Joined: 27 Nov 2007
Location: Monterey County, California
|Posted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:17 pm Post subject: Americans In Command
|DID OR DID NOT Admiral Seymour race from Mazatlan to Monterey for political purposes, when he learned that hostilities had begun between Mexico and the United States? Or did he arrive at the capital eight days after the raising of the Stars and Stripes, just to see the Yankee fireworks?
Be that as it may, the Collingwood sailed around Point Pinos a week and a day after Sloat had been bullied into action by his officers. Apropos of which a story is told, emanating from James Alexander Forbes, British Vice-Consul in Monterey at the time, that Admiral Seymour flew into a noble rage when he entered the harbor and beheld the Yankee ensign floating over the capital—that he stamped his foot, flung his chapeau to the deck and swore lustily, as became a frustrated sailorman. The vice-consul offered the testimony of officers aboard the Collingwood as his authority for the robust scene. In any case, true to the British tradition of good sportsmanship, Admiral Seymour promptly offered his felicitations to the Yankee commander.
Now that the American flag was raised, and a new government substituted, machinery had to be provided for its operation.
As soon as Commodore Robert F. Stockton, commanding the Congress, entered the harbor of the capital (July 15), Commodore Sloat resigned his command— an ill, nervous man, glad to be relieved of the heavy responsibilities that involved the pacification of the people—an alien race—and the administration of laws foreign to the conquerors. A new world, with strange customs and deeply ingrained traditions. Not a sick man's job.
One of the first official acts of the Commodore was to appoint Walter E. Colton, chaplain of the Congress, to the office of alcalde for the Monterey district, the Mexican official having resigned, refusing to serve under the new flag (Jose Joaquin de la Torre). Whereat Colton became judge, jury, mayor, minister, sheriff, pound-keeper and general peace-maker of a vast, vague territory. The country was to be carried on under the existing Spanish and Mexican laws, administered by the Americans as a military possession acquired by conquest. Technically, the territory, seized under conditions of war, was being held pending the outcome of the struggle. No doubt seemed to exist, however, in the minds of the Americans in the province as to the ultimate result, nor in the national mind, once the war with Mexico was under way.
By this time, energetic Captain William Mervine and his men, in camp on Presidio hill, mounted guns from the frigate Savannah, and had begun to build log-house barracks and officers' quarters. Soon his men were drilling on the upper levels of El Castillo—the first American armed force to occupy California; and the army post that has since come to be rated as one of the important stations in the country. And certainly one of the most attractive, sloping up from the bay to the crest of high hills, clothed by a noble forest of pine trees—offspring of the trees that Cabrillo and Viscaino beheld with amazement centuries before, The Spaniards were gifted site-seekers, The post was founded, as we have seen, in 1770, by Captain Gaspar de Portola and his explorers.
A cavalry and artillery post from the beginning, the tradition carries on. Under the successive commands of Colonel Roger S, Fitch, Colonel Ben Lear, Jr., and Colonel Ralph M, Parker, the Presidio has, during the last five years, become an area of distinctive beauty—Colonel Fitch the initiator.