San Pasqual Battlefield
State Historic Park
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education of the people of California by
helping to preserve the state’s extraordinary
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valued natural and cultural resources, and
creating opportunities for high-quality
The concept of
“Manifest Destiny” held
that the United States
had a divine right to
expand its borders from
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Prior to arrival, visitors with disabilities who
need assistance should contact the park at
(760) 737-2201. This publication is available
in alternate formats by contacting:
CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS
P. O. Box 942896
Sacramento, CA 94296-0001
For information call: (800) 777-0369
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Discover the many states of California.TM
San Pasqual Battlefield
State Historic Park
15808 San Pasqual Valley Road
Escondido, CA 92027
Detail of Battle of San Pasqual painting by
Col. Charles Waterhouse, USMCR
© 2009 California State Parks
Printed on Recycled Paper
the Atlantic to the Pacific.
After the battle at San
Pasqual, that concept
came closer to reality.
F rom high on the slope of a south-facing hill,
San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park
commands a sweeping view of the San Pasqual
Valley. The park also overlooks the site of the
bloodiest battle fought in California during
the U.S.-Mexican War. During this skirmish,
American forces sought to take California, and
Mexican forces sought to keep it. At the end of
the battle, both sides would claim victory.
THE BATTLE OF SAN PASCUAL
Early on December 6, 1846, General Stephen W.
Kearny led a contingent of the First Dragoons
into battle with a group of Californios (persons
of Hispanic descent living in California after
the Mexican Revolution) in what is now the San
Pasqual Valley. Led by Captain Andrés Pico,
brother of Pío Pico, one of the last governors of
Mexican California, the Californios were resisting
American military occupation of their homeland.
United States vs. Mexico
When President James K. Polk took office in
March 1845, relations between the U.S. and
Mexico were already severely strained. While
Texas was still under Mexican rule, the U.S. had
made it the 28th state of the Union. In anger,
Mexico quickly broke off relations with the U.S.
and began to prepare for the possibility of war.
Realizing the potential of Mexican California’s
coastline to maritime trading, Polk sent an
envoy to Mexico with an offer to purchase
California. When Mexico refused, President Polk
ordered General Zachary Taylor and his troops
south to the Rio Grande River, into territory
claimed by both sides.
The U.S. claimed that the Rio Grande was
Mexico’s border with Texas, but Mexico said
that the border was the Nueces River, 150 miles
farther north. Taylor’s men built a small fort
across from the city of Matamoros, Tamaulipas.
This action brought a detachment of Mexican
cavalry across the Rio Grande to attack the U.S.
patrol, killing or wounding 16 American soldiers.
Citing that Mexico had “invaded our territory
and shed American blood,” Polk declared war
The San Pascual Pueblo
The native northern Kumeyaay, known as the
Ipai, were the largest indigenous group in
today’s San Pasqual Valley.
After the missions were secularized, mission
lands were divided into large ranchos. In 1835
the Mexican government established the San
Pascual (“Pasqual” is used today) Pueblo with
81 native residents. Following the death in
Stained glass images of American soldiers (left) and a Californio (right), on view at visitor center
1874 of their highly respected chief, Capitán
José Pedro Panto, non-Indians increasingly
homesteaded the remaining acreage in the
valley. With the formal eviction of native
people in 1878, the pueblo ceased to exist,
so its residents resettled elsewhere.
Stephen W. Kearny
In June 1846, Colonel Stephen W. Kearny
and his soldiers were ordered by President
Polk to take Santa Fe for the U.S. The First
Dragoons left Fort Leavenworth (in what is
now Kansas) and peacefully seized Santa Fe.
In October Kearny, now a Brigadier General,
led the Dragoons to California, where he
met frontier scout Kit Carson. Carson told
him that Commodore Robert F. Stockton had
raised the American flag over San Diego, and
California was now in American hands.
Believing the war over, Kearny sent most
of his troops back to Santa Fe. Guided by Kit
Carson, Kearny continued to San Diego with
about 100 men.
