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Miss Fanny Juda on the California Filibusters

“California Filibusters: A history of their expeditions into Hispanic America”
By Miss Fanny Juda
(Member of the class in California History at the University of California)
in The Grizzly Bear (“official organ Native Sons and Native Daughters Golden West”) 24:4 (February 1919) : 1-6, 15, 19
same at archive.org, and this number as pdf (6.7MB)

sections in essay
First of the Filibusters
The French Filibusters
William Walker
Other Filibuster Ventures
Fanny Juda (Rosenthal; 1895-1948)
Charles Edward Chapman (1880-1941)
The Grizzly Bear (published 1905-1954)
Judge Lott, in The Pioneer (January 1854)
The Sonorian Filibusters, in Annals of San Francisco (1854)
William Walker (1824-1860)

most personal names are linked to wikipedia and other external sources/leads.



The infinite variety of California history is one of the keynotes to its never-ending fascination. If New England and Virginia had their Puritans and Cavaliers, California has a much broader background of racial interest, ranging from the numerous Indian tribes of the distant past, through Oriental traditions, Spanish presidio and mission, Russian trading-posts, British, French and American coastwise exploration, and Mexican mañanas, to the hardy frontiersman and gold-seeker of the forties. But all that was romantic and stirring did not end with the days of gold, or even with the Vigilantes. There are many interesting chapters of another sort that have been but hazily presented or never told.

How many Californians today realize that this state was the rendezvous par excellence for daring bands of filibusters, who, whether in pursuit of mere individual wealth and adventure or in furtherance of what seemed to them an idea, risked their lives in bold invasions of Hispanic lands? It is with this story that Miss Juda deals in the present article. Some of the material she uses has never before been brought together. Those who had previously heard of the Californian activities of Walker will be surprised to learn of the great number of others who sought to gain a foothold in the land of the Dons. Not the least interesting feature to the student of present-day relations of the United States and Hispanic America is the clear evidence that the end is not yet.

And since Miss Juda’s article was written there has come the not unrelated factor of bills in Congress, proposed respectively by Senator Ashurst of Arizona and Representative Elston of California, for a negotiated purchase of that Baja California which American filibusters have so often sought. This, then, is more than romance. It is the necessary background of a living vital issue. — Dr. C. E. Chapman, Assistant Professor of Hispanic American History, University of California.

First of the Filibusters

  1. The word “Filibuster” is practically of modern origin, and while various writers ascribe numerous etymologies to the term, still it is generally acknowledged that its derivation is from the Dutch word “vrijbuiter” or “free-booter.” The Spaniards through their close connection with the Netherlands, adopted the word into their language as “filibusteros,” and later used it to designate the Elizabethan and early Stuart bucaneers who cruised along the Spanish Main. Thus the word gradually came inot the English language, and meant any sea man engaged in privateering. It was not, however, until the Lopez-Crittenden invasion of Cuba in 1850 that the word came to be applied to those people in the United States who engaged in fitting out or conducting private enterprises against some other nation with whom we were at peace.
  2. Although the term “filibuster” is practically modern, still the deed of filibustering is as old as the world, and men went filibustering over since the dawn of history. It was the spirit of adventure and wanderlust which led mankind on to seek new lands and excitement. When the leader succeeded, he was a hero; when he failed, he was branded a villain, and the expedition was an ineffaceable stain upon the government which he represented.
  3. In America, the ideas concerning filibusterism underwent a remarkable change during the first half of the nineteenth century. Aaron Burr, in 1807, attempted to establish a republic in Mexico and was therefore tried for treason. But with the growth of our country, the new idea of the manifest destiny of the American people to annex all the Spanish American territory in North America, caused the Nation to view such expeditions as heroic attempts, undertaken for the glory of the United States. Thus, in 1836, do we find Davy Crockett and Sam Houston, two Southerners, applauded for their deeds in Texas, epecially by the South, and in 1848 the United States even fought Mexico to hold the lands those men were instrumental in bringing into the Union. By 1850, filibustering expeditions came to have at least the silent if not the open approval of some of the governmental authorities.
  4. Although American filibusterism originated in the Atlantic and Southern states, still it received its fullest expression on the Pacific Coast. California was especially prolific in the number of expeditions which originated in the West, and which had for their object the appropriation of lands in Hispanic America. The discovery of gold had been peculiarly favorable to the fostering of such movements. Masses of shiftless, reckless adventurers, disappointed because they were not able to amass immediate wealth, were only too eager to join some filibustering party which would lead them to fortune. These expeditions were all separate and independent movements, arising from a multitude of reasons, some of them not always very clearly defined. Mexico and Central America, in the decade preceding the Civil War, were veritable hotbeds of revolutions, and conditions there made it easy for all who might come for the purpose of conquest.
  5. The desire for new scenes, for adventure, and for excitement, as well as for the rumored wealth of Sonora, caused men to fare forth. Others followed because of their firm belief that it was the destiny of the United States ever to press onward towards new lands. The political atmosphere of the time was aided greatly in the fostering of this spirit. The desire to spread the slave area, and thus maintain the balance of power in the United States Congress, caused many a Southerner to be listed among the foremost filibusters. Indeed, Bell, Walker and Crabbe, leaders of the more important expeditions, besides some of their strongest adherents, were all from the South-land or had decided Southern sympathies, and yet, the men who followed their lead into Mexico and Central America were by no means all firm advocates of slavery. They were adventurers from all over the world, from New England and Louisiana, from Hungary and from Prussia, as well as from some of the Spanish American republics.
  6. The first filibustering expedition to leave the coast of California, after this state had been admitted into the Union, was commanded by a pioneer, by the name of Aleck Bell. His plan was to reinstate the ex-president of Equador, Juan José Flores, who had been deposed by a revolution in 1845. In 1850, with a following of two hundred and fifty men, Bell sailed for Panama, where he was reinforced by a party of Ecuadorians who sympathized with Flores, and also by a Peruvian gunboat, which Flores had purchased with such funds from the Ecuadorian treasury as he had been able to take with him when he fled from the capital, Quito. Upon reaching Ecuador, with his reinforced band, Bell sailed up the Guayaquil River, captured the city of that name, and proceeded against Quito. But he never reached that city. The rival factions in Ecuador had come to terms, and their only desire now was to rid themselves of the Americans as quickly as possible. So Bell and his Californian followers were disarmed and given free passage to Panama, where the party was stranded, and it was not until about 1853 that Bell found his way back to Los Angeles.
  7. The second enterprise was organized in Southern California by Joseph C. Morehead. He had served as a quartermaster in a campaign against the Yumas in the fall of 1850, and still feeling a desire for excitement he took advantage of one of the numerous Mexican revolutions to start a filibustering expedition against Baja California, or Lower California as it is often called. One division of his party went overland via Los Angeles. Still another division appeared at La Paz, and in May, 1851, he himself, with about forty men, sailed in the barque, “Josephine,” bound for Mazatlan. His expedition was ill equipped to be successful. A United States proclamation against filibustering curtailed his enlistments and left him with only a meagre following. His vessel was so poorly provisioned that he was forced to stop at San Diego for supplies. Here desertions greatly depleted his party, and it was with only a handful of followers that he finally reached Mexico. He accomplished nothing, however, and was glad to come back to the United States, under the pretense that he was a disappointed miner.

