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Col. Frémont's Capitulation of Cahuenga
that shocked Commodore Stockton and General Kearney!

Made and entered into at the Ranch of Cahuenga, this thirteenth day of January, eighteen hundred and forty-seven, between P. B. Reading, major; Louis McLane, jr., commanding 3rd Artillery; William H. Russell, ordnance officer--commissioners appointed by J. C. Frémont, Colonel United States Army, and Military Commandant of California; and José Antonio Carrillo, commandant esquadron; Augustine Olivera, deputado--commissioners appointed by Don Andres Pico, Commander-in-chief of the California Forces under the Mexican Flag.

Article 1st. The Commissioners on the part of the Californians agree that their entire force shall, on presentation of themselves to Lieutenant-Colonel Frémont, deliver up their artillery and public arms, and that they shall return peaceably to their homes, conforming to the laws and regulations of the United States, and not again take up arms during the war between the United States and Mexico, but will assist and aid in placing the country in a state of peace and tranquility.

Article 2nd. The commissioners on the part of Lieutenant-Colonel Frémont agree and bind themselves, on the fulfillment of the 1st article by the Californians, that they shall be guarantied the protection of life and property, whether on parole or otherwise.

Article 3rd. That until a Treaty of Peace be made and signed between the United States of North America and the Republic of Mexico, no Californian or other Mexican citizen shall be bound to take the oath of allegiance.

Article 4th. That any Californian or citizen of Mexico, desiring, is permitted by this capitulation to leave the country without let or hindrance.

Article 5th. That in virtue of the aforesaid articles, equal rights and privileges are vouchsafed to every citizen of California, as are enjoyed by the citizens of the United States of North America.

Article 6th. All officers, citizens, foreigners or others, shall receive this protection guarantied by the 2nd Article.

Article 7th. This capitulation is intended to be no bar in effecting such arrangements as may in future be in justice required by both parties.

Additional Article: Ciudad De Los Angeles, Jan. 16th, 1847. That the paroles of all officers, citizens or others of the United States and of naturalized citizens of Mexico, are by this foregoing capitulation canceled, and every condition of such paroles, from and after this date, are of no further force and effect, and all prisoners of both parties are herby released.

P. B. Reading, Maj. Cal'n Battalion,
Louis McLane, Com'd. Artillery
Wm. h. Russell, ordnance Officer
Jose Antonio Carrillo, Comd't of Squadron, Augustin Olivera
Deputado.

APPROVED:
J. C. Frémont, Lieut.-Col. U. S. Army, and Military Commandant of California
Andres Pico, Commandant of Squadron and Chief of the National forces of California

A contemporary assessment of the capitulation by the reverend Walter Colton, alcalde at Monterey:

"These terms [of surrender] were duly subscribed by the commissioners appointed by the parties to the compact and ratified by Col. Frémont. They were liberal in their spirit, wise in their purpose, and just in their application. More rigorous terms would have involved a sense of humiliation in one party, without any advantage to the other. The Californians were defeated, but not crushed."

go The other side of the issue

The story of the 400 mile march to Cahuenga is told in Frémont's testimony before the court martial--starting on page 378 of Senate Executive document No. 33:

(Note) My own 3-great grandfather, Capt. John Grigsby (Grigsby/Ide Party, 1845) commanded E Company of the Battalion. Not recognizing the authority of General Kearney, and contrary to his orders, Frémont discharged Grigsby, and the husbands and fathers of other recent immigrants at Los Angeles, that they might return to protect and provide for their families which had been left at Sutter's Fort. The "Grigsby papers," which contain a daily record of the march reside in the Bancroft Library at the University of California. A short history of Grigsby is found here.go


Frémont: I left Los Angeles early in September, The insurrection broke out there in the same month and soon spread over all the southern half of California. It extended to near Monterey. It delayed Commodore Stockton's return to the sea, and deferred my own appointment as governor. Instead of being occupied in arrangements to be at San Francisco, on the 25th of October, to be placed as "governor over California," I was engaged with little, other means than personal influence, in raising men from the American settlements, on the Sacramento, to go south to suppress the insurrection.

With a small body of men, hastily raised for the emergency, I embarked, according to Commodore Stockton's orders, first, in boats to descend the bay of San Francisco, and then, in the, ship Sterling, to go down the coast to Santa Barbara. We had left our horses, and expected to obtain remounts when we landed., Two days after our departure from San Francisco, we fell in with the merchant ship Vandalia, from which I learned, and truly, that no horses could be had below; that, to keep it out of our hands, the Californians had driven all their stock into the interior, and that San Diego was the only point left in possession of the Americans. I therefore determined to return to Monterey, and make the march overland. I did so, and there I learned, on the 27th of October, that I had been appointed lieutenant colonel in the army of the United States. It was now the mouth of December, the beginning of winter, and the cold distressing rains bad commenced. Everything had to be done, and done quickly, and with inadequate means. In a few weeks all was ready; 400 men mounted; three- pieces of artillery on carriages; beef cattle procured; the march commenced. I omit its details to mention the leading events, a knowledge of which is essential to my defense. We made a secret march of 150 miles to San Louis Obispo, the seat of a district commandant; took it by surprise, without firing a gun; captured the commandant, Don Jesus Pico, the head of the insurrection in that quarter, with 35 others, among them the wounded captain who had commanded at La Natividad. Don Jesus was put before a court martial for breaking his parole, sentenced to be shot, but pardoned . That pardon had its influence on all the subsequent events; Don Jesus was the cousin of Don Andreas Pico, against whom I was going and was married to a lady of the Carillo family; many hearts were conquered the day he was pardoned, and his own above all. Among the papers seized was the original dispatch of General Flores, which informed us of the action of San Pasqual, but without knowing who commanded on the American' side. Don Jesus Pico attached himself to my person, and remained devoted and faithful under trying circumstances. We pursued our march, passing all the towns on the way without collision with the people, but with great labor from the state of the roads and rains. 0n Christmas day, 1846, we struggled on the Santa Barbara- mountain in a tempest of chilling rains and winds, in which a hundred horses perished, but the men stood to it, and I mention it to their honor. They deserve that mention, for they are not paid yet.

