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"Commodore Jones's War," the curious episode in which an American naval force captured Monterey in 1842 when Mexico and the United States were at peace, is one which perennially attracts interest. The outlines of the story are generally known,a but the reminiscences of Dr. Richard T. Maxwell, which are now published for the first time, add valuable details of the capture itself and of life in California as seen by a young naval surgeon.
Dr. Maxwell sailed for the Pacific as Assistant Surgeon in the 44‑gun frigate United States, which had been built in 1797 and was affectionately known as the "Old Wagon" or the "Old States." The ship was bound for the Pacific on one of the cruising voyages which were the stock in trade of the old Navy. In the age of sail when a ship could remain at sea for a very long time and at no more expense than when swinging at anchor in port, naval vessels cruised almost constantly. The commerce of the p6 United States was world-wide, and with no rapid communication available, it was deemed only wise to spread the nation's naval forces over the major trade routes so that they could uphold the rights of American shipowners and seamen, and 'show the flag' in many and scattered ports.
American warships had regularly been stationed in the Pacific Ocean since 1821. At first the Pacific Squadron consisted of only two or three vessels, but in 1842 when United States went out as flagship, there were six ships assigned: one frigate, three sloops of war, a schooner, and a store ship. Seldom were there more than two of the members of the squadron together at once, however, and a great deal of single-ship cruising was done. The chief area of operations was the west coast of South America, but not infrequently ships were ordered north to look into Honolulu and Lahaina Roads in the Hawaiian Islands, and the ports of Mexico and California. Thus the voyage of the United States was no unusual event, and certainly it was not intended that it should nearly be the cause of a war between Mexico and the United States.
The cruise took on a new character when Commodore p7 Thomas ap Catesby Jones, an officer 52 years of age with naval service going back to 1805, became convinced that the chronically bad relations between the two powers had flared out into war. Fearing that if this were so Mexico might cede California to Great Britain rather than allowing it to fall into the hands of the United States by conquest, Jones made haste to sail from Callao, Peru, to Monterey with all the forces he could assemble, and upon his arrival he demanded and received the surrender of the quiet capital of Alta California. Only after the deed was done did Jones learn that there was no war after all. He at once restored the Mexican flag, apologized, and backed out of the situation with as much grace as possible. The tense international situation was eased by the recall of Jones by the Navy Department, albeit a good deal of time passed before he reported in Washington. His vigilance for American interests was appreciated by his government, and although he received a reproof for his action, he was not court-martialed. When war with Mexico did come in 1846, Jones returned to the Pacific once more in his old post of commander-in‑chief of the naval force there.
p8 A part of the preparation for Hubert Howe Bancroft's monumental History of the Pacific States was the collection through interviews of the experiences of men and women who had taken part in the development of the region. One of Bancroft's representatives in this work called on Dr. Maxwell in 1877, and took down the narrative which is presented here. The events which the doctor described had taken place 35 years before, and although he must have had some notes before him in order to give dates, days elapsed, and distances run as accurately as he did, it seems fairly clear that he had no full diary to refresh his memory as he talked. He failed to remember a good many names completely or correctly, and on certain episodes his recollection was faulty. Furthermore, the amanuensis did not always hear him aright, and words appear in the manuscript as Dr. Maxwell certainly did not intend them. A case in point is the sloop-of‑war Cyane which was frequently with the United States during the cruise. In the text she is always referred to as "Siam" and it is not hard to see how the sound of the name was mistaken for that.
At the outset of his narrative, Maxwell says, "I p9 was born in Philadelphia, in January, 1821." When he was just past 20 years of age, on 9 September 1841, he was commissioned as an Assistant Surgeon in the United States Navy. He entered as a resident of the state of Delaware, and this remained his home during the years of his naval service. Maxwell's first assignment was to the United States, and his first cruise was the one described in this narrative. He suffered from recurrent ill health in the Navy. For this reason he did not finish out his cruise in United States; during the Mexican War he was invalided home from the frigate Cumberland in which he was serving off Vera Cruz; and again in 1848 he returned to the United States sick from Brandywine in the Brazil Squadron. On 16 April 1851, Maxwell tendered his resignation as Passed Assistant Surgeon, stating that the state of his health made it impossible for him to perform duties at sea. In 1854 he arrived in San Francisco where he made his home for the rest of his life, and where he came to occupy a prominent place among the physicians of the city. From 1858 until 1860, he was Surgeon and Resident Physician of the United States Marine Hospital on Rincon Point, then the largest hospital in San Francisco. Apparently p10 Dr. Maxwell remained a bachelor until 17 July 1883 when he married Nelly Donnelly. Two days later he died. His funeral was held at Pioneer Hall on 1 July, his fellow-members of the Society of California Pioneers being urged to attend. Dr. Maxwell's late marriage was the cause of considerable litigation over his estate.
