Californie- French California

Post #4
A revolution is an idea which has found its bayonets.-Napoleon Bonaparte

Nearly alone among the former Mexican officials of Alta California, governor Juan Bautista Alvarado had fled when the French had arrived in Monte Rey. Adrift without any authority Alvarado went as far from the nucleus of French authority as he could; distant southern California. He soon ended up in sleepy San Diego, where he set to work building up relationships with the local power brokers. His main ally was a former Commandant of San Diego and Indian fighter, Pablo de la Portilla. Portilla, a hot blooded warrior with no patience for far off authority, easily fell in with Alvarado’s anti-French attitude. This was easier said than done since his former political strength had been based in northern California. Still over the next five years he slowly built up a new network of political power and support, a sort of shadow government which flourished in the years of France’s still newborn rule. Here, far away from Montravel and his growing court of imported officials, rich Californios and ranchers could still hold back the clock and pretend nothing had changed since the 1830’s. That every ranch and vineyard was a private kingdom, run as these elite saw fit. Nothing had changed and nothing ever would. Unlike in the north, where the rich elite was forced to come to terms with the French in various ways, in the south they never did, instead clinging to dreams and hopes peddled by Alvarado of a ‘California for Californios’.

By 1845 however, the beguiling illusion was becoming increasingly harder to maintain. French influence was growing ever stronger, sending tendrils up and down the coast, in the form of custom officials, tax collectors and land surveyors. Even backwater San Diego, a district with less than one thousand Eurpoeans, now had a garrison of French troops near the wharves. Granted it consisted of a grand total of six French marines and a customs man but it presaged greater changes to come. Already titles and deeds were being called for, copies demanded . So far such demands had been safely ignored but the tensions were rising. Worse, French taxes were being imposed and even if they were actually lower than the old Mexican ones, Alvarado and his supporters felt this was merely the thin edge of the wedge. Alvarado felt that something had to be done before French control became unquestioned and unchallengeable, to have a hope for success. The man had experience with such direct action, having led an abortive bid for Alta Californian independence against Mexico in 1836. In the fall of 1845, circumstances seemed to hand the would-be revolutionary a golden chance to try his hand against the French.

American interest in California had been growing for years, of which Fremont’s expeditions had only been one side-effect. Another was the Pacific Squadron, an American naval force based in the eastern Pacific. Founded in 1820 it had previously been more concerned with South American politics but, as American expansionist ideals had stretched westward, became increasingly attracted to California. The current commander, Thomas ap Catesby Jones, was a particularly aggressive proponent of American interests and unafraid of using force in order to further American aims (as he saw them). In October he had docked in San Diego with two ships, the USS Savannah and Cyane, on a seemingly routine patrol up the coast. Upon arrival however the American commander became instantly enmeshed in Californian politics and soon was in deep talks with Alvarado. Jones saw the former Mexican official’s plan for revolt as an obvious tool for his own ends, the eventual American annexation of California. French control over the area had always been seen as a violation of the old Monroe Doctrine by many Americans and a province mired in divided revolt would be much easier to purchase, or steal, when the time was right.

Hence, on a dark October night in 1845, a number of American seamen unconvincingly dressed as ‘Mexicans’, attacked and captured the tiny French garrison in San Diego. The sailors also stormed the customs house, a tax office and destroyed several local businesses run by known French ‘sympathizers’. The damage done, their captives were quickly turned over to Alvarado’s handful of rebels and the Americans retreated to their ships. As the sun rose on San Diego, Alvarado was in control of the city with two American ships generally menacing the incoming roads into the harbor. The first serious revolt against the French in Californie had begun, with startling success.

The American’s aid had strengthened Alvarado’s hand significantly. Before, he had merely been an exiled former official on the run, head of a handful of mildly irritated landlords more concerned about raised taxes than anything else. He had lacked the manpower or organization to truly test French power, even here on the fringe. Now however, he controlled an entire (if small) city and had the most potent of revolutionary auras: bloodless victory. A large crowd flocked to the Fort of San Carlos when Alvarado arranged to have his old Flag of California flown over it. Dozens from the crowd joined the impromptu growing militia, which was further buttressed by the various hired hands from the ranchers estates. Seemingly out of nothing, Alvarado had his movement.