On December 5, the First Dragoons met
Lieutenant Archibald Gillespie, sent to
escort Kearny to San Diego. Gillespie told
Kearny that Andrés Pico was camped at San
Pascual village with a force of insurgents.
Captain Andrés Pico and his brother, Pío Pico,
owned the Rancho Santa Margarita, which
was near the San Pasqual Valley.
Andrés Pico had led his group of local
Californio ranchers and landowners south
from Los Angeles, headed to San Diego. The
Californios, some with homes in Los Angeles
and San Diego, were intent on defending
their land from the Americans. On the night
of December 5, in the middle of a heavy
rainstorm, the Californios took shelter in San
Kearny sent Lieutenant Thomas Hammond to
scout the valley, and his presence was betrayed
by a barking dog in Pico’s camp. A sentinel
fired at Hammond and his men. Fleeing, they
dropped pieces of military equipment marked
When Hammond reported that they had
been seen, Kearny gathered his men to attack
the village. The Dragoons and their mounts,
exhausted from their desert trek, were in no
condition to fight. The riders’ cold hands could
barely maintain a grip on their reins. Wet
gunpowder made their weapons useless, and the
low-lying fog obscured their vision.
Spotting Pico’s campfires, Kearny ordered
Captain A.R. Johnston to trot into the village. In
error, Johnston passed on the order to charge.
When Pico’s men fired on them, Captain Johnston
was the first fatality.
A return charge by the mounted Californios
inflicted heavy casualties among the American
soldiers. Many Americans, mounted on mules
and unable to discharge their firearms, could
only use their inadequate sabers against expert
horsemen armed with long, sharp lances. Twentyone Americans fell; the Mexican forces lost at
least one man and several were wounded.
The Americans spent the rest of the night
burying their dead. The next day, as they
continued toward San Diego, they were again
engaged by the Californios at a place now
called Mule Hill. On the morning of December
11, Stockton’s troops, arriving from San Diego,
reached Kearny’s men and escorted them to
On December 29, a combined force of
Stockton’s and Kearny’s men, the California
Battalion and some Californios sympathetic to
the American cause set out for Los Angeles.
In early January, General José Maria Flores,
commander of the Mexican Militia, proposed
to the Americans that both sides should try to
come to an agreement.
Refusing the offer, the Americans continued
toward Los Angeles. On January 10, 1847, the
Mexican Militia surrendered to the Americans.
On the 13th, Andrés Pico, newly appointed
Commander-in-Chief of the Mexican forces in
California, signed the Articles of Capitulation,
thereby ending the war with Mexico in California.
Battle Day—Commemorating the historic
battle, an annual reenactment takes place
on the Sunday closest to December 6, with
music, entertainment, a military encampment,
children’s activities and craft demonstrations.
Living History Days—These are scheduled
for the first Sundays of January through June,
and in October and November.
San Diego Archaeological Center—Located
on state park property, the center is
dedicated to the curation of historic artifacts
found in the San Diego area.
The climate here is moderate. From June
through October, temperatures range from
the low 60s to 100 degrees. From November
through April, expect temperatures from the
40s, warming up to the mid-70s.
Battlefield Monument Trail—This one-mile
round trip trail is near the visitor center,
where it connects with the Nature Trail.
Nature Trail—This 0.25-mile trail beginning
on the hillside behind the visitor center
connects with the Battlefield Monument Trail.
The visitor center may require entry
assistance. Most exhibits, restrooms, and
travel routes are accessible. For updates,
NEARBY STATE PARKS
• Cuyamaca Rancho SP, 13652 Highway 79,
Julian, CA (760) 765-3020
• Old Town San Diego SHP, San Diego Ave.
and Twiggs St., San Diego (619) 220-5422
Battle Day reenactment
This park receives support in part through
the nonprofit San Pasqual Battlefield
Volunteer Association, P.O. Box 300816,
Escondido, CA 92030
• Park hours are limited. Before your visit, call the park
at (760) 737-2201 or visit www.parks.ca.gov
• No dogs are allowed in the park (except service dogs).
• Visitors viewing battle re-enactments must remain
on the park side of the highway.