After the Temescal Massacre, the Sonoma executions, and the ruthless round-up of Indians for labor as slaves, it is a wonder the tribes waited as long as they did to fight the White man. Partly, it was because the White men cleverly played one tribe against another and, partly, because the tribes, knowing the Mexicans and the Spanish had greater firepower, held off for a chance of a peaceful resolution, a strategy for which the Vallejo brothers were partly responsible.
Salvador Vallejo was an adventurer. At the age of fifty, in 1862, Salvador volunteered for the American Civil War. Commissioned as a Major, he led California’s 1st Battalion of Native American Horse Cavalry for the Union Army.
He had other accomplishments that his older brother, Mariano, could not match. One was in the size of his family. He married Maria Lugo when she was fourteen, and he was forty-two. To prove his sand, he had thirteen children. Despite his many achievements, all his life Salvador was overshadowed by his older brother, General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo.
Mariano Vallejo was also no slouch at his work. After he graduated as an officer, Mariano Vallejo was given command of a Spanish military force. Ordered by the Governor to put down an Indian revolt, Mariano took on the job with enthusiasm. The Indian revolt was to be only the first of many such rebellions by the original owners of California.
One of his Native foes was a man named Estanislao. Toughest of the Native American leaders that fought against the white man during the early eighteenth century, Estanislao was no ordinary native. Six feet tall, pale in color with a black beard, Estanislao was a Mestizo; a Miwok Native American with a Spanish father. Estanislao had become a dangerous threat to the colonization program. He had persuaded all of the natives, Miwok and Yakut, in the San Joaquin Valley to join his revolt.
The Mexican Government had already sent four expeditions against Estanislao. All four were failures. To that time no Spanish leader had succeeded in capturing or defeating that powerful Indian. Then Mariano Vallejo went against Estanislao.
When Vallejo’s cavalry attacked, the Indians were not asleep. They were ready. Their leaders watched the Spanish and, over time, they had learned some of the Spanish methods. When the Spanish came, the Indians waited behind strong wooden fortifications.
Estanislao built three tiers of trenches dug to defend against the enemy. The attackers were held at bay by the fortifications. Next, the Spaniards set fire to the brush. They tried to burn the Natives out of their fort. That failed as well.
Mariano Vallejo had come to the fight with an ace up his sleeve