It was the brains and statesmanship
of Wm. L. Marcy, when he was secretary of war under President Polk, that
inaugurated and generaled the movements that resulted in our securing possession
of California--by his expeditions, sent by sea and by land, of regular forces,
followed by the volunteer regiment of one thousand men, under the command of
Col. Jonathan Stevenson, as the following able State paper indicates:
[Illustration: W.L. Marcy]
WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON, June 3, 1846.
SIR.--I herewith send you a copy of my letter to the governor of Missouri for an
additional force of one thousand mounted men. The object of thus adding to the
force under your command is not, as you will perceive, fully set forth in that
letter, for the reason that it is deemed prudent that it should not, at this
time, become a matter of public notoriety; but to you it is proper and necessary
that it should be stated.
It has been decided by the president to be of the greatest importance in the
pending war with Mexico to take the earliest possession of Upper California. An
expedition with that view is hereby ordered, and you are designated to command
it. To enable you to be in sufficient force to conduct it successfully this
additional force of a thousand mounted men has been provided, to follow you in
the direction of Santa Fe, to be under your orders or the officer you may leave
in command at Santa Fe.
It cannot be determined how far this additional force will be behind that
designated for the Santa Fe expedition, but it will not probably be more than a
few weeks. When you arrive at Santa Fe with the force already called, and shall
have taken possession of it, you may find yourself in a condition to garrison it
with a small part of your command (as the additional force will soon be at that
place), and with the remainder, press forward to California. In that case you
will make such arrangements as to being followed by the reinforcements before
mentioned, as in your judgment may be deemed safe and prudent. I need not say to
you that in case you conquer Santa Fe (and with it will be included the
department of the State of New Mexico), it will be important to provide for
retaining safe possession of it. Should you deem it prudent to have still more
troops for the accomplishment of the object herein designated, you will lose no
time in communicating that opinion on that point, and all others connected with
the enterprise, to this department. Indeed you are hereby authorized to make a
direct requisition for it upon the governor of Missouri.
It is known that a large body of Mormon emigrants are en route to California for
the purpose of settling in that country. You are desired to use all proper means
to have a good understanding with them, to the end that the United States may
have their co-operation in taking possession of and holding that country. It has
been suggested here that many of these Mormons would willingly enter into the
service of the United States and aid us in our expedition against California.
You are hereby authorized to muster into service such as can be induced to
volunteer; not, however, to a number exceeding one-third of your entire force.
Should they enter the service they will be paid as other volunteers, and you can
allow them to designate, so far as it can be properly done, the persons to act
as officers thereof. It is understood that a considerable number of American
citizens are now settled on the Sacramento river, near Sutter's establishment,
called "Nueva Helvetia," who are well disposed toward the United States. Should
you, on your arrival in the country, find this to be the true state of things
there, you are authorized to organize and receive into the service of the United
States such portion of these citizens as you may think useful to aid you to hold
the possession of the country. You will in that case allow them, so far as you
shall judge proper, to select their own officers. A large discretionary power is
invested in you in regard to these matters, as well as to all others, in
relation to the expedition confided to your command.
The choice of routes by which you will enter California will be left to your
better knowledge and ampler means of getting accurate information. We are
assured that a southern route (called the Caravan route, by which the wild
horses are brought from that country into New Mexico) is practicable, and it is
suggested as not improbable that it can be passed over in the winter months, or
at least late in autumn. It is hoped that this information may prove to be
In regard to routes; the practicability of procuring needful supplies for men
and animals, and transporting baggage is a point to be well considered. Should
the president be disappointed in his cherished hope that you will be able to
reach the interior of Upper California before winter, you are then desired to
make the best arrangement you can for sustaining your forces during the winter,
and for an early movement in the spring. Though it is very desirable that the
expedition should reach California this season (and the president does not doubt
you will make every possible effort to accomplish this object), yet if, in your
judgment, it cannot be undertaken with a reasonable assurance of success, you
will defer it, as above suggested, until spring. You are left unembarrassed by
any specific directions in the matter.
It is expected that the naval forces of the United States which are now, or will
soon be in the Pacific, will be in possession of all the towns on the seacoast,
and will co-operate with you in the conquest of California. Arms, ordnance,
munitions of war, and provisions to be used in that country, will be sent by sea
to our squadron in the Pacific for the use of the land forces.
Should you conquer and take possession of New Mexico and Upper California, or
considerable places in either, you will establish temporary civil government
therein, abolishing all arbitrary restrictions that may exist, so far as it may
be done with safety.
In performing this duty, it would be wise and prudent to continue in their
employment all such of the existing officers as are known to be friendly to the
United States, and will take the oath of allegiance to them. The duties of the
custom-house ought, at once, to be reduced to such a rate as may be barely
sufficient to maintain the necessary officers without yielding any revenue to
the government. You may assure the people of these provinces that it is the wish
and design of the United States to provide for them a free government with the
least possible delay, similar to that which exists in our territories. They will
then be called on to exercise the rights of freemen in electing their own
representatives to the territorial legislature. It is foreseen that what relates
to the civil government will be a difficult and unpleasant part of your duty,
and much must necessarily be left to your own discretion. In your whole conduct
you will act in such a manner as best to conciliate the inhabitants and render
them friendly to the United States.
It is desirable that the usual trade between the citizens of the United States
and the Mexican provinces should be continued, as far as practicable, under the
changed condition of things between the two countries. In consequence of
extending your expedition into California it may be proper that you should
increase your supply for goods to be distributed as presents to the Indians. The
United States superintendent of Indian affairs at St. Louis will aid you in
procuring these goods. You will be furnished with a proclamation in the Spanish
language, to be issued by you and circulated among the Mexican people on your
entering into or approaching their country. You will use your utmost endeavors
to have the pledges and promises therein contained carried out to the utmost
I am directed by the president to say that the rank of brevet brigadier-general
will be conferred on you as soon as you commence your movement toward
California, and sent round to you by sea or over the country, or to the care of
the commandant of our squadron in the Pacific. In that way cannon, arms,
ammunition and supplies for the land forces will be sent to you.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Secretary of War.
COLONEL S. N. KEARNEY, Fort Leavenworth, Missouri.
The Adventures of a Forty-niner