Battle of San Pasqual: Existing Theory and Sites

Author: George Hruby

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By 1991, the existing theory of where the initial attack began with the battle of San Pasqual, and where several locations pertinent to the battle actually were, were based on the above findings submitted by a local surveyor and historian, Leland Bibb.

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Leland Bibb's annotated topographic map

The San Pasqual Battlefield Visitor's Center displayed a large wall topographical map of the battlefield displaying the above shown notations and routes. It showed the U.S. Soldiers coming off of San Pasqual Mountain and riding straight towards where the Visitor's Center is today and engaging the Mexican forces there (SLP-S-3). In addition, it showed the Indian Village location approximately three-fourth's of a mile northeast of the Visitor's Center (SLP-S-1). Later, the Visitor's Center would, outside its entrance, display an interpretive station showing a photograph of the road coming down San Pasqual Hill that was believed to be the same one that General Kearny and his men took the morning of the battle down into the valley. This road was also established by Leland Bibb.

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First engagement, Theory One.

After several years of investigation at Mule Hill establishing site locations there, along with battle movements employed by both the Americans and the Mexicans, the SPBSLP by the mid-1990's began to turn its attention to the San Pasqual Battlefield.

This began with a tremendous amount of archive research into the battle. This covered two fronts. The first was collecting any and all first, second, and third hand witness accounts of the battle and subjecting them to statement analysis within their respected capacities. This went further in also collecting statements made about the battlefield and the San Pasqual Valley by the San Pasqual Indians as well as early Euro- American Pioneer families that settled there in the mid and late 1800's. The second was collecting the oldest known photographs of the San Pasqual Valley and subjecting them to photographic analysis. Preliminary research in these two directions almost immediately gave us some startling discoveries.

The first was an archive photograph found at the San Diego Historical Society's Archives dated 1895. It was taken of the Old San Pasqual Indian Cemetery looking out across the San Pasqual Valley. In the background was a clear shot of San Pasqual Hill. And what was immediately noticed was that Leland Bibb's road depicted at the Visitor's Center as where General Kearny's Army descended down into the valley on the morning of December 6th, was not there.

Another startling discovery was made at the same archives involving another photograph dated 1897 labeled “San Pasqual Battlefield.” The empty field shown in the photograph was quickly recognized as not being the one indicated by Bibb as the location of the first battle engagement. Both of these photographs, and their origins led to some fascinating discoveries about the battle and sites relevant to this event. These are covered in further detail in “Carreta Road” and “1846 Indian Village Site.”.

Another problem that quickly emerged with Bibb's theory of where the Indian Village was located at during the battle was that it was not consistent with where individuals that actually fought in the battle were saying it was. Finally, Bibb's locations not only didn't seem to fit with what the soldiers were telling us but didn't appear to be anywhere close to what Emory had sketched of the battlefield back in 1846.

What was known about Bibb's work was that a large portion of it came from survey notes made of the San Pasqual Valley in 1853-1854 by a government surveyor, just seven years after the battle. Also, another survey taken of the same area in 1872. The rest, as far as locations were strictly conjectural on Bibb's part which was not a problem as long as it was supported by credible evidence.

To make matters worse, a check at the San Pasqual Battlefield Visitor's Center found that Leland Bibb had never published his work. When asking the Visitor's Center if it knew how or why Bibb had concluded these existing sites in his theory submitted to the Center, no one knew. Because of all the irregularities quickly emerging, the SPBSLP asked Leland Bibb if he could submit any evidence supporting his locations on the battlefield so that we could better understand how these locations were derived at. He refused. The San Pasqual Battlefield Visitor's Center then also asked Bibb to submit any data supporting his theorized locations but he also refused this request as well. This left the SPBSLP to start from scratch and to begin its own complete investigation into site locations at the San Pasqual Battlefield.

To further help in this endeavor, the SPBSLP brought in three of its own survey engineers who took the same survey notes that Bibb had, from 1853 and 1872, and went to work on establishing certain locations in the present San Pasqual Valley. Their findings are also covered in other topic selections of this web site, (1853 Survey Site and Carreta Road).


To start at ‘ground-zero,’ the Survey-Engineer Team would have to locate where the surveyor stood when he wrote down his coordinates and field notes on that day back in 1853. For more on this, go to the section 1853 Survey Site, SLP-S-14.

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