Seventy-five Years in San Francisco
The Don Quixote left Honolulu on the 31st of May and returned to this coast, entered at Monterey, and traded along the coast for the remainder of the year; and she left Santa Barbara, returning to Honolulu, in February, 1843; sailing thence, she arrived at Yerba Buena on the 20th of May.
On this voyage also we brought to port a full cargo of merchandise. Immediately the subprefect came on board and ordered us to Monterey for entry. I knew the subprefect well, and told him the tide would not admit of our leaving till the next day. He then placed a guard upon the vessel to remain with us until we left the port, not a regular customhouse officer, but a citizen selected by him for this special duty. We had a purpose in coming to Yerba Buena first. The duties on goods imported into California were very high at that time, and this was a great temptation to merchants trading on the coast to avoid them as far as possible. The invoice cost of our cargo at Honolulu was $20,000 and the duties would have amounted to nearly or quite as much, averaging about 100 per cent. While the merchants and captains trading on the coast desired to keep on friendly terms with the Mexican government, and had no thought or intention of opposing it in any way, at the same time they did not entertain so much affection for it as to induce them to contribute to its revenues any more than they could well avoid, and so whenever they saw an opportunity to outwit the customhouse authorities they availed themselves of it.
Soon after the guard was placed on board, one of us who knew him very well approached him and told him we were going to lock him up in a stateroom. “What?” said he in surprise. “What’s the matter?” We laughed, and told him not to be alarmed, and he soon understood, apparently, what we were aiming at. He was told that he could have his supper and could take his smoke, and then go into the stateroom, where he would find a nice bed, a bottle of Madeira, a bottle of aguardiente, cigars, and everything to make him comfortable, and that the door would be locked and the key taken away, and he was to go to sleep and take it easy, and in the morning he would be let out and given $20 in gold. “Don’t say any more,” he replied; “that’s enough.”
Accordingly, after finishing his supper and his cigar, he went into the stateroom as desired, the door was locked and the key laid aside, and nothing further was heard from him till the next morning. We put on all the boats and men and during the night worked industriously and landed about half our cargo, all the more valuable goods—silks, etc., on which the duty was the highest, and a large quantity of sugar. The tide favored us, and we put the goods on the beach near Spear’s store, and the men rolled them in. We ceased our labors about four o’clock in the morning, well satisfied with our night’s work.
There was another vessel in the harbor, the ship Admittance of Boston, Captain Peterson, Henry Mellus supercargo, afterward of the firm of Mellus & Howard. We muffled our oars in order not to attract the attention of the officers and crew of that vessel, but our movements were observed by them, as they informed us sometime afterward. We had, however, no fear of them, for we knew they would not report us as they might sometime themselves be engaged in similar business and they were interested in keeping quiet. The penalties for smuggling were very severe under the Mexican law—death in some cases. We left on the following day for Monterey to enter the remainder of the cargo, first recompensing our guard as promised, and putting him ashore, and on reaching the port of entry we duly entered the goods on board and paid the duties to the satisfaction of the customhouse, having saved a handsome sum by our night’s operations, concerning which no suspicion was ever created in the minds of the subprefect or customhouse officers.
I propose to say something in regard to the evasion of the revenue laws of Mexico by the merchants of California in early days in order that the matter be fully understood and regarded in its true light; to show that those who were transgressors of the law in this respect were not considered as lawbreakers in any odious sense, but were in entire good standing in the community, and were, to a certain extent, benefiting the people and doing a service to the country.
In entering goods at the customhouse, the revenue officers did not require any oath from the merchants as to the correctness of the invoices presented by them; in fact, no oath of any kind was required of them; and the practice was to prepare fictitious invoices, and pay $10,000 instead of $40,000 on a cargo of the value of the last-named sum. The duties on goods imported from foreign countries were very high, averaging about 100 per cent, as previously stated; so that a cargo of miscellaneous goods costing in Boston $50,000 would be subject to duties of about the same amount on entering at the customhouse, making $100,000, to which must be added, as a legitimate part of the cost of the goods, various expenses, such as the cost of the voyage from Boston to this coast and back, including the stay of the vessel here and her sailing up and down the coast (about three years being consumed in the whole voyage from Boston out and return), the wear and tear of the vessel, the wages of the crew, the pay of the officers, the commission of the supercargo, the supplies of the ship in provisions, the cost of purchasing and collecting hides and tallow and preparing the hides for the return voyage, the long credit given to the rancheros and other purchasers of goods, besides the numberless other expenses, little and great, all immediately or remotely connected with the expedition; and also the interest on the capital invested; all together making the cost of the business very heavy.