    The French Filibusters [4]

  8. Many Frenchmen of all ranks and classes, from the noble aristocrat to the humble peasant, had found their way to California during the gold rush. The political upheaval all over Europe, and particularly in France, in 1848, was especially favorable to encouraging immigration, and men of excellent education and splendid military training made their way here to seek their fortunes in the gold-fields. They did not become assimilated easily, and few of them ever became citizens, with the result that the ruffian element at the mines drove them from their claims, and they soon began to congregate in cities. Thus did they form a discontented clannish element in our population, making good material for some of there more venturesome countrymen to use for their schemes in Mexico, where they hoped to found a colony which would somehow be of use to France. The leaders of their various schemes were three French noblemen, Marquis Charles de Pindray, Lepine de Sigondis, and Count Gaston Raoul de Raousset-Boulbon. These men, acting independently of each other, planned to form a permanent French colony in Sonora, which would serve as a bulwark against the Apaches, and also where they would incidentally profit from the rich mines and the excellent farming lands to be found in that country.
  9. In 1851, the Mexican government had sent out a call for volunteers to protect the mining districts of Sonora from the incursions of the Apaches. For their services, all who might enlist were to receive lands which the Mexican government hoped would serve as a buffer colony against the Indians. Pindray, the first of the French filibusters, with the hope of obtaining some of the Arizona gold, accepted the offer of the Mexican government, and set out with one hundred and forty men by sea for Guaymas, the key port of Sonora. Here they landed December 26, 1851, and were received with favor by the inhabitants of the town.
  10. In return for their service they were granted a tract of land in the valley of Cocospera, where they founded their colony. At first all went well. Pindray was greatly encouraged by assurances of good will from both Governor Cuvellas of Sonora and from Miguel Blanco, Captain-General of the province. But at Cocospera there was little cordiality between the Frenchmen and the Sonorans. Matters became worse, especially on the march to the mines, and finally the whole expedition was broken up by the death of Pindray, who was found at the little village of Rayon, with a bullet hole in his head. Whether he was assassinated, or whether he committed suicide, has never been ascertained. The survivors of his company joined the Raousset expedition which came to Sonora soon after.
  11. Some weeks after the expedition of Pindray had left San Francisco, another Frenchman, Lepine de Sigondis, organized an expedition of French immigrants and left for Sonora. This expeidition had but one object, the accumulation of wealth. Some sixty men were enlisted, but the effort to found a colony failed, and the members of the party were disbanded.
  12. The greatest of the French filibusters was the Count de Raousset Boulbon. As a youth, he had squandered his entire fortune, and had sought to replenish it in Algiers. This he failed to accomplish, and so, penniless, he made his way to California. It was while he was engaged in the business of a cattle drover in Southern California that he first thought of founding a buffer colony in Mexico, which would not only protect Sonora from the Indians, but would also serve as a barrier against the further advance of the United States. Pindray, whom Raousset had met in San Francisco, asked the count to join him, but Raousset, unwilling to share the glory which he hoped to obtain through an independent expedition, declined.
  13. He was, however, more far-sighted than either Pindray or Sigondis, in formulating his plans, for he realized that influential backing was necessary for the success of his schemes. With this idea in view, he went to the French consul at San Francisco, Monsieur Patrice Dillon. Dillon became enthusiastic over Raousset’s plans, and he was especially pleased with the idea of forming a barrier colony against the further advance of the United States. Dillon then wrote to Levasseur, the French minister in Mexico City, to obtain a concession for a joint Franco-Mexican company which was to be known as the “Compañia Restauradora,” having for its object the reopening of the Arizona mines, and the protection of Sonora from the Apaches. In order to be certain that he would obtain these concessions, Raousset went to Mexico City, where he convinced President Mariano Aristo that the scheme was worth while. Receiving the desired concessions, he succeeded in interesting the banking house of Jecker, Torre & Company of the capital city to act as underwriters for the Restauradora.
  14. With this aid in view, he returned to San Francisco to complete his plans. Here he enlisted one hundred and fifty men, with whom he was to sail to Guaymas. He organized them into a military expedition with himself at the head. They were to explore the mining region, take possession of it in the name of the Restauradora, clear the region of Indians, and form a buffer colony between the United States and Mexico. The Restauradora was to bear all expenses and was to share with Raousset and his followers one-half of the lands and wealth which they obtained. The French minister, Levasseur, Consul Dillon, and the Mexican Governor of Sonora were all financially interested in the scheme, and so with the prospect before him, the count sailed for Guaymas, where he landed May 31, 1852.
  15. Meanwhile, however, a rival company had been organized, in which many high Mexican officials were interested, and which was financed by the influential English banking house of Bolton and Barron, in San Francisco. The English in Mexico encouraged this new company, for they feared that French political influence would dominate Mexico and interfere with English commerce there. Some of the Mexicans also feared that if the French should gain a foothold in Sonora, there would be a repetition of the part played by the Americans in Texas, and that Sonora, if not all Mexico, would become a French possession. Indeed Raousset had been indiscreet enough to say that he intended to establish a colony which would be of more value to France than Algiers was, and that it would attract more settlers.
  16. The people of Guaymas received the count and his followers favorably, but the authorities showed more than displeasure over their arrival. General Blanco, especially, who had control of the province, had been won over by a rival company, and so put every obstacle in the way of French success. Instead of allowing him to proceed immediately to the interior of Sonora, Blanco ofered Raousset to remain near Guaymas until further notice. When the French were finally permitted to leave, it was only by a long, circuitous route. The count refused to obey orders and set out almost directly northward, over the shortest road that led through Hermosillo to his claim in Arizona. He had gone as far as Saric, when he was ordered to halt by General Blanco, and to report to him at Arispe, over one hundred miles away. He proceeded to follow directions and started on his way to the headquarters of the captain-general. While passing through Cocospera he met some of Pindray’s men, who joined the party and induced him to return to Saric, where the rest of the Restauradora men were camped.
