Mule Hill Standoff


December 7, 1846

The American sailors, soldiers and volunteers under command of Brigadier General Stephen Watts Kearny were attacked from the rear by Mexican forces 250 yards northwest of this location. This compelled the Americans to withdraw to higher ground for cover, but fire came from above. The Americans were able to drive their enemy from the hill directly in front of you, but for the next four days they were besieged by the valiant Mexican forces.


The Mexican forces recruited for the defense of their homeland were led by Captain Andres Pico, younger brother of Pio Pico, a former Governor of California. The forces were primarily comprised of Californios, residents of the time who descended from mexican and spanish colonialists. These men, mostly ranchers and vaqueros, were excellent horsemen and very adept with their primary weapon, an 8-foot lance. The Mexican forces formed a cordon around the Americans on the hill.

The Americans were short of food and resorted to eating their mules, hence the name Mule hill for this site. Under the protection of two small cannons, the men dug shallow wells of water at the base of the hill near the road by you.

An exchange of one prisoner from each side took place. The exchanged american informed Kearny that no help was coming from San Diego. Navy Lieutenant Edward Beale volunteered to sneak through Mexican lines to seek help in San Diego. He asked that scout Kit Carson go with him.

Standoff Continues

On December 8, after sundown, Beale, Carson, and a Native American ( identity unknown) sneaked through three lines of Mexican sentries. They lost their footwear, and their feet were soon cut and sore by the sharp rocks and cactus. Nearing San Diego, they separated to better ensure one of them getting through the Mexican forces. The Native American arrived first, followed by Beale, and then Carson.


On December 9, with little food, water, or supplies, General Kearny made the decision to fight their way to San Diego, burning all excess baggage including weapons and supplies. On December 10, Sergeant John Cox died and was buried at Mule Hill. Later, his body was disinterred and buried in a mass grave with all his comrades who had fallen at San Pasqual. Dr. John Griffithen reported that all but two of the wounded were able to ride and Kearny decided to march the next day.

On December 11, in response to a sentry's early morning challenge, a reply came back in English. A relief column of 100 sailors and 80 marines, sent by Commodore Stockton, had arrived. the Mexican force, now out numbered, withdrew. Later that morning, the Americans left Mule Hill and marched into what is now Old Town, San Diego, thus completing a 2,000 mile march from Fort leavenworth, Kansas. Kearny's now diminished army joined Stockton's on to Los Angeles for The Final Battle of January 9, 1847. Four days later, Pico surrendered to General John C. Fremont.