The Battlefield Museum showed that the San Pasqual Indian Village involved with the Battle of San Pasqual in 1846 was located over three-quarters-of-a-mile due east towards Rockwood Canyon and Hwy-78. They displayed a topographical map on their wall showing such as created by the same local surveyor and avid Mexican War enthusiast.
As General Kearny and his soldiers arrived at the bottom of San Pasqual Hill that faithful morning, crossing the dry riverbed of the Rio Bernardo (San Dieguito) River, coming up on the other side of it in predawn darkness, they all had seen the campfires of the Indian Village. They knew exactly where the village was at. But now in 1995, where exactly was that location?
The SLP identified the Battlefield Museum’s location of the Indian Village as site SLP-S-1. While no one knew how the local surveyor and war enthusiast had come up with this location, the SLP determined that it came from two primary sources. The first was from field notes of the assigned government surveyor (Freeman) in 1853 who established this site as where he observed the Village of the San Pasqual Indians to be.
The second source is from the archaeological survey and works of archaeologist, Malcolm Rogers, associated with the San Diego Museum of Man. He also confirmed this site in the early 1900’s as a former San Pasqual Indian Site. Although prehistoric, it showed remnants of the historical period as well including the 1800’s.
The first indicator that this identified village site was not the one involved in the Battle of San Pasqual was Emory’s sketch.
Lt. Emory clearly showed the American Soldiers coming right off of San Pasqual Hill, riding forward, towards the “rocky point” (where the San Pasqual Monument Park is located on Highway 78 at Santa Ysabel Creek Road) and passing by the village to their right.
Also, note the large, detailed “Circular Hill” that Emory shows the soldiers passing by as they come off the hill. They then cross the river bed and into their first engagement with the Mexican forces.
When the SLP applied the war enthusiast’s topographical location of the San Pasqual Indian Village, it was nearly three-quarters of a mile on the other side of the SLP-Circular Hill, due northeast. Emory’s sketch did not show one depiction, not one Indian hut at all, northeast, nor on the other side, of the Circular Hill. Not one.
The SLP also quickly discovered that the local surveyor’s proposed site of the San Pasqual Indian Village during the Battle of San Pasqual, was not fitting the distances described by the soldiers involved in this engagement.
“ … at about half a mile below the Indian village, the fight commenced. ”
SLP-S-1 exceeded the distance of the war enthusiast’s own marked location of the 1st battle engagement involving Captain Johnston’s charge, showing nearly three-quarters-of-a-mile away from this site. It also didn’t fit with the military tactics that were being employed and described by the soldiers in this battle.
Sometimes, the most interesting discoveries made in history are made by accident. The story of how the SLP came to discover the suspected site of the San Pasqual Winter Village in 1846 was a fascinating one.
On the same Saturday, July 17th, 1897, that San Pasqual Battlefield survivor, Philip Crosthwaite, had brought San Diegians to visit Mule Hill with him, he also took them five miles further to the main battlefield. There, photographer and committee member involved in locating the battle site, Samuel Schiller, took a most remarkable photograph.
Found buried deep inside the bowels of the San Diego Historical Society’s photographic archives section, sat this little known, and otherwise, ‘nothing’ photograph. It had simply been marked on the back, Photo 85:15706 (Battlefield of San Pasqual). No one, nor, any structure or object was seen in the photograph. Yet, it was labeled as part of the “San Pasqual Battlefield.”
Who took this photograph, how it got its label, and the story behind this picture, sent the SLP on yet another mystery to unravel concerning the San Pasqual Battlefield. This part of the investigation was handed over to Thomas Adema, Photo Archivist with the San Diego Historical Society.
Adema would later confirm the photograph was taken by Samuel Schiller on that same day with Philip Crosthwaite in 1897.
It was difficult to imagine how important this little-known photograph, and its history, truly would be, to revamping and reorienting our knowledge of the present day physical sites currently relevant to the Battle of San Pasqual.
To simply look at this photograph, it leaves us in wonder why it was even taken? It is a photograph of an empty field, void of any objects or significant landmarks. Not even a human being or animal is found in this plain, uneventful photograph. Yet, the photograph is perhaps one of the most powerful pictures in the entire collection of the San Diego Historical Society Archives. This photograph shows us the location of the lost village of the San Pasqual Indians which archaeologists had been searching for, for years.