These expenses were to be reimbursed from the profits arising from the exchange here, for hides, of the cargo from Boston and the sale of the hides there. In order to make this profitable the merchants found it necessary to evade the payment of duties to the Mexican government so far as practicable, and these duties were evaded to a very considerable extent, probably one-half.
Had the shipper been compelled, under a more stringent administration of the law, to pay the full amount of duties, he could not have made a fair profit out of the business. Moreover, he would have been compelled to charge so high a price for his goods that it would have been a severe tax upon the rancheros who required them.
It will be seen, therefore, that not only was the temptation to smuggle very great, under the facilities presented by a loose administration of the revenue laws, but there were excellent reasons why the payment of duties should be evaded. They operated to such an extent that the merchant did not feel under that moral restraint, especially in the absence of the oath, which under other circumstances he might have experienced. If he defrauded the government, he was helping the people.
It would not have been good policy to crowd or cripple the farmers by making them pay exorbitant prices for their goods. This would have reacted upon the merchants and been injurious to the department. To give a higher price for his goods, on account of the larger duties paid by the merchant, the farmer would have been compelled to slaughter a larger number of cattle to secure the requisite quantity of hides and tallow to pay for them, thereby subtracting so much more from his wealth and the wealth of the department. The merchants, therefore, not only benefited themselves by this evasion of the duties, but, to a greater or less extent, protected the farmer at the same time. Although I never knew an instance of the bribery of an official by a merchant, yet the officers of the revenue must have had in their own minds an idea that the customs laws were evaded.
The relations of the officials and the merchants were very pleasant. They associated together in the most friendly manner. The merchants always made it agreeable for the officials whenever they came aboard the vessels, treating them courteously and hospitably. The high rate of duties was sometimes alluded to, when the officers would smilingly say that they themselves considered the duties as very high. They would add that they presumed the government of Mexico knew what it was about when it fixed the rates. I have heard them admit that if the duties had been lower the government would probably have secured more revenue. Although I don’t mean to intimate that they connived with the merchants knowingly to defraud the government, yet they certainly were not very sharp-sighted or severe in the discharge of their vocation. However, had they been ever so vigilant and desirous of rigidly enforcing the laws, they were really powerless to do so efficiently, for they had no detectives, no revenue cutters—none of those numerous aids and facilities for detecting the offender against the laws which prevail in these latter days.
It was then considered as no disgrace for a merchant to evade the revenue laws to such an extent as he thought proper to take the risk, some doing so more than others, although it was never talked about among the merchants themselves or made public in any way. There was a kind of tacit understanding that this was the general custom, and it was all right and proper to get as many goods in free of duty as possible, and it was encouraged by the rancheros themselves, as many were not solicitous of assisting the remote general government at Mexico by payment of exorbitant taxes in duties upon the necessaries of life required by them. Had the merchant been compelled to make oath, it would have been respected. The merchants, who were all foreigners, were an honorable and high-minded set of men, and would not have perjured themselves to evade the duties.
A large amount of goods could easily be concealed in the lining of a vessel, or a false lining be built, at no great expense, around the sides of the ship, behind which they could be stowed away. There were numerous other hiding places which could be availed of. The captain, with the aid of the mates and the ship’s carpenter, could make whatever arrangements or alterations were necessary to conceal successfully a large amount of goods. When the vessel reached the port of entry, the customs officers would go through the formality of making an examination of the ship; but they did it in quite a superficial way. They were so exceedingly well-mannered that they did not wish to appear impolite, and so they did not make any critical and offensive scrutiny of the arrangements and contents of the vessel.
Portions of the cargoes of vessels trading from South America and the Sandwich Islands were sometimes deposited upon the islands off Santa Barbara, when the vessels approached the coast before coming to the port of entry. I know of one instance in which about two-thirds of the cargo of a vessel from Honolulu was landed upon the island of San Nicolas, about seventy miles southeast of Santa Barbara, after which the vessel entered at the customhouse, paid the duties on the remainder of the cargo, and then returned to the island and took in the portion she had left there. She then went on her way, trading about the coast as usual. Invoices also were arranged to suit the plans of the merchants.
