Queen Calafía’s Island: A California Republic Timeline

Here we go. Things are heating up in California. Hopefully, I can get another update this week (will still aim for 2 a week when possible).

1835. From Cahuenga with Love


The Cahuenga Pass, Where Our Story Takes Place

In 1832, General Antonio López de Santa Anna successfully overthrew President Anastasio Bustamante and his conservative administration in Mexico City. This wasn’t anything new for México, Bustamante himself had usurped the executive office from his predecessor. But for the American settlers in Texas Santa Anna’s rebellion presented the right opportunity to take up arms in order to demand greater autonomy for the region.

At first, Santa Anna’s government seemed open to appease the colonists, but Santa Anna soon revealed himself to be a centralist and took a firm stance against Texas. When the Governor of Texas, Agustín Viesca, expressed his support of Texan autonomy, Santa Anna ordered his arrest and the dissolution of the provincial legislature. Viesca managed to evade the arrest and reconvene the state legislature in Bexar under the protection of a militia raised by Juan Seguín and Ira Westover. [1] General Santa Anna rode north determined to crush the Texan insurgency, leaving Valentín Gómez Farías behind as acting-President.

It was President Farías who tasked José María de Híjar and José María Padrés to lead a group of 250 carefully selected families to settle in Alta California, with de Híjar replacing Figueroa as governor of Las Californias. Farías hoped that “loyal settlers” in California would prevent the northwestern province from “pulling a Texas”.

The José Marías arrived in Los Angeles, in the summer of 1833. De Híjar took over the role of governor, preferring to set up his headquarters in the southern city over Monterrey. This was a very big mistake. Padrés continued north to Monterrey to act as military commander in the northern regions. [2]

At first, very little seemed to change in California; De Híjar continued the secularization of the missions and, because he shared responsibilities with Padrés, Monterrey was granted relative autonomy from the territorial government. It was Padrés who realized the potential in Francisco de Haro and William Richardson’s plan to enlarge the homestead outside the vicinity of the Mission Dolores south of the Presidio San Francisco. Richardson laid out a street grid connecting the Mission lands to the shores inside the bay. The homestead quickly attracted settlers, mostly American and Russian fur trappers; a small pier and quay were built near the shore and within a year, Yerba Buena was elevated to the status of Pueblo with De Haro serving as its first alcalde. [3]

But, for every success Padrés had in the North Bay, De Híjar ran into one problem or another with the residents of Los Angeles. After he attempted to reorganize the repartition of the mission land grants, favoring the colonists who arrived with him over the Californian families. In 1835, José Antonio and Carlos Carrillo, brothers from a well-established family in Buenaventura, organized the wealthier residents of the nearby pueblos to petitioned De Híjar to reconsider. They organized a party of approximately fifty men and proceeded to march from Buenaventura [4] towards Los Angeles. Believing the Carrillo brothers were calling for a coup, De Híjar built up a small army to meet the incoming party. When both sides met near Rancho La Providencia, Híjar ordered their arrest of the entire “rebel” group. Accounts of the events that followed are varied; the official history states that both bands clashed in what has been known is the Battle of La Providencia.

Official accounts of the “Battle of La Providencia” were likely exaggerated in order to allow De Híjar to save face when most of his party refused to follow his orders and retreated shortly after the battle commenced. By De Híjar’s accounts, two volleys were fired before the rebels advance and he was forced to order a charge in response. His troops made two passes on the rebels before De Híjar was dismounted after his horse was injured by an enemy lance. Once on the ground, a melee broke out in which he was knocked out again by a rebel on horseback. According to the rebels, De Híjar’s forces dispersed after the first charge, and the governor fell off his horse. Only one mule died in the encounter. [5]

With the help of Andrés Pico, who rallied a handful of dissenters in Los Ángeles, José Antonio and Carlos Carrillo were able to take control of the town hall for the time being. A courier was dispatched immediately to Monterrey alerting their northern allies, led by José Antonio Castro, in case the military commandant retaliated.

Castro was quick to move, locking Captain Padrés in a checkmate before the captain realized what was even going on. Since Alvarado’s death four years earlier, Castro had woven a network of support between the local ranchers and recent American and English immigrants in the Natividad and Santa Clara Valleys. Rather than suffering a humiliating defeat like his compatriot, Padrés stepped aside.

With De Híjar under the custody of the Carrillos, and Padrés stepping down, the military command passed down to the next the highest ranking officer in the territory; who just so happened to be a cousin of Alvarado and Castro, a student of Edward Harnell, and a native Californian to boot. He was the one and only Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo y Lugo. Thus, for a very brief period, California entered a state of limbo – where a rebellion succeeded not on the results of a battle, but because through legal and hierarchic coincidence.