This photograph also shows us where bloodletting occurred in this battle inside the village. And finally, this photograph became the missing piece of a historical jig-saw puzzle in trying to make all the pieces fit, as far as site locations relevant to the Battle of San Pasqual.
This photograph, and the site that it shows, gave an important orientation point from which all other site locations of the first engagement of this battle, came into place.
Initial response by the SLP to this photograph, was that Crosthwaite, who had fought in this battle, was trying to show everyone something. The SLP felt it was an important clue but what? It must have been important enough because not only did Schiller go through the trouble of photographing it but, the Pioneer Society of San Diego County thought enough to hold onto it and then, upon its closure, make sure that it was turned over to the San Diego Historical Society for safe keeping.
The first part of this investigation was to find where this site was located at upon the present-day battlefield. The first unusual observation of the site shown, was that whatever it was showing us of the battle, definitely did not occur on the valley floor like we thought. Both the San Pasqual Indian Village and the first engagement sites, were thought to have occurred on the valley floor. The location in the photograph was clearly up against the base of hills. But where?
After a considerable search was conducted in the San Pasqual Valley for this location, it was finally discovered. The photographer who took this picture in 1897, was standing where today, is the rear area of the San Diego Archaeological Center. The photographer stood east of where the buildings are today and, the site that he photographed lies on property just inside the San Diego Wild Animal Park.
So now that the site was located, what was it?
The site became relevant to the battlefield and was later identified as SLP-TS-2. The land surveyor and avid war enthusiast’s proposed location for the San Pasqual Indians at the time of the battle had been marked and identified as SLP-TS-1.
The first stop was understanding what Crosthwaite’s intimate involvement with this battle was when he was involved in the first engagement.
Crosthwaite was a civilian volunteer and was part of a detachment of about 20 men that Captain Gillespie ordered in the first engagement, to fan out between the road and the base of the hills to flush out any hiding Californios who may be trying to attack the Americans from their rear. In reading Crosthwaite’s account, this put him and other volunteers into the Indian Village. They were searching the huts which means they had to at certain times, dismount from their horses. The execution of at least two Californios occurred in the Indian Village, in addition to the capturing of the only recorded Californios P.O.W. taken at the Battle of San Pasqual.
Could Crosthwaite have been showing us where the Indian Village was at in December of 1846? Indeed, even the Band of San Pasqual Indians today, did not know where this village site was at? Archaeologists had also been searching for it but had not been able to find it.
While it was not argued that an Indian Village site did in fact exist in the far northeast end of the valley (SLP-TS-1) as other historians had focused on, the SLP did not think it was the village site in December of 1846. In interviews conducted with members of today’s present San Pasqual Indians, they explained that their people had been living almost everywhere in the valley. This included on both sides of the valley floor and, they had been doing this for centuries.
Further, they said that their people usually had a Summer village and a Winter village. During the Winter, the Indians were known to move their village up to higher ground until Spring. This was done because of Winter floods that would occur on the valley floor and, to also help shield them from the wind more. The battle occurred in December.
It was also noticed that an adobe chapel had been placed right next to this photographed site as well. A recent report cited by the San Diego Archaeological Center, stated that the Adobe chapel had been built sometime around 1867. This date however has been largely debated. It comes from the fact that the first mention on record of it occurs in 1867 when it is recorded in “Sadlier’s Catholic Directory, Almanac and Ordo (1867). However, the mention of its existence does not tell when it was originally built.
Fullbright scholar and expert on the Battle of San Pasqual, Marjorie Rustvold, who was also a consultant on the construction of the State Park Museum at the battlefield, and assisted the SLP in research, placed the adobe chapel being constructed around 1835. This date comes from when the San Pasqual Pueblo was initially established on November 16, 1835. The SLP placed the location of the chapel just south of the present-day Hwy-78, between the old Indian Cemetery and 16789 San Pasqual Valley Road.