The Maxwell narrative has presented certain editorial problems, and it will be as well to indicate to the reader how they have been solved. The manuscript itself is in the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. For purposes of making a transcript, a photostatic copy was used. The handwriting of the person who made the original copy presented no serious problems of legibility. According to members of the staff of the Bancroft Library, this particular hand has not been identified, and it is at this point impossible to say who the person was to whom Dr. Maxwell dictated his account. In any event, it would not serve any useful purpose to reproduce mistakes in names and spellingb or to perpetuate errors in chronology. If the manuscript were in Dr. Maxwell's hand, or if it had been dictated nearer the time of the events described, this would p11 be quite different. Corrections in the names of individuals and places mentioned in dates have been made without indication by footnotes or square brackets. These corrections are based on the log of United States, contemporary Navy Registers, and Bancroft's "Pioneer register and index." There has been one change in the order of the narrative in order to bring all of Maxwell's remarks about California into one place. Very occasionally paragraphing has been altered in the interests of clarity. There have been no changes in expression or in the structure of sentences. Omissions have been indicated in every instance.c
The editor's thanks are due to the staffs of the Bancroft Library and the Division of Naval History of the Navy Department for assistance relative to the manuscript, the cruise of the United States, and Dr. Maxwell's naval career.
John Haskell Kemble
p13 . . . We sailed from Norfolk on the 9th of January, 1842, in the frigate United States, with Commodore Thomas ap Catesby Jones, who was coming out to take command of the squadron, the ship in command of James Armstrong. The following were the other officers: — Isaac S. Sterett, First Lieut; Daniel French Dulany, Second Lieut; James L. Henderson, Third Lieut; William H. Ball, Fourth Lieut; Latham B. Avery, Fifth Lieut; William A. Parker, Master; Edward Fitzgerald, Purser; George Robbins, Marine Officer; Theodore B. Bartow, Chaplain; William Johnson, Surgeon; Richard T. Maxwell, First Asst. Surgeon; Morris B. Beck, Second Asst. Surgeon; Henry H. Lockwood,º Professor of Mathematics; and twenty nine midshipmen. The object of the cruise was to protect commerce and p14 cause our flag to be respected. We went from Norfolk to Madeira to lay in a store of wine. On the 8th of February we reached the Island, and after remaining there three days, we sailed for Rio de Janeiro.1 His Imperial Majesty Dom Pedro took an airing in his royal steamer, and was saluted from all the forts. We remained at Rio eighteen days and sailed March 26th for Valparaiso, and on the 6th of May came to anchor in the harbour. On arriving at Valparaiso, we met the St. Louis, which had just returned from the coast of California. Commander French Forrest was in command. She had been out here to investigate the case of Alvarado, who had been put in power here, by a handful of Americans and one or two Englishmen, hunters and others from the Sacramento and Feather Rivers, riflemen, who drove Gov. Chico away, took possession of the fort at Monterey, and put Alvarado in power, which he rewarded a few months afterward — having conceived the idea that they might serve him in the same way, — by seizing them while asleep in the night, loading them with chains, and sending p15 them in the Schooner California down to Tepic, on the western coast of Mexico, to be sent to the City of Mexico, where, through the interposition of the British Consul, all the foreigners except the Americans were liberated. The Americans they were afraid of and their rifles, and they would not let them come back. On the arrival of the St. Louis at Tepic, when she came up, they were set free. Among those whom they captured was Capt. Isaac Graham, and the Mexicans made an attack on his house and fired a volley through the door and one bullet cut the knot of his cravat as he lay asleep.2
