Battle of Dominguez Rancho

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Battle of Dominguez Rancho
Part of Mexican–American War
California 1846.jpg
Date October 8, 1846[1]
Location Dominguez Hills, California
Result Mexican victory
 Mexico  United States
Commanders and leaders
Captain José Antonio Carrillo, General José María Flores[1] Captain William Mervine
90 militia[1] 285 marines[2]
Casualties and losses
none 4 killed
6 wounded[2]

The Battle of Dominguez Rancho or The Battle of the Old Woman's Gun (October 8, 1846) was a military engagement of the Mexican–American War. The battle took place within Manuel Dominguez's 75,000-acre (300 km2) Rancho San Pedro.


After receiving word of the Siege of Los Angeles, Commodore Robert F. Stockton sent US Navy Captain William Mervine and the Savannah on October 4 to San Pedro to assist Capt. Archibald H. Gillespie.[2] Arriving on October 6, Mervine set out on October 7 with sailors, marines and bear flaggers to recapture the town.[2]


Mervine's march was poorly planned with little knowledge of the enemy. His troops were armed with an assortment of muskets, cutlasses and pikes; they brought no horses, wagons or cannons.[3]

When the Americans had occupied Los Angeles in August, residents had hidden some weapons by burying them. General José Flores' force, equipped with lances, knives and old firearms that had been hidden, was nearly as poorly armed, but it did have a cannon.[3]

This old brass four-pounder, used ceremonially, had been buried in the garden of Inocencia Reyes. It was dug up and mounted on a horse-drawn limber.[3]

Mervine and his troops set out on October 7 and reached Dominguez Rancho, where they camped for the night, within view of an advance detachment of Flores' troops. There was more or less firing during the night, with no other effect than that of keeping Mervine's party on the alert.[1] Setting off at daylight,[2] the Americans advanced just to the north of Dominguez Rancho.

Señora Reyes' four-pounder was placed on the narrow trail that the Americans needed to use. Ropes were lashed to the limber to pull the gun into the brush for reloading. The Californio horsemen deployed at a safe distance from the trail on the enemy's flanks.[3]

The simple tactics proved effective. When the Americans came within 400 yards, the cannon was fired and quickly pulled back into the brush, followed by musket fire from the horsemen.[3]

Mervine's forces were helpless on foot against an enemy they could neither see nor count. Realizing they could not reach Los Angeles, Mervine had little choice except to retreat.[3]

The battle lasted less than an hour; five hours later Mervine's forces were back on their ship in San Pedro Bay.[3][2]


Four of the seriously wounded Americans died and were buried on a little island in San Pedro Bay called Isla de los Muertos (Island of the Dead.[1][3]). Mervine's troops reboarded the Savannah, and after a few days, the warship sailed north toward Monterey.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Bancroft, Hubert Howe. History of California. V, 1846-1848. pp. 319–320. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Bauer, K.J. (1974). The Mexican War, 1846-1848. New York: Macmillan. p. 185. ISBN 0803261071. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Walker, Dale L. (1999). Bear Flag Rising: The Conquest of California, 1846. New York: Tom Doherty Associates LLC. pp. 199–200. ISBN 0312866852. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°46′N 118°19′W / 33.77°N 118.32°W / 33.77; -118.32