It’s a little tricky to trace the movements of the Sutter Gun during the Mexican War in California. When John Sutter returned to his home on the American River after the Micheltorena incident, his Russian 4-pound bronze cannon was left behind in Southern California. Maybe it was taken to pieces and buried at the end of that little war, or maybe just left in someone’s front yard. Accounts differ. But when war broke out again between the Americans and the Mexicans, it was in the possession of the Mexicans.
In December 1846 Commodore Robert F. Stockton and an army of marines and sailors marched on Los Angeles from San Diego, while Fremont’s army approached from San Pedro. Entering Los Angeles they found that the pueblo had been abandoned by General Castro and his army, who took the Sutter Gun and other artillery with them.
Castro retreated toward the Colorado River. Finding that the artillery slowed him down, he buried the cannon in the sand. With his force, as a prisoner, was Captain Charles Weber, who noted the burial site. When Weber was released by Castro later in the march, he walked back to Los Angeles and told Stockton where to find the cannon.
(By the way, Weber, a German, came to California in the same emigrant company as John Bidwell. He served in both the Mexican and the American armies, became a wealthy merchant and gold-seeker, and founded the city of Stockton.)
As the Mexican War proceeded, the Sutter Gun was hauled all over Southern California to fight in every major battle. It took part in the Battle of San Pasqual, fought by General Stephen Watts Kearny and his dragoons who had just arrived in California after their long and wearisome march from Kansas. Dispatched by Stockton to bring relief to Kearny, Captain Archibald Gillespie took along the Sutter Gun. After intense hand-to-hand combat, “the Sutter” was brought up and the Californios retired from the field. Twenty-one Americans were killed and seventeen wounded, making the Battle of San Pasqual the bloodiest battle of the war in California.
Next “the Sutter” took part in the battles of Los Angeles and La Mesa. In the latter battle it was concealed within a defensive square of soldiers. As the Californio cavalry advanced on the square, it opened up and the Sutter Gun fired volleys of nails, chain, and scrap iron. The cavalry retreated and the battle was won by the American forces. It was the last battle of the war in California.
For a thorough account of these events, read The History of the Sutter Gun, by Morgan Blanchard.
Stay tuned to learn the fate of the Sutter Gun