Vallejo rode South, putting enough a façade to reprimand the Southern rebels; the Carrillos were simply fined for the cost of the dead mule, and retreated to their rancho. Vallejo assumed the governorship ad-interim before De Híjar recovered from “the shock of battle”. But the good times did not last long. Word of the even soon reached México City, and with Texas in full revolt and Santa Anna didn’t plan on taking any chances with California. De Híjar was recalled to México City. And from then on California would be governed by a series of increasingly unpopular and dangerously incompetent México City appointed governors, beginning with General José Manuel María Joaquin Micheltorena y Llano. Beginning what could otherwise be referred to as “the very messy times”. [7]

[1] Small change: Stephen F. Austin, who generally preferred to appease the Mexican authorities, is not present when Viesca arrives in Bexar; as a result, Viesca is not turned back to the Mexican authorities causing a bigger headache for Santa Anna.
[2] Because Santa Anna preoccupied with Texas, he doesn’t rescind De Híjar’s governorship as in OTL.
[3] Yerba Buena is quickly taking shape as a city by 1840 it has somewhere about 500 inhabitants. The number is slightly larger than OTL as it includes a handful of settlers that came along with Padrés and additional Russian fur trappers.
[4] At this point, the eastern half of OTLs Ventura County is owned by the Carrillo family. In TTL, the name of the town adjacent to the Mission San Buenaventura won’t be shortened as in OTL.
[5] In OTL there were two Battles of Cahuenga Pass. The First taking place in 1831, which ousted Victoria a governor; similar events already took place in TTL without a battle. The Second Battle of Cahuenga Pass, also known as The Battle of La Providencia in OTL, took place in 1845 when the Californios rose against Governor Micheltorena. This is an amalgam of both “Battles” that like its OTL counterparts it is more like a brawl on horseback than a Battle.
For reference: Rancho La Providencia roughly correlates to present day Burbank and Studio City, with the battle taking place along the Los Angeles River near the Cahuenga Pass (The Universal Studios Backlot).
[7] Like in OTL from 1835 onwards there's going to be a revolving door of governors in California, but while OTL tended to alternate between locals and outsiders, TTL will mostly consist of the latter.
 
Update! (Sorry for the brief hiatus, for those who waited, RL got a bit in the way).

1835. The Newcomers; Anglo and European Immigration into California


Krepost Ross & Nueva Helvecia, two of the most renowned early non-Spanish settlements in California

Non-Spanish settlement in California began before México obtained its independence. As early as 1808 the Russian American Fur company operated around Bodega Bay, and in 1812 the company earned a charter from the Spanish government to establish Krepost Ross as a base of operations. But, by the time Governor Figueroa re-chartered the Russian colony in 1832 [1], the “Russians” – the establishment included Finns, Balts, Circassians, Aleuts, and Creoles – were no longer the largest non-Spanish or non-Native group in California. “Anglos” from the United States, Canada, and Britain began to trickle in since the early 1800s, with the Hudson Bay Company, the North West Company, and the American Fur Company all operating in California's periphery. However, it was the completion of the Santa Fe trail opened the floodgates for settlers from the eastern coast of North America pouring into California.

The “Anglos” who came into California were men of different capacities, backgrounds, and inclinations. American “pathfinders” and freelance mountain-men, like Jedediah Smith, were merely passing through surveying the land or expanding the Rocky Mountain fur trade. While others, attracted by the life in the ranchos and the richness of the land, hoped to permanently settle in California.

William Hartnell, who arrived in 1822, opened the first boarding school in Monterrey; the cousins Juan Bautista Alvarado (the martyr) and Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo (the liberator) were tutored by him and most historians agree Hartnell had a significant influence on his students’ views and ambitions. Another early arrival, William A. Richardson, helped plan the development of Yerba Buena alongside Commander Padrés and Francisco de Haro. William Wolfskill, an American who settled in Los Ángeles began to cultivate grapevines for wine and established the first commercial vineyard in California. A fourth “William”, William Marcus West arrived from Scotland. After marrying into the Vallejo family, West acquired a large grant north of the Santa Rosa Valley and helped his brother-in-law maintain and man the Presidio Santa Rosa; as such, “Don Guillermo Marcos” acted as in-between and liaison with the Russians and the Oregon based companies.

Some prominent "non-Guillermos", include John Forster, who worked as a shipping agent in Los Ángeles and funded the construction of the San Pedro harbor. John Marsh, a Harvard graduate, became the first medical practitioner in California. The Frenchman, Jean-Louis Vignes also settled in Los Ángeles, and opened a commercial vineyard to rival Wolfskill’s [2]. Alexander Leidesdorff, who was of Cuban descent despite his name, was the first black citizen of California and even served as treasurer of Yerba Buena. And most famously, the Swiss-German pioneer by the name of Johan August Sutter. Hoping to reinforce the frontier against Indian raids and further encroachment by the fur traders, Commander Padrés granted, Sutter a large grant in the Sacramento Valley. Sutter developed a fortified settlement which he christened Nueva Helvecia after his homeland. [3]

Although subtle at first, the growth of American and British business in California began to modify the nature of life for the local Californians. By 1841, James Douglas – a captain for the Hudson Bay Company – noted how “the twin settlements of Yerba Buena and San Francisco already have the flair of cosmopolitan cities”. And they were barely a decade old! [4] Nueva Helvecia developed almost as fast as a makeshift administrative center for the interior valleys and the gateway for settlers coming from the East.

