Look­ing At Es­tanis­lao And In­dian Re­bel­lion


Some­time af­ter Je­didiah Smith left the area of the Stanis­laus River, ap­prox­i­mately early in 1828, Es­tanis­lao and his fol­low­ers be­gan raid­ing Mis­sions San Jose, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz along with the ran­chos that sur­rounded them. He was joined by mem­bers of the Chu­mash In­dian tribe and other mem­bers of the Yokuts tribe un­til his army con­tained up to 4,000 men. Es­tanis­lao ed­u­cated them in the art of Span­ish bat­tle tech­niques he had learned from the Span­ish and Mex­i­can soldiers at the mis­sions.

The raids Es­tanis­lao en­acted were sud­den, and of­ten in­volved traps, but there was typ­i­cally no loss of life. As an in­di­ca­tion of who had per­formed the deed of the raid Es­tanis­lao of­ten carved the ini­tial “S” into a nearby tree or wall to sig­nify his hand­i­work. The set­tlers he raided were ter­ri­fied and begged then Cal­i­for­nia Gover­nor Eche­an­dia for help. Three ex­pe­di­tions were sent out from the pre­sid­ios of San Fran­cisco and Mon­terey. Each one of the ex­pe­di­tions failed.

Late in 1828, the com­man­dant of the San Fran­cisco Pre­sidio, one Yg­na­cio Mar­tinez was con­tacted to do some­thing about Es­tanis­lao’s raids. He sent out An­to­nio Soto who was an ex­pe­ri­enced In­dian fighter, to bring in the fugi­tives for pun­ish­ment. Soto only took 20 men with him and marched from Mis­sion San Jose up Mis­sion Canyon and over Pat­ter­son Pass into the San Joaquin Val­ley. He camped for the night at La­guna Del Blanco which was a fresh wa-

ter lake just east of what is now the present day city of Tracy. At this point he was 14 hours’ march from the vil­lage of Es­tanis­lao.

The next day he and his men be­gan their march and even­tu­ally came to the Stanis­laus River, go­ing up on its north­ern side. Soto and his men never quite got close enough to ac­tu­ally see the fortress how­ever. As they ap­proached, a war cry arose and hun­dreds of In­di­ans hurled in­sults at Cor­po­ral Soto, call­ing him a coward and dar­ing him to at­tack. Other tribes north of the Yokuts had told them about Soto’s pre­vi­ous bat­tles and cru­elty to­ward other In­di­ans. They knew him by name and knew that he had a bad tem­per.

Soto at­tempted to get a con­fer­ence with Es­tanis­lao, but his ef­forts were to no avail. Get­ting flus­tered af­ter the many in­sults the In­di­ans gave him, Soto plunged into the woods with six soldiers. The other 14 men in his com­mand were told to meet at the flank of the op­er­a­tion by an old oak tree.

Soto was fooled by the ter­rain and in­stead of scram­bling up the hill­side, he and the six men with him be­came stuck in the swamp like con­di­tions along the river. In some places the brush was so thick that there was no pos­si­ble way through. He was forced to give up and re­treat. As he did so, a party of In­di­ans who were hid­den in the brush came out and fired ar­rows at point blank range. In the scram­ble to get away, two men were lost and sev- eral oth­ers wounded. Some of the soldiers dropped their mus­kets which the In­di­ans helped them­selves to. Soto him­self was struck in the eye. The ar­row had nearly pierced his brain and he died later af­ter he and his men re­turned to Mis­sion San Jose.

The sec­ond bat­tle against Es­tanis­lao and the In­dian rebels was led by Sergeant Jose An­to­nio Sanchez. He dou­bled the num­ber he took along, com­pared to Soto and thus had 40 men in his com­mand. He out­fit­ted them with leather col­lars to pro­tect them against ar­rows. Like Soto, he also took along a can­non which failed af­ter three rounds. The car­bines were sim­ply in­suf­fi­cient against the log bar­ri­cade. Some of the In­di­ans fired back with the mus­kets ob­tained from Soto’s de­feat but they did not have am­mu­ni­tion and only fired pow­der.

In the evening of this first day of at­tack, Sanchez or­dered a tem­po­rary re­treat and made camp for the night. Es­tanis­lao ap­proached the camp dur­ing the night but hid in some bushes nearby. He spoke to some In­dian aux­il­iaries that Sanchez had brought along. Sanchez heard him and ad­vised him to give him­self up, claim­ing that noth­ing would hap­pen to him if he did so. Es­tanis­lao made no re­ply to Sanchez’s state­ment. In­stead, Es­tanis­lao’s brother Sab­u­lon fired at Sanchez but ei­ther he missed or he had no am­mu­ni­tion in the gun. In all of the com­mo­tion cre­ated by the fir­ing, Sab­u­lon and Es­tanis­lao es­caped back to the stock­ade.

At dawn of the next day, Sanchez di­vided his troops into six squads and as­signed them points of at­tack around the In­dian camp, but he first sought to ne­go­ti­ate with Es­tanis­lao. He took a trans­la­tor with him and ap­proached the edge of the woods by the In­dian vil­lage. Through the in­ter­preter, he in­tended to en­cour­age the rebels to re­pent and sur­ren­der.

Es­tanis­lao at last an­swered Sanchez, “I am not guilty. I have been ad­vised that I and my peo­ple should de­fend our­selves. Con­se­quently, we are pre­pared to die here.”

In re­sponse, Sanchez or­dered an at­tack, even though the can­non he had brought with him was out of ser­vice. He was count­ing on the su­pe­ri­or­ity of mus­kets over ar­rows, but, dur­ing the fight­ing, four men who were in a squad led by Lazaro Pi­nas be­came rash and plunged into the un­der­brush head­ing for the river in or­der to quench their thirst with a drink from the river.

When Sanchez ar­rived on the scene, two of the men were found to be badly wounded, one car­ry­ing the other who was moan­ing, “Don’t leave me com­rade.”

Sanchez threat­ened the sur­round­ing In­di­ans with guns, but they were so close that it was im­pos­si­ble for Sanchez and his men to load their guns. With­out their shields and leather jack­ets, all of the men in­clud­ing Soto and Sanchez would have died. Sanchez or­dered the men to charge the In­di­ans and they fled.

The In­di­ans had cap­tured three men all of which were hung, shot full of ar­rows, taken down and burned. Es­tanis­lao in­vited other In­dian vil­lages to come and watch them die.

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