Goods were sometimes landed at night at Yerba Buena and other points outside of the port of entry, and at the port of entry itself, by eluding the officers, before entry was made. The rancheros, in a general way, would hint to the merchants that they ought to smuggle all the goods they could, they knowing they would get what they purchased cheaper than if all the duties were paid.
The Don Quixote, John Paty master, arrived at Monterey from Honolulu via San Francisco, as above mentioned, and we found lying there the Baltimore bark George Henry, Captain Stephen Smith, which had arrived a few days before from Callao and had on board a steam sawmill, the first ever brought to this coast. It was set in operation in the woods near Bodega for sawing lumber. Smith had visited California in 1841 and purchased of Captain Sutter all his title and interest in Bodega, and also bought, for work of the mill, the Rancho Blucher, near Bodega, covered with timber, mostly redwood.
In a few weeks we came to Yerba Buena (our vessel, after having made entry and paid duties at the customhouse, being free to go anywhere on coast trade) and took on board in the daytime and openly what we had secretly landed on the night of the 20th of May, transporting small lots at a time. This created no suspicion, as Spear, having a large stock of goods on hand at his store, might be supposed to be shipping a quantity of them down the coast. We left again, and traded along the coast as far as San Diego. There a new firm was formed, that of Paty, McKinley & Co., for general trading purposes, consisting of Captain John Paty, of the Don Quixote, James McKinley and Henry D. Fitch. The vessel went in as a part of the stock of the concern, being still under the command of Captain Paty. We then returned to Yerba Buena, after having touched at intermediate ports, and taking on at San Pedro some cargo belonging to McKinley & Fitch, which came into general stock. On reaching Yerba Buena we landed about half the cargo of the vessel at Richardson’s old adobe building, which stood where Dupont Street is now (1889), between Clay and Washington, and was then owned by McKinley, he having bought it of Richardson a few years previous. I then quit the vessel, Mr. McKinley taking my place as supercargo, while I remained at Yerba Buena with the goods, as commercial agent of the firm. I did a large business for them until September, 1845, the vessel meanwhile trading along the coast, visiting the bay of San Francisco three or four times during this period to supply me with stock from the stores on board.
One of the most interesting events in the history of California was the first taking of Monterey by Commodore Jones, in 1842. The following account has been kindly offered for my use by Mr. S. S. Culverwell, who was a participant in that affair, and who now (1889) resides in San Francisco.
CULVERWELL’S STORY OF THE CAPTURE
About August, 1842, the American squadron, under Commodore T. A. Jones, was lying at Callao, Peru. I was on board the frigate United States. The sloop of war Cyane, Captain Stringham, was near by. Commodore Jones was on the United States, also Captain Armstrong, First Lieutenant Lardner and Surgeon Maxwell, who recently died in San Francisco. There was also a British squadron in the harbor of Callao, of which I think the Vanguard was the admiral’s ship. It was understood among the ship’s company that we were to sail soon, as everything was in readiness for departure at short notice, but to what point we were destined nobody knew. It seemed to be the opinion, and was generally understood, that our sailing depended upon the movements of the British fleet, which was very closely watched by our vessels. One evening there was a ball given on the admiral’s ship, at which the officers of our vessels were present, and on that occasion they learned that the English were to sail the next morning, but their destination was a secret. By this our own movements were guided; for early the next morning we were under way, bound for Monterey, California. During the whole passage, the ship’s company was exercised in practicing the guns and apparently preparing for something extraordinary. It leaked out in a few days that the commodore’s instructions were to keep watch of the British fleet, and, if anything should occur which looked suspicious, he was to get ahead, and take possession of Monterey.
When we reached the bay of Monterey, the Cyane and the United States came to anchor opposite the fort, and the same afternoon the commodore sent a message ashore to the alcalde or governor to surrender the place. The answer was returned that he was not in town. The ships’ crews were at quarters on board all night. I was a boy of sixteen at that time—a powder boy, stationed in what was called the “slaughter house,” just abreast of the main mast. I remember the remarks made by the old salts on the night we were lying at our moorings, looking up at lights in the fort and seeing men with lanterns running around here and there. The sailors surmised that any moment the guns of the fort might open fire upon us, and if they had done so, the general impression was that they would have given us a pretty lively shaking up. The gunners on board our vessel said the first time their guns were let loose we would catch the whole of them just where we stood in the “slaughter house,” and that one gun in the fort would do us more damage than our whole broadside of twenty-six guns could do them. The crews of both our vessels were at the guns all night to be ready for action, and our officers were watching intently the movements at the castle or fort. If any demonstration had been made, both ships would have opened fire immediately. The night passed off quietly, however.
