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Battle Memorial (Mexican American War)
© Today's Adventure
Credit Kristina Klein, Brian Klein

Battle Memorial (Mexican American War)

Two men who would feature in Santa Clarita Valley history — as allies — held opposing loyalties during the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. Both Andrés Pico (as in Pico Canyon) and Edward F. "Ned" Beale (Beale's Cut, Tejon Ranch) played significant roles in the December 1846 Battle of San Pasqual, fought in proximity to an active Kumeyaay Indian village near the present city of Escondido in San Diego County. Bedrock mortars are found throughout the hills surrounding the battlefield, where a California State Historic Park visitors center tells the story of the battle and the broader war (in English and Spanish) and of the indigenous Kumeyaay people. Pico, commander of Mexican forces in California and brother of the governor, routed the remnants of Stephen W. Kearny's Army of the West, who now numbered only 100 men after Kearny (pronounded "Carney") sent most of his troops home two months earlier in the mistaken belief the war was over. It was a costly error that led to one of the war's bloodiest battles. With wet gunpowder as a rainy night dissolved into a misty morning, Kearny's weary troops were no match for Pico's men who, expert in the use of the lariat and lance from capturing grizzly bears for bull-and-bear fights, used the same skills to dismount and dispatch the Americans. Kearny lost either 21 or 22 men, depending on the source, including those who later succumbed to their wounds, versus maybe one casualty for Pico. Kearny himself was wounded in the battle, as was the despised Archibald Gillespie, whose ruthlessness at Los Angeles had provoked the latest Californio uprising. (If not for Gillespie, Kearny might have been right: the war might have been over.) The scout Alexander Godey and two other Americans were captured, as was one soldier on Pico's side. Enter midshipman Ned Beale, who with a contingent of about 20 fighting men and a heavy gun had been sent just prior to the battle by Commodore Robert Stockton, commander of the U.S. Navy at San Diego, to assist Kearny. Beale negotiated a prisoner exchange with Pico (who refused to let Godey go). This was probably the first time Beale and Pico met. Kearny was determined to press on to San Diego, just 35 miles distant. Pico was equally determined to stop him. Beale carried a message through enemy lines from Kearny to Stockton soliciting reinforcements. The escapade, which Beale made with his Delaware Indian man-servant and the scout Kit Carson, whom Kearny had controversially enlisted, soon achieved legendary proportions as the party reportedly walked barefoot through prickly pear cactus and crawled on their bellies within 20 yards of enemy positions. It also enshrined Beale as the "Hero of San Pasqual." The message received, Stockton sent reinforcements, and a month later Pico capitulated to U.S. Gen. John Fremont at Cahuenga, across the street from today's Universal City.


Kristina Klein, Brian Klein


© Today's Adventure

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