For the most part, these settlers found a place for themselves in Californian society. Most readily converted to Catholicism, obtained Mexican citizenship, and married into prominent Californian families, and in the process reinvented themselves as part of the local establishment. But not everyone was looking to fully embrace the Californian life. The Russians, centered in the coast north of Bodega Bay, kept to themselves and their fur trading business. A growing number of American settlers arrived with their families and children in wagon trains from across the Rockies and established full-fledged American communities in California separate from the ranchos. Meanwhile, agents of Washington and London, who harbored expansionist ambitions in service of their respective governments, plotted in the custom houses of Monterrey Harbor.

Thomas Oliver Larkin, a prominent American trader in Monterrey remained protestant and was appointed as the American consul to California with orders from Washington to encourage the Californians and American settlers if they ever should declare their independence from México to align themselves with the United States as Texas had done so. Alexander Forbes, a Scottish merchant, hoped to establish a California Company - modeled after the East India Company – as a means for México to settle its debts to Great Britain.

Somewhat Ironically, Larkin is credited for developing the first architectural style native to California. A skilled carpenter, the consul build himself a two-storied house that combined the adobe walls and tile roofs of Spanish colonial architecture, with the general layout and wood-framed windows of plantations from the Southern United States, and a veranda in the style of the French Caribbean. The style itself expressed the fusion of people occurring up and down the California coast. And very soon every rancher and settler wanted a house “al estilo de Larkin’s”. [5]


Thomas Larkin's stylish home in Monterrey

While most of the changes were welcomed by the local Californians, as they reaped the rewards of increased trade and enjoyed the amenities that came with an increasingly cosmopolitan society, the central government in Mexico City had a very different plan in mind for California.

The Padrés and De Híjar colony was only the first part of a larger plan set forth by the central government to reel in their control over the far northwestern provinces. It would be a cold day in hell before President Antonio López de Santa Anna would allow California to catch the whims of independence. To this measure, his Excellency handed over the governorship of California to someone with firm loyalties firmly seated in México City. The General Manuel Micheltorena traveled to California leading a force of 200 men to show those quarrelsome ranchers who called the shots. Micheltorrena established, two new outposts to act as inland customs houses: the Presidio Sacramento, in the outskirts of Nueva Helvecia, and a Portezuela further north to guard the border with the Oregon Country [6].

The second part of the plan involved reinforcing the presence of the Catholic Church in the northwestern province. At the time, the Mexican constitution upheld the Catholic Church as the sole official faith and membership in the Church was required to become a citizen. Although this wasn’t ignored by the authorities in California it wasn’t forcefully upheld either; land grants were issued to non-citizens as long as the appropriate bribe was paid, taking away the main incentive to convert.

Exasperated by this lack of conviction, Father Francisco García Diego y Moreno, better known as Father Diego, induced the government in México City to petition the Pope to create California a bishopric in order to preserve the Church in California. In 1836, Pope Gregory XVI withdrew California from the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Sonora and appointed Father Diego as the first Bishop of the Two Californias. [7] Although the Mission San Diego de Alcalá was chosen as the official bishopric see, Father Diego chose the Mission Santa Barbara as his residence; he opened the first seminary in California on the Mission’s grounds and in a short time, the villa that supplied the nearby Presidio flowered into a town and Santa Barbara was upgraded to the status of Pueblo. [8]

Father Diego had many lofty goals for California, including the building of a majestic basilica in Monterrey. Unfortunately, in February 1842, President Santa Anna confiscated the Pious Fund of Las Californias to pay off debts incurred during the French Intervention. The bishop received no aid and he was obliged to depend upon the contributions from the settlers in the territory. Not surprisingly, the relationship between the California Bishopric and the Mexican government rapidly deteriorated. And despite Governor Micheltorena’s iron-fisted effort, it became increasingly obvious Mexico City was losing its grip in California. It was only a matter of who would rule in their stead: the Americans, the British, or the local Californians. In 1842 few would have placed a bet on the latter.

