Lost Fremont Matchlock gun

by Richard Senate

In the early weeks of January, 1847 California was a scene of battle. The US had sent west a well connected and ambitious military man to California and the west in hopes of concocting a rebellion among American Settlers in the Mexican Territory of Alta California. Col. John C. Fremont lead an “exploratory expedition” with Kit Carson as his guide. This attempt to steal California was unneeded when war was declared after the Battle of Palo Alta in Texas. But he came and gave birth to the so called California Republic (where we get the Bear Flag from).

California fell to the Americans but then went into rebellion focused on Los Angeles and government of General Flores (California Governor Pio Pico having fled with the treasury for Old Mexico) . Fremont formed the “California Battalion” of old Mountain Men and settlers and marched south to seize Los Angeles from forces still loyal to Mexico. They were being attacked from the south by troops from US held San Diego. General Flores, with help from Native America Tribes loyal to Mexico, had all the US forces under constant surveillance, and sent a small force to Ventura County to try to stop, or at least delay, Fremont. A ragtag company of militia were formed, mostly vaqueros armed with eleven foot long lances, and a motley collection of arms . They gathered at the Sanchez Adobe in Saticoy. Fremont slowly marched along the beach south from Santa Barbara after ‘capturing’ the town.

There was no opposition in what is today Ventura, and they seized the mission. They raised the US flag, spent the night in the Mission orchard and then marched down the beach to the Santa Clara River. There they turned inland following the river and in so doing passed by the Olivas Adobe, constructed six years before. Fremont didn’t mention the site in his report and may have missed it in the windy dust storm that hampered their travel.

Not far from the adobe, the Americans were opposed by the Mexican militia on horseback, arrayed for battle. A few insults were exchanged and a few shots that missed their targets. Fremont, fearing this was only part of a larger force waiting to fall on his flank. He stopped the advance as the Mexican Lancers galloped around, performing equestrian feats on horseback. Fremont had two cannons, and four hundred and fifty men. The Militia had only about sixty and few firearms. Having delayed Fremont for an hour, they wisely retired from the field. When Fremont advanced, he found an old matchlock musket dropped by the Mexicans. It was perhaps four hundred years old at the time and dated back to the time of Cortez and the Conquest of Mexico. He kept the piece as a relic. The skirmish, if you could call the bloodless exchange that, was perhaps the last military action in California in the Mexican-American War. I always wonder what happened to that ancient musket that Fremont picked up. Perhaps a historical search could be made to locate the piece?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email