It took days for the news to reach Monte Rey but when it did, it struck the French officials like a thunderbolt. The rumors ran wild, growing by the mile traveled. Some claimed Mexico had invaded California, hoping to undo the 1840 cession and regain the province. Others claimed it was agitated ranchers while still others blamed the Americans. Montravel and Lavaud had no precise idea what to make of these rumors but one thing seemed clear enough. French authority was being challenged in San Diego, probably by force and perhaps involving some outside power. Clearly something needed to be done, but what? Charles Lavaud, the governor, was as useless in a crisis as ever so it fell on Montravel to act.

His military options were limited as French power in Californie were still minuscule, ‘a mile wide and an inch deep’. The military commander had only a few hundred armed soldiers at his command leavened with a scratch force of locally recruited levees of dubious value in the event of actual violence. So far French forces had done very little except move into the vacant spaces left by their Mexican predecessors but the revolt exposed just how fragile French control really was. Paradoxically however, this meant that the response from Monte Rey had to be prompt and forceful. Any hesitation would merely exacerbate the problem and further reveal weakness. If not checked at once, a revolt may spiral out of control.

So Montravel commandeered the sole armed French ship in his harbor, an aged frigate posted to Californie as an alternative to retirement. Gathering up a force of forty men, all that could be spared, he placed them under the command of an eager young officer named Louis-Jules Trochu, new to the frontier. Capable and brave, if not highly experienced, Trochu promised a swift and sure victory over whatever might be waiting for them in the south. When Trochu left Monte Rey he carried the weight of the French colony with him, for if it failed this first test, it might be the last.

Trochu’s worst fears were realized when, upon reaching San Diego after several days at sea, he saw two American war vessels serenely overseeing the harbor. Worse still, the French commander was met by a small fishing vessel bearing ‘representatives of a free and independent California’. Alvarado himself did not come, of course, but these agents explained to Trochu that he was invading a newly born nation and would be resisted with force. The American ships were mentioned as ‘keepers of the peace’ and would surely intrude if any violence broke out. At a stroke, the French were deprived of their greatest advantage, naval seapower. A shoot out with the American navy was not something to undertake lightly, and might result in far worse things than a city in revolt. Disgusted, Trucho withdrew and landed his troops on an empty beach, several miles away from the city proper.

Assembling his troops, he marched on the city, hoping that the rebels would not dare stand against forty heavily armed and trained men. Greater insurrections had been quelled by less. His hopes were dashed however for his march, having been closely watched by Alvarado’s spies, was met on the outskirts of town by a hastily fortified farmhouse, bearing the single star of the nascent free California. After a brief but sharp fight, Trochu withdrew with three men injured and one man dead. That night, sitting in his tent, the French captain was confronted with a seemingly impossible dilemma. He did not have enough men to force the city, or to draw the rebels into open battle, and he surely lacked the forces to fully besiege the city. Besides, such a siege would be a farce with the American navy keeping the sea-lanes open. Trochu felt that most of the city's populace were probably apathetic to the revolt, but the longer he sat impotently, the worse matters would become. Asking for reinforcements was pointless, Montravel and Lavand had nothing else to send but from where else could he conjure the needed men?

Then the French officer had a most unexpected visitor. Chief Mata Whur at the head of a Kumeyaay warband, who had brought men, arms and his own scores to settle. The arrival of the Native Americans fighters promised to change the balance of power drastically….
 
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Watched!

As someone who defines himself more or less as a "Californian in Exile" (though my current residence is well within the claims of French Californie at this point in the narrative anyway) I am puzzled by one thing--your posts sometimes mention Spanish/Mexican presence going back "centuries," but even Baja California was first missionized remarkably recently, whereas Serra's venture to missionize the Alta California coast did not found the first mission at San Diego until IIRC around 1769 or so. While Mexico inherits Spanish claims on paper that do indeed go back to the sixteenth century (when Spain claimed all of the Americas, essentially) in terms of any actual actions to either explore or still more assert any meaningful settlement or control, Spanish and then Mexican control of Alta California is no older than the USA, at this mid-1840s juncture still well under one century.

I don't know just when viniculture was first established in southern California but it would have to be after Serra's first mission, though perhaps not long after. I don't know where you are getting vineyards as old as the "1600s" unless there were some in Baja, but as you have made clear, France doesn't get any part of Baja CA (not yet anyway, and I don't see any reason in particular they'd get it ever).

