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Causes of the War
The Mariposa War was sparked by the 1849 California Gold Rush, the discovery of the gold forged a California Trail which forked off southward from the Oregon Trail. Thousands of hopeful gold seekers crossed this trail into northern California, which at this point in time consisted of mostly Native Americans, and Californios (the descendants of early Spanish settlers). By the end of May 1849, it is estimated that 40,000+ had entered Native American territory. This added diversity, with the land now containing many different immigrants from Mexico, South America, Europe, Australia, and China. This international mix swelled California's non-Native American population from some 14,000 in 1848 to 200,000 in 1852.
Outbreak of the War
The gold rush increased pressure on the Native Americans of California, because miners forced Native Americans off their gold-rich lands. Many were pressed into service in the mines; others had their villages raided by the army and volunteer militia. Some Native American tribes fought back, beginning with the Ahwahneechees and the Chowchilla in the Sierra Nevada and San Joaquin Valley leading a raid on the Fresno River post of James D. Savage, in December 1850.
An appeal to the Governor John McDougal for help led to the organization of the Mariposa Battalion under "Major" James D. Savage, commanding companies led by Captain John J. Kuykendall, Captain John Boling, and Captain William Dill. Meanwhile a federal Indian commission, sought a peaceful solution. On March 19, 1851, the Commissioners signed a treaty at Camp Fremont with six tribes. However, the Ahwahneechees and Chowchillas were absent, so the campaign against them began on March 19.
Captain Kuykendall's Company A went south to the King's and upper Kaweah Rivers and to the Tulare Valley. Arriving at the King's River, scouts located a large Chowchilla village. A quick march brought the troops to the site. The troops attacked the village, while the Native Americans defended. Company A charged into their camp, routing and killing a number, while others were ridden down and taken prisoner. Kuykendall's Company pursued the survivors. During the pursuit, Kuykendall's men abandoned their horses, which allowed the Chowchilla to escape capture. Kuykendall continued to the headwaters of the Kahweah River, but failed to locate the rest of the surviving Native Americans. A few days later, a Chowchilla delegation entered their camp to sue for peace. The offer of peace was accepted and arrangements were made to transport them to the reservation on the San Joaquin River. Kuykendall returned to the Battalion camp on Mariposa Creek in early April.
Meanwhile, in their first campaign, the companies of Boling and Dill followed the natives into the mountains, marching in rain, sleet and 3 to 5 foot snow drifts. They discovered the Ahwahneechees Yosemite Valley refuge on March 27 but found few natives.
The second campaign began on April 13, against the Chowchillas, and destroyed their food stores, but again the natives were able to elude their pursuers. However, the death of their chief induced the Chowchillas to surrender and accept reservation status.
When the Ahwahneechees refused to come to Camp Barbour and make peace, a third campaign was launched against them. The Ahwahneechees were captured at Lake Tenaija (named for their chief) on May 22, and forced to accept reservation life. The company escorted the natives to the reservation and returned to the Mariposa Creek post. On July 1, the Mariposa Battalion mustered out, marking the end of the Mariposa War.
- Bunnell, Lafayette Houghton (2003) . Discovery of the Yosemite and the Indian War of 1851 Which Led to That Event. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, National Digital Library Program. OCLC 51675913. Retrieved 2009-01-05.
- Cossley-Batt, Jill (1928). The Last of the California Rangers (First ed.). New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company. LCCN 28030766. OCLC 1600551.
- California and the Indian Wars: Mariposa Indian War, 1850-1851, by Warren A. Beck and Ynez D. Hasse
- Robert Eccleston. The Mariposa War, 1850-1851, C. Gregory Crampton, ed., Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1957.
- California and the Indian Wars: The Mariposa War, By David A. Smith, Historian, The Burdick Military History Project, San Jose State University
- Reports from Lt. Tredwell Moore to the Pacific Division on the Mariposa Indian War of 1852.
- Mariposa History and Genealogy Research, A NOTE ON THE MARIPOSA INDIAN WAR, THE BATTLE OF HOGAN'S POTATO PATCH
- Events after the Mariposa Indian War, from Sam Ward in the Gold Rush (1861, 1949) by Samuel Ward