1st Engagement Site – Theory Two (SLP-TS-4) (SLP-TS-2)

Author: George Hruby

(Click on picture to enlarge)

(Click on picture to enlarge)

With the route of the Carreta Road through the valley established, and the new site of the San Pasqual Indian Village determined (SLP-TS-2), the SPBSLP now moved forward in trying to find where the 1st engagement site was. Finding the road and village helped tremendously. Now it was the soldiers and civilians at the Battlefield of San Pasqual that came to our aid. By their giving of distances, directional locations, and geographical references, all the missing pieces fell into place. Site SLP-TS-4 was established as where the Americans initially engaged the Californios on December 6, 1848.

Our first understanding of that fateful morning is that the Americans are following the carreta road as it descends San Pasqual Hill. We know from the field notes of the government surveyor in 1853, the route of the carreta road as it comes off of the hill. The soldiers, just as soon as they get down off the hill, cross down into the dry riverbed of the San Dieguito River (Rio Bernardo) and back up, and continue forward along the road. The Advance Guard of twelve, as with the Dragoons moving behind them, are moving in columns of two's. Again, consistent with moving on a road.

We know that the village is to their right. We also know that it is elevated. [See 1st Engagement Site- Theory 1 for more]. Again, the following distances are given by battle participants, as how far they traveled from the base of the hill to the first engagement:
1 Mile (EMORY)
¾ Mile (GRIFFIN)
½ Mile (CARSON)

Because of the disparities in the distances given by participants in the event, the SPBSLP averaged the location between ½ and ¾ of a mile from the base of the hill.

We know that the Californios left the Indian Village to ride out to engage the Americans in the early morning darkness. It would have made sense to ride out to the road to do this as well as cut them off from moving towards San Diego.

When within a mile of their camp, we discovered their spies that were out watching the road and our movement. The trot and then gallop was ordered to pursue the spies.

Kit Carson

What is important here is the word ‘road’ associated with the Advance Guard. Also, the road's connection to the two forward sentries for the Californios. The SPBSLP believes that the two forward Californio sentries were more than likely watching the road, on the west side of the dry riverbed, just as the Advance Guard cleared the base of the hill and was coming up and out of the riverbed.

It is also felt that the two sentries are riding full-gallop back to Pico, on the 'road.' The soldiers remained in columns of twos until just after the Advance Guard takes off on a “Charge” and the bugler sounds “Charge as Foragers” which is sometimes called a “Prairie Charge” because the soldiers break formation and it becomes a full open charge across the field.

(Click on picture to enlarge)

(Click on picture to enlarge)


If you notice the half-mile markers, the Indian Village is approximately a mile from the base of the hill where the sentries were close by. Note the earlier reference by Carson about the Californios' camp being “within a mile” of this location. Here are two more references to the Indian Village made by a Private riding in the Advance Guard:

Charging at the first charge, the Indian Village lay to our right.

… at about half a mile below the Indian Village, the fight commenced.

Pvt. Dunne

Notice that with the Indian Village now moved to SLP-TS-2, both of Dunne's statements fit perfectly with distance and elevation. Both SLP-TS-2 and SLP-TS-4 are consistent with Gillespie's distance from the hill and first engagement site:

… whilst my command was still upon the hillside, and more than a half mile from the Indian Village; …

… and more than a half mile from the Indian Village; the boundaries of which were clearly shown by the fire that was opened up upon the advance, by the enemy posted in a gully at the side fronting our approach.

Capt. Gillespie

SLP-TS-2 as the Indian site is also consistent with the distance given by a civilian traveling with Kearny's group:

The enemy were encamped about a mile from the declivity of the mountain over which we came, …



What is important to understand about the first engagement is that once the Californios open up with a volley of gunfire and, there is an initial contact between them and the Americans, the Californios retreat. Like any retreat, they retreated to their rear position. This position was where they had rode out from, the Indian Village. What is important to understand is that Pico did initially retreat and it wasn't immediately southwest to the point like many have come to believe.

It is only after backing himself into the Indian Village and realizing that Captain Moore is continuing to pursue them, that Pico decides to take off for 'the point' (where the San Pasqual Battlefield Monument is at Highway 78 & Santa Ysabel Road). For a short amount of time, the Americans believe that Pico is going to make a stand there.

They retreated to their camp.

Kit Carson

On my left however from the flashing of the guns I could see that there was a considerable row, and in a few moments the enemy broke and, we found they had made a stand in front of a Rancho. This was called St. Pasqual.

Dr. Griffin

Dr. Griffin actually goes on in some detail of this “stand” and subsequent actions that continue to occur in the first engagement before he finally tells us of the Californios then taking off again, this time towards the second engagement site.

The enemy continued to retreat for about ½ mile further …

Dr. Griffin

Captain Gillespie echoes this same observation:

… until seeing the enemy retreat from the position at the village.

Capt. Gillespie

This initial retreat back towards the village is why one of the Californio's Captains, 44 year old Pablo Vejar, is captured there during a sweep by Gillespie's men.

This initial retreat by the Californios to the Village and then a secondary retreat towards the “point” makes it highly unlikely that the San Pasqual Indian Village was located at site SLP-S-1 but rather at SLP-TS-2.

The initial contact point between the Americans and the Californios at the Battle of San Pasqual was at site SLP-TS-4.

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