On the 7th of May we sailed for Callao, and on the 15th discovered the Andes, •one hundred miles distant; arrived at Callao the same day, and found in the harbor the U. S. Sloops of War St. Louis, and Cyane, and Dale, the Schooner Shark and the Store ship Relief. May 23d the U. S. Sloop of War Yorktown arrived. On the 30th Lieut. Sterett was ordered to the command of the Store ship Relief, Lieut. Murray Mason to the Cyane, Lieut. William p16 H. Ball to the Dale, and [on May 31] Lieut. James L. Lardner from the Cyane to our ship. Passage from Rio de Janeiro to Valparaiso, forty days and ten hours; from Valparaiso to Callao, eight days and ten hours; and at anchor in Callao sixteen days and ten hours; whole distance sailed to that time 13,687 miles. Sailed from Callao for Valparaiso again May 31st, in company with the St. Louis, Cyane, Yorktown and Shark. . . . On sailing in squadron, we found the United States the fastest sailer on all points; the others were pretty equally matched. Went to the southward to the Island of Juan Fernandez, and it being the winter season, fell to the southward of Valparaiso. June 24th anchored in Valparaiso, the other vessels dropping in afterward. On the 28th the St. Louis sailed for the United States, having completed her cruise. On the same day, Henry La Reintree was appointed Commodore's Secretary, in place of William I. Allen, resigned. He resigned because an order was issued that every man must shave off his moustache on a level with his ears; the only whiskers we were allowed to have was parallel with the ear. He was so mortified that he resigned rather than comply. Passage from p17 Callao, twenty three days, whole distance run 16,593 miles. June 27th Henry J. Hartstene was ordered to our ship, from one of the other sloops of war. Sailed from Valparaiso July 1st for Coquimbo, U. S. Ship Cyane in company with us. July 2d came to anchor in Coquimbo Harbor, a fine harbor, well protected. We had thousands of visitors, men, women and children. Found the Yorktown at anchor. July 12th the Dale arrived from Valparaiso. July 30th sailed for Callao, the Cyane, Yorktown and Dale in company. August 9th arrived in Callao, while distance sailed 17,924 miles; remained there twenty nine days and 22 hours. Sept. 7th Acting Master William A. Parker appointed Acting Lieutenant, and ordered to the Cyane; same day Passed Midshipman Francis Winslow ordered to our ship from the Cyane, in place of Parker. . . .
On the 6th of September, while lying in Callao, Commodore Jones was dining with Mr J. C. Pickett, our Minister in the City of Lima, •five miles off. A hide vessel arrived from Mazatlan, bringing papers sent down by John Parrott, Consul at Mazatlan. These papers were handed to Mr Pickett while at dinner, — The Nineteenth Century, — El siglo diez y p18 nueve. This papers were marked by Mr Parrott. They contained an article stating that Mexico had declared war against the United States, to retake Texas.3 The Commodore returned to the ship in less than half an hour, sent for the different captains of the vessels in the squadron, and of course gave them instructions as to what was to be done, everything being kept a profound secret. Some little curiosity of course existed among the officers. These papers had been sent to Parrott, and he sent them at once to the Commander of the squadron. In issuing his orders to the different ships, Commodore Jones employed as a clerk Midshipman William Sharp, who wrote a good hand. Sharp, who was under my care, came down to me at 12 o'clock at night in the cockpit, and whispered to me that we were going to sail in the morning to take California, because war had commenced. I told him that if the Commodore knew p19 that he told me, he would hang him at the yardarm. I went ashore and ordered provisions for the cockpit mess for six months, — consisting of the two assistant surgeons, the Professor of Mathematics, the Commodore's Clerk, Captain's Clerk, and Midshipman Leonard H. Lyne [?]. The result was that all the other messes got out of provisions in two weeks, except ship's grub, while we fared luxuriously. Sept 8th, sailed from Callao in company with the Cyane, Dale, Yorktown and Shark. On the 9th, the Shark returned to Callao, and on the 14th the Dale parted company with us for Panama, to carry dispatches undoubtedly about this business. Sept. 15th, sailing through a school of whales, we struck one in the middle of the back as he passed the cutwater, causing a severe shock, and cutting him nearly in two. Sept. 21st, parted company with the Cyane, sailed away from her. During the passage to Monterey, we exercised the men, marines and a storming party, practising with the guns night and day.
