1847 - William T. Sherman
No Independent California
Swords were brought out, guns oiled and made ready, and every thing was in a bustle when the old Lexington dropped her anchor on January 26, 1847, in Monterey Bay, after a voyage of one hundred and ninety-eight days from New York. Every thing on shore looked bright and beautiful, the hills covered with grass and flowers, the live-oaks so serene and homelike, and the low adobe houses, with red-tiled roofs and whitened walls, contrasted well with the dark pine-trees behind, making a decidedly good impression upon us who had come so far to spy out the land. Nothing could be more peaceful in its looks than Monterey in January, 1847. We had already made the acquaintance of Commodore Shubrick and the officers of the Independence in Valparaiso, so that we again met as old friends. Immediate preparations were made for landing and, as I was quartermaster and commissary, I had plenty to do. There was a small wharf and an adobe custom-house in possession of the navy; also a barrack of two stories, occupied by some marines, commanded by Lieutenant Maddox; and on a hill to the west of the town had been built a two-story block-house of hewed logs occupied by a guard of sailors under command of Lieutenant Baldwin, United States Navy. Not a single modern wagon or cart was to be had in Monterey, nothing but the old Mexican cart with wooden wheels, drawn by two or three pairs of oxen, yoked by the horns. A man named Tom Cole had two or more of these, and he came into immediate requisition. The United States consul, and most prominent man there at the time, was Thomas O. Larkin, who had a store and a pretty good two-story house occupied by his family. It was soon determined that our company was to land and encamp on the hill at the block-house, and we were also to have possession of the warehouse, or custom-house, for storage. The company was landed on the wharf, and we all marched in full dress with knapsacks and arms, to the hill and relieved the guard under Lieutenant Baldwin. Tents and camp-equipage were hauled up, and soon the camp was established. I remained in a room at the custom-house, where I could superintend the landing of the stores and their proper distribution. I had brought out from New York twenty thousand dollars commissary funds, and eight thousand dollars quartermaster funds, and as the ship contained about six months' supply of provisions, also a saw-mill, grist-mill, and almost every thing needed, we were soon established comfortably. We found the people of Monterey a mixed set of Americans, native Mexicans, and Indians, about one thousand all told. They were kind and pleasant, and seemed to have nothing to do, except such as owned ranches in the country for the rearing of horses and cattle. Horses could be bought at any price from four dollars up to sixteen, but no horse was ever valued above a doubloon or Mexican ounce (sixteen dollars). Cattle cost eight dollars fifty cents for the best, and this made beef net about two-cents a pound, but at that time nobody bought beef by the pound, but by the carcass.
Game of all kinds - elk, deer, wild geese, and ducks - was abundant; but coffee, sugar, and small stores, were rare and costly.
There were some half-dozen shops or stores, but their shelves were empty. The people were very fond of riding, dancing, and of shows of any kind. The young fellows took great delight in showing off their horsemanship, and would dash along, picking up a half-dollar from the ground, stop their horses in full career and turn about on the space of a bullock's hide, and their skill with the lasso was certainly wonderful. At full speed they could cast their lasso about the horns of a bull, or so throw it as to catch any particular foot. These fellows would work all day on horseback in driving cattle or catching wild horses for a mere nothing, but all the money offered would not have hired one of them to walk a mile. The girls were very fond of dancing, and they did dance gracefully and well. Every Sunday, regularly, we had a baile, or dance, and sometimes interspersed through the week.
