Frémont, Pathmarker of the West

By Allan Nevins | Go to book overview

XVI
A Clash with Californians

ON December 10, 1845, Frémont rode down from his camp to Sutter's Fort, where he found the robust Swiss proprietor absent, and John Bidwell (who had reached California with the Bartleson-Bidwell party in 1841) in charge. To the Captain, requesting various supplies, roughspoken Bidwell seemed unfriendly. He offered to find some horses, but said that he could not furnish the sixteen mules which Frémont needed; he would lend him the blacksmith shop, but declared there was no coal for the forge. Frémont erroneously concluded that since the Mexican and American governments were drifting toward war, and Sutter was an officer of the former and he of the latter, the men at Sutter's Fort had received orders to do as little as possible for him. Indeed, the Captain had just learned that his previous visit to California had created, as he writes, "some excitement among the Mexican authorities." Americans on the Sacramento informed him that soon after he left Sutter's Fort in the spring of 1844, a Mexican officer and twenty-four men had ridden up from the coast to inquire in Governor Micheltorena's name the meaning of this sudden armed entry into the country. Made uneasy by the news, the Captain now feared trouble.1 But he soon learned that Sutter was as friendly and hospitable as ever. On his return next day the good Swiss set to work; he promptly found fourteen mules, and furnished cattle, horses, and other supplies; while at the same time he sent word to the commander in

____________________
1
Frémont's Memoirs, I, p. 441, indicate clearly that he had just now heard of the alarm of 1844 among the Mexican authorities. But he might have learned of it in Washington; Consul Larkin had reported it by a despatch of April 12, 1844, to the State Department (State Department Archives).

-217-

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