  17. So, instead of proceeding to Arispe, Raousset sent his representative, Monsieur Garnier, to make all necessary arrangements. The result was Blanco’s famous ultimatum, which showed for the first time the true attitude of the Sonora officials in regard to the Restauradora colonists. By the ultimatum, Blanco required that the French should become subjects of Mexico and place themselves under a Mexican leader, with the count in a subordinate position, or that they should reduce their company to fifty men and under a meican leader search for the mines in the name of the Restauradora. If they would not agree to either of these two alternatives, they must then wait for a permit from Mexico City, which would allow them to travel throughout the country, but under which they would be considered as strangers who were, under an old Mexican law, incapable of possessing any real property. This, of course, would bar the Restauradora from the wealth that they had hoped to obtain in Sonora, and so Raousset and his men refused to accept any of these terms.
  18. Declaring that they had been cheated, and that their honor was at stake, the count prepared for the conflict whicih would inevitably follow. On September 21, 1852, he declared the independence of Sonora from Mexico, and on October 23d he left Saric, bound for Hermosillo, which was occupied by twelve hundred Mexican troups under Blanco. The French took the city without difficulty, and Blanco was forced to retreat. This victory, however, was not due to any military genius on the part of Raousset, but to the cowardice of the Mexican soldiers, who feared the French attack. Raoussel soon found that he could not hold the city. The inhabitants would not render allegiance to him, and he did not possess the force to compel them to do so. Instead of waiting for recruits from California who would help him hold his conquest, he began negotiations with the Sonoran governor, Gandara, and prepared to retreat to Guaymas. On October 26th the French evacuated Hermosillo, and at Guaymas they chartered the barque “Alert,” in which they returned to San Francisco.
  19. Raoussel, himself, went to Mazatlan, to recuperate from an illness. Here he received a letter from Dillon, urging him to renew his attempt to colonize Sonora. With this in view, the count returned to San Francisco, where he was greeted as the ruler of Hermosillo. Many of his comrades of the first expedition declared themselves willing to follow him again. William Walker, who was at that time planning his first expedition, called on Raoussel with a view towards co-operating with him, but the count preferred not to associate himself with the American expedition into Mexico. Meanwhile, a number of revolutions in Mexico had brought about a change in administration, and Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was declared president. Lavasseur then wrote to Dillon that the time was ripe to plan for a second expedition and so Raousset went once more to Mexico City to make arrangements with the government. He arrived in June, 1853, and was received favorably by Sana Anna, who welcomed the scheme of the French colony. He signed a contract with the count by which Raousset agreed to bring five hundred Frenchmen into Sonora for the protection of that country against the Indians. In return for these services the Mexican government was to sobscribe 250,000 francs to meet immediate expenses, and 90,000 more per month, utnil the French colony should begin to make headway. But for some reason or other, Santa Anna annulled the contract, and in its place, suggested that Raoussel become a naturalized Mexican. This count indignantly rejected this offer, whereupon Santa Anna declared him an outlaw, and forced him to flee for his life.
  20. Upon his return to San Francisco, he found that Walker had completed his plans and was ready to start for Sonora. This made Raoussel all the more eager to carry out his own plans. In order to have sufficient funds, he appealed to various wealthy Frenchmen in California, who subscribed $300,000 to finance the expedition. But all his hopes were destroyed by a rumor concerning the sale of Sonora to the United States. This rumor was not false, for James Gadsden, United States minister at Mexico City, had just completed negotiations with Mexico by which that country agreed to sell a portion of Sonora to the United States. The subscribers, thinking than an expedition under these circumstances would be worthless, refused to keep their promises and withdrew their pledges of monetary support. Raoussel, in desperation, appealed to Napoleon III, who of course refused to aid him.
  21. Popular interest began to center on Walker, who had influential supporters at Washington. Santa Anna became alarmed and, fearing a repetition of the Texas incident, he wrote to Luis del Valle, Mexican consult at San Francisco, to recruit an ex- [5] pedition of Frenchmen who might serve to counteract the plans of the American filibusters. Del Valle sought Dillon’s assistance, and the French consul put the proposition before Raousset who, seeing his chance to lead an armed force into Sonora, seized the long wished-for opportunity. He chartered the British ship “Challenge,” and enlisted about eight hundred men who were to accompany him to Sonora.
  22. The slavery party in California, including many Federal officials in San Francisco, who were at the time friends of Walker, were determined that a French colony, which might interfere with Walker’s schemes of annexation, should not be established on our borders. So on March 29, 1854, the “Challenge” was seized for violation of revenue laws. Nothing could be proved, however, but the delay was effective in that many members of the party deserted, and so it was only with about three hundred men that the barque finally sailed for Guaymas. In order to inconvenience the ringleaders of the plan who remained in San Francisco, Del Valle and Dillon were arrested for the violation of the neutrality laws which forbade enlistment in the United States for soldiers to serve under some foreign flag. The case dragged on and finally both men were discharged because Walker’s expedition had failed, and there was no further reason for prosecuting them.
  23. Meanwhile, the “Challenge” had departed, and on May 23, 1854, Raousset followed on the “La Belle” with eight men, and the arms and ammunition for the “Challenge” party. He was thoroughly convinced that the colony he was about to found in Mexico would be the starting point of the domination of France in that country. This expedition, however, was to be one of the most unfortunate of all those that found their way from California into Hispanic America. Things went wrong from the very beginning. The delay in sailing was followed by a return to port to obtain a more efficient pilot. Off the Island of Santa Margarita, on the Baja California coast, the party was wrecked, and so it was not until the end of June that they finally reached Guaymas. The Mexicans under General José Yañez took immediate measures to resist the French colonists. On August 11th the two forces met. The French were completely demoralized. Some made their escape on a vessel, only to be lost in the Gulf of California during a storm. Raousset and the remainder of his force were compelled to surrender, and on August 10th the count was brought before a Mexican military tribunal, where he was tried on a charge of conspiracy and rebellion, for which he was condemned to death, and was shot August 12, 1854.
  24. He was a courageous, visionary adventurer, imbued with a fervor that forced him on with his ambitious enterprise. But he lacked the tact and prudence which were necessary to carry such a stupendous project to success, and so he failed, and his failure marked the end of French scheming in California, for a colony in Sonora.