I remember very well, soon after our arrival, that we were all invited to witness a play called "Adam and Eve." Eve was personated by a pretty young girl known as Dolores Gomez, who, however, was dressed very unlike Eve, for she was covered with a petticoat and spangles. Adam was personated by her brother, the same who has since become somewhat famous as the person on whom is founded the McGarrahan claim. God Almighty was personated, and heaven's occupants seemed very human. Yet the play was pretty, interesting, and elicited universal applause. All the month of February we were by day preparing for our long stay in the country, and at night making the most of the balls and parties of the most primitive kind, picking up a smattering of Spanish, and extending our acquaintance with the people and the costumbres del pais. I can well recall that Ord and I, impatient to look inland, got permission and started for the Mission of San Juan Bautista. Mounted on horses, and with our carbines, we took the road by El Toro, quite a prominent hill, around which passes the road to the south, following the Salinas or Monterey River. After about twenty miles over a sandy country covered with oak-bushes and scrub, we entered quite a pretty valley in which there was a ranch at the foot of the Toro. Resting there a while and getting some information, we again started in the direction of a mountain to the north of the Salinas, called the Gavillano. It was quite dark when we reached the Salinas River, which we attempted to pass at several points, but found it full of water, and the quicksands were bad. Hearing the bark of a dog, we changed our course in that direction, and, on hailing, were answered by voices which directed us where to cross. Our knowledge of the language was limited, but we managed to understand and to flounder through the sand and water, and reached a small adobe-house on the banks of the Salinas, where we spent the night. The house was a single room, without floor or glass; only a rude door, and window with bars. Not a particle of food but meat, yet the man and woman entertained us with the language of lords put themselves, their house, and every thing, at our "disposition," and made little barefoot children dance for our entertainment. We made our supper of beef, and slept on a bullock's hide on the dirt-floor. In the morning we crossed the Salinas Plain, about fifteen miles of level ground, taking a shot occasionally at wild geese, which abounded there, and entering the well-wooded valley that comes out from the foot of the Gavillano. We had cruised about all day, and it was almost dark when we reached the house of a Senor Gomez, father of those who at Monterey had performed the parts of Adam and Eve. His house was a two-story adobe, and had a fence in front. lt was situated well up among the foot-hills of the Gavillano, and could not be seen until within a few yards. We hitched our horses to the fence and went in just as Gromez was about to sit down to a tempting supper of stewed hare and tortillas. We were officers and caballeros and could not be ignored. After turning our horses to grass, at his invitation we joined him at supper. The allowance, though ample for one, was rather short for three, and I thought the Spanish grandiloquent politeness of Gomez, who was fat and old, was not over-cordial. However, down we sat, and I was helped to a dish of rabbit, with what I thought to be an abundant sauce of tomato. Taking a good mouthful, I felt as though I had taken liquid fire; the tomato was chile colorado, or red pepper, of the purest kind. It nearly killed me, and I saw Gomez's eyes twinkle, for he saw that his share of supper was increased. I contented myself with bits of the meat, and an abundant supply of tortillas. Ord was better case-hardened, and stood it better. We staid at Gomez's that night, sleeping, as all did, on the ground, and the next morning we crossed the hill by the bridle-path to the old Mission of San Juan Bautista. The Mission was in a beautiful valley, very level, and bounded on all sides by hills. The plain was covered with wild grasses and mustard, and had abundant water. Cattle and horses were seen in all directions, and it was manifest that the priests who first occupied the country were good judges of land. It was Sunday, and all the people, about a hundred, had come to church from the country round about. Ord was somewhat of a Catholic, and entered the church with his clanking spurs and kneeled down, attracting the attention of all, for he had on the uniform of an American officer. As soon as church was out, all rushed to the various sports. I saw the priest, with his gray robes tucked up, playing at billiards, others were cock-fighting, and some at horse-racing. My horse had become lame, and I resolved to buy another. As soon as it was known that I wanted a horse, several came for me, and displayed their horses by dashing past and hauling them up short. There was a fine black stallion that attracted my notice, and, after trying him myself, I concluded a purchase. I left with the seller my own lame horse, which he was to bring to me at Monterey, when I was to pay him ten dollars for the other. The Mission of San Juan bore the marks of high prosperity at a former period, and had a good pear-orchard just under the plateau where stood the church. After spending the day, Ord and I returned to Monterey, about thirty-five miles, by a shorter route.
Memoirs of Gen. W.T. Sherman, Written by Himself
Vol I, New York 1891