The SLP could not make a determination on when the San Pasqual Adobe Chapel had been built. For being a solid built building and more so, a “chapel,” it is odd that not one American in the battle of 1846 references it. Yet equally as odd is that the San Pasqual Indians would have built the chapel in 1867 amidst problems with “White squatters” on their lands, as well as their legal rights to any public land being brought into question by the U.S. Government at the time. To build it brand new, only to be removed to a permanent reservation a decade later (1878) makes no logical sense either.
However, both the location of the adobe chapel and the Indian cemetery were indicators that a good size village was close by.
In 1994, two archaeological digs were conducted on the 50 acre segment of the Battlefield Park. One dig under the direction of an archaeologist named Farris and the other, by two archaeologists through Palomar College named Saunders and Crouthamel. The latter two archaeologists conducted excavations on property of the San Pasqual Battlefield Visitor’s Center, just east of their parking lot. The ranger in charge of the Battlefield Museum, then connected them with the SLP in its ongoing investigation.
In interviews with both archaeologists, they told the SLP that they, as other archaeologists, had been searching for the San Pasqual Indian Village of 1846, for years. They had not been able to find it. However, their present excavations revealed numerous finds typically found just outside a major village site. They knew they were close to a large Indian Village site but were still not sure where it was at.
Another tantalizing clue about where the Indian Village had been, was in the words written by a soldier who was there, Private Dunne. He wrote:
“ … at about half a mile below the Indian village, the fight commenced. ”
The important word here is “below.” This is the first indicator that the village is not only to the soldiers right and one-half mile away but is elevated above where the first engagement is taking place. The local surveyor and Mexican War enthusiast’s site shown for the Indian Village at the Battlefield Museum was neither one-half mile away, or elevated. Shiller’s photograph taken that day with Phillip Crosthwaite present in 1897, labeled “Battlefield San Pasqual,” indeed showed an elevated village by about ten to twelve feet above the battlefield.
Another flaw with the war enthusiast’s SLP-S-1 site, was a witness to the Battle of San Pasqual. This, because there would be no way that the individual could have witnessed the battle from her purported village location.
When the Californios rode out from the Indian Village to engage the American soldiers, the San Pasqual Indians fled from the village. They scattered up the mountain behind the village, and from behind rocks, witnessed the battle, most of which occurs just off the “rocky point.”
One of these Indians was Felicita, the daughter of Chief Panto. She was well liked among the Euro-American settlers in the valley until her death. Even today, local parks and schools bear her name in Escondido, California. She was a very young girl when she witnessed this event. This is part of her description of the battle:
“… one morning we heard the sound of voices shouting on the mountain side towards Santa Maria. Clouds hung low so at first we could see nothing but some figures of men like shadows came riding down the mountain. They were soldiers wearing coats of blue … The Mexican soldiers were sitting on their horses holding their long lances in their hands. They now rode swiftly to meet the soldiers in blue and soon there came the sound of battle. The Indians in great fear fled to the mountains. We hid behind brush and rocks and watched. One of our men who had lived at the Mission told us that the strange soldiers from the hills were Americans and that they were fighting to take the land away from the Mexicans. The Mexicans had not been good to the Indians so we were not sorry to see the new soldiers come against them. At first there were only a few of the American soldiers who came down the mountain and there were many Mexicans so the battle went hard. Some of the Americans were killed and some wounded. Then more of their men came from the mountain and the Mexicans were driven away. We saw them ride down the valley and wait behind a hill. Soon we saw the Americans moving down the valley. When they came near the place where the Mexicans were hiding there was more fighting and we trembled as we watched. The Americans did not shoot their gun many times. Perhaps rain had made the powder wet. They struck with their guns and used the sword while the Mexicans used the long lances and their reatas. The mules that the Americans rode were frightened and ran all through the willows by the river. After them rode the Mexicans on their swift horses, striking with the lances and lassooing with the reata. It was a very terrible thing. As the hours passed we crept nearer and nearer to the valley. There was little shooting so we were not afraid of the bullets… Towards evening another company of Americans that must have been far behind came to the fighting place [probably the rear guard with the baggage train]. Then the Mexicans rode away and the American soldiers had time to look for their dead and wounded.”