[1] The charter is to operate in the fur trade, so it doesn’t affect Fort Ross, which was mostly a farming community assisting the trapping operations in Bodega Bay and the Russian River. In OTL the charter was not renewed, so the importance of Fort Ross, declined until it was sold to John Sutter in 1841. This means that the other Russian settlements are still semi-operational in TTL as well. I won’t cover many details on the update, but I will make a map of the Russian settlements of TTL.
[2] Jean-Louis Vignes, known as “Don Juan Aliso”, got the credit for the first commercial vineyard in OTL. In TTL "Don Guillermo Matalobos", who has a cooler name, gets the credit in TTL.
[3] Nueva Helvetia became Sacramento in OTL. It won’t be the capital in TTL (wait and see there), but still a very prominent city in the Central Valley.
[4] Yerba Buena is the town that was planned near the Mission. San Francisco is the settlement that sprung up near the embarcadero (docks) south of the Presidio. Like in OTL, San Francisco will be the more common name, since the Mission, the Presidio, the Bay, and the Peninsula were all named after or dedicated to St Francis before the founding of Yerba Buena.
[5] Monterey Colonial, as seen on the picture. But there will be more surviving examples and revivals in TTL.
[6] Probably near OTL’s Yreka.
[7] Very similar to OTL. However, the Diocese was won’t split into American and Mexican sections, as Baja will remain part of California. ;)
[8] Father Diego also chose Santa Barbara as his headquarters in OTL as well. But the seminary was built in the nearby Santa Inés. Here he opts to keep it in Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is just a tad more developed than OTL at this point (as is San Pedro in LA), due to the existence of the offshore Presidio and Mission in Santa Catalina.

Note: I’m not sure how much it comes across in the updates, but there is basically both a larger presence of the Mexican government in TTL compared to OTL (additional presidios, additional forces, and no-local governors) and greater resentment on behalf of the local population, which in turn coordinates their efforts to resist the central government more so than in OTL.
 
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It took a while, but we're back on track… sort of (RL has been difficult this last few months, things seem to be settling down). I had the update ready for a while but had not brought myself to upload as I was having a hard time outlining the following ones. I’m going to wing the Mexican American War a bit (already wrote a timeline on it once), so it is likely just going to be a couple of updates from California’s perspective, as I much rather focus on stuff post-independence.

1844. International Politics, Including California

There are plenty of grade-school textbooks that depicts the struggle for Californian independence as an isolated and almost predetermined affair spearheaded by patriots and pioneers that somehow had already dreamt up “The California Dream”. There are plenty of grade-school textbooks that are not very good.

In reality, despite its geographic isolation, California’s independence was thoroughly tangled in a web of conflicting international ambitions involving Mexico, the United States, and - to a lesser extent – Britain, Russia, and their respective pelt sourcing corporations. Furthermore, one could argue Californian independence ultimately came about by happenstance when the goals of the established rancho elite and the incoming Anglo-American opportunists briefly lined up halfway through a war that began across the continent. To better understand the events that led to Californian independence, we must distill the goals and ambitions of all the parties involved; starting with the beta version of the California Republic, briefly known as the Republic of Texas.

Texas

In 1836, Texas achieved independence after a seven-month rebellion against the central government of Mexico City. And while some consider it a continuation of the insurrection spearheaded by Juan Seguin and Agustin Viesca the previous year, the “Texian Revolution” was mostly spearheaded and led by Anglo-American settlers as was the resulting government, once the Republic of Texas achieved its independence.

The new sovereign state, while stable, faced a number of issues to maintain its viability as an independent nation. For starters, some Texian leaders had always advocated for the annexation of Texas into the United States. While, an opposing “nationalist” faction had, despite the Republic’s problems, in aggrandizing plans for Texas even passing a resolution claiming all of California for Texas. Meanwhile. the Tejano minority found themselves caught between both camps; annexation into the US would drastically dilute their numbers, effectively making them outsiders in their own land, but the nationalists had little to offer Indians and “Mexicans”.

Mexico, for its part, refused to recognize the independence of the Republic of Texas and intermittent conflicts between the two continued well into the 1840s. In the resulting lawlessness from these conflicts, Comanche Indians continuously raided deep into the Texian territory. As the problems piled up, the fledgling republic was sinking in economic and political instability.

The United States

For the United States, the matter on Texas (and its potential annexation) was highly contentious, while President William Henry Harrison had stayed clear of the matter, his successor John Tyler was not [1]. Tyler was all for annexing Texas and expanding the United States across the continent. Support for such expansion cam mostly from the Southern states who needed to expand the institution of slavery to maintain “political balance”.

But as the election of 1844 approached, both parties were divided on the matter of expansion and slavery. Political alliances that were once built to maintain this balance began to unravel. Mostly at the directive of “His Accidency” President Tyler who wanted nothing else but to be elected on his own right but found that neither the Whigs or the Democrats would back his candidacy, forcing President Tyler to run an independent campaign on the sole platform of annexation and territorial expansion. The more radical members of his base going as far as supporting the annexation of “All Mexico”, including California.

The Democratic Party was hurt the most by Tyler’s stubbornness, with a large portion of its southern base giving its support and vote to Tyler over the Party’s candidate Silas Wright. With the Democrats divided, Henry Clay and the Whig Party handily won the election.