    William Walker

  25. William Walker, the greatest of the American filibusters, was another visionary adventurer, imbued with the desire of founding a colony in Mexico, near the American border. His aim, however, was to obtain the independence of Sonora and Baja California for ultimate annexation in the United States, and for the extension of slave territory so as to maintain the balance of power for the South. He, like Raousset, was an unlicensed, would-be conqueror, burning with a desire for fame and carried away by a firm belief in his own destiny to rule. As a boy, Walker lived in Tennessee, where he studied at the University of Nashville, and thus was naturally a strong Southern sympathizer. Having a desire to study medicine, he went abroad and attended the universities of Edinburgh, Göttingen, Heidelberg, and Paris. He was present in Europe during the various revolutions of 1848, and there is no doubt but that his filibustering schemes were influenced by the revolutionary doctrines of Massini, Garibaldi, Marx, Feuerbach, and Blanc, which were [6] being spread broadcast over the continent at that time. Upon his return to America, he practiced medicine in Philadelphia, but finding this distateful to him, he went to New Orleans to study law, and in 1850 came to San Francisco. After serving as a newspaper man for some time, he moved to Marysville, where he practised law. He was always a firm slavery advocate, eager for its retention and its extension. This caused him to look with some apprehension upon the efforts of the French filibusters, for the slavery party regarded the American conquest of Mexico as a matter of manifest destiny, to which French interference would serve as a serious obstacle.
  26. It was partly for this reason that Walker went to Guaymas in the summer of 1853, seeking a grant from Mexico, where he could establish a military frontier colony, to serve as a bulwark against the Indians. The Mexican government, always suspicious of American enterprise, refused, and so Walker returned to San Franscisco, bound to carry out a scheme on his own account. Raousset’s plans for a second expedition spurred Walker on to immediate action. He thereupon opened a recruiting office in San Francisco. Recruits flocked to join his band, many of whom were from Kentucky and Tennessee, and were therefore firm adherents of slavery and the manifest destiny doctrine. Hundreds of people bought the scrip which he issued and which was to be redeemable in lands in Sonora. With the funds thus raised, he hoped to finance his expedition. Walker now cast aside all ideas of founding a buffer colony and stated his intention of forming a republic in Sonora and Lower California, with the idea that it would eventually apply for admission into the Union. He chartered the brig “Arrow” and prepared to set sail with his followers, when he was arrested by General Hitchcock, military commander of the United States forces on the Pacific Coast. The Federal officials at San Francisco, sympathizing with Walker, caused the vessel to be released, and General Wool was soon sent out by Jefferson Davis, Secretary of War, to replace Hitchcock in command. Headquarters were move to Benicia, from which place interference with the actions of the filibusters was almost impossible.
  27. Walker, meantime, had succeeded in making his escape on another vessel, the “Caroline,” and with forty-eight followers he left on October 16th for Guaymas. Three weeks later he reached the Gulf of California, and landed at La Paz, which was less likely to offer resistance. Here, he was reinforced by two hundred men, and so he took possession of the country and proceeded to set up a government. Then he proclaimed the independence of the “Republic of Lower California” from Mexico, and extended over it the laws of the state of Louisiana, thus permitting slavery, should anyone care to bring slaves into the country. Some writers have taken the opportunity here to point out that Walker was not a strong slavery advocate, and that the slavery cause merely was a part of the code of laws with which he was familiar. But had Walker so desired, he could have omitted the slavery clause, or he could have extended the laws of Alta California, with which he must have been familiar in order to practise law in Marysville.
  28. Realizing that his position here was not secure, and that he was exposed to easy attack on the part of the Mexicans, he retired up the peninsula toward Ensenada, after a skirmish with the Mexicans at La Paz. He made Ensenada his headquarters, and from here he issued a new proclamation, abolishing the Republic of Lower California and establishing the Republic of Sonora, which was to consist of the two states of Lower California and Sonora. Walker, himself, was to be president, his partner, Watkins, vice-president, and Emory, secretary of state.
  29. Meantime the news of Walker’s exploits reached San Francisco. The skirmish at La Paz was regarded as a great victory. The California newspapers and periodicals greatly applauded him. Judge Lott, writing for the “Pioneer,” says: “The term filibuster no longer means a pirate. . . I means the compassing of the weak by the strong. . . The term filibuster is now identical with the pioneer of progress... if these regions . . . do not soon become a portion of the United States . . . some other nation, stronger than Mexico, will grasp them.” [endnote 4] Soulé, in the “Annals of San Francisco,” says, in commenting on Walker, “America secures the spoils won to her hand, however dishonestly they may have come. That is only her destiny . . . America must round out her territory by the sea.” [endnote 5]
  30. The enterprise soared in popularity. Hundreds of men flocked from the mines to join the expedition. The flag of the Republic of Sonora was raised on the corner of Kearny and Sacramento streets. Enlistment offices were opened, and the bonds of the company were openly sold. Indeed, it was worth a man’s popularity at that time to oppose filibusterism. Pedro C. Carrillo, one of the influential Democrats in the State Legislature, was in great danger of losing his constituency by introducing a resolution into the Senate, condemning filibusterism.
