The March Of Portola And The Discovery Of The Bay Of San Francisco By Zoeth S. Eldredge

 - The March of Portola and the Discovery of the Bay of San Francisco

by Zoeth S. Eldredge

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The March Of Portola And The Discovery Of The Bay Of San Francisco

By Zoeth S. Eldredge

"Serene, indifferent of fate, Thou sittest at the Western Gate;

Upon thy heights so lately won, Still slant the banners of the sun;

Thou seest the white seas strike their tents, O warder of two continents,

And scornful of the peace that flies, Thy angry winds and sullen skies,

Thou drawest all things, small or great, To thee beside the Western Gate."

Table of Contents


Introduction The March of Portola and Discovery of the Bay of San Francisco Data regarding Portola after he left California Letter of the Viceroy of New Spain to Don Julian de Arriaga Causes that led to the Expedition of the San Carlos Log of the San Carlos Report of the Commander of the San Carlos Description of the Bay of San Francisco Report of the Pilot of the San Carlos


In the annals of adventure, there are no more thrilling narratives of heroic perseverance in the performance of duty than the record of Spanish exploration in America. To those of us who have come into possession of the fair land opened up by them, the story of their travels and adventures have the most profound interest. The account of the expedition of Portola has never been properly presented. Many writers have touched on it, and H. H. Bancroft, in his History of California, gives a brief digest of Crespi's diary. Most writers on California history have drawn on Palou's Vida del V. P. F. Junipero Serra and Noticias de la Nueva California, and without looking further, have accepted the ecclesiastical narrative. We have endeavored in this sketch to give, in a clear and concise form, the conditions which preceded and led up to the occupation of California.

The importance of California in relation to the control of the Pacific was early recognized by the great European powers, some of whom had but small respect for the Bull of Pope Alexander VI dividing the New World between Spain and Portugal. England, France, and Russia sent repeated expeditions into the Pacific. In 1646 the British Admiralty sent two ships to look in Hudson's Bay for a northwest passage to the South Sea, one of which bore the significant name of California. The voyage of Francis Drake, 1577-1580, was a private venture, but at Drake's Bay he proclaimed the sovereignty of Elizabeth, and named the country New Albion. Two hundred years later (1792-1793) Captain George Vancouver explored the coast of California down to thirty degrees of north latitude (Ensenada de Todos Santos), which, he says, "is the southernmost limit of New Albion, as discovered by Sir Francis Drake, or New California, as the Spaniards frequently call it." Even after the occupation and settlement by the Spaniards, so feeble were their establishments that, as Vancouver reports to the Admiralty, it would take but a small force to wrest from Spain this most valuable possession. But though the growing feebleness of Spain presaged the time when her hold upon America would be loosened, the standard of individual heroism was not lowered, and the achievements of Portola and of Anza rank with those of De Soto and Coronado. The California explorer did not, it is true, have to fight his way through hordes of fierce natives. The California Indians, as a rule, received the white adventurers gladly, and entertained them with such hospitality as they had to offer, but the Indians north of the Santa Barbara Channel were but a poor lot. In a country abounding in game of all kinds, a sea swarming with fish, a soil capable of growing every character of foodstuff, these miserable natives lived in a chronic state of starvation.

As in heroic qualities, so also in skill and judgment, Portola upholds the best traditions of Spain. The success of an expedition depends upon the character of the leader. Panfilo de Narvaez landed on the coast of Florida in April, 1528, with a well-equipped army of three hundred men and forty horses, just half the force he sailed with from Spain the previous June, and of the three hundred men whom he led into Florida, only four lived to reach civilization - the rest perished. That is but one example of incompetent leadership. When Portola organized his expedition for the march from San Diego Bay to Monterey, many of his soldiers were ill from scurvy, and at one time on the march the sick list numbered nineteen men, including the governor and Rivera, his chief officer. Sixteen men had to be carried, and to three, in extremis, the viaticum was administered; but he brought them all through, and returned to San Diego without the loss of a man.

There are two full diaries of this expedition, one by Father Crespi and the other by Alferez Costanso. There is, besides, a diary of Junipero Serra of the march from Velicata to San Diego Bay, a translation of which is printed in Out West magazine (Los Angeles), March-July, 1902. It is of small value to the student of history. There is a diary by Portola, quoted by Bancroft, and a Fragmento by Ortega, also used by Bancroft. These we have not seen. There are letters from Francisco Palou, Juan Crespi and Miguel Costanso, printed in Out West for January 1902. The diary of Father Crespi is printed in Palou's Noticias de la Nueva California. Documentos para la Historia de Mexico, re-printed San Francisco, 1874. The diary of Miguel Costanso is in the Sutro library. It has never been printed. It is prefaced by an historical narrative, a poor translation of which was published by Dalrymple, London, 1790, and a better one by Chas. F. Lummis in Out West, June-July, 1901. In Publications of the Historical Society of Southern California, Vol. II, Part 1, Los Angeles, 1891, a number of documents of the Sutro collection are printed, with translations by George Butler Griffin. These relate to the explorations of the California coast by ships from the Philippines, the two voyages of Vizcaino, with some letters of Junipero Serra, and diaries of the voyage of the Santiago to the northern coast in 1774.

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