Seeing how annexation looked rather unlikely, Samuel Houston and his political allies in Texas, made overtures to the British to solve Texas’ growing debt. Clay, while never fully in support of the annexation of Texas, was a pragmatist preferring to swallow Texas debt and deal with the wrath of abolitionists over giving Britain a foothold in North America. So very soon after his inauguration, he began to turn the wheels of government in favor of annexation, craftily leveraging this “concession” in exchange for support of his American System and the establishment of the Third Bank of the United States from the Democrat-controlled Congress. But the President had to be careful for Mexico and Britain were laying down their plans as well.

Britain and the Hudson Bay Company

Britain, though more accurately the Hudson Bay Company, had vested interest in keeping the Great Basin open for the fur trade. The urgency of the matter intensified during the American during and after the election of 1844, where a victory by the expansionist parties threatened the administration of the Columbia territory.

Time and time again, offers were made to Mexico City to create a “lease” of Alta California. But, in the aftermath of Texas, Mexico’s central government had become wary of foreign encroachment and the offers were ignored there. These offers were not, however, ignored in California were influential British settlers like William Marcus West and Alexander Forbes began inseminating the idea of establishing an independent California as a protectorate of Britain, or at the very least the HBC. For Californios like Mariano Vallejo – whose sister was married, William Marcus West - this sounded like a fairly sweet deal to free California from Mexican rule and keep American encroachment at bay.

And Back in Mexico

Mexico, for its part, on its part was a snowballing towards imminent political collapse. In the aftermath of the Texan War of Independence, a series of “federalist” rebellions erupted against the centralist government in Mexico City, resulting in a revolving door of Presidents who opted to quell the rebellions personally, only for a coup to take place back in the empty capital. This instability was fueled by clashing ideologies between the centrist, conservative, and liberal parties and personal feuds between their respective leaders: Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, Anastasio Bustamante, and Valentin Gomez Farias.

As their rivalries intensified, all parties became bolder in their accretion that they would bring all rebelling provinces into the fold and crush all foreign influence on Mexican soil, from Texas to Yucatan, including California.

[1] The last of the big butterfly nets.
 
Haven't seen an indy Cali TL for ages. I wonder what the Zorro stories look like.
Wait and see, without spoiling much Joaquin Murrieta and his gang will show up... the fact that many of them are technically “immigrants” from Sonora will also play a role.

The reason I want to skip the war of independence as fast as possible is to get to the juicy stuff involving the Gold Arusha, Railroads, Mormons, etc.
 
1846. And so, it began...

The War that ultimately resulted in California’s independence began in Texas – or Mexico – depending on who you ask. In Washington, negotiations over the annexation of Texas were underway. The Lone Star Republic claimed all the territory north and east of the “Rio Grande”. But Mexican map disagreed over exactly which river was the “Rio Grande”; surely the Americans did not refer to the Rio Bravo, which bisected the territories of Nuevo Mexico, Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas without ever touching Texas? But, just in case, the central government sent forces over the Rio Bravo to safeguard Mexican territory. Meanwhile, Texas made it clear that the Rio Grande was obviously the largest (i.e. the “mas grade”) river in the area.

President Clay, who had compromised on the matter of annexing Texas in order to get his economic and infrastructure projects approved by the Democrat-controlled Congress. He was, however careful not to overreach his hand or antagonize Mexico further in the processes, and thus the Great Compromiser bided his time, ordering General Winfield Scott [1] to remain east of the disputed strip, unless Mexico initiated hostilities.

Meanwhile, John C. Fremont and been leading a U.S. Army topographical expedition to survey the interior of Alta California. Carson and his team had reached Lake Yuta in August 1845 and camped out near the “Estancia Timpanogos”, the northernmost trade post used by Mexican forces and the Hudson Bay Company in Alta California [2]. Fremont claimed his forces were merely buying supplies on their way to Oregon, but the Mexican authorities grew wary of their presence. After a short scuffle between one of Fremont’s men and a Mexican soldier, Fremont was forced to turn northward and proceeded west through the Oregon territory.

Because of the slow cross-continent communication of the time, no one in California knew that conclusively whether or not war between the United States and Mexico had begun. Adding to the confusion, a revolving door of governors managing California a revolving door of governors had been managing California since the Californian uprising a decade prior, each one increasingly unpopular with the locals.

It was U.S. Consul Thomas O. Larking who had become increasingly concerned about the possibility of war with Mexico early in 1846; he requested the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Squadron for a warship to protect U.S. citizens and interests in Alta California. Commodore Thomas Catesby Jones arrived in Monterrey aboard the USS United States that April. [3] That same month, news had arrived that Fremont had re-entered California from Oregon and was camped north of the Sacramento Valley.