The next morning at nine o’clock, the officers, marines and sailors were landed, and marching up to the fort, took possession of it, hoisted the American flag, and, to my recollection, retained possession about twenty-four hours. But there seemed to have been a mistake as to the intention of the English, for the fleet did not make its appearance at Monterey.
We gave the place up, and returned to Callao; there learned that Commodore Jones had been ordered home, and that Commodore Dallas was on his way out to relieve him. (This was only hearsay.) Our cruise of three years not being more than half finished, Commodore Jones wished to complete it and go home on his ship, and so kept out of the way of Dallas. We left Callao and sailed for the Sandwich Islands. After our visit there, we went to all the groups of islands in the Pacific Ocean. When the time of the cruise was up, we went to Valparaíso. Meanwhile, after we left Callao, Commodore Dallas, on board the United States frigate Congress, followed us around from one place to another, but not overtaking us; for he would arrive at a place just after we had left; and so, by dodging the Congress in this way, Commodore Jones completed his cruise and took the “old wagon,” as the frigate United States was called, around to the Atlantic side, home.
I understand that an official investigation of the commodore’s action at Monterey took place, which resulted in exonerating Commodore Jones from blame for his action in the matter, and that he was presented with a gold-hilted sword for the vigilance which he had displayed in this affair. [end of story]
Mr. Culverwell’s contribution is made use of, it being an accurate statement by an eyewitness of the events detailed.
While I was at Santa Barbara with the Don Quixote about the latter part of September, 1842, the Jóven Guipuzcoana, Captain Snook, was there also. He departed a few days before we did and proceeded up the coast to Monterey, trading along as usual. His vessel left the port of Monterey sometime in October. As she was beating out of that bay they saw two war vessels approaching from the south, and according to the usual custom raised the Mexican flag, she being a Mexican bark; and the two vessels approaching raised the English flag. When they got pretty near, a shot was fired from one of them across the bow of the Jóven Guipuzcoana for that vessel to stop, which demand she complied with. Shortly after, she was hailed with an order to throw her foreyards back, which she did, and waited quietly not knowing what was the matter, until a boat put off from one of the other vessels and came alongside. The boat contained a lieutenant, midshipman, the ordinary boat’s crew, and eight or ten men besides. When they came aboard his vessel Captain Snook observed that the officers wore the uniform of the U. S. Navy, which puzzled him a good deal; the vessels bore the English flag. They asked him to surrender the vessel to them, which he immediately did. They remained on board, and the three vessels came to anchor in the bay of Monterey, just under the bluff where the fort or castle stood, and then the English flag was hauled down on the two vessels of war and the American flag raised instead. These vessels were the United States frigate United States and the sloop-of-war Cyane.
When the Jóven Guipuzcoana left Santa Barbara, Don José Joaquín Estudillo was on board, with his daughter, whom he had left with her aunt when quite young at San Diego, where she had since lived. He had not seen her for ten years and was now taking her to their home at San Leandro. When the vessel was captured as above described, in going out of Monterey, this young lady and also Mrs. Snook, the captain’s wife, became prisoners of war. I learned from the former, who afterward became my wife, the facts in regard to what transpired on the vessel. The two ladies being in their staterooms unaware of what had transpired, Captain Snook went to his wife’s room and told her that they were prisoners, whereupon that lady hastened to Miss Estudillo’s room and informed her, in tears, that they had been captured. The officer in command told Captain Snook that his presence was required on board the frigate United States, and that his orders from the commodore were that no one should go ashore; that all on board were prisoners of war, ladies included. Captain Snook then had an interview with the commodore, and coming aboard his own vessel he found his wife very much agitated and frightened. She presently prevailed upon the captain to return and request permission of the commodore for herself and Miss Estudillo to be put ashore. The request was granted, and the next morning early the two ladies were landed. During the night Captain Snook had the oars of the boats muffled and quietly landed nearly the whole cargo of the vessel in order to save it for the owner, unknown, of course, to the American vessels of war. Early in the morning an officer from the United States came on board and took an inventory of what remained of the cargo, which was very little.