It is remarkable how long it took for the Spanish to notice San Francisco Bay, and it is certainly true that the provincial/territorial capital remained in Monterey and did not move inland under Spanish or Mexican rule. Still, by the time of the Bear Flag Revolt OTL, coincident with the US War With Mexico, Sonoma north of the bay was already a fair sized settlement, so I am surprised the French don't make more of the Bay Area, since routes there overland from Monterey Bay as well as the sea route through the Golden Gate would surely be known by1840?

The land surrounding the bay's various lobes is just plain going to be attractive, never mind the gold. Some of the Bay shores are very mountainous of course, but these are excellent sites for commanding fortresses, whereas other shores are swampy--but still others are excellent farmland, and water communications in a relatively sheltered body of water (albeit subject to heavy fogs of course) should make each tract more valuable than any would be just on its own merits.

Of course the Bay is the route to Sutter's little subsidiary duchy, and that is where the gold lies waiting to be discovered. It might be that he knows about it already and is running around like mad trying to suppress the news of it, but he must know that is an exercise in futility ultimately; the word will be getting out sooner or later, and sooner than OTL I would think.

It is interesting indeed your latest post ends with the suggestion that French assertion of effective control over her Californian claims will involve alliance with Native peoples; OTL they got about the rawest deal that is imaginable, whereas if French rule is beholden to at least some tribes, at least those peoples might enjoy a markedly better position. It is hard to see how they will avoid being severely decimated by European diseases, but not being systematically hunted down and enslaved to death would probably help improve their survival and recovery rate, whereas honoring treaties with them will certainly slow down if not stop headlong settlement, and yet I would guess leave quite a lot of good land for settlers to occupy and expand into at a more deliberate pace than OTL.

If French administrators can develop a culture of correct relations with Native peoples, it might help them cast their effective claims quite far to the east, perhaps all the way to the most extreme sweeps marked out on old Spanish maps as their borders with old (and ironically, originally French) Louisiana territory. It would impede dense settlement to have to honor Native claims of course, but in the shorter run, having the cooperation and assistance of Native peoples familiar with the local geography will give small lightly equipped French expeditions mobility through terrain that hostile forces will find held against them by Natives with nothing to gain and much to lose by betraying or failing their French patrons, who can supply them with weapons and ammunition.

Which leads me to wonder another thing--with French adventures into desert areas in Africa and the Middle East, I wonder if they are especially likely, among Europeans, to consider importing dromedary camels? Along the Pacific coast there is little reason to want them, but pushing inland past Los Angeles or past the Sierras, one comes into terrain that soldiers and others familiar with Old World deserts would recognize, and there, particularly in the southeast, they might think having some camels might be most useful. OTL this was a pet idea of Jefferson Davis's and I suppose that tainted it, but with French authorities projecting power eastward from the west coast, perhaps the idea is more sustainable and substantial camel herds can be established in the southwestern deserts?
 
Watched!

As someone who defines himself more or less as a "Californian in Exile" (though my current residence is well within the claims of French Californie at this point in the narrative anyway) I am puzzled by one thing--your posts sometimes mention Spanish/Mexican presence going back "centuries," but even Baja California was first missionized remarkably recently, whereas Serra's venture to missionize the Alta California coast did not found the first mission at San Diego until IIRC around 1769 or so. While Mexico inherits Spanish claims on paper that do indeed go back to the sixteenth century (when Spain claimed all of the Americas, essentially) in terms of any actual actions to either explore or still more assert any meaningful settlement or control, Spanish and then Mexican control of Alta California is no older than the USA, at this mid-1840s juncture still well under one century.

I suppose you are right. Ah well, allow me some grand gestures.
I don't know just when viniculture was first established in southern California but it would have to be after Serra's first mission, though perhaps not long after. I don't know where you are getting vineyards as old as the "1600s" unless there were some in Baja, but as you have made clear, France doesn't get any part of Baja CA (not yet anyway, and I don't see any reason in particular they'd get it ever).