The presence of the US Pacific Squadron and Fremont’s incursion troubled the authorities in Monterrey. Governor Chico tasked General Jose Castro to lead a body of 170 armed men to garrison the presidios and missions north of San Francisco Bay should the Americans attempt any funny business. The sudden presence of this large force east of Sonoma startled the foreign (i.e. American, British, Canadian, and Russian) settlers in the valley. William B. Ide, a leader amongst the American settlers, dispatched a messenger requesting Fremont for reinforces and – in the meantime – organized a force to seize the presidio in Santa Rosa in order to mount a defense should the need arise [4].

Before dawn on June 14th, 1846, over 40 American insurgents, led by Ide and Ezekiel Merritt, arrived at the presidio of Santa Rosa. To their surprise, they met no resistance. William Marcus West, a Scottish settler who had gone “all-Spanish”, gave the rebels a warm welcome and offered to serve as an interpreter between them and the presidio’s garrison under the command of Captain Juan Padilla.

Padilla and West invited the rebel leaders into the presidio. Wine, brandy, and barrels of aguardiente were brought over from West’s Rancho San Miguel and shared between them. In the meantime, General Jose Castro and his men had rendezvous with General Mariano Vallejo at the presidio in Sonoma. The increased strength of the Mexican garrison would have made it impossible for the rebels to take Sonoma.


The Santa Rosa Mission and Presidio (barracks), where the rebellion began.

Unbeknownst to the American rebels, and Governor Chico, Castro and Vallejo had been planning for the right opportunity to mount a new revolt against the central government. Since the 1835 revolt, Mexico City’s grip on California had grown suffocating; Governor Micheltorena had reversed most of the reforms Figueroa had implemented, even some new arrivals had their lands confiscated and shuffled in the process; Micheltorena was followed by the incompetent Governor Gutierrez, the absentee Governor Canalizo, and now the despotic Governor Chico. Vallejo knew that the grievances put forth by the American settlers were shared by most of the old Californian families. Vallejo had no way of knowing whether a war between the United States and Mexico had finally broken out, but Fremont and Jones’s presence was telling. If it had this would be the perfect opportunity to make their move.

That night, messengers scurried back and forth between Santa Rosa and Sonoma for a full day before an agreement could be reached between all parties. Ide and his men agreed to “release” Padilla and the Mexican officers in Santa Rosa, under a guarantee that Vallejo and his men would address their grievances if their rebellion succeeded.

With an agreement reached, Vallejo rode into Santa Rosa with a contingent of carefully chosen loyal Californians. Castro stayed behind with a contingent force. If the Americans were true to their word, Castro’s role was to insight confusion amongst the governor’s troops to delay any response from Monterrey. But if Ide and his men stepped out of line, Castro was to march the troops into Santa Rosa, allowing him and Vallejo to save face in front of Governor Chico. To put it mildly, the situation was tense.

In Santa Rosa a few of Ide’s men expressed outright opposition; Ezekiel Merritt and John Grigsby led a group of Americans, who insisted they had been deceived by Ide and West. Their dissent almost unraveled the entire rebellion before its started. Some accounts tell that Vallejo gave an impassioned speech, urging both his men and the rebels to unify and start a new Republic; “Choose this day what you will be! Are you villains, or must be liberators?” [5] Although some sources attribute the speech to West or Ide himself.

Regardless, Vallejo was true to his word, and allowed the Americans who did not care to join the rebellion to go free and provided them with an escort to Nueva Helvacia if they cared to join Fremont’s camp further north. Vallejo was likely, hoping they put a good word with the American forces. Similar dispatches were sent to the Russian colony at Krepost Ross and the Canadian Camp in Castoria [6] in the hopes of securing further alliances. And to the American Pacific Squadron anchored in San Francisco Bay, Vallejo sent his own brother-in-law Jacob Leese.

And such is the tale of how William Marcus West and Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo highjacked a “foreign rebellion” and proclaimed and independent Republic for California. It was a pair of American settlers, William L. Todd and Peter Storm who came up with the design of the flag under which the rebellion combining the red “evening star” and white background - used as a banner during the 1835 rebellion by Vallejo’s men - with a grizzly bear – a tongue-in-cheek reference the nickname given to the American and Canadian fur traders for their scruffy appearance. [7]

Vallejo’s speech and cry on June 16th, is now celebrated as California’s declaration Independence; however, an “official proclamation” would not happen for months and some historians suspect that at the time Vallejo and Castro simply hoping to oust Chico as governor rather than declare independence. But such things tend to snowball rapidly.

Unbeknownst to everyone in California, war had finally broken out in the east.