The English were very anxious to get California at that time. Mexico owed a large debt to England, and the English thought if they could get California, it would be a good method of paying off that debt. p20 At the time we left Callao, Admiral Thomas was lying in the harbor, with his flagship, the Razee Dublin, an English vessel. The sloop of war Carysfort, Lord George Paulet, Captain, was with him in Callao, while the sloop of war Champion, Captain Byron, cousin of Lord Byron, was on the coast of Mexico. When we sailed, the English Admiral supposed we had gone out to exercise the squadron in sailing outside.4
Oct. 16th discovered a sail astern, which proved to be the Cyane. Oct. 18th, discovered land. Oct. 19th, stood in for Monterey. At noon saw Pt. Pinos, •seven miles distant, east by north, discovered a sail, a Mexican bark, coming out the harbor, — Jóven p21 Guipuzcoana. We hoisted English colors, and sent an officer aboard. The officer returned, and we hauled down English and hoisted American colors; sent another officer aboard and captured her, and took her in to our anchorage. At 2.45, in seven fathoms of water, close under the guns of the fort [we anchored], got springs on the cable and a hawser out at the stern, to keep the broadside to the fort. At 3.15 P.M. hoisted a white flag at the fore, and dispatched Captain Jas. Armstrong ashore, by Mr. La Reintree, the Commodore's Secretary, as interpreter, to demand the surrender of the place. Cleared the larboard battery for action, loaded with round shot and grape, got springs on the cable, and placed a kedge to the south and southeast, to keep the larboard broadside on the town. At 11.30 P.M., Commissioners of the government, one of whom was Mr. Abrego, now of Monterey, came on board and surrendered the place. José Castro commanded the fort. At 11.30 A.M. on the 20th, disembarked the marines and storming party of the squadron, with which I went as surgeon, and hauled down the white flag at the fore. At 12 our forces took possession of the Fort of Monterey. The Mexicans abandoned the works as p22 we marched up the ravine. At the time we landed, it was supposed this was a mere ruse to get us to land a small force, and then attack us on shore. We had about five hundred men from the different ships ashore.5 We took possession of the fort, hauled down the Mexican, and ran up the American flag, and gave three cheers, which were returned by the squadron. At 12.10 P.M. the frigate saluted the fort with 13 guns. At 12.15 the fort returned the salute with 14 guns. At 12.17 the Cyane returned 13 guns. Sent Acting Master Winslow, Midshipman Frederick P. Baldwin and two men to take possession of a Mexican government schooner, the California, a cutter commanded by Capt. John B. Cooper, then in the harbor. Cooper has been a resident here ever since, and married a sister of Captain Vallejo. They hauled down the Mexican and ran up the American flag. Sent Acting Master Winslow to require the captains of all Mexican merchant vessels in port to unbend their topsails and fore and aft sails, so that they could not go to sea. One of these vessels was the Bark Bolivar, p23 Capt. Nye.6 Lieut. Avery, with the second division of stormers, reembarked.
On the morning of Oct. 21st Mr. La Reintree overhauled the more recent papers received from Mexico found in the government house, occupied by Gen. Alvarado, and discovered that the whole affair was a matter of bombast, that there was no war at all, that the Mexicans had given up the idea altogether. So it only remained for Commodore Jones to restore matters to their former condition in the best manner he could. The Commodore immediately issued orders to haul down the American and hoist the Mexican flag, and salute it. Gen. Micheltorena was between Santa Barbara and Monterey, and while we occupied the fort was constantly sending couriers, announcing that he was [coming] in full force to retake the place from the Americans, and was coming with all speed, — all of which proved to be utterly false. When the order from the Commodore was received, the officer in command ordered the p24 Commodore's son7 to haul down the flag, which he refused to do, saying he would never haul down the American flag, and immediately drank so much whisky that he fell over the cliff and nearly killed himself. He was then a midshipman on board the Cyane. The flag was hauled down, and the Mexican flag was raised, and the squadron saluted it with 13 guns; the fort returned the salute, and the marines and stormers were recalled to the ships.
We found in the harbor plenty of fine fish, rock fish in •30 fathoms of water, deer very abundant, also wild geese and ducks in the lakes and rivers, and innumerable quail and hares in the neighborhood, all so tame that they could be shot without the slightest difficulty, in any quantities. The men were sent out with a seine to catch the Spanish mackerel, of which they brought large quantities aboard, and the whole ship's company was made sick, poisoned by them.
On the 22d November Lieut. Hartstene left the ship as bearer of dispatches to the United States by way of the City of Mexico, and took passage by the Yorktown to . Acting Master Washington Gwathmey was appointed Acting Lieutenant, and p25 ordered to the ship in Hartstene's place. At 12 Commodore Jones hoisted his broad pennant on board the Ship Cyane, then at anchor at Monterey. . . .
