Narratives From the Mexican American War Published in 1876

The conquest of New Mexico and California; and historical and personal narrative. By P St. George Cooke, GP Putnam’s Sons New York 1878




I had lately a conversation with old Weaver, which was not official. He said, ‘the Tontos live in that range over there; I never see them with more than one or two lodges together; they are a band of the Coyoteros, and are called fools for their ignorance. When I went over, once, from the Pimos to the Cochanos and Mochabas, I met some lodges and had a fuss with them – What sort? – Oh, we killed two or three and burnt their lodges, and took all the women and children and sold them.- What!- Yes, I have often caught the women and children of the Digger Indians and sold them in New Mexico and Sonora. They bring $100. Mr. – – of Tucson told me a squaw I sold him, ran off, and was found dead, famished for water I s’pose going over from the Pimos to the Colorado. -What, have you know feeling for her death, trying to return to her father and mother he you tore her from?- I killed her father and mother, as like is not; they stole all our traps; as fast as we could stick a trap in the river they’d come and steal it, and shoot arrows into our horses; they thought we would leave them for them to eat, but we built a big fire and burnt them up.




The Mission San Miguel, on the heads of the Salinas River, was passed December 10th. Under the administration of the padres it was a wealthy establishment, and manufacturers of various kinds were carried on. They raised immense numbers of sheep, the fleeces of which were manufactured by the Indians into blankets and coarse cloths. The granaries were filled with an abundance of maize and frijoles, and their storerooms with other necessaries of life from the ranchos belonging to the mission lands in the vicinity. Now all the buildings, except the church and principal range of the houses contiguous, have fallen into ruins, and an Englishman, and his wife and one child, with two or three Indian servants, are the sole inhabitants. The church is the largest I have seen in the country, and its interior is in good repair… The English man professes to have purchased the mission and all the lands belonging to it for $300.




The battalion accordingly marched to San Luis Rey, and took quarters in the Mission buildings, in the first days of February. The mission is beautifully situated, overlooking fertile and well watered lands; even the high hills showing, by their smoothness, the former cultivation, in wheat. It is only two or 3 miles distant, but does not command a view of the ocean. This immense mission structure, with an imposing church in an angle, built about 60 years previously, was found in good condition; buildings, and corral and garden wall tops is well, protected by roofs of red tiles. In the center of the main court was an orange tree with ripening fruit; pomegranate trees were in their beautiful blossom. There were other courts, – one for cattle. The battalion found ample quarters. There was a large garden and vineyard, enclosed by handsome walls.




After breakfast I rode out to the San Gabriel Mission; it is a beautiful plain, somewhat undulating, eight miles to that point; it is part of the great “Mesa” but there is a low ridge of green hills; the pin grass I found most luxuriant. As I approached the base of the mountain, I came in view of the woods of the San Gabriel River and it’s pretty valley, or meadow-land. Some two miles this side, stands the old mission, to which water is brought by a canal. There were the usual appearances of old fields and plantations, – and olive trees, dates, cactus hedges, etc.; a good large church, with pilasters; the buildings look dingy and dilapidated, and above all, very dirty; the heads and offal of slaughtered beeves were lying in disagreeable vicinity.




Capt. Smith returned the 28th; he had gone about 60 miles; he only discovered four Indians, who had murdered one, and wounded another man, and had stolen their animals; they were afoot, and ran to the near hills; the dragoons pursued and surrounded them, dismounted. The Indians, lying on their backs, defended themselves with arrows, which they shot with wonderful rapidity, wounding two of the men and several horses; they would not surrender and were all killed; they were naked, or had rabbit skins slung at their backs as their sole covering. Some 20 horses were recovered.

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