Peter Storm and the First Bear Flag
[1] Zachary Taylor’s friendly relations with Andrew Jackson and the Democrats result in President Clay appointing more politically friendly commanders in Texas.
[3] Note on terminology: in South America an estancia generally means a small hacienda (generally speaking encomienda > hacienda > estancia). In Mexico, the term was used less frequently in was the term rancho was used in its place. However in California, where the ranchos were ginormous, estancia (or asistencia) was the term used for “public” farmsteads that supported a mission, military outpost, or presidio. In this case, the “Estancia Timpanogos” probably has no permanent building aside from a barrack/stable to be used by a couple of unfortunate souls tasked with keeping an eye on the HBC. Calling it an “estancia” (small hacienda) is a stretch.
[3] Commodore John D. Sloat and the USS Portsmouth are preoccupied elsewhere. But he is still a Commodore of the Pacific Squadron.
[4] Part of the soft POD, there is a presidio and mission in Santa Rosa in TTL. Ide and his men would've had to take this presidio before attempting to take Sonoma, to avoid being caught between two armies. I used an image of OTL's Mission San Jose to represent it, as it has a mission and barracks.
[5] A spin on Ide’s own proclamation to the Bear Flaggers.
[6] French Camp (AKA Campo de Los Frances), was an HBC outpost their southernmost camp, operating in California.
[7] Yes, I plan to keep the Bear Flag (maybe with a twist for its final design).
 
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1846. Opening Campaigns, The War in the North

Vallejo’s united insurgency was quick to gain momentum, within a couple of days volunteers from the northern valleys and Bodega Bay rushed to join. In a single day, Vallejo’s forces had swelled to nearly 200 men. However, there was much confusion about their goals; American settlers – in particular – believed Ide and his men were in control and under orders of the American military.

Meanwhile, in Sonoma, Castro was doing his best to stir confusion amongst the Mexican troops by slowing down the information that would reach Governor Chico. It quickly became apparent that the general was sabotaging any response from Monterrey and a brawl broke out within the garrison. Castro had overestimated the number of men who were willing to defect. As a consequence, the General and his loyal men were apprehended by Captain Joaquin de la Torre.

Geography proved to be a blessing for the insurgency. The northern pass between the Sonoma Valley and the Santa Rosa Plain was easily defensible, forcing Captain de la Torre to march around the Sonoma mountains near the Rancho Laguna de San Antonio if he were to stop Vallejo’s insurgency. De la Torre marched his men across the Petaluma River hoping to control the main road linking Santa Rosa to San Francisco Bay. However, the owner of the ranch, Bartolomé Bojorquez, had already joined Vallejo’s cause.

As De la Torre approached the rancho, Vallejo’s men appeared, pouring from behind the hills and opened fire on the Mexican forces. De la Torre and his men were pushed back and cornered in the marshes near the Indian rancho of Olúmpali. De la Torre disengaged from the battle after suffering a few losses and retreated to San Rafael; the insurgency suffered a single casualty. Vallejo then turned the majority of the forces towards Sonoma to liberate General Castro, trusting West and Padilla to negotiate with De La Torre in San Rafael. By the time they arrived De la Torre had abandoned the mission and was making his way across the Bay towards Yerba Buena.

Sonoma was taken without a shot. And Vallejo was welcomed back to his home as a liberating hero. The presidio and Vallejo’s home, which happened to be the largest building in town, was transformed into the headquarters of the insurgency. The presidio was reinforced with muskets and cannons from Santa Rosa. Word of the battle also raised the anxiety of the settlers in the northern valleys, particularly amongst recent immigrants. Many then moved into Sonoma for protection, swelling the population of the town to roughly 500 souls. [1]


The Rebels Raise the Bear Flag in Sonoma
Meanwhile, Captain John C. Fremont was marching from Nueva Helvecia towards Sonoma. He was accompanied by Ezekiel Merritt along with the men who originally abandoned the insurgency, and Samuel J. Hensley, who led a party of trappers and settlers from the Sacramento Valley hoping to join the insurgency. The leaders of the rebellion, Ide and Vallejo, each sent a man – Jose Berrelleza and William Todd respectively - to meet with Fremont’s Party along with Jacob Leese to serve as a translator. The men rendezvoused with Fremont’s party near Yulyul, a small Suisun village led by Chief Francisco Sem-Yeto Solano. [2]

Fremont’s situation was precarious. No word of war between Mexico and the US had reached California. So far he and his force had been welcomed into Nueva Helvecia by John Sutter, but they were careful not to overstay their welcome. [3] At Yulyul they were received cordially by the insurgent party. Berrelleza and Leese negotiated with Fremont, offering him hospitality and free passage if he’d help broker negotiations with Captain Jones for the ferrying of men to Monterrey. Samuel J. Hensely and his men volunteered to join the insurgency and garrison Nueva Helvecia, in exchange for supplies; a large group of Americans had camped out in Nueva Helvecia, and provisions here likely to be needed if the fighting were to reach Nueva Helvecia at some point. [4] While Fremont appointed himself as the official American attaché to the rebel government. However, there was still no official structure to the rebellion; Ide, Vallejo, and West had wielded command as on unofficial triumvirate and Fremont’s presence highlighted this fact and threatened to undermine their uneasy alliance.

