The battle of Mule Hill

Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1794, Stephen Watts Kearny went to Columbia University before enlisting in the military. He served as a lieutenant in the War of 1812 and after that on the American frontier. In 1826 he was the first commander of Jefferson Barracks, where he met William Clark and married his stepdaughter, Mary Radford. He organized a regiment of dragoons, later to become the 1st U. S. Cavalry, and instituted a policy of military protection for wagon trains heading west.

Stephen W. Kearny

When war with Mexico erupted, Kearny, in command of the 1700 man Army of the West, took Santa Fe without a fight then preceded toward San Diego with his 300-man regiment of dragoons. Along the way he met Kit Carson, Fremont’s scout, who bore messages saying that the fighting had ended in California. Kearny sent 200 men back to Santa Fe and arrived in California in late 1846 with his exhausted men out of supplies only to find the war still in progress.

General Stephen Watts Kearny


A battle with Mexican lancers at San Pasquel soon followed. It resulted in a shaky victory but the next day Kearny was attacked by the lancers again and had to flee up a small hill in the desert. Surrounded and starving, the dragoons were forced to eat their mules. The battle site is called Mule Hill to this day. After Kit Carson slipped through the Mexican line and brought help from Commodore Stockton, Kearny’s men made it to San Diego. In January Los Angeles was taken and a treaty was signed.

Kit Carson


A dispute arose immediately with Fremont over who was the rightful Governor of California and it would result in Fremont’s later court martial. Kearny took over the office in March and served until August when he left for Washington. Appointed Governor of Vera Cruz and later of Mexico City he caught yellow fever, returned to St. Louis and died on October 31, 1848, only months before the gold rush of 1849 started.



  1. Douglas Whitlock says

    Am a relation of Kit Carson (3 gr nephew). In my genealogical research I found that Kit’s brother Robert Carson 1803-1874 was in Kearny’s Army of the West. Later Robert showed up in CA in the gold rush days, at his brother Lindsey’s home very intoxicated. Kit’s half brother Moses Carson had been in CA for some time prior to the Mexican American war and joined the Bear Flag Rebellion. Moses was described at the time as well over 6 ft, 200 lbs, missing one eye and several fingers with a very weathered complexion. Enjoy your stories!

    • You have an exciting family history, Douglas. Thanks for sharing. It’s interesting that Moses was such a big man while Kit was reportedly quite small. We are all unique.

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