'Although conflicting accounts exist, the first recorded planting of a vineyard was probably by the Spanish Jesuit Missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino at Misión San Bruno in Baja California in 1683 implanting the first variety named "Misionéro"'.
It is remarkable how long it took for the Spanish to notice San Francisco Bay, and it is certainly true that the provincial/territorial capital remained in Monterey and did not move inland under Spanish or Mexican rule. Still, by the time of the Bear Flag Revolt OTL, coincident with the US War With Mexico, Sonoma north of the bay was already a fair sized settlement, so I am surprised the French don't make more of the Bay Area, since routes there overland from Monterey Bay as well as the sea route through the Golden Gate would surely be known by1840?

Monte Rey lingers longer here due to French efforts to centralize, but the Bay will dominate all soon enough. Early days!

Of course the Bay is the route to Sutter's little subsidiary duchy, and that is where the gold lies waiting to be discovered. It might be that he knows about it already and is running around like mad trying to suppress the news of it, but he must know that is an exercise in futility ultimately; the word will be getting out sooner or later, and sooner than OTL I would think.

Gold will be a big part of this TL, never fear!
It is interesting indeed your latest post ends with the suggestion that French assertion of effective control over her Californian claims will involve alliance with Native peoples; OTL they got about the rawest deal that is imaginable, whereas if French rule is beholden to at least some tribes, at least those peoples might enjoy a markedly better position. It is hard to see how they will avoid being severely decimated by European diseases, but not being systematically hunted down and enslaved to death would probably help improve their survival and recovery rate, whereas honoring treaties with them will certainly slow down if not stop headlong settlement, and yet I would guess leave quite a lot of good land for settlers to occupy and expand into at a more deliberate pace than OTL.

If French administrators can develop a culture of correct relations with Native peoples, it might help them cast their effective claims quite far to the east, perhaps all the way to the most extreme sweeps marked out on old Spanish maps as their borders with old (and ironically, originally French) Louisiana territory. It would impede dense settlement to have to honor Native claims of course, but in the shorter run, having the cooperation and assistance of Native peoples familiar with the local geography will give small lightly equipped French expeditions mobility through terrain that hostile forces will find held against them by Natives with nothing to gain and much to lose by betraying or failing their French patrons, who can supply them with weapons and ammunition.


I hope to make it interesting indeed!
Which leads me to wonder another thing--with French adventures into desert areas in Africa and the Middle East, I wonder if they are especially likely, among Europeans, to consider importing dromedary camels? Along the Pacific coast there is little reason to want them, but pushing inland past Los Angeles or past the Sierras, one comes into terrain that soldiers and others familiar with Old World deserts would recognize, and there, particularly in the southeast, they might think having some camels might be most useful. OTL this was a pet idea of Jefferson Davis's and I suppose that tainted it, but with French authorities projecting power eastward from the west coast, perhaps the idea is more sustainable and substantial camel herds can be established in the southwestern deserts?
This is a cool thought that had not occurred to me, but it might fit into some grand plans I have...thanks.
 

Admiral Matt

Gone Fishin'
Very interested, though I can't read just now. Meeting a new alternate California makes me slightly nervous, wondering how (or frankly if) the population replacement will be handled.

I'll be back!
 
It's back!!! Glad to see an update - I've been hoping this wasn't abandoned. I sadly don't have too much to add besides that, save that I will happily away the next update and the smackdown about to fall upon the rebels :)
 
Oh, cool to see this update! French California is a cool concept, and all the better if it includes a better deal for Amerindians.
I'm curious as to the possible consequences of the American actions though. American sailors have taken a leading role in the rebellion, even if that isn't known to the French just yet, and in any case American frigates are clearly protecting it. This is a blatant act of agression. I imagine they hope to present the French with a fait accompli, but still, do they not fear French retribution?
 
Oh, cool to see this update! French California is a cool concept, and all the better if it includes a better deal for Amerindians.
I'm curious as to the possible consequences of the American actions though. American sailors have taken a leading role in the rebellion, even if that isn't known to the French just yet, and in any case American frigates are clearly protecting it. This is a blatant act of agression. I imagine they hope to present the French with a fait accompli, but still, do they not fear French retribution?

