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Stephen Watts Kearny

Stephen Watts Kearny

Stephen Watts Kearny (1794-1848), American soldier, played an important role in the conquest of New Mexico and California during the Mexican War.

Stephen W. Kearny was born on Aug. 30, 1794, in Newark, N.J. After attending common school in Newark and Columbia College, he joined the Army as a first lieutenant in 1812. During the War of 1812 he fought in Canada. He was promoted to captain in 1813 and remained in the Army after the war, serving mostly in the West.

In 1819 Kearny went to Camp Missouri (later Ft. Atkinson) near Omaha. In 1820 he journeyed through unknown land to Camp Cold Water (later Ft. Snelling) near St. Paul, Minn., and in 1825 he took part in an expedition to the mouth of the Yellowstone River. During the next 20 years he had a number of commands and supervised construction of several forts, including the famous fort on the Oregon Trail later named for him.

Shortly after the outbreak of war with Mexico in 1846, Kearny was named brigadier general and placed in command of the Army of the West. With almost 1,700 men he marched to Santa Fe and captured the city without opposition on August 18. After organizing a civil government in New Mexico, he left for California with a small force. En route to San Diego he repulsed a Mexican force at San Pasqual on December 6, suffering heavy casualties. Joining Commodore Robert F. Stockton at San Diego, Kearny led his depleted army to Los Angeles, captured the town in January 1847, and established an uneasy peace. Trouble developed between the American commanders after Lt. Col. John C. Frémont, whom Stockton had appointed civil governor, refused to recognize Kearny's authority to organize a new territorial government. Stockton left for Mexico; new orders from Washington confirmed Kearny's authority; and Frémont was sent back to Washington, where he was court-martialed and found guilty of mutiny, disobedience, and improper conduct.

After the trial Kearny went to Mexico and served for brief periods as civil governor of Veracruz and, later, of Mexico City. With his health weakened by yellow fever he had contracted in Veracruz, he went to St. Louis, Mo. He died there on October 13, 1848.

Further Reading

The only full-length biography of Kearny is Dwight Clarke, Stephen Watts Kearny: Soldier of the West (1961). The standard history of the Mexican War is Justin Harvey Smith, The War with Mexico (2 vols., 1919). The story of the Army of the West is told by Ralph P. Bieber, ed., in his introduction to Journal of a Soldier under Kearny and Doniphan, 1846-1847 (1935), which contains the diary of George Rutledge Gibson. Another firsthand account, Philip St. George Cooke, The Conquest of New Mexico and California (1878), has been reprinted many times. □

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Kearny, Stephen Watts

Kearny, Stephen Watts (1794–1848), frontier army commander, conqueror of New Mexico, governor of California.Born in Newark to a prominent New Jersey family, Kearny became a regular army lieutenant in the War of 1812. He served with distinction at the Battle of Queenston Heights on the Niagara frontier. Promoted in the postwar period, he served in several expeditions and posts on the western frontier and molded the dragoons into one of the U.S. Army's crack units.

During the Mexican War, Colonel Kearny received orders to organize an expedition of dragoons and Missouri Volunteers and seize Sante Fe, the provincial capital of New Mexico. Commanding the Army of the West, Kearny led 1,800 men 700 miles from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on 30 June 1846, arriving at Santa Fe on 18 August. As a brigadier general, he established a U.S. civil government and a territorial constitution there, then left on 25 September with 700 men for his second objective, the seizure of California. Learning that Commodore Robert F. Stockton had already conquered California, Kearny sent half his command back to Sante Fe and proceeded with 300 troops overland to California.

In December, he arrived near Los Angeles, which had been retaken by Mexican Californians. On 6 December, at San Pascual, Kearny defeated a Mexican detachment. After reprovisioning in San Diego, Kearny's soldiers and Stockton's sailors and Marines defeated 600 Mexicans at San Gabriel and retook Los Angeles. A feud between Kearny and Stockton, the latter supported by John C. Fremont, over who was in charge in California led to Kearny's recognition as the military governor and ultimately to Fremont's court‐martial for insubordination. Kearny died from yellow fever.

Bibliography

Dwight L. Clarke , Stephen Watts Kearny: Soldier of the West, 1961.

John M. Hart

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"Kearny, Stephen Watts." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. 14 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Kearny, Stephen Watts." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Retrieved December 14, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/kearny-stephen-watts

Kearny, Stephen Watts

Stephen Watts Kearny, 1794–1848, American general in the Mexican War, b. Newark, N.J. At the beginning of the Mexican War he was made commander of the Army of the West with the rank (June, 1846) of brigadier general. With about 1,600 men he marched over the Santa Fe Trail to New Mexico, entered the city of Santa Fe without opposition, and organized a civil government for the territory. On his way to join the forces of Commodore Robert F. Stockton in California he was besieged at San Pasqual, where he was wounded and suffered casualties of a third of his command before being rescued by relief forces from Stockton. After several skirmishes the combined forces reached Los Angeles and occupied the town. A dispute arose between Kearny and Stockton as to the chief command, and Col. John C. Frémont, appointed civil governor of California by Stockton, refused to obey Kearny's orders. When orders from Washington sustained Kearny, he had Frémont court-martialed. Kearny was military governor of the territory until the end of May, 1847. Afterward he went to Mexico, where he was governor of Veracruz and then of Mexico City for brief periods in 1848. Fort Kearney, erected in 1848 on the Platte River in what is now Nebraska, was named for Kearny but misspelled.

See biography by D. L. Clarke (1961).

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Kearny, Stephen Watts

Kearny, Stephen Watts (1794–1848) US general. He participated in the War of 1812 and in numerous wars on the Western frontier. In 1846, he took possession of New Mexico, promising full citizenship to the Native Americans. He also led a successful march to California, taking San Diego (1846) and Los Angeles (1847).

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"Kearny, Stephen Watts." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 14, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/kearny-stephen-watts