On the morning of December 6, 1846, many of Kearny’s men laid strewn across the large battlefield (SLP-TS-6, SLP-TS-7, and SLP-TS-8) either gravely wounded or dead.

The SLP targeted site SLP-TS-5, as where it had thought that the American soldiers camped the day of the battle and, through the night until the next morning. A large meeting with various department heads involved was set up between the SLP and the City of San Diego. Representatives from their Archaeology, Environmental, Real Assets, City Planning, Developmental Services, etc. were all present. The SLP proposed a controlled burn of SLP-TS-5 whereupon a field survey overseen by an appointed archaeologist, would be conducted with metal detectors. The project moved forward with even the local fire department getting on board with volunteering to do the controlled burn.

As faith would have it however, a huge out-of-control fire originating from the nearby neighboring Wild Animal Park, burned into the State controlled 50-acre Battlefield State Historic Park. It nearly burned down the museum itself. No vegetation remained in the park except the charred remains of huge clusters of burnt cactus.

With the opportunity having now presented itself, a field survey was conducted by the SLP and through the State Ranger at the Battlefield Museum. The extensive field survey of SLP-TS-5 resulted in no artifacts recovered at all from this site. Also taken into consideration was type of soil, vegetation, incline, and soil erosion. As witnessed at Mule Hill, incline and erosion can force artifacts lying on the surface to eventually be washed downward. However, there was no evidence of this from the field survey. The resulting assessment by the SLP was that this was not the location where Kearny and his soldiers camped the day and night after the battle.

This was also taken as good news in that it now caused the SLP to redirect its attention to where the campsite might truly be. There was no doubt that it was very close to SLP-TS-5.

The retrieval of 14 artifacts left behind by the soldiers at the Snook Adobe site became very significant. Understanding that the soldiers were only at this site for approximately two hours before then leaving for Mule Hill, the recovery of 14 artifacts from them was now very significant. If the soldiers were leaving behind this much artifact debris after being at a location for just two hours, can one imagine how much artifact debris they would have left behind at one location after twenty-four hours? Especially after battle. Being on Mule Hill for just over three days, still after over 150 years later, the hill continues to yield hundreds of artifacts from these soldiers.

Going back to the drawing board, the SLP then reexamined closely, Lt. Emory’s map. The SLP remembered how his topographical sketch of Mule Hill had been incorrectly interpreted, as well as at San Pasqual Hill.

 

Lt. Emory’s location of their encampment on December 6, 1846 – Courtesy of National Archives

 

Yellow circle shows probable location of Kearny’s camp on night of battle – Courtesy of SPBSLP

 

Closer study of Emory’s sketch shows how he drew the symbol representing the American’s camp site more to the left side and not the right of the shown enclave. The lack of physical evidence to the right side of this enclave now causes us to direct our attention to the left or far west side.

Following heated battle and later, defensive positions maintained through the remaining day and night, imagine the number of broken weapons and other equipment that were probably strewn everywhere throughout their camp. Locating this site would be a major achievement for the Battlefield Museum and related Park.

The SLP strongly believed and endorsed, that an archaeological survey should be conducted at this site, just inside of the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

 

 … they fled from the field, not to return to it, which we occupied and encamped upon. 

General Kearny

 

 Our position was defensible, but the ground covered with rocks and cacti, made it difficult to get a smooth place to rest, even for the wounded. 

Lt. Emory

 

 We encamped on the field 

Stanley

 

 The whole force now moved to the heights on the right of the field which having a sort of breast work of rocks afforded us a secure camp

 We encamped for the day upon a hill near the field of battle. 

Capt. Gillespie

 

 We drove the enemy from the field and encamped. 

Dr. Griffin

 

The newly suspected site of where the soldiers’ campsite might be, is located on the present-day San Diego Wild Animal Park. We know that there has been extensive excavational road and earth work done in that area causing destruction to the site. Despite this however, the SLP believes that there may still be a considerable amount of artifact debris at this location. At least enough to confirm the site. This site is definitely worth an archaeological survey in the future.

Site SLP-TS-5, directly west of the San Pasqual Battlefield Monument Park, is still very significant and may also contain artifacts from this battle. The reason is that this site is believed to be where the temporary field hospital was set up just after the battle that morning.

 

 There is much cactus at this bend and a high elder bush still indicates the site of the temporary hospital. 

Philip Crosthwaite

 

We know that the Americans set up camp not far from where their temporary field hospital was set up at. Site SLP-TS-5 fits the description being right around the point (bend) and being home to both cactus and elder bushes, still today.

Further, this site has long been rumored to be where, in the 1960’s, several glass medicine bottles, supposedly later dated to 1846, were found right next to an elder bush. Although the SLP was never able to confirm this story, it however was a very interesting one.

This same area during the battle of San Pasqual was also suspected to be where, during the initial part of the 2nd engagement, Californios stood with rifles firing down on the American soldiers as they rode by in battle. Later, members of Captain Gillespie’s group of volunteers supposedly then took the ground from the Californios and shooting at the Mexicans as they rode by. There is documented physical evidence that seems to support this.

As early as the 1960’s, pieces of weaponry consistent with what the Californios were using at the battle have been found. One such piece was a brass center stock ram-rod holder or guide for a Brown Bess Musket. Some of the American Volunteers may have also been using some of these same types of weapons as well.

One exploratory field survey conducted by the SLP, recovered some of the following pieces of artifact debris from this site:

  • Brass ram-rod holder for a musket
  • Spent 54-cal. musket ball
  • Flintlock lock-screw

Site SLP-TS-5 is definitely worthy of a professional archaeological survey at this location.

Menu