw their conclusion that he was in fact buried at this long abandoned cemetery. Over the last 100 years the Cienequitas/La Patera has become a neglected, vandalized and forgotten hillside cemetery, now abandoned, located on Hollister Avenue in the Goleta District of Santa Barbara not far from Modoc Road. There remains today only two headstones from the more than 800 graves remaining in this long forgotten cemetery, the remainder have been destroyed by fire, plowed over, stolen or broken up. The cemetery's location is no longer identified and is unknown except to a few and is a weed-covered abandoned 4.72 acre hillside located on a major thorough fare of the City. Eighteen members of the military company Capt. de la Guerra raised to support the National Government during the Civil War are still buried there. None of these California Civil War veteran's military graves are any longer marked or identified and the locations are unknown to this day. Until recently Capt. de la Guerra was thought to have been buried among them.
In October of this year (2000), in an 1897 edition of a local newspaper, a local Santa Barbara historian, Neal Graffy, discovered a story describing the Grand Army of the Republic's "Decoration Day Ceremonies" at the Cienequitas Cemetery and dedication of a 12-foot high monument to the veterans of the Civil War buried there and whose grave locations even at that time were unknown. The reporter who followed the ceremonies to the Old Mission made a brief mention of the activities and in an almost obscure statement mentions "the grave of Captain A. de la Guerra was also decorated." The other newspaper covering the story, including the ceremony at the Mission, made no mention of decorating Capt. de la Guerra's grave.

To date no records have been found at the Mission nor has the grave location of Capt. de la Guerra been identified. That one brief statement in the Santa Barbara Morning Press of 103 years ago leaves the only clue yet discovered and leaves much work to be done by those interested in Santa Barbara's colorful history.


Records of California Men in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1867; R.H. Orton, 1890, pgs. 7, 305, 315-317.
Santa Barbara Daily Press, Nov. 28, 1881, 3:2.
History of Santa Barbara, Owen O'Neill, Editor, 1931. "
Drum Beats," Vol. 111, No. 4 Oct., 1989: Drum Barracks Civil War Museum.
Death Book #2, .Santa Barbara Mission Archives; Parish of Santa Barbara
Calvary Cemetery & Mausoleum Internment Records.
The Author

Edson T. Strobridge, a lifelong resident of Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo, California, retired in 1991 after 45 years with Southern California Gas Company. His interests and avocation lie in researching and writing about local and early western history. A member of the Order of Minor Historians, he is currently researching the veterans of the Mexican and Civil War who once lived in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties and arranging for the installation of military headstones on those graves he finds unmarked. To date he has installed 74 headstones in various cemeteries in both counties.
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Updated 8 February 2016