Conquer And Colonize: Stevenson’s Regiment And California
When President James Polk authorized the raising of a regiment of volunteers in New York after the 1846 declaration of war between the United States and Mexico, Jonathan Stevenson, a man with proper Democratic Party credentials, was named to recruit and lead its members. Donald Biggs, former director of the California Historical Society, has written a history of the regiment tracing its recruitment and training in New York, its arrival in California in March 1847, its deployment throughout both Alta and Baja California, its members’ reactions to gold fever, and its mustering out. He then follows the regiment’s former members into the gold fields, San Francisco businesses, and public life. Biggs concludes that a majority of members of Stevenson’s Regiment became an important and positive force in the Americanization of California. A minority of the regiment’s members became outlaws, like Jack Powers, or members of the Hounds, like Samuel Roberts, or filibusters, like Joseph Morehead, or had a brief career in smuggling, as did Ira Johnson in San Diego. Biggs effectively and persuasively points out that many historians, instead of looking at the constructive work of the majority of former regiment members, have emphasized the role of the minority, particularly of the Hounds. He performs the important task of correcting our view of the impact of the regiment.