I wonder if the US Gov would just claim that those ships went rogue and against orders from Washington. I suspect your right, that the people on the ground just hope that by the time the French get around to dealing with it, the Californian Republic would just be established and not worth the effort to retake. Obviously, this isn't going to happen - and though Washington can distance themselves from this a bit, they're still going to end up having to do something to make up for it (I suspect an indemnity for any French soldier killed, etc). Its going to definitely be some egg on the face for the US though, no doubt about that - especially as they cannot afford to let things escalate to a war for all the reasons I mentioned in a previous post.
 
I wonder what would the French position be on bringing in East Asian workers?

That's an interesting thought. I'm suspecting that one of the consequences of this little rebellion/would-be filibustering is that France is going to realize that in order to secure the colony they are going to need to populate it, and fast. We all know that a big boon to immigration is coming along pretty soon, but the French obviously do not. So, it would be interesting to see if they encourage SE Asians to emigrate there just as a bulwark to help secure the land.
 
That's an interesting thought. I'm suspecting that one of the consequences of this little rebellion/would-be filibustering is that France is going to realize that in order to secure the colony they are going to need to populate it, and fast. We all know that a big boon to immigration is coming along pretty soon, but the French obviously do not. So, it would be interesting to see if they encourage SE Asians to emigrate there just as a bulwark to help secure the land.
From where though? My first thought is China and Vietnam.
 
Oh, cool to see this update! French California is a cool concept, and all the better if it includes a better deal for Amerindians.
I'm curious as to the possible consequences of the American actions though. American sailors have taken a leading role in the rebellion, even if that isn't known to the French just yet, and in any case American frigates are clearly protecting it. This is a blatant act of agression. I imagine they hope to present the French with a fait accompli, but still, do they not fear French retribution?
You'd be surprised. In OTL this happened -https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capture_of_Monterey and not much came of it. He did lose his job for awhile but got it back.
I wonder what would the French position be on bringing in East Asian workers?
Positive. They just, so far, lack the funds or energy to implement this. You have to recall, Californie is very much a distant afterthought for Paris. As of yet, anyway.
I wonder if the US Gov would just claim that those ships went rogue and against orders from Washington. I suspect your right, that the people on the ground just hope that by the time the French get around to dealing with it, the Californian Republic would just be established and not worth the effort to retake. Obviously, this isn't going to happen - and though Washington can distance themselves from this a bit, they're still going to end up having to do something to make up for it (I suspect an indemnity for any French soldier killed, etc). Its going to definitely be some egg on the face for the US though, no doubt about that - especially as they cannot afford to let things escalate to a war for all the reasons I mentioned in a previous post.
See above, I doubt much will come of it at all. Naval men in that era were laws unto themselves in many ways. If they had actually fired at with Trucho's vessel then we might have seen war but, so far, we have not.
That's an interesting thought. I'm suspecting that one of the consequences of this little rebellion/would-be filibustering is that France is going to realize that in order to secure the colony they are going to need to populate it, and fast. We all know that a big boon to immigration is coming along pretty soon, but the French obviously do not. So, it would be interesting to see if they encourage SE Asians to emigrate there just as a bulwark to help secure the land.
Agreed.
From where though? My first thought is China and Vietnam.
Interesting thoughts!
 
French policy in the Americas was relatively decent towards the aboriginal natives, right? Like they traded with the Huron as equals, and fought the Iroquois because they were allied to the former. At the very least they'd probably be kinder than the Mexicans/Spaniards.
 
French policy in the Americas was relatively decent towards the aboriginal natives, right? Like they traded with the Huron as equals, and fought the Iroquois because they were allied to the former. At the very least they'd probably be kinder than the Mexicans/Spaniards.
i mean, somewhat, but 77 years is a long time
 
i mean, somewhat, but 77 years is a long time
Yeah, the reason they treated the natives well in New France was because the colony wasn't populous enough so they relied on the natives's good will for soldiers and such, here with a France particularly interested in settling and controlling the area, the amerindians won't have sunshine and roses, although I imagine they wouldn't be intentionally genocided but rather be informally nudged into becoming "civilized" by learning french and becoming Catholics and assimilating into french society, much like what happened in Algeria which may or may not have a higher degree of success.
 
This is a cool thought that had not occurred to me, but it might fit into some grand plans I have...thank
Could have that one French governor that came to California but was brought back to France for promotion come up with the idea. Would give that little detail importance
 
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