Bear Flag Revolt

views updated Jun 11 2018


BEAR FLAG REVOLT. In the last four years of Mexican rule in California, hundreds of Americans settled in the Sacramento Valley. Tensions rose between the United States and Mexico, and by the winter of 1845–1846 war seemed inevitable but remote. Spurring conflict was John Charles Frémont, a U.S. Army mapmaker on an official mission to map California, with a band of ninety well-armed men, a considerable army in thinly settled California.

Ordered to leave by Mexican authorities, Frémont fortified a hilltop east of Monterey and raised the American flag. Although the adventuresome mapmaker quickly backed down and withdrew north, the Mexican provincial government issued a proclamation ordering all foreigners out of California, meaning the settlers as well. The American settlers turned to Frémont for help, but he refused to act, even though the Mexican-American War had now begun further east. The settlers then took the initiative. They seized a herd of horses going south for use by the Mexican army; then, at dawn on 14 June 1846, they captured Sonoma, the only important Mexican stronghold north of San Francisco Bay.

General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, the dominant Mexican figure in Sonoma, favored American acquisition of California, and helped the Americans draw up the surrender. The rebels raised their banner, the Bear Flag, and proclaimed the Bear Flag Republic, an independent California. On 7 July, a U.S. fleet captured Monterey, California's capital. Now Fremont finally stepped in, taking command at Sonoma, and on 9 July the Bear Flag came down in favor of the Stars and Stripes. The original Bear Flag was destroyed in the San Francisco fire of 1906. A version of it remains the state flag.


Ide, William Brown, and Simeon Ide. Who Conquered California? 1880. Reprint, Glorieta, N.M.: Rio Grande Press, 1967. A firsthand account by California's first and only president, William Ide.

Walker, Dale L. Bear Flag Rising: The Conquest of California, 1846. New York: Forge, 1999.


See alsoCalifornia .

Bear Flag Revolt

views updated May 23 2018

Bear Flag Revolt

Bear Flag Revolt, an 1846 uprising by Anglo-American settlers against Mexico. On 14 June 1846 a group of thirty-three Anglo-American California settlers led by a trapper named Ezekiel Merritt took control of the plaza in the town of Sonoma north of San Francisco and proclaimed a California Republic. When the Mexican garrison in Sonoma capitulated without a fight, the Bear Flaggers took Colonel Mariano G. Vallejo, commander of the garrison, and his brother Salvador to Captain John C. Frémont's camp near the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. Frémont, on a topographical mission for the U.S. government, covertly encouraged the proclamation of the California republic but remained officially aloof.

The Bear Flaggers controlled Sonoma until July 1846, when U.S. forces began the occupation of Alta California. Although rumors of war between Mexico and the United States had been circulating through the U.S. naval force off the California coast, the Bear Flag proclamation was the immediate catalyst for the U.S. conquest of the province. Commodore John D. Sloat, commander of the U.S. Pacific squadron, assuming that Frémont had already received news of the Mexican-American War, calculated that blame could be shifted to Frémont if the occupation of California proved premature. Thus, on 7 July 1846, Sloat landed a force of marines at Monterey, initiating the conquest of California.

See alsoCalifornia .


Robert S. Smilie, The Sonoma Mission (1975).

David J. Weber, The Mexican Frontier, 1821–1846: The American Southwest Under Mexico (1982).

Additional Bibliography

Papp, Richard Paul. Bear Flag Country: Legacy of the Revolt: A History of the Towns and Post Offices of Sonoma County, California. Forestville, CA: Analecta, 1996.

Phelps, William Dane. Frémont's Private Navy: The 1846 Journal of Captain William Dane Phelps. Glendale, CA: A.H. Clark Co., 1987.

Walker, Dale L. Bear Flag Rising: The Conquest of California, 1846. New York: Forge, 2000.

Warner, Barbara R. The Men of the California Bear Flag Revolt and Their Heritage. Spokane: Sonoma Valley Historical Society, 1996.

                                    Robert H. Jackson

Bear Flag Revolt

views updated May 09 2018

Bear Flag Revolt (1846) Uprising by US settlers in California. During the Mexican War a group of US emigrants in Mexico's territory of California proclaimed the Republic of California at Sonoma in June, and raised the “bear flag”. The republic lasted until US troops arrived in July and replaced the bear flag with the Stars and Stripes.