In his talk at the Mormon History Association meeting here Jan. 17, Larry C. Porter outlined events incident to the arrival of the Mormon Battalion in California in January 1847 and its duties until it was mustered out in July 1847.
Initially, the battalion paused at Mission San Diego, arriving here Jan. 29, 1847, before moving on to Mission San Luis Rey. Under orders of Gen. Stephen Kearney, a detachment of the battalion's men was stationed at San Luis Rey under command of Lt. George Oman, and Companies A, C, D and E were directed to Los Angeles. Company B was dispatched to San Diego under command of Col. Philip St. George Cooke."Pvt. Robert Bliss of Company B was not unhappy with the location," said Dr. Porter, a professor of Church history at BYU. "
Pvt. Bliss wrote:T `It is a great relief to once more get out of our quarter & we hope to get full rasions
rationsT when we get ther & it is a sea port so we will get oysters &c occasionally.' " Col. Cooke ordered out Company B from San Luis Rey in March 1847; after three days, the company arrived at San Diego on March 17, 1847.
"The pueblo of San Diego simply consisted of a Mexican plaza surrounded by a church and three or four stores," said Dr. Porter. "An American flag flew from the plaza and from the Presidio Hill-Ft. Stockton, one-fourth mile north of town. Sgt. William Hyde, with a detachment of 18 troops, garrisoned the hilltop fort, which consisted of a trench around the summit. From the fort on Presidio Hill, 17 pieces of artillery commanded the town and countryside.
"San Diego was considered the finest natural harbor south of San Francisco. Ordinarily there were a number of U.S. ships in port. The frigate Congress with its 60 guns was usually anchored there."
Dr. Porter said there was some prejudice at first at the Mormon presence. However, as the battalion members took odd jobs and industriously worked to improve San Diego, much of the opposition disappeared. Dr. John S. Griffin explained the transformation: `The prejudice against the Mormons here seems to be wearing off. . . . They are quiet, industrious, sober, inoffensive people. . . .' " The off-duty soldiers contributed in many ways to the economic improvement of San Diego, Dr. Porter noted. "Within little more than two months, the Latter-day Saints built two brickyards, a brick kiln (believed to be the first in San Diego), a courthouse and chimneys, dug several wells and performed carpentry, blacksmith and leather works, which won the friendship of many residents of San Diego," he said.
"The battalion men also participated in community government. Because of his knowledge of American jurisprudence, Samuel Miles helped the Mexican Alcalde (Justice of the Peace or mayor) to administer U.S. laws. Before Company B departed, Lt. Robert Clift became the alcalde. From custom duties, he got Gov. Richard B. Mason's permission to build a brick building to serve as courthouse and schoolhouse."
When the battalion's enlistment was drawing to a close, the citizens of San Diego drew up a petition to keep part of the troops there. The request was declined, Dr. Porter said. At the departure
of the troopsT, the citizens of San Diego held a celebration for the men of the battalion. Company B left San Diego on July 9, 1847. William Hyde affirmed: `When we came to leave the place they seemed to cling to us, as though they had been parting with their own children.' "
Dr. Porter concluded: "Company B arrived in Los Angeles on July 15, in time for their being mustered out of the service on July 16, 1847. Eighty-one members of the Mormon Battalion re-enlisted on July 10, 1847, for continued duty. These men were made up of personnel from Companies A through E. They became part of Capt. Daniel C. Davis' Company A Mormon Volunteers. Company A was assigned garrison duty at San Diego from Aug. 2, 1847, to March 14, 1848. Thus, there was once again a Mormon presence in San Diego and a continuation of contributions made by battalion members to that community. A detachment of 27 men was sent from Company A to San Luis Rey, Aug. 13, 1847, to Feb. 16, 1848. The Company A Mormon Volunteers were discharged at San Diego March 14, 1848. The total duty time of battalion personnel at San Diego was 11 months, 9 days."