January 8, 2008, marks the 161th
anniversary of the Battle of San Gabriel River. The
American forces under the command of General Stephen W. Kearny and Commodore
Robert F. Stockton confronted the Californian forces commanded by General Jose
Starting December 29, 1846, an
American force of six hundred men marched one hundred forty miles from San Diego
to the City of Los Angeles
along the El Camino Real, a route which roughly follows the current 101
Freeway. Ten carretas
pulled by oxen were used to carry supplies and provisions. Since
the ox drawn carretas and men had to go over and down hills, there was no easy
paved road as it is today. General
Andres Pico and six hundred Californios
were waiting in the San Fernando Valley for
Since the Californian force had
prepared an ambush at the lower La Jaboneria Ford(1),
The Californian force consisted
of about five hundred mounted horsemen and artillery pieces stationed along the
western bluff. Admittedly, many of
the Californios did not have their
heart in this war and some just went home. At
this time of year the
The battle commenced at about
3:00 p.m. when Kearny
gave the order, “Forward.” Since Stockton
was primarily a gunner, he personally took charge of the Americans’ two
nine-pound cannons. The artillery of
the Californian force were quickly silenced by the American’s nine-pound
cannon, and the cavalry attacks were stopped after repeated musket fire under
the command of General Kearny. The
American forces charged up the hill to see the Californians in retreat.
battle came to a quick end with the American forces occupying the bluff that was
previously occupied by the opposition. Many
men did not even fire their weapons. About
two men were killed and nine others injured on each side. Since
the American forces had no means to pursuit the well-mounted Californian force,
they camped that night on the edge of the bluff where the Californian force had
The next day, January 9, 1847,
the American force marched toward Los Angeles. On their way they encountered the
Californian forces in what is now the City of Vernon, roughly in the area of the old stock yards. The
mounted Californians were again quickly defeated by the American’s artillery.
Although there were few human casualties, I would venture to guess that
many of the horses were not that lucky. Since
it was late in the day, the Americans held off reentering the City of Angeles
until January 10, 1847, to prevent any overzealous celebrating.
I have been unable to locate the
exact locations of the river crossings known as La Jaboneria and Paso de Bartolo
Fords. The Battle of San Gabriel
River appears to have been somewhat north of Washington Boulevard
Why is the marker along the Rio
In 1944 a temporary redwood
plaque was placed on the northeast corner of
(1) The river crossing near the former community of Gallatin-Downey which was not far from Lemuel Carpenter’s soap factory, located in the vicinity where Telegraph Road crosses the Rio Hondo River.
Submitted December, 2007, by Gary Brougher, Montebello Historical
Society. For source documents, contact Gary at email@example.com.
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