On July 2nd, 1846, two weeks after the insurgency began, Juan Padilla and his men landed on the northern shore of San Francisco Bay. And a second battle against De La Torre’s forces followed. Perched above the presidio, De la Torre had the geographic advantage, and he was expecting reinforcement to arrive from Yerba Buena. To his surprise, the men marching from the south carried the Bear Flag! West had ferried a secondary force to Yerba Buena, where he recruited the aid of Captain Robert Ridley, a naturalized Englishman who served as captain of the embarcadero and additional men to surround the Presidio. De La Torre was forced to surrender and San Francisco was taken with only one casualty for the insurgency. By the end of the day, the Bear Flag was flying above San Francisco and Yerba Buena. [5]

News of the capture lifted the spirits of everyone in Sonoma; this was followed by word that Berrelleza and some of Fremont’s men had landed in San Pablo. With this, the insurgents effectively controlled all of the Northern Bay. A large celebration was held that evening and continued the following day as the American’s deemed it appropriate to celebrate the Fourth of July. General Vallejo’s brother, Jose Manuel Salvador, hosed a fandango in his house, opening caskets of wine and aguardiente for the population. The number of people living in Sonoma at the time was so large that the town ran out of both.

The celebration was cut suddenly when a brawl broke out between some of Fremont’s men and the Californians. Accounts of what happened to vary greatly. Californian accounts accused one of the Carson brothers of trying to violate the chastity of a local woman. American’s accounts claim the Californian was caught trying to steal their muskets and gun powder, which were technically superior to the ones the Californian’s used. While others insisted it all began with a jest. Regardless, their fun and games devolved into a brawl and in a drunken stupor Kit Carson shot either the accuser or one of his accomplices, trying to break it off. Before the perpetrators could be arrested, Fremont had stepped in defense of his men, turning the situation into a standoff. No one slept throughout the night in Sonoma.

Fremont offered to have Carson arrested and court-martialed in Nueva Helvecia under American law. Something that was out of the question for the Californians, specifically the Ibero-Californians, who were after wanted blood and justice for their men. The Carson brothers, along with Sam Neil and other Americans involved in the brawl, were detained the cuartel [6]. Fremont’s men were allowed to stand guard to avoid any incident.

Throughout the night, Vallejo and Ide saw large numbers of their supporters take leave as soon as possible. The ones that remained mistrusted each other, with some Ibero-Californians accusing their Anglo counterparts of conspiring with the Americans to take over their country. It took tremendous will to maintain the leadership together, but that night Vallejo, Ide, Berrelleza, Castro, and other leaders of the insurgency drafted what became known as The Republican Proclamation, which they publicized the following morning in the midst of the worst hangover in Californian history. The proclamation's purpose was twofold.

Firstly, it formalized the goals of the insurgency as:

“To overthrow a Government which has seized upon the common property for its individual aggrandizement; which has ruined and shamefully oppressed the laboring people of California, by their enormous exactions on goods imported into this country” and “to establish and perpetuate a "Republican Government" which shall originate with its people and shall secure to all: civil liberty; which shall detect and punish crime; which shall encourage peace, virtue and industry”

Secondly, it laid out a pledge of conduct throughout the rebellion, promising “obedience, proceed honorably, and not violate the chastity of women” and an “obligation to detect and punish crime in a just manner”. [7]

All together the proclamation was a rallying cry for all residents of California, a vague promise that would hopefully appeal to all, with a pledge to address the recent incident. And for the most part, it worked. It kept the insurgent forces united, and the American’s under Fremont appeased. And just in time before the war in the east reach California in full force.


Vallejo's Casa Grande in Sonoma, the Early Headquarters of the Insurgency
[1] Sure 500 is not that many people, but for the vast majority of Californians, this would feel very crowded.
[2] Suisun City / Fairville
[3] The rebellion headed by Vallejo makes Fremont’s situation much more complicated in TTL. In OTL, he had little qualms “renouncing his post” and joining what he knew was basically and American filibuster party. So he raised the Bear Flag in Sutter’s Fort / New Helvetia (were Vallejo was later held, prisoner). In TTL Vallejo leads the rebellion, and Nueva Helvecia is still nominally under the Mexican flag.
[4] The Donner and Reed Party make it through and settle near Nueva Helvecia.
[5] As mentioned in a previous update, the name San Francisco will ultimately overtake Yerba Buena in TTL. However, Yerba Buena will remain a separate “alcaldia” as a city within a city (think Beverly Hills inside Los Angeles).
[6] The barracks
[7] A little paraphrasing from Ide’s and Fremont’s declarations in OTL.
[*] The last two updates basically cover three weeks in June / July of 1846. I was hoping to move faster, but I really like how this update turn out and where it ended. There will be at least two or three more updates covering the war after this one (as we still haven’t seen what will happen in the South).
 
I'm working on finishing up the campaign (it will be about two long updates). In the meantime, I drew a "fantasy style" map for some reference on the sites of Northern California around 1845. The upload quality is not the best, but I'll try and make some campaign maps in this style later on.

 
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