Battle of Cahuenga Pass
|Battle of Cahuenga Pass|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Ex-governor Jose Maria de Echeandia||Governor Manuel Victoria|
|Casualties and losses|
|Captain José Antonio Romualdo Pacheco †||Captain Jose Maria Avila †
Governor Victoria severely wounded
The Battle of Cahuenga Pass of 1831 was fought near Los Angeles between the unpopular Mexican Governor of California (Manuel Victoria), and local settlers. Two men, Pacheco on the one side and Avila on the other, were killed. Victoria was severely wounded.
A small group made up of the more wealthy citizens of Alta California got together and petitioned Governor Victoria asking for democratic reforms. Victoria called two of the men "traitors" (José Antonio Carrillo and Abel Stearns), and said the men must be executed; he then "stayed" his execution orders and had the two men banished from Alta California
The previous governor, Jose Maria de Echeandia, was more popular, so the leading wealthy citizens, the two "traitors," and several other land owners suggested to Echeandia that Victoria's stay as governor would be coming to an abrupt end soon. They built up a small army, marched into Los Angeles, and "captured" the town. Victoria gathered a small army and went to fight the upstart army, leading it himself. He met the opposing army on December 5, 1831, at Cahuenga Pass.
The armies were made up of brothers, sons, uncles, nephews, and friends of each other and by no stretch of the imagination could it be even considered that they would harm each other, let alone kill each other.
Victoria's army was less than half the size of his enemy's army. Victoria was undaunted by the challenge, and he ordered his men to shoot at the other army: they did so, more or less—they all, to a man, shot over the heads of the enemy. The rebels answered by firing a volley over the heads of Victoria's army. The two opposing forces then stood staring at each other.
Unfortunately, when Victoria ordered his men to shoot, Captain Jose Antonio Romualdo Pacheco (father of the future governor Romualdo Pacheco), misunderstood: he thought the order was to charge the enemy on horseback.... which he did, alone. He was armed with a lance; when he discovered he was the only one charging the enemy, he halted his horse between the two armies. Jose Maria Avila, of the rebel army, took offense and went out to meet Pacheco on a horse armed with a lance, for single combat.
The two fighters were excellent horsemen, and neither had an advantage over the other. Both armies relaxed to enjoy the show; some climbed nearby trees to get a better look of the fight. Pacheco's horse was black, and Avila's horse was white.
They charged each other three times, and each time they managed to evade each other's lances. On the fourth charge, Pacheco struck Avila's lance from Avila's hands and it fell to the ground. The loss of his lance infuriated Avila, so he drew his pistol and shot Pacheco out of the saddle, and Pacheco died. Avila was shocked at his own behavior, and sat his horse in a kind of horrified stupor.
Victoria, upset at such an unchivalrous act, drew his pistol and shot Avila to death.
Captain Portilla felt that shooting Avila to death was uncalled for, so he charged Governor Victoria and put his lance through Victoria's face, ripping off a chunk of flesh and cartilage. Governor Victoria fell off his horse and writhed on the ground in agony.
Governor Victoria survived, but he resigned the governorship of Alta California. The previous governor, Echeandia, took the job, which he did until Jose Figueroa took over on January 14., 1833.
Governor Victoria survived, but he resigned the governorship of Alta California. The previous governor, Echeandia, took over until Jose Figueroa took over on January 14., 1833.
- California State Military Department (2002). "Battle of Cahuenga Pass" ([website]). Retrieved 2011-02-05.