On the morning of the landing, before the fort was surrendered, the Professor of our ship, Lockwood, was made Adjutant, but contrary to his advice, which was to land above the fort, and march down on it from the hill, we were landed from the boats at the foot of a ravine, •about twelve feet wide, leading up directly to the fort, about four hundred yards distant, and marched up six abreast. On reaching the summit of the hill, about twenty yards from the fort, we found nine long brass guns, concealed by green branches of trees, put in order of threes, above each other, commanding the whole ravine, these guns loaded with copper grapeshot and escopette balls, all primed, and the matches burning within a few inches of the powder, and the linstocks lighted and at hand, burning within a few inches. (In taking possession of the fort, we immediately unloaded these guns, and removed them to the breastworks again.) Every gun had a name, — Jesus, San Pedro, San Pablo, and other saints. After ranks were broken, the men went striding about, some of p26 them sitting astride of these guns smoking their pipes, and one old Quartermaster happening to look at the name of one of the guns, exclaimed, "Here's Jesus! If they had touched him off, wouldn't he have given us hell!"
November 23d at one P.M. got out of the harbor and got under way, bound for the Sandwich Islands, where the Storeship Relief had been sent with supplies for the squadron. Dec. 3d discovered the mountains of the Island of Maui; at 4 P.M. the Island of Molokai. Dec. 4th made sail at daylight and discovered the Island of Oahu, stood for an anchorage at Honolulu, and at one P.M. came to anchor in •nineteen fathoms of water. We found plenty of mess stores at reasonable prices, — turkeys at nine dollars a dozen, chicken three dollars. Passage from Monterey to Oahu twelve days; at anchor at Honolulu three days; whole distance run 25,701 miles. Dec. 8th, sailed from Honolulu for Monterey. Dec. 24th arrived at Monterey; found schooner California, our former prize, the only vessel in port. Jan. 1st the U. S. Ship Cyane, bearing the pennant of Commodore Jones, came to anchor, just from San Francisco; reported that the Dale was cruising off Bodega. Jan. p27 6th, the Dale arrived. Passage from Oahu sixteen days. At anchor in Monterey sixteen days. Whole distance run, 28,237 miles.
While we were in possession of the fort at Monterey, couriers arrived from Micheltorena, announcing that he was in full march to take the place. We supposing it to be true, went to work throwing up defences of earth and branches of trees, and I recollect of putting an old wheelbarrow together again to assist in that work. At that time Thomas O. Larkin, who was a half brother of Capt. John B. Cooper, kept a little dry goods and grocery store at Monterey, •about twelve by eighteen feet. His wife, an American woman, lived there with him, and four or five children. David Spence, a Scotchman, also lived there, owning property in the neighborhood. Jacob Leese was living in Sonoma at that time. They were the only foreigners, with Cooper, who were there. An American named Tomlinson, a hunter whom we found there, was lying very ill of an injury of the knee. I amputated his leg on Christmas day, 1842. He afterwards died of pneumonia.8 In '48, when I p28 joined the Brandywine, on my way to Brazil, a marine officer named Wiley, who was a passenger on board, bound to Brazil, to join the Ohio under Commodore Jones, waiting for them at Rio, — inquired of me if I knew a man in Monterey named Tomlinson, and if I had operated on him, as he had been commissioned by his friend in Indiana to try to ascertain about him, as some seven to nine thousand dollars had been shipped out to him in silver, money which had been left to him by an uncle. The money was never heard of; Tomlinson had died a year or two before. When we were there [in California], the only currency was hides of cattle, which the Mexicans would come dragging behind them with a rope on the ground, to purchase what they needed at Larkin's store. They were called California Bank Notes.d I could have bought this whole town [San Francisco] then for a hundred dollars.
