Recruiting the Bear Flag Party
From: The History of Yolo County, California
History By: Tom Gregory
The Historical Record Company.
Los Angeles, California 1913
RECRUITING THE BEAR FLAG PARTY
THE CALIFORNIA REPUBLIC
Early on the morning of June 14, 1846, they rode quietly into the Sonoma plaza and awoke Gen. M. G. Vallejo,
the commandant, This officer, also his brother, Capt. Salvador Vallejo; Col. Victor Pudon, both of the Mexican
army; Julio Carrillo and Jacob Leese, two brothers in law of Vallejo, were made prisoners of war and conveyed to
Sutter's Fort. No other Mexican or Californian soldiers were found and immediately the captors organized the "California
Republic," with the celebrated Bear Flag as their national ensign.
FREMONT, THE PATHFINDER
That Fremont, a mere engineer officer, should be selected for a secret work of this import, a work that not only might ruin him officially, but might involve his country in a conflict with foreign powers, may be explained: He not only had proven himself, in situations that try the metal of a man, to be courageous, patriotic and judicious, but he was the son in law of United States Senator Benton, one of the strong men of the administration, and while this family influence doubtless played some part in the selection, such selection was proven a good one, and the work was carried out as required. Fremont, in obedience to these instructions, immediately turned back from his line of survey and aroused the settlers in the Sacramento valley to capture Sonoma and hold it, all on their own initiative. This government was playing a "waiting game" - waiting for the expected war with Mexico to begin, at which time the United States would possess Alta California. There was need of care and hurry, as the foreign fleets were hovering in the Pacific guarding the fancied or alleged interests of their respective governments, and even negotiations were under way looking to an English or French protectorate on this coast. A direct intervention here by the United States prior to a declaration of war between Mexico and this government would be a signal for intervention by Great Britain, whose warships were watching every move of our own. An insurrection by settlers within the territory could not be attributed to the United States, yet might act as a deterrent to other powers.
"EL OSLO" OVER SONOMA
Captain Merritt's party would have preferred the American flag as the ensign of their new republic, but had
been advised by Fremont of the indiscretion of such action, they being without governmental authority. Hence the
Bear Flag. This historical ensign was a square of white sheeting furnished by Mrs. John Sears and a strip of red
flannel sewed to its lower edge, and William Lincoln Todd did the rest. He found a can of red paint, a package
of lampblack and was ready. Near the center of the cloth he laboriously drew the outlines of what he believed to
be a bear, and filled it in with paint and lampblack. The bear - El Oso - was leisurely walking across the flag
and had a very mild expression on its face, as if it were looking for a berry patch. In an upper corner of the
cloth Todd painted a "lone" five point star, and below the bear he placed the words "California
THEN THE STARS AND STRIPES
Sloat then ordered Commander John B. Montgomery, of the United States sloop of war "Portsmouth," at San Francisco (then Yerba Buena), to do the same. Montgomery took possession of the town and harbor and sent Lieut. Joseph W. Revere of his vessel to Sonoma, where, July 9, he lowered the Bear Flag and hoisted the United States ensign. He also enlisted the Sonoma company into the California Battalion, U. S. A. Captain Sutter at New Helvetia, as he called his fort and settlement on the Sacramento, hoisted the American flag July 11. The other garrisoned places in the territory changed flags during August, and the final surrender of the Mexican forces to General Fremont took place near Los Angeles, January 12, 1847.