Soon after the vessels had anchored at Monterey, Commodore Jones sent an officer on shore to demand the surrender of the town. The authorities at Monterey had noticed the two vessels coming in under the English flag, which was presently replaced by the American, and also the return of the Jóven Guipuzcoana with them, and their suspicions were aroused. They supposed that war had been declared between the United States and Mexico and thought the vessels had probably come to take the town. Upon this, Governor Alvarado left Monterey for his Rancho Alisal, twenty-six miles distant, accompanied by a bodyguard of forty cavalrymen, not wishing to incur the humiliation of surrendering the town himself. In leaving, he instructed the comandante, Captain Mariano Silva, that if the surrender of the town was demanded, to comply with the request, inasmuch as they had not force enough to resist successfully. When the officer who went on shore to demand the surrender found that the governor was not there, he was met by the comandante, to whom he delivered the message, and who complied. It was stipulated between them, as it was late in the day, the formal surrender should take place the next morning at nine o’clock. The following morning the officers, marines and sailors were landed in large force and proceeded, a portion to the fort, and a portion to government headquarters. As they marched up from the landing through the town they made quite a display, with the American flag flying and the band playing the national air. The native Californians resident in the town were horror-stricken, especially the officials and the women, the latter going about the streets or looking from their windows with their hair hanging loosely about them and tears streaming from their eyes, bewailing the loss of their country, the humiliation of their flag, and fearing that their lives and property might also be sacrificed. Thomas O. Larkin, later United States consul, with David Spence and other prominent foreigners, sought to pacify them, assuring them that if the country was lost to them forever, they should be protected.
Commodore Jones’ force marched through the streets, and a manifesto was read at intervals declaring that as war existed between the United States and Mexico, he, as commander of all the American forces on the Pacific and representing the government of the United States in that quarter, had been ordered to take possession of the department of California; and in doing so, his purpose was not to injure the peaceable inhabitants of the department; that he would give them every assurance that they should be protected in their lives and property; and moreover, the laws of Mexico, under which they had lived, should continue in force; and those officials who might wish to continue in their positions and administer the laws honestly and justly were at liberty to do so. On reaching the government headquarters the formal surrender took place and the United States flag was raised.
Thomas Oliver Larkin and other prominent Americans at Monterey had received from Mexico newspapers and letters giving much later intelligence than Commodore Jones had received at Callao before his departure from that port, which showed that up to the time of their issue no war existed between the two countries.
After the town had been taken possession of, Commodore Jones examined these letters and papers giving the latest intelligence, and, on doing so, became convinced that war had not been declared, and saw that his action in the premises had been, to say the least, premature. Accordingly, he determined to surrender the place to the authorities of the department and leave them in possession as before. He therefore sent an officer to the comandante, Don Mariano Silva, to say he was satisfied from the facts he had collected from Thomas O. Larkin and other American residents at Monterey that he ought to surrender the place to the Mexican authorities, and would formally do so on the following day at a certain hour. The next morning the troops were drawn up in front of the government headquarters and at the fort. At a signal, the American flag was hauled down and the Mexican flag raised at both points. A salute was then fired from the two vessels in honor of the Mexican flag, and this was responded to by a salute from the fort. All the courtesies due from one nation to another were shown, and the town of Monterey was fully restored to the possession and power of its former possessors twenty-four hours after it was taken from them. The commodore and officers, some twelve or fifteen, in full uniform, then called on the government officers to pay their respects; and the war was at an end. In return, the officials called on the commodore and his officers on the flagship, and were warmly welcomed, entertained, and honored with a salute befitting their rank. The Mexican bark was also released and permitted to go on her business unmolested.
About four or five days after these exciting events I reached Monterey on the Don Quixote. Shortly after, Captain Paty and myself called on Commodore Jones on board his vessel, and were immediately made to feel at ease in his company. He impressed us as a man of decided ability and withal social and genial. We listened with great interest and admiration to his account of his movements at Monterey and his reasons therefor, which he gave us in full. He said he had been instructed by the government to keep a close watch upon the movements of the British squadron in the Pacific, and on learning at Callao that their vessels were about to leave, though he did not know for what destination, thinking the objective point might be Monterey, he started a little in advance. He reached that place without seeing them. Believing that the war which seemed imminent between the United States and Mexico had already commenced, he took possession of the place, being determined to anticipate the British in case they had any design of doing the same thing.