I was in Monterey from October 1842 to the end of January 1843. We were about twenty five or thirty days on the trip to the Sandwich Islands. We were about three days in possession of the fort. We soon became intimate with many of the families in town, and used to spend our time pleasantly there. p29 But the Californians were very bitter, Castro especially. I remember going with a young man named Gamble to shoot. I bought a fine mare for $9.00. It was considered very ultra for a man to ride a mare in those days, and the girls used to call out after me, "Yegua, yegua," — meaning a mare. There was a brother of Captain Eagle of the navy who had gone round Cape Horn on a sea voyage for his health, and arrived in California. He was there at the time we were, having come from the Sandwich Islands to Monterey and had purchased a grey mare which he valued very highly, and when he left he sold it to me for nine dollars. Hartstene had also bought a horse. He and I were the chief sportsmen of the ship. Game was so abundant that you could knock the ducks down with an oar, and they had never a gun fired at them. I went out one day with Gamble, who had been sent out by Nuttall, the naturalist, from Philadelphia, to collect specimens. He had come overland with a company of traders, and put his funds in the hands of their captain; the company dispersed, and left him penniless.9 The traders used p30 to come here to buy furs, to take them to St. Louis. Mr. Gamble was taken care of by a Mr Hartnell, a native of Great Britain, who had married a Catholic woman and settled here on a large ranch, •some twenty miles from Monterey. His purpose was to educate him as a Catholic priest. I met Gamble in Monterey and got the Commodore to take him on board as his clerk. He spoke Spanish very fluently, and I very badly at that time. We used to go ashore hunting, and over to the old Mission, and get an old woman to make tortillas, corn cake, from meal produced by rubbing down between two stones, and she would stew our quail with red peppers, and in that way we got our dinner. We chanced to go to the Mission of Carmel, on the feast of San Juan, and we found Castro with some twenty half drunk Indians, and among them we found also Padre Real, the priest of Monterey, who afterward was, with Larkin, one of the original [discoverers] of the Almaden quicksilver mine, Larkin having tested the ore in a gun barrel. Father Real requested me to dress the wound of an Indian boy, whose foot had been mashed by a mule. I amputated his toe with my pocket knife. I had with me a negro boy with a p31 Colt's rifle, thinking we might meet bears, as we saw their tracks and excrements in the woods. I played some waltzes on a fiddle with two silk strings, and one of catgut and one of wire, for the Indian women to dance. Of course, I was quite popular at the moment; they considered my playing a great thing. Father Real called me to one side, and cautioned me not to leave his side while we were there, as Castro, who was a very brutal man, and half drunk, was inciting the Indians to kill us. He most particularly cautioned me not to let him get hold of this rifle, which he was anxious to obtain. He had never seen anything of the kind in the country; there were two chambers of five barrels each, good for ten shots. We kept near him, and he went with us to the outside of the wall, Castro thinking we were still visiting the sick Indian boy when we mounted our horses and left the road, and went across the mountain to Point Pinos, finding our way by the sound of the sea. When we looked back, we saw these Indians chasing along, as we supposed in pursuit of us, Castro at their head. We got aboard the ship about 11 o'clock at night in a boat from the shore, and I reported the matter to Captain Armstrong, p32 who sent an officer the next day to demand that Castro should be called to account for it. He made many apologies, and attributed his conduct to his having been drunk at the time, and at the ball at the Government House which we gave them on New Year's evening, he made what he considered ample amends to me by embracing me and kissing me on each cheek. If it had not been for the priest we would have been killed that day. When the Bishop came here, he ordered him off to the middle of Mexico somewhere; the old fellow's morals were not very good.
On the night of the First of January, we gave them a ball at the Government House. At that time, the female population of Monterey had never tasted cake, mince pie, or anything of that sort. The Stewards of our messes were set to work making all kinds of delicacies in the shape of cakes and pies for the supper at the ball. Our wine from Madeira was expended, so we were obliged to depend on whisky toddy, which the ladies thought was very fine, and indulged in rather too freely, some of them. At that ball, a number of American hunters were present who had drifted down, on account of our presence p33 there, and among them was a young man named Joseph Chiles. About four years ago, in going to my ranch in Napa County, I stopped at the house of an old pioneer, who related to me an account of a great ball he went to in Monterey, when the ships were there in '42. I told him I was one of the managers of that ball, and found him to be the same Chiles whom I have mentioned above. He reminded me of Captain Armstrong's vigorous dancing, with his broad collars, and the perspiration rolling down his face. They called him Brazos fuertes (Strong arms). These people had the most extraordinary customs. They came on board the ship and danced all day and we would go on shore and dance all night. They would sit down to the table, and every woman would spread her handkerchief on her lap, and whatever we had on the table they would eat a part of, and carry off a part in their handkerchiefs, — nuts, figs, everything. Their manners were exceedingly primitive. There were three very pretty girls who were nieces of Capt. Cooper's wife, and they were great belles. I took charge of one of them in going to the ball. They were dressed in thin muslin. As we passed along the street, she said "Excuse me p34 for a moment," and sat down by the fence, and discharged the contents of her bladder. There were a couple of midshipmen behind us at the time. These women were as unsophisticated as so many cats. When I was in Valparaiso, before I came up here, I asked a young woman to dance. "I cannot dance," said she, "for I have a curse upon me." One told Robbins she could not dance, because she was in a family way.
There was an old fellow here, just as Gamble came, who was collecting natural curiosities for some of the German princes. I was sent for to go out from Monterey, •some twenty or twenty two miles toward Hartnell's ranch. I went, with a couple of men, and found that this man had been shot through the lung by an Indian arrow. Some of the Diggers had attacked him in the woods. It was necessary to push the arrow through, and cut it off, and then draw it back, in order to get it out.