  31. While Walker was waiting in Baja California for recruits, for some unknown reason his vessel, the “Caroline,” sailed away with the greater part of his supplies. Matters became worse, when two hundred recruits arrived from San Francisco, and since his supplies were already so greatly depleted, he was forced to send a band of men on towards Todos Santos Bay, on a foraging expedition. At Guilla, near Santo Tomas, a battle was fought, for the natives did not care to give up their cattle and provisions in return for scrip in Walker’s company. Walker now began to drill his band to reparation for a march on Sonora. But discontent had broken out in his party. The new-comers were disappointed that there was no plunder to be had. Food was insufficient and coarse. Men began to desert. Four of these deserters he arrested, shot two of them, and had the other two publicly flogged. This act by no means made the expedition more popular, and some weeks later it was with a force of only one hundred men that Walker started for Sonora, and by the time they reached the Colorado River only thirty-five men remained in the party. It would take more than this mere handful to hold the country, and so Walker decided to abandon the project. On May 8, 1854, the party crossed the frontier near Tia Juana, and surrendered themselves to the United States officers stationed there. They were granted their parole and were permitted to depart for San Francisco. Had Walker’s party reached Sonora, and gotten any kind of a foothold there, so many volunteers would probably have joined them that there would bave been a repetition of the Sam Houston affair, and Sonora and Lower California would have become territories of the United States.
  32. Walker himself said that it was almost impossible to succeed in the venture because of the enormous difficulties encounterd, such as lack or resources, ignorance concerning the country, the desert which had to be traversed, etc. Of course, there is no defense for his action. There is no reason why he should be lionized, as he has been, for his exploits in Baja California. Even though he himself declared that he was going into Sonora to protect the people from the Apaches, the people of Sonora, were they given a choice in the matter, would have taken the Apaches in preference to the American filibusters, whom they so despised and feared.
  33. When Walker arrived in San Francisco, he was tried in the Federal courts for the violation of the United States neutrality laws. He was acquitted, however, and went back to his law practice until he was once more tempted to venture forth, this time to Central America. It is due to his exploits here rather than to the fiasco in Baja California, that he became so famous. Walker’s reputation as a leader had gone as far as Nicaragua, where a revolution was in progress. Here, the Granada and the Leonese factions were at war with each other, both wishing to obtain the upper hand in that country. The Granada faction was, for the time being, victorious, and so the defeated Leonese, bound to gain supremacy, sought the aid of Walker. Seizing this change to bring himself once more into the limelight, he enlisted some sixty men, who were eager to follow him to Nicaragua, and with them he set sail, May 3, 1855. Although the United States Marshal had tried to prevent his departure, still the sympathies of the Federal officials were with him. Before sailing, Walker had met General Wool, military commander on the Pacific Coast, who had special papers from the President to suppress all filibustering expeditions. Walker told him about his plans, whereupon the general not only declared that he would not interfere, but also wished his success.
  34. Some weeks later, Walker landed at San Juan del Sur, and almost immediately began to assert his authority. With the aid of sixty recruits, who had arrived from California under Parker H. French, and the Leonese troops, he soon succeeded in routing the opposite faction at the battle of Rivas. For his victories, he was given the title of generalissimo, and soon after he declared himself president of Nicaragua. News of his success soon reached the United States, and the slavery advocates began a recruiting propaganda. Public meetings were held in some of the large Southern cities, money was raised, and even Tammany Hall voiced its approval of the enterprise. With the power now centered in his hands, Walker began to manage things to suit himself. He revoked the franchise by which the Vanderbilt Steamship Company sent passengers across Nicaragua, on their way from the Atlantic to the Pacific Coasts, or the vice versa, and gave the right of transit, with a twenty-five years’ permit, to Edmond Randolf. He then issued a proclamation reversing the anti-slavery laws which had existed in Nicaragua for the last thirty-two years. Because of this act, and others of a similar nature, revolts began to break out, fostered by Commodore Vanderbilt, who owned the steamship company. Costa Rica declared war against him. Finally, in May, 1857, he was forced to surrender and to leave Nicaragua, where he had remained two years.
  35. The last two expeditions of Walker were not connected with California, except that many of his old followers of the previous enterprises joined him on his second Nicaragua campaign, and on his fatal trip to Honduras. His third undertaking, known as the second Nicaragua expedition, was organized at Mobile, Alabama. Going to Nicaragua, he landed at Punta Arenas, in November 1857. Upon his arrival he declared himself commander of the Nicaraguan army and began the war. But he was not allowed to proceed far, for Commodore Pauling at the United States squadron in the Carribean, hearing of the expedition, forced him to surrender, and brought him back to the United States. President Buchanan went went so far, in his presidential message, as to condemn Walker as a filibuster. Walker was tried for violation of neutrality, but as usual the case was dismissed. Not satisfied to retire in private life, he organized another expedition in new Orleans and set sail for Central America. He landed near Truxillo, in Honduras, hoping to make his way eventually to Nicaragua. His men began to desert him, and being in a precarious position, he surrended himself to the captain of a British naval vessel off the coast. The Captain, instead of protecting Walker, as he had promised, handed him over to the authorities of Honduras. He was tried by court martial, and shot September 12, 1860.
  36. Although Walker was very much in earnest, and thrust himself heart and soul into these projects, he was bound to fail. He lacked too many of the essential qualities of leadership to be successful in his undertakings. He did not understand human nature, and above all he was neither a statesman nor a diplomat. Despite his firm belief that his destiny set him out to conquer, still he failed because he could not measure up to the task. The one lasting result of his exploits was to bring upon the people of the United States a distrust and suspicion which Central America possesses to the present day. With his death, the glory of filibustering passed away, and from 1860 on, filibustering [15] was more or less sporadic, and entirely devoid of the romance of the previous decade. It failed on the whole to attract attention, and when the press did comment upon it, it was only to condemn it as un-American and unworthy of the ideals of Americans.