As he proceeded in his narrative, he warmed up with enthusiasm and declared what he had done was in perfect good faith. Although he had no positive instructions to take Monterey, what he had done was in accordance with the general instructions of the government not to be outdone by the British. Straightening himself up, as he went on in his narrative, he said: “Although I was doubtless hasty in my action, it was better to be a little too soon than an hour too late. The delay might have been fatal. I felt the immense responsibility resting upon me. Had I arrived here and found the British flag floating over Monterey, it would have been no easy thing to displace it. In fact, to attempt to do so would have been equivalent to a declaration of war between the United States and Great Britain, and had I allowed the British to get the advantage of me in securing Monterey, I would have been disgraced forever.” He said that when he came to anchor before Monterey he had springs placed upon the cables so as to move the vessels round in case of necessity, but he was very happy that there had been no occasion to fire upon the town; although he added that if any demonstration of hostility or show of resistance had been made, he would have met it promptly, first notifying the proper authorities to have the women and children removed, as he did not want to shed a drop of their blood, and then, if necessary, he would have opened upon the fort and battered it to pieces.
The commodore went on to say that he was very favorably impressed with California; that this was his first visit, but he was familiar with it from reading and other information he had gathered about it; that he liked the climate and the appearance of the country, and that it was destined to be of great importance, and that it must belong to the United States. He dwelt at length upon the importance of our government getting possession of it and not letting the British do so in advance of us. He said there was no other nation to fear in this connection, and that he and all his predecessors here had been charged to be always on the watch for the British fleet in these waters, and that doubtless his successors would be likewise instructed.
The commodore in his conversation with us expressed a considerable degree of pride at having been the first to raise the American flag on the soil of California, and seemed to regard this movement, although so briefly terminated, as having given us the first right in the future, and to have established a priority of claim on the part of the United States to the possession of the country when it should pass from the control of Mexico.
We remained in the harbor of Monterey with the Don Quixote about a week, and made frequent visits to the flagship, and had many pleasant interviews with the commodore and his officers. It was years since I had heard any good music, and we enjoyed hearing the fine band play at sunset on the quarterdeck of the frigate. Captain Paty and myself sent a little present of fine California wine to the commodore and Captain Armstrong, which we had procured from the vineyard of Don Luis Vignes at Los Angeles. It was highly appreciated by the recipients.
While we were at Monterey, an elegant entertainment was given by Thomas Oliver Larkin and other American residents, at the government house, to the commodore and the officers of the vessels. Captain Paty and myself were among the guests. The music, dancing and feasting lasted till a late hour. The commodore had sent messages to Governor Alvarado at his rancho to come in and see him; that he was a gentleman whose acquaintance he was desirous of making; that he would be most happy to entertain him aboard his vessel. Alvarado replied courteously, declining the invitation, saying that while he was still governor of California, he might, by such a visit, in some way compromise himself, or the commodore in his subsequent intercourse with Micheltorena, the newly appointed governor, who was at Los Angeles on his way to the seat of government; and said that he referred all matters concerning the recent taking of Monterey to him.
Commodore Jones was much respected by his officers and also very popular with them. During my visits to the vessel, I got the impression from what I heard that Commodore Jones was especially selected for service in the Pacific Ocean to watch and counteract any movements that might be made toward the acquirement of California by any government other than our own, not only because of his superiority as a naval commander, but on account of his intelligence, sagacity, diplomatic talent and courage, these qualities rendering him peculiarly fitted for an undertaking requiring delicacy and tact in its management.
Had Alvarado known of the coming of Jones beforehand, he would have made preparations to defend Monterey and sink some or all of the fleet by firing from the castle; as was done on a former occasion, in 1818, when two insurgent vessels, manned by Spaniards from South America, without any government authority came into the harbor of Monterey with the intention of capturing the town, and one of them, the Negra, was sunk by guns fired from the fort. As she was going down, those on board made signs and shouted to those on shore to have mercy on them, and stop firing. Captain Gómez, commanding the artillery, ordered the firing to cease. The men from the sinking vessel, and those from the other one also, then all came ashore in their boats; and instead of being grateful for the kindness shown them in sparing their lives, they marched up with their arms, overpowered the governor and his forces and took possession of the town. The governor, Don Pablo Vicente de Sola, with the other officers of the government and the garrison and the families living in that vicinity, had to take flight into the country. The enemy burned the town and the garrison buildings, and then went away.
