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    California in the 1850s

    [Yuma War] and [Garra Revolt]. Asher R. Eddy Journal Archive comprising seven large journals spanning the years 1846 through 1854. The journals recount the day to day events in the life of a career United States military officer from his service as an assistant professor of mathematics to his time on frontier duty in California during the California Indian Wars.

    Asher Robbins Eddy was born in Newport, Rhode Island in 1823. He attended the United States Military Academy, graduating fifth in his class in 1844. Following graduation, he served post duty in Rhode Island and Florida before returning to West Point as a mathematics professor in 1846. In 1850, he was ordered to frontier duty in California. An eloquent writer, he would witness and chronicle California's attainment of statehood, the events of the Yuma War (including the failed Garra Revolt), and the rise and fall of the Republic of Lower California. Eddy served in the U. S. Army Quartermaster's Department throughout the Civil War and died in Europe in 1879.

    Eddy's journals are sprinkled with references to military figures of the day, many of whom he was personally acquainted, who would attain fame in the Civil War, such as George B. McClellan (whom he refers to incorrectly as McClelland), Gustavus W. Smith, John B. Magruder, Samuel P. Heintzelman, et al. Of note is his final journal, which covers his four years in California.

    The sea voyage to California took eight months and, with ample time on his hands, he was able to ponder the current political situation with regard to U. S. expansion and slavery. June 11, 1850: "...We have read the speeches of Calhoun and Webster on the California question as regards slavery and I think that Daniel has expressed the sentiments of the greater portion of intelligence in the Union. Calhoun's is sincere but he is too sectional, asking too much for the South. May we find when we reach San Francisco that the great controversy is amicably settled." One month later, on August 20, he writes: "...Congress has been quarrelling the whole session about slavery, will not appoint a Territorial government for Cala. nor will it admit her into the Union and from this wanton disregard of the rights of American citizens the most lamentable results may follow. Many talk of independence but I do not think that the sound." California was granted statehood three weeks later.

    A year later, Antonio Garra, a native CupeƱo warrior, rose in rebellion against the Americans at the urging of William Marshall, a local white dissident, assuring him that if he did so white Californians and Mexicans would join the revolt. Eddy records the uprising in an entry simply dated November [1851]: "Yumas killed four white men...the Yumas were led on by Antonio Garra an educated Indian living at Agua Caliente, his own tribe rose and...killed four sick white men at Agua Caliente...a letter was sent by Antonio to the principal Californians inviting them to join him presuming they would do so as taxation was the cause of the Indian hostilities & the Californians had been shamefully taxed. Antonio missed his mark, the people of the country joining with the Americans. Antonio threatened to march on San Diego & Los Angeles with his warriors... Major [Samuel P.] Heintzelman took command and is now we presume at Agua Caliente and is in a very dangerous position if the Indians give him battle." Eddy expresses his opinion that Garra could "...easily sack the town, destroy the depot and retreat to the mountains before a sufficient force could arrive from above to march against him."

    By early December , Garra had been captured. An entry dated December 9 states: "Bill Marshall and Juan Bera [Berra] gave themselves up at Sta. Isabel to a party of the volunteers and are now prisoners in the county jail. Antonio Garra is said to be a prisoner of Juan Antonios and the Indians in our neighborhood have dispersed. The prisoners are to be tried...and will undoubtedly be hung...the gallows was erected & a determination expressed by some few to have Judge Lynch reside..." On the 13th, Eddy reported that "...The prisoners taken a few days since have been tried by the so-called Court Martial, convicted and hung today about 2 o'c P.M. The trial was well conducted...but there was not one particle of evidence to show that the prisoners were guilty of the crimes imputed to them and Marshall insisted upon his innocence to the last." Eddy was of the opinion that Marshall's confession implicated all Californians in a plot to murder all Americans in southern California which compels him to believe that they are all "...guilty of treason." Marshall's story is corroborated by Garra himself who, as a prisoner at Chino, states that the Californians were all in on the plan and that "...Marshall was innocent..." Garra went on trial on January 9, 1852, was found guilty, and was sentenced to death. Garra's execution was carried out the following day and was noted by Eddy: "Antonio Garra was executed by shooting this afternoon, he persisted to the last in the statements he had previously made & met death like a soldier.

    The day after Christmas, word is received that "...Heintzelman had met the Indians & killed six of them..." Eddy speculates that he has "...stepped out of the scrape, very unexpectedly, just in time...I have no desire to be engaged in an Indian War." Upon his return to San Diego, Heintzelman gives his account of the expedition to Eddy, who writes: "In the skirmish with the Indians four were shot down including two chiefs, several wounded and four taken prisoner; upon the latter a council of war was called which condemned them to be shot. The sentence was executed in presence of representatives from the different tribes...the result of the whole thing has been a perfect panic among the redskins and the closing of the War on this side of the desert."

    On June 9, 1852, a report arrived that Colonel Louis S. Craig, a popular officer and veteran of the Mexican War, and a Sergeant Bales had been killed by two deserters from Fort Yuma: "The express from the Gila arrived with the horrible intelligence that Col. Craig & Sergeant Bales had been shot on the desert by the two deserters whom [Lieutenant] Sweeny was in pursuit of." Three days later, Col. John B. Magruder dispatched orders to the different Indian captains to apprehend the murderers. On June 15, Eddy records that the deserters had been captured: "Today the Chief Pablo brought in the two deserters, whom he captured at Temecula after...buying their muskets, borrowing their revolver and then surrounding them with armed men. The two scoundrels had in their possession a knife belonging to St. Bales..." After a lengthy court martial, the men are convicted and sentenced to death. January 30, 1853: "Hayes & Cenden [?] tried last August for the murder of Col. Craig & wounding Sgt. Bales are to be hung tomorrow at noon, the sentence of the court having been confirmed by the President." The following day, Eddy witnesses and describes the execution: "At noon Hayes & Cenden rode up to the gallows seated on their black coffins. After the benediction by the Padre the prisoners ascended the scaffold with firmness, they conferred the justice of their sentence & begged their fellow soldiers to take warning by them. Their shrouds were arranged about them a white cap drawn over their faces, the ropes place around their necks, the drop rope was cut and in a second the two men were no more."

    Near the end, Eddy makes mention of a recent proclamation of the short-lived Republic of Lower California, dated December 3, 1853: "Today we learn that about 50 filibusters have taken Lower California arrested the ex & de facto governor and proclaimed a new Republic consisting of the Peninsula...The President or rather the leader of the buccaneers is by name [William] Walker. If our Government cannot prevent such outrages by bands organized within her boundarys [sic] she deserves to be wiped out as a foul stain on the Earth. I hope that every one of the pirates will meet the death they so richly deserve." Walker's action was immensely popular in San Francisco, but the opposition by the Mexican government was too great. He was placed on trial, but acquitted inside of eight minutes.

    This collection of journals is in superb condition and begs for further research.


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    October, 2012
    4th-5th Thursday-Friday
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