Judge Benjamin Hayes and Chief Panto


The chief of the San Pasqual Indians in 1846 was Chief Panto. Ten years later, in May of 1856, Judge Benjamin Hayes traveled to San Pasqual Valley with Phillip Crosthwaite and Willie Couts. The judge had known both Captain Moore and his brother-in-law, Theodore (“Theo”) Hammond, from back in Missouri. As a result, Hayes was very interested in where both had been killed at in the battle. To find this location, he was led to Chief Panto one day, out on the San Pasqual Valley floor, busy chasing a horse.

The notes from his conversation with the Indian Chief, maintained in the Bancroft Library, University of California, were studied by the SLP.


I knew well Captain Ben. Moore, and Lt. Hammond.” I endeavored to make careful inquiry.

We found this old Indian Captain chasing a horse – mild and courteous and prompt, when he understood our object. At once he led me to a place about fifty yards toward the hill, from the rocky rise on which his own house stands – to the edge of an Indian corral, near which three cows were grazing, and pointed to the exact spot where Moore fell.

He would be apt to remember this from the fact that nothing is more talked of still, among Californians and Indians, than the bravery displayed by this officer.

Directly opposite to the south east, and at a distance of half a mile, – a patch of mustard and weeds and the dry river bed intervening, – you see the road descending the steep San Pasqual hill: precipices on either side. To the left is the Canada through which the river runs and up which the Californians had their horses grazing.

Judge Benjamin Hayes


The first thing noted about what Judge Hayes wrote above was that Phillip Crosthwaite was with him. Crosthwaite was at the battle and yet did not seem to know where Moore was killed at. This is significant. It is easy to understand given the fact that Crosthwaite was originally in Gillespie’s group and was pulled with others to clear the Indian Village of any Californios and thus was not directly involved with the Dragoons and Captain Moore’s charge beyond the “rocky point.”

What this may also indicate however, is considering that after the battle, the soldiers camped right off of the battlefield for approximately 24 hours before moving out towards the Snook Adobe, the chaos that must have existed with the soldiers and volunteers. This, given the fact if during this entire time, the location of Moore’s death had not even been pointed out to Crosthwaite by others or that Crosthwaite even had the opportunity to ponder such, given all that may have been going within the American’s camp. Indeed, the situation would have remained intense given the dead and wounded in the camp as well as the continuous fear that they might be reattacked by the Californios.

For the SLP, this excerpt was studied for any clues concerning locations on the battlefield.

The general rule of thought with the location of Chief Panto’s house has always been that it was located at 16789 San Pasqual Valley Road. This was the same knoll that the local surveyor and avid Mexican War enthusiast had claimed was the ‘circular hill’ noted on Emory’s topographical sketch of the battlefield. However, there is no clear documentation of exactly where Chief Panto’s house was located at along the valley floor in 1856.

For the sake of research purposes, the SLP went with the premise that the Indian Chief’s house was in fact located in 1856, at 16789 San Pasqual Valley Road. So, the question posed by the SLP concerning the second paragraph written by Hayes was; where was he standing at as Chief Panto pointed out the location of Moore’s death and, Judge Hayes continues to describe what he sees? Where was Judge Hayes standing at on the valley floor?

There was much ambiguity in what Hayes had written. For example, what “hill” specifically was he referring to? San Pasqual Hill? The small knoll upon which the rocky rise lies and where Panto’s house was thought to exist? Or the hill at the rocky point around which Moore had ridden past and, to his subsequent death? Indeed, the passage is subject to interpretation.

What is known is that Hayes contacted Chief Panto somewhere out on the valley floor at San Pasqual. An area large enough outside of a corral to chase a horse that is running loose in an open area. Upon making contact and explaining that he was in search of the spot where Moore was killed, Panto then turns and walks 50 yards to a location, moving towards the hill from where on top of a rocky rise, his house stands (north), and then stops, and points from where he is standing, towards the location where Moore was killed.

Where Chief Panto is standing and pointing, Judge Hayes then looks around on the valley floor and describes where he is at. He describes that directly in the “opposite” direction, is due “south east.” This indicates that Hayes is therefore looking in a northwesterly direction towards the location of where Moore had been killed at and, then turns completely around and faces southeast.

Looking then south east and at a distance of half-a-mile,” was the dry river bed where one could see the caretta road descending the steep San Pasqual Hill.” This eye-witness description of the river being near the road as it descended the hill, again corroborates with other witnesses, that the river at that time was indeed on the south side of the valley floor. It also corroborates Lt. Emory’s topo-sketch of the valley in 1846 showing it on the south side.

Indeed, San Pasqual Hill does in fact have precipices (cliffs) on either side of it. And as the Judge, looking at the road descending the hill then turns to his left, one can indeed see the far east end of the valley where the canyon through which the river runs can be seen and where the Californios had their horses grazing (Rockwood Canyon).

The SLP was able to make a triangulation between three points – the knoll upon which Chief Panto’s house was suspected to have been in 1856, the suspected site of Moore’s death between SLP-TS-6 and “7”, and the bottom of the Descent-Road at the base of San Pasqual Hill.

From this, the SLP was able to determine that Judge Hayes was standing somewhere with Chief Panto in the vicinity of SLP-TS-4, the site of the first engagement of the battle and where Captain Johnston had been killed. From this location, all points of interest would have been visible to Judge Hayes as he describes them.

The local surveyor and avid Mexican War enthusiast had interpreted Judge Benjamin Hayes’ passage as, that he and Panto had been standing very close to the knoll located at 16789 San Pasqual Valley Road. However, it would have been physically impossible from this location, for the Indian Chief to be able to accurately show the judge where Moore fell. He then attempted to write it off as the Indian Chief was confused and had instead, accidentally identified Captain Johnston’s location of death in the first-engagement.

The SLP however did not concur with this theory for several reasons:

  1. Philip Crosthwaite was there himself and, he knew exactly where the first engagement site was at and where Captain Johnston had been killed at. He knew the difference between the two locations.
  2. Judge Benjamin Hayes also knew the distinction between the locations of the deaths of where Captain Johnston had been killed at in the 1st engagement and where Captain Moore had been killed at in the 2nd engagement.
  3. Judge Hays was a very intelligent man. Between Philip Crosthwaite at his side and, Hayes knowing the distinction between both officers and engagement sites, he would have immediately known if the Indian Chief was wrong. Hayes accepted Chief Panto’s showing of the location where Moore was killed at.       Judge Hays’ hints on the seriousness in this cause as evidenced when he writes I endeavored to make careful inquiry.

The SLP is confident that Judge Hayes was indeed shown the location where Captain Moore was killed by Chief Panto (SLP-TS-7 or SLP-TS-6), from the location of site SLP-TS-4.


Note half-mile marker from its location to base of San Pasqual Hill and Descent Road on a southeast bearing, consistent with Hayes’ description and land survey notes of James Freeman in 1853. Blue square denotes 1st engagement site location SLP-TS-4