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Exploring Historic San Pasqual Battlefield and Mule Hill Trail in San Diego, California.
The History of San Pasqual Battlefield and Mule Hill.
In 1846, during the Mexican American War, United States dragoon forces led by General Stephen Watts Kearny and Mexico's Californio lancer forces led by General Andres Pico battled over California. One famous battle took place in what is now known as the San Pasqual Valley located in the City of San Diego, Ca.
General Kearny was ordered to assume command of all U.S forces in California. Kit Carson advised Kearny that all of California had already been captured by Commodore Stockton and officer Fremont. Kearny sent 200 of his 300 dragoons back to Santa Fe and marched the rest of his men mounted on mules across the Sonoran Desert to California.
Kearny met up with Captain Gillespie, his 36 marines, and a small howitzer cannon brought from Los Angeles. Combined, the American forces totaled about 179 tired troops.
A message from Stockton informed Kearny of a small force of about 100 Mexican Californio lancers, led by Pico, training in a small Indian village in the San Pasqual Valley. A scouting party was sent out to scout Pico's position and a surprise attack was planned for the following morning. Kearny also wanted to capture the Californios' horses. However, the scouting party was discovered by Pico and the element of surprise was lost.
Kearny ordered an immediate advance on Pico's position. It rained the night before. Kearny's men along with their muskets, pistols and equipment were wet and cold. The column proceeded across the ridge between what is now Ramona and San Pasqual.
Dark and foggy, Kearny's forces became strung out during the descent into San Pasqual Valley. Pico's swift advance put Kearny's troops in a disadvantaged position.
Accounts differ on what happened next. Reportedly Kearny ordered "Trot!" which was misunderstood as "Charge!". Kearny's mules bolted taking one of the howitzers with them. The damp gunpowder reduced the effectiveness of the Americans. Pico out maneuvered Kearny and soon the American forces were separated.
The Americans continued firing what weapons they had. Eventually Pico retreated and the Americans charged. During the battle Kearny was seriously wounded and many officers were killed. The dead were buried in a mass grave.
The next day Kearny and his troops began a march to San Diego and the American fleet anchored in San Diego Bay. Pico blocked Kearny's march at what is now know as Mule Hill in present day Rancho Bernardo.
Kearny sent Kit Carson and his team for reinforcements and then established a defensive perimeter atop Mule Hill. Kearny's men were surrounded by Pico. With no provisions they were reportedly forced to eat their mules.
Carson reached the American fleet in San Diego Bay. Two hundred sailors and marines were dispatched. Pico's forces retreated and were eventually driven out of California. Both sides claimed victory, making this one of the most controversial battles of the war.
After the battle Kearny wrote that US forces had achieved a victory as the Californios had fled the field.
Officers of the US Navy viewed the battle as a defeat by the Army.
Pico and the Californios saw the battle as a victory for Mexico.
To this day who won is disputed by historians. Amazing how close we came to living in Mexico!
Battle of San Pasqual
Part of the Mexican-American War
December 6, 1846
Pyrrhic American victory
Californios departed the battlefield
Commanders and leaders
United States dragoon forces led by General Stephen Watts Kearny
Mexico Californio lancer forces led by General Andrés Pico
United States -
Casualties and losses
19 killed, 15 wounded
2 killed, 12 wounded
Many State Parks in California are scheduled to close or reduce hours so call ahead for days/hours of operation. * There are live reenactments of the battle scheduled every year.
Take a hike. There are plenty of hiking trails in the County of San Diego.
Visit some of the California Missions if you have time. Father Serra is buried in Carmel.
Are we there yet? What to take on a road trip:
An ice chest with food, snacks and drinks for everyone. Forget sharing.
Don't forget your chargers, headphones, earplugs, meds, and a bag for garbage.
Take along your Kindle and cell phone to keep yourself and the kids occupied on long road trips. Download any e-books or apps that can help you.
Remember to take along a great camera. We found the Sony Nex-5 to be light weight and user friendly.
Streets, freeways, and traffic jams are frustrating. Take a good GPS system with you and visit off season.
- San Pasqual Battlefield SHP
Official web site for CA State Parks