We departed from Monterey in the Don Quixote, leaving the two United States vessels, and proceeded to Yerba Buena. During the stay of the Don Quixote, lasting several weeks, Commodore Jones arrived in the sloop-of-war Cyane, which was made flagship before leaving Monterey, the frigate United States having been sent to Honolulu for naval stores, that place being the depot for provisions, etc., of the Pacific squadron. She made the trip from Monterey to Honolulu and back in twenty-nine days, the quickest ever known at that time, and I don’t think it has been beaten since by any sailing vessel. This included four days stopping at Honolulu to take in stores. Captain Eliab Grimes was on board of her on her voyage out from Monterey as the guest of Captain Armstrong. She made the run to Honolulu in ten days. Captain Grimes said she might have performed it in eight days, but it was always their habit to shorten sail at evening and proceed under less canvas during the night. He tried to persuade them to keep on full sail during the night, as well as the day, but Captain Armstrong could not be induced to alter the custom; so the voyage was longer than it otherwise need have been.
The Cyane lay at Sausalito during her stay here, and the commodore visited Yerba Buena. I was very busy arranging for my business and saw but little of him at that time. Spear saw him frequently, and both he and Richardson spoke in high terms of the commodore as a well-informed man.
In January, 1843, Don José Joaquín Estudillo, accompanied by his wife and his daughters, Doña Concepción and Doña María Jesús (the latter of whom a few months before had been captured at Monterey by Commodore Jones, as already described), visited Captain Richardson’s family at Sausalito, Mrs. Richardson and Mrs. Estudillo being sisters. During this visit Captain Richardson and his wife and daughter and the Estudillo family were invited by Commodore Jones to a little party on board the Cyane. As they passed over the gangway of the vessel the commodore and his officers stood there to receive them, and showed the greatest warmth and courtesy toward them. Captain Richardson introduced Don José as the father of the young lady who a few months before had been captured by the commodore at Monterey. “What!” exclaimed the commodore; “is this the father of the fair captive who, under the rules of war, I was compelled to make prisoner for a time?” and at the same moment took Estudillo warmly by his hand, threw his arms around him and embraced him heartily, as was the fashion of the Californians. After all the introductions were made and affable greetings extended, the commodore showed the highest gallantry by remarking that the only thing he regretted was having to surrender Monterey after having taken it. He said, “I regret in the surrender the loss to the United States of the beautiful women of California.” They had a delightful entertainment, dancing until late in the evening, the ladies above mentioned being present.
On this occasion the commodore showed great attention and politeness to Don José, and was exceedingly affable to the ladies, doing everything in his power to make their visit agreeable, and setting before them a very handsome dinner. During the dinner the commodore carved with difficulty, one of his hands being distorted from a wound received during an engagement between the vessel on which he was a midshipman and a vessel of the enemy, during the war of 1812 with England. He excused himself for his want of skill in carving, explaining the cause of the difficulty. A number of the officers on board the Cyane spoke the Spanish language fluently, which added to the interest of the festivity.
During the stay of the vessel in the bay the commodore’s habit was to go on shore in the morning and hunt for small game, sport he greatly enjoyed. He would frequently lunch with Captain Richardson on shore and there he met the Estudillo family. The Cyane left here and went down to Monterey about the time the United States was expected back from Honolulu. On the arrival there of the latter vessel she was made the flagship again, and both ships left for San Pedro.
In one of our visits to the flagship Mrs. John Paty accompanied her husband. She was received in the most courteous manner by the commodore, who expressed his admiration at seeing a woman of his nationality in this far western country. He inquired of the lady the state of her nativity. She replied, “Massachusetts.” “Well, madame, one of the original of the confederacy, like Virginia, my own state.” The call was a prolonged one, as the commodore was delighted in meeting an American lady, the first he had welcomed on the Pacific Ocean. He personally conducted his fair guest over the ship, and was joined in his attention by every officer. It was at this time Mrs. Paty presented the commodore with a barrel of Vignes’s wine, a portion of a gift from the maker of the delicious beverage.