    Other Filibuster Ventures

  37. While Walker was formulating his various schemes for Central America, other California filibusters were once more making plans to take Sorona [sic] and Baja California. In 1855, while Walker was on his first Nicaragua expedition, Colonel Frank C. Lemon, at the instigation of one of the Mexican revolutionary factions under a certain Alvarez, led five hundred Americans to La Paz. Here, like his predecessors, he met defeat, and the project ended in complete failure.
  38. The next filibuster of prominence was Henry C. Crabbe, a Stockton lawyer, and a member of the California State Legislature. He, like Walker, was a Southerner, eager to extend the territory of the South so as to maintain the balance of power. He also realized that if slavery was to continue, virgin lands must be obtained, for that institution tended, over a long course of time, to exhaust the soil. In 1855, while Crabbe was on his was East, he passed through Nicaragua. Here he received a glowing impression of the natural resources of the country. Here he also heard that the revolutionay faction was anxious to enlist the aid of Americans to support their campaign. While in the East, he was successful in interetsing Thomas Fisher of New Orleans and C. Hornsby, a veteran of the Mexican War, in a filibustering expedition to Central America. In January, 1855 [?], he and his associates sailed from New Orleans. They remained for some time in Nacaragua, making plans, and then Crabbe returned to San Francisco, where he awaited news from Fisher before proceeding to make inlistments. In this midst of his plans, he received a chance to enter California politics, which he accepted, and so this expedition to Nicaragua, so far as Crabbe was concerned, came to naught.
  39. But early in the year 1857 he organized another expedition, this time for Sonora, where a revolution was in progress between the Pesqueira and Gandara factions. Crabbe had married a member of the Aiúsa family of Sonora, and some of his wife’s relatives, who still resided in that country, asked Crabbe’s aid in the revolution against the Gandara, and offered various inducements if he would bring a colony with him. The object of this colony was to attain the independence of Sonora and its eventual annexation to the United States, With this purpose in view, Crabbe organized a company known as the American and Arizona Mining and Emigration Company, and on January 21, 1857, with a force of about seventy men, he said from San Francisco, bound for San Pedro. In Los Angeles, he outfitted his expedition, and set out overland via Yuma to Sonora. Late in March he reached Sonoita, and thence marched towards Caborca, on the Gulf of California. While they were approaching this town, the party was attacked by the Mexicans, and after a pitched battle Crabbe was forced to surrender. As usual, the revolutional factions had made up their differences and had united to expel the filibusters from their land. Crabbe and the remainder of his companions were tried and executed, and the reinforcements sent from San Francisco, hearing of the failure of the project, lost no time in returning to California.
  40. After the Civil War, much of the impetus for filibustering was lost. The slavery question was decided once for all by the thirteenth amendment, and no amount of additional territory could restore the balance of power to the South. Thus many Southerners lost interest in the schemes of annexation, and no longer went a-filibustering. The fiasco of the Emperor Maximilian in Mexico, in 1865, ended any lingering hope which the French immigrants in California might have retained for a colony that would serve as an entering wedge for the empire of France; and so with the failure of the schemes of Louis Napoleon, the French confined themselves to their own legitimate affairs within the borders of the state. The exploits after the Civil War were planned merely for the wealth and glory that might be attained, or for the purpose of obtaining for the United States the “Lost Province,” as Baja California was sometimes called. Often these enterprises would be operated under the guise of an American colonization scheme, and the members would obtain tracts of land from the Mexican government, generally on the coast in the vicinity of Magdalena Bay, but they, too, always ended in failure.
  41. In December, 1876, a reporter on the “San Francisco Chronicle” exposed a filibustering plot designed against the northwestern Mexican states. [19] After interviewing the leaders, whose names were not divulged, he succeeded in ascertaining that a company had been formed in San Francisco with the object of sending an armed force into Mexico. Various well known people had been approached with the hope that they would take part in the venture, among them being Mr. McCook, the ex-governor of Colorado. The exact nature and extent of the company were not revealed; but the plans were, first to raise plenty of money, and then to form a solid organization in San Francisco as a base of operation. Conditions in Mexico at this time were especially favorable for just such an expedition. Lerda had been deposed by Diaz, and the revolutionists would have welcomed American aid. However, publicity put an end to the plot of the company, and needless to say no expedition took place.