For Felicita to have witnessed such sights, sounds, and actions, she could only have done it from SLP-TS-2. It would have been impossible for Felicita to have witnessed these things from the surveyor’s proposed site of SLP-S-1.
The SLP then decided to put the mysterious Crosthwaite battlefield photograph and its associated location to a test. If it was indeed where the Indian Village was at in 1846, then it would have to fit the various soldier’s descriptions including distances noted by them between the first engagement site to the village. To everyone’s amazement, the descriptions and distances fit exactly!
When all of this information was turned over to the two archaeologists working on the excavations at the Visitor’s Center, they were excited. Finally, all the pieces were fitting. Eye-witness accounts, distances, a photograph, and physical evidence from archaeological excavations, all seem to indicate that site SLP-TS-2 was where the village most likely had been in December of 1846.
The local surveyor and Mexican War enthusiast’s response upon hearing of the SLP’s findings of the Crosthwaite photograph, was the suggestion that the Crosthwaite Photograph was part of a panorama, suggesting that the photographer had simply taken an array of photographs from that position in a 360-degree circumference and, that the Historical Society only had the one. He stated that the other parts of this panorama were probably strewn out among other historical societies or private collections. He further stated that as a result, no one would know what they are looking at in the photograph. The problem was that he failed to produce evidence that would indicate this to be the case. Nor has any surfaced ever since.
Research showed that out of all the pictures in possession by the San Diego Historical Society of the San Pasqual Valley, not one was associated with a ‘panorama’. Further, there is no evidence from the San Diego Historical Society, or any of the area historical societies, that any other picture exists of this battlefield from that day, especially any panoramic shots.
The local surveyor and Mexican War enthusiast also suggested, in reference to the Crosthwaite Photograph, that Crosthwaite was 72 years old when he revisited the battlefield in 1897 and, may not have had a good memory when showing these sites to the people and members of the press.
The SLP recognizes that Crosthwaite never really left the area after the Battle of San Pasqual. He married locally just 2 years after the battle and remained in the area most of his life. It is unknown how many times Crosthwaite actually visited the battlefield after 1846. He lived for a while just south of San Pasqual in Poway on a cattle ranch and later, had a home in nearby Mission Valley. In his later years, he retired to Rosorito Beach, Mexico. He was a local businessman in San Diego and, even served as the Sheriff and as the Chief of Police for San Diego. He died in 1903 at the age of seventy-seven.
It was in the opinion of the SLP that given the trauma of war and, what twenty-year-old Crosthwaite experienced those fateful six days at San Pasqual and Mule Hill, that being back upon that battlefield with little changed, he would have known quite well the locations involved and what occurred at same.
Further, there is no evidence to suggest that Crosthwaite had any problems with his memory, especially to such a degree that he could not identify two large battle sites and what occurred at them. The local surveyor and Mexican War enthusiast was never able to provide any evidence to the SLP showing loss of memory of Phillip Crosthwaite in 1897 so severe, that he could not remember where the battlefield was at.
Based on the amount of existing evidence – physical, historical, and statements made by battle participants concerning the village, including the SLP, involved archaeologists and, members of the Band of San Pasqual Indians, it is believed that this photograph is indeed the site where the San Pasqual Indian Village was at the time of the Battle of San Pasqual.
The SLP, being in continued correspondence with State of California, Department of Parks and Recreation, State Historian II, George R. Stammerjohan, exchanged historical speculations of the battlefield. Respected among his peers, the SLP shared its speculation of the newly discovered site of SLP-TS-2 with Stammerjohan. Ironically, George had shared a map dated 1979, on his interpretation of locations upon the battlefield pertaining to the battle. To the amazement of the SLP, his speculative guess then in 1979, was that the Indian Village during the Battle of San Pasqual was right in the vicinity of the SLP’s target site of SLP-TS-2.
The SLP also noted that in 1994, the Acting Chief, Division of History (SWR), also noted that “an elementary school occupies the known site of the Californian encampment.” The elementary school was later vacated and reoccupied by the San Diego Archaeological Center in the mid-1990’s (16666 San Pasqual Valley Road) and situated right next to the Battlefield Museum. The Acting Chief’s speculation on this location was consistent with that of Stammerjohan and the findings of the SLP and site SLP-TS-2.