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The Beginning of San Diego, California and the U.S. Navy

Jenkins quote "After reiterated menaces, Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American Soil. She has proclaimed that hostilities have commenced, and that the two nations are at war."

President James K. Polk, May 11, 1846

From the Descendents of Mexican War Veterans web site

May 11, 1846 was the beginning of a major change to San Diego's history forever. Before 1846 the Spanish had explored and laid claim to large areas of California. Spain was to loose their superiority in North America and Mexico overtook the ownership of Spain's possessions. For 24 years years San Diego was under Mexico's rule. But hostilities were brewing around Mexico and the newly accessioned Texas. Many facts of the of why the war began are still unknown or confusing. However the War with Mexico is notable in the fact that the U.S. Navy claimed San Diego as U.S. territory and for a number of "firsts."

  • The United States' first foreign war.
  • The first war anywhere in the world to be photographed.
  • The first war in which steamboats played an important role.
  • The first war in which newspaper correspondents regularly reported from the seat of war,
  • The first war in which graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point participated. Among these were a number of officers who would later face each other across the battlefields of the Civil War: Robert E. Lee, Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, Braxton Bragg, Ulysses S. Grant, George Meade, George McClellan, and William T. Sherman, to name but a few.

The first battles of the war, Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, took place on Texas soil. Today, Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site, located near Brownsville, Texas, is the only U.S.-Mexican War battlefield in the U.S. National Parks system. All subsequent battles were fought in Mexico, California, and New Mexico.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the war, is still in force today. It not only fixed the Rio Grande as the boundary of Texas but required Mexico to cede to the U.S., in return for $15 million, all the territory which today includes the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming. Mexico sold this land as an indemnity for the cost of waging a war that the U.S. had not sought and because it had no money with which to pay either the indemnity or the millions of dollars in debts that it had owed to private U.S. citizens for years.

Although the war lasted nearly two years, San Diego didn't get to see much of the war. But San Diego was about to become part of the United States and be introduced to the United States Navy.

Midnight July 28, 1846, the sloop-of-war Cyane, Capt. Samual F. Dupont U.S.N. commanding, turned his ship somewhere to the south-westerly of Point Loma. The morning of July 29th  the sailing sloop-of-war entered the port of San Diego. With little wind the sloop-of-war was barely able to sail into the bay. Lieutenant Stephen Rowan, the executive officer, led a small party of sailors ashore; the sailors were augmented by the ships marine guard under Lieutenant William Maddox, USMC. Together, they set off toward shore in two boats with orders to reconnoiter the town and test for opposition. They marched unopposed to the town square and raised a naval ensign - the first official raising of US colors in San Diego.

The US Navy had unknowingly set a unique course of strategic cooperation that would lead San Diego to become "America's Finest City " and the seventh largest. San Diego was entering a new age, an age of governance by the United States. The US Navy had minimal involvement with San Diego until the early 1900's but the port was a natural home for a navy. A beautiful city renowned around the world.

Click Here for San Diego Navy History files.

 

 

 
 


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