The Mexican and contra dances and waltzes were danced at the ball, and what they called the jota, which wound in and out something like the letter J.e We danced the old Spanish dances as well as they p35 could. This jota dance was probably as much Indian as Spanish.
When I was at the Carmel Mission back of Monterey, the Church was in tolerable repair. There were a number of curious paintings there, and among them one of the Landing of Vancouver, a picture of •about seven feet by eleven, painted chiefly with chrome earth found here, and probably done by one of the ship's painters from his vessel. They presented it to this church. There were twenty one paintings •about eight by twelve, representing Heaven and Hell. Hell was represented by the old mythological characters, while Heaven was represented as a ball room, with angels and other figures dancing and playing the guitar and tambourine. These were used to convert the Indians. There were some smaller paintings, some of them really beautiful, one of them representing St. John. I, seeing that everything was going to ruin, went to Father Real, and asked him if I could purchase any of these pictures. He said that he could not sell anything belonging to the church, but he could not tell whether there were six or sixty pictures; in other p36 words, he was telling me to go and help myself, and not let him know it. I did not like to do that, however, as an officer of the squadron. What became of these pictures I do not know.
The morals of the people were pretty good. One of the great belles, the prettiest woman in the place, was a cousin of Don Pablo de la Guerra, or some relative of his, and her hatred of the Americans was so great that she promised to marry anybody who would bring her a necklace made of their ears. She wound up, however, by marrying an American, Mr. Ord, brother to General Ord.
Jan. 10th sailed for Mazatlan, and the Cyane for Santa Barbara and San Diego. Jan. 22nd made the harbor of Mazatlan, found the Yorktown and the British Ship Champion at anchor. . . . On the 18th February sailed for Valparaiso. While we were lying in the harbor of Mazatlan, Captain Byron of the Champion became ill and died, and we buried him there. I held a consultation with the surgeon of the ship, Cutfield. On the 27th of April arrived at Valparaiso. Found the U. S. Ship Yorktown, and the English and French Admirals there. From Mazatlan p37 at Valparaiso fifty six days; whole distance run, 36,681 miles.
At the close of this matter, the Mexicans represented to the government the claims of Micheltorena, in addition to the damages for insult, viz.: — reparation and restitution for clothing for two or three regiments of men which they had thrown away in their haste to retake the place from the Americans, instruments for a large band, and other demands, all of which were without any basis. To satisfy Mexico, Commodore Jones was replaced immediately, through orders sent out through Commodore Dallas, who was to take command of the squadron in Jones's place, and he was ordered home. Learning this before Dallas arrived, Jones determined to finish his cruise, leaving the storeship Relief and the Shark, the two slowest vessels, at Monterey and Callao, and set sail at once for the islands of the Pacific. Dallas, having arrived, took the Relief to follow Jones. Jones sailed from the islands of the Pacific to California again, and back to Valparaiso, Dallas still pursuing him. Before Dallas got to Valparaiso, Jones again sailed for the p38 north, eluding him, and so managed to consume the entire time of his cruise, while Dallas, through chagrin and mortification, and probably whisky, died in Callao. Jones, then having received his orders to return, took passage in the 74 ship of the line Columbus, under Commodore Biddle, who returning from his East Indian cruise, touched at Valparaiso, and there Jones took passage with him and went home.10 To appease Jones's honor, having satisfied the government that he acted for the best, at his urgent request the government gave him command of the Ohio 74, and in 1846 he sailed again for the coast of California, arriving here in time to be present at the second capture of the country, p39 and through him this town [San Francisco] was placed where it is. It would have been at Benicia but for him. He having purchased property here, managed with one or two other prominent men, to have the city located here. There was a good deal of dispute at this time as to where the city should be.11
I was left at Valparaiso when Jones left to evade the pursuit of Dallas, who, having been sick for a long time, was left at Callao to die. That was in May 1843. I was several months ashore in Chile, and sailed for home in the ship Demand of Baltimore, Capt. Harvey, — a rotten old merchant vessel, loaded down to the water's edge with cocoa and coffee from Guayaquil. Lieut. Henderson from the ship United States accompanied me, and Lieut. Brown from the Yorktown also, returning to the U. States. The ship had a constant leak, and put into Pernambuco for wood and water, after a stormy and perilous passage round Cape Horn. At Pernambuco I p40 was left, too ill to proceed, and went down in a schooner to Rio de Janeiro, and after some delay was ordered by Commodore Turner, commanding the Columbus, to his ship.12 I finished my cruise, was on board about a year, and arrived in New York in June '44.13 I served in the Gulf of Mexico, then in Brazil, and came out here in '54 again. . . .