  42. In December of the same year, Governor Villagrana of Baja California came to San Francisco for the purpose, it was suspected, of securing arms and money to reinstate himself in the position from which he had been deposed by a rival faction. His troubles arose over the importation of goods into Baja California. Villagrana had caused the removal of the collector, Morena, of the northern district, because he had embezzled the customs duties and had permitted goods to be landed at Ensenada, which was not a port of entry. Two mercantile establishments, one in San Francisco and one in San Diego, were interested in landing goods at this port, because this was the nearest one to San Diego. They therefore united with Morena, and brought about Villagrana’s downfall. How he succeeded in San Francisco, however, I have not been able to ascertain, but probably he received little or no encouragement.
  43. In 1877, the government at Washington called the attention of the Federal officials on this coast to an expedition which was being organized in Southern California, and gave orders to prevent it immediately. The scheme, which was disclosed before anything could be accomplished, was rather a wild one. It had been planned that small squads of men were to make their way into Baja California, to a tract of land owned there by a Spanish resident of San Diego. Here they were to found a colony, presumably in order to obtain wild flax for the California markets. The real idea, however, was that of conquest. One hundred men were to go there and form a settlement. It was deliberately planned to have the settlers attacked by the Mexicans and evicted from their lands. Then the colonists, who would have plenty of arms, were to seize the government of Baja California, ostensibly in self-defense, calling upon the United States to interfere. Ultimately the territory would be annexed to the United States, it was hoped, and the invaders would reap the benefits. The project never got beyond planning, however, for it was frustrated in its inception.
  44. In April, 1889, a project somewhat similar to that above was exposed in the California newspapers. An expedition was formed against Baja California under the leadership of J K. Mulkey of Los Angeles. Publicity proved fatal, and so the venture failed. However, the idea of filibustering spread to San Diego, and a scheme to capture Baja California with the idea of ultimate annexation, was started by some of the San Diego newspaper men. Augustus Merrill and Walker Smith of San Diego and B. A. Stephens of the Mulkey party were the prime movers of the enterprise. They enlisted the aid of others, with the result that the Mexican Land and Colonization Company, an English corporation, whose interest in Baja California was imperiled by the frequent revolutions, pledged $100,000. Private subscriptions increased the funds to $120,000. The plans were to bring in the supplies and ammunition beforehand, and to store them in the warehouse of the English company at Ensenada. The filibusters were to be brought in, in the guise of laborers, and on a certain night, when the Mexican officials in Baja California were being entertained at the hotel in Ensenada, a revolution was to break out. The entire government of the new republic which was to be formed had been pre-arranged. Stephens had drawn up an elaborate constitution, and Smith was to be president. Even the design of a flag had been adopted. Merrill began to enlist men for the enterprise, whereupon the Los Angeles newspapers got wind of the affair. The exposé caused great excitement, and President Diaz even went so far as to demand an explanation, and so these plans also came to naught.
  45. Contrary to the statements of the historians, filibustering is not dead. Only lately plans were on foot once more for an expedition into Baja California, and a case for violation of neutrality on that ground was lately on the calendar in the courts of Los Angeles. Times were never so favorable for such a project. The revolutionary condition of Mexico makes aid from Carranza impossible. Governor [Esteban] Cantú of Baja California, a former adherent of Diaz, had declared the independence of Baja California, and it is said that he is friendly to the United States, and that he greatly encourages the investment of American capital in his province. Many Americans are eager to possess this peninsula, and since Japan’s efforts to found a coaling station in the vicinity of Magdalena Bay have become known, the Americans of the Pacific Coast are especially desirous of acquiring this territory for the United States. Perhaps the majority of Americans are opposed to the policy of annexation here or anywhere, and recent statements of President Wilson are distinctly of that tenor. Nevertheless, where most Americans and the United States Government may oppose projects of filibustering, individuals, backed by capitalists, may succeed in establishing the independence of Baja California from Mexico. Then, if the people themselves of the new country ask for admission to the Union, it is at least thinkable that the “Lost Province” may again become a sister of Alta California, as in the days of the distant past.