We passed the maritime defile of the Rincon, or Punta Gorda, without resistance, flanked by a small vessel which Commodore Stockton had sent to us, under Lieutenant Selden of the navy. A corps of observation, of some 50 or 100 horsemen, galloped about us, without doing or receiving harm; for it did not come within my policy to have any of them killed. It was the camp of this corps which Captain Hamlyn passed, to give me Commodore Stockton's orders, which he found at the " camp of the willows," as said in his testimony. The defile of San Fernando was also passed, a corps which occupied it falling back as the rifles advanced. We entered the plain of Cowenga, occupied by the enemy in considerable force, and I sent a summons to them to lay down their arms, or fight at once. The chiefs desired a parley with me in person. I went alone to see them, (Don Jesus Pico only being with me.) They were willing to capitulate to me; the terms were agreed upon. Commissioners were sent out on both sides to put it into form. It received the sanction of the governor and commander-in- chief, Commodore Stockton, and was reported to the government of the United States. It was the capitulation of Cowenga. It put an end to the war and to the feelings of war. It tranquilized the country and gave safety to every American from the day of its conclusion.

My march from Monterey to Los Angeles, which we entered on the 14th of January, was a subject for gratulation. A march of 400 miles through an insurgent country, without spilling a drop of blood -- conquering by clemency and justice-and so gaining hearts of all, that, until troubles came on from a new source, I could have gone back, alone and unarmed, upon the trail of my march, trusting for life and bread to those alone among whom I had marched as conqueror, and whom I have been represented as plundering and oppressing! I anticipate the order of time, but preserve the connexion of events by copying here from an original private letter to Senator Benton, written at Los Angeles, the 3d of February, 1847, received by him in May at St. Louis, and sent to the President for his reading, whose endorsement is on the back, in his own hand writing, stating it to have been received from Mr. Christopher Carson on the 8th of June.

Had it not been for the treatment I have received, the secret purpose to arrest, the accumulated charges, the publications against me, and other circumstances of the prosecution, I should have been willing to have read that paper to the court as my sole defense against this charge of mutiny; as things are, I copy from it merely some passages, which illustrate what I have said of the effects of that march from Monterey, and the capitulation of Cowenga.

" Knowing well the views of the cabinet, and satisfied that it was a great national measure to unite California to us as a sister State, by a voluntary expression of the popular will, I had in all my marches through the country, and in, all my intercourse with the people, acted invariably in strict accordance with this impression, to which I was naturally farther led by my own feelings. I had kept my troops under steady restraint and discipline, and never permitted to them a wanton outrage, or any avoidable destruction of property or life. The result has clearly shown the wisdom of the course I have pursued.

* * * *

The fact is, the people of the country are frightened at the very name of Frémont. He is represented to those who do not know any better as being a Cannibal, a bloodthirsty Barbarian, &c &c. His very name causes females to shudder, and crying children to be mute as death, as I have myself seen. While at the same time those who know the gentleman in question admire him for the childlike simplicity and unaffected kindness, justice and liberality which marks his every movement.
Captain William Dame Phelps

"Throughout the Californian population, there is only one feeling of satisfaction and gratitude to myself. The men of the country, most forward and able in the revolution against us, now put themselves at my disposition, and say to me, Viva usted seguro, duerme usted seguro,l (live safe, sleep safe,) 'we ourselves will watch over the tranquility of the country, and nothing can happen which shall not be known to you.' The unavailing dissatisfaction on the part of (--) own people, was easily repressed, the treaty was ratified."

I terminate my narrative at the capitulation of Cowenga, because at that point I got into communication 'with my two superiors, became involved in their difficulties, and the events began for which I am prosecuted.

From this point the evidence begins. My narrative, intended to be brief and rapid, was necessary to the understanding of my position in California, and brings me to the point of the particular offenses charged against me.

Mutiny is first in the order of-the charges, and the first specification under it is, for disobeying the negative order of General Kearny in relation to the re-organization of the California battalion.

Governor Stockton gave me an order to re-organize it; General Kearny sent me an order not to re-organize it; this on the 16th of January', in the night. The next morning I informed General Kearny, by letter, that I thought he and Governor Stockton ought to adjust the question of rank between themselves; and, until that was done, I should have to obey Commodore Stockton as theretofore; and gave some statement of facts and reasons for my justification.

This letter constitutes the alleged act of mutiny; the ingredient of a corrupt motive, in trying to trade for a governorship, has been since added; and now, let the accuser and prosecuting witness speak for himself.


A new University of Oklahoma Press edition of Tom Chaffin's now classic Pathfinder: John Charles Fremont and the Course of American Empire.

"The most eloquent, understanding, and yet very candid biography of Frémont that has appeared to date"--Howard R. Lamar, Yale University


©1999, 2007
Bob Graham