1 United States sailed from Funchal on 11 February 1842, and arrived at Rio de Janeiro on 8 March.
2 For a full account of the "Graham Affair" which Maxwell describes here with a good many inaccuracies and some prejudice, see Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of California (San Francisco, 1886), vol. IV, ch. 1.
3 In Jones's official report, dated 22 October 1841, he stated that he received a letter from Parrott in early September at Callao which enclosed a copy of El cosmopolita for 4 June 1842 containing three highly belligerent official declarations against the United States, and that it was on the basis of this that he assumed the existence of a state of war. U. S. President, "Taking possession of Monterey," 27 Congress, 3 session, House Doc. Ex. No. 166 (Washington, 1843).
4 Rear Admiral Richard Thomas, RN, with his flag in H. M. S. Dublin, had already sailed from Callao on 5 September 1842, and this occurrence had strongly reinforced Jones's suspicions as to British intentions toward California. H. M. S. Carysfort and H. M. S. Champion had departed previously. All the ships had been under sealed orders from England. Maxwell's account here sounds as though he were confusing the events at Callao in 1842 with the story of Commodore John Drake Sloat, USN, and his sailing from Mazatlan in 1846 when there is reason to believe that he intended to give Rear Admiral George Francis Seymour, RN in H. M. S. Collingwood the impression that he was leaving port briefly for target practice rather than bound for Monterey to begin the conquest of Alta California. See Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of California (San Francisco, 1886), V, 207‑215 for discussion of the merits of this report.
5 In Commodore Jones's report to Secretary of the Navy A. P. Upshur, dated at Monterey, 24 October 1842, he stated that the landing party consisted of 150 men in all.
6 Gorham N. Nye was master of Bolivar trading between California and the Hawaiian Islands. Bancroft also lists Clarita and Trinidad as having been captured, but makes no mention of Bolivar. Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of California (San Francisco, 1886), IV, 312.
7 Midshipman Meriwether P. Jones, USN.
8 This was Ambrose G. Tomlinson. He died before the end of 1844.
9 William Gamble came to California in 1841 with the Workman Party.
10 Captain Alexander J. Dallas, USN, was sent to the Pacific to relieve Jones. He arrived at Callao on 25 July 1843, and brought Jones's orders of recall which were dated 14 January 1843. Jones received these orders at the hand of the French Admiral Dupetit-Thouars at Nukahiva, Marquesas Islands, on 5 October 1843. He returned in United States to Callao, and after waiting six weeks for Dallas he left United States on 21 January 1844 and took passage for home in the frigate Constellation which was returning from a cruise to the East Indies under Commodore Lawrence Kearny, USN. Sailing from Callao in her on 21 January 1844, he reached Norfolk on 1 May. Columbus made a cruise to the East Indies in 1845‑1848 as flagship of Commodore James Biddle, USN, and returned from this voyage by way of the Pacific Coast of North and South America. In his narrative, Maxwell confuses the two voyages. Commodore Dallas died on 3 June 1844.
11 Commodore Jones was ordered to the command of the Pacific Squadron for a second time in 1847, and flew his broad pennant in Ohio from that year until 1850. Thus he was not present at the second capture of California which took place in 1846. He was, of course, not the captain of Ohio at the time. She was under Commander Cornelius K. Stribling, USN. Jones was actually one of the strong supporters of Benicia.
12 Maxwell went ashore from United States at Valparaiso on 13 May 1843. He was detached from the ship due to illness. The cruise of United States lasted until 14 October 1844 when crew was paid off and the ship turned over to the officers of the Boston Navy Yard.
13 Columbus was at this time flagship of the Brazil Squadron. She flew the broad pennant of Commodore Daniel Turner, USN, and was commanded by Captain Benjamin Cooper, USN.
b Despite that, this short text was printed with a few uncorrected spelling mistakes (or introduced typos), which I have fixed, marking them with a dotted underscore : as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the underscored words to read the text as printed.
c Nowhere does the editor give any indication what the reason may have been for any of the omissions, nor of their length.
d Not the strangest money said to have been used in the American West: see "Mule Ear Currency" (Journal of the American Military History Foundation, II.55).
e Although the Spanish name of the letter J is indeed jota, this is a folk etymology. The true derivation is unknown, strictly speaking, although usually and plausibly connected with Latin saltare, to jump.
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