The United States officially acquired California from Mexico in February of 1848,
but it had its eyes on the province for a long time.
USS United States
In the fall of 1842, the Pacific Ocean was full of warships. Everybody was casting
a hungry eye at the weakly held provincial capital of Monterey, and leading the pack
was Commodore Thomas Jones of the USS United States. He was under orders that
California was not to fall into the hands of any power other than the United States.
The problem was that he had to be careful and not start a war. The Commodore couldn't
allow the French or the English to beat him to the punch, but neither could he move
against Mexico without a good reason. That justification came to him in October 19,
A rumor reached his flagship that Mexico and the United States were at war over Texas.
Strike now came the advise from his officers, so he struck. At 9:00 the next morning
he sent 150 marines ashore, and they hauled down the Mexican Flag and ran up the Stars
and Stripes, California now belonged to the United States.
There was however a problem. The rumor had no truth. The United States was not at
war with Mexico, so the Commodore in effect said "Ooops, sorry," to the Californios
and hurriedly replaced the American standard with the Mexican flag.
Thus in October of 1842, the United States had possession of California for about
thirty hours, until Jones learned of his mistake. The Mexican government was of course
angry, and it wasn't until January of 1843 that they formally forgave the Americans,
for a price. They demanded ten thousand dollars, eighty military uniforms and a set
of musical instruments from the band on Commodore Jones's ship. So in a sense, the short
lived capture of Mexican California by the United States in 1842 was something of a
Brother Fred "Mr Magoo" Willcox
Monterey California 1850