March 30, 1848 – This Day During The Mexican–American War – Skirmish at Todos Santos

March 30, 1848 – Skirmish at Todos Santos was the last clash of the Mexican–American War and ended eighteen months of hostilities in Baja California.
Following the relief of the Siege of San José del Cabo, Colonel Henry S. Burton, ordered a raid on Captain Manuel Pineda’s headquarters at San Antonio on March 15, 1848. San Antonio lay about 30 miles south of La Paz. Captain Seymour G. Steele, and Lt. Henry Halleck, led 34 men on a commando raid, killing three with the loss of one, and freeing the American prisoners captured at San Jose del Cabo on 22 Jan. Captain Pineda escaped capture in only his night clothes.
Meanwhile, the Military Governor of Alta California Richard B. Mason sent 114 recruits detached from Companies C and D of the 1st Regiment of New York Volunteers under the command of Captain Henry (“Black Jack”) Naglee from Monterey, California to La Paz. They arrived on March 22, 1848 on the storeship Isabella. With Naglee’s reinforcements, Colonel Burton could move against the enemy forces in the vicinity that were reported to be gathering against him without leaving La Paz open to attack.
On 26 March, Colonel Burton, with Captain Naglee and Lt. Halleck, and 217 men set out toward San Antonio. On the next day a detachment of 15 Americans again managed to surprise the Mexican forces at San Antonio and this time succeeded in capturing the Mexican commander, Manuel Pineda. Burton learned that the Baja Californians, under the command of Mauricio Castro, were concentrating at Todos Santos, prior to retreating toward Magdalena Bay, about fifty-five miles southwest of La Paz on the Pacific coast. Burton hastened to attack them before they made their escape.
On March 30, as Burton’s expedition neared Todos Santos, Burton sent Captain Naglee and 45 mounted men to attack the Mexican force from the rear. With a timely warning that the Californians were lying in ambush in some dense chaparral through which the road ran. Burton directed his detachment along a ridge of high tableland, providing a view of the enemy, some 200 to 300 Mexicans and Yaqui Indians. The Mexican force, responded by falling back to a hill overlooking Burton’s force.
The action is described by Private William Redmond Ryan:
“At last, after many days and nights of weary marching, we came to a wide plain, all sand, and stones, and prickly bushes, but the path across which was so narrow as to oblige us to take to the Indian file again;…. However, in spite of the intense heat and dust, and of the burning thirst that devoured us, we pushed on in tolerable spirits, for we now began to distinguish the heights on which the town of Todos Santos is situated, and from which we were separated only by the plain we were now crossing. As we drew nearer, we plainly discerned the enemy dotted about on convenient elevations,….”
“The main body of the enemy, … lay posted on the summit of a hill, beyond musket-shot, and apparently extremely well mounted and armed. As we drew nearer, they waved their flags by way of defiance, and commenced a dropping fire, which however did us no injury, although it served to animate our courage. Presently we commenced the ascent of the rugged steep on which they were so advantageously posted, when the firing became more sustained, and was returned by us with great spirit and with fatal effect.”
“All at once we were saluted with a discharge of musketry from the borders of a dense forest of brushwood and cacti, stretching from the foot of the heights along the right side of the plain we had so recently cleared, and in which this ambuscade had been prepared for us; into this part of the forest the party I belonged to was ordered to plunge, and charge the enemy at the point of the bayonet; an order we executed with the rapidity of lightning, succeeding, after some hard fighting, in which a great number of Californians and Yakees were killed, in dislodging these sharp-shooters, whom we pursued with great spirit.”
After the Mexicans had fired on Burton’s men and had been engaged for some time, Naglee’s company charged them from behind, routing the Mexican force by 5:30 PM. Burton reported this engagement cost the Mexicans ten men, the Americans none.

Skirmish at Todos Santos

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