  1. Miss Fanny Juda (Rosenthal; 1895-1948)
    University of California, class of 1919 (president of the Menorah Society)
    photo at University of California, Blue and Gold yearbook for the college year 1916-1917 (1918) : 367 (same, at hathitrust; listed in 1920 yearbook as a graduate student)
    also at geni.com
  2. Charles Edward Chapman (1880-1941)
    Professor of Hispanic-American and Californian History, University of California

    “Chapman was a man of widely diverse interests and of many talents. He traveled extensively in Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, and South America. A proficient athlete, he played baseball on the college teams at Princeton and Tufts and later on professional teams. He was Pacific Coast scout for the St. Louis National Baseball Club (1921-1932) and for the Cincinnati Club (1932-1941). It was an injury to his arm incurred while playing ball in Japan that caused him to take up academic life. His last book, entitled Play Ball, published just before his death by Harper and Bros., is an interesting treatise on the great American game. Like all his writings it reveals his astonishing accuracy and grasp of details as well as of principles. In his day he was a tennis champion at the University of California, and he held high rank among amateurs in golf and bridge. No mere “desiccated academe” was he.”
    ex University of California, In Memoriam, 1941

    “...It was, however, in his Graduate Seminar that he achieved his greatest success. His exacting methods coupled with a marked originality (no members of his seminars will ever forget ‘The Man from Boston’) gave his students a training in historical methodology which may best be summed up in a statement by the Review’s managing editor to the effect that Dr. Chapman ‘was a pillar of fire by night to me.’...”
    ex “Charles Edward Chapman, 1880-1941,” by Osgood Hardy, Hispanic American Historical Review 22:1 (1942) : 2–4
    pdf (138K)

  3. The Grizzly Bear

    Published by the Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West, 1905-1954; that fraternal organization was established in 1875 by A. M. Winn.
    Albert Maver Winn (1810-1883), “military officer, politician, Odd Fellow, freemason, and founder of the Native Sons of the Golden West” / wikipedia

  4. “The term ‘Filibuster’ no longer means a pirate or Buccaneer. It means the compassing of the weak by the strong. As the Angles compassed the Britons, the Saxons the Angles, the Normans the Saxons,—and the Rebels, the Tories on this side of the water. The term Filibuster is no identical with the pioneer of progres,—the sapper and miner of christian civilization.”
    ex “Filibusterism” by L*****l [= Judge Lott], in The Pioneer, Or California Monthly Magazine 1: 1 (January 1854) : 30-34 (32)
  5. “The Sonorian [as rendered in Table of Contents] Filibusters,” (being the entry for December 13, 1853), in Frank Soulé, John H. Gihon, and James Nisbet, The Annals of San Francisco; Containing a Summary of the History of the first discovery, settlement, progress, and present condition of California, and a complete history of all the important events connected with its great city: to which are added, biographical memoirs of some prominent citizens (New York, 1854) : 474-481
  6. William Walker (1824-60)
    an American physician, lawyer, journalist, and mercenary who organized several private military expeditions into Mexico and Central America with the intention of occupying the local nations and establishing slave-hold colonies, an enterprise then known as “filibustering”.
  7. Lockwood mentions, in The war in Nicaragua. Written by Gen’l William Walker. With a colored map of Nicaragua. (Mobile, 1860) (University of Virginia copy, at hathitrust)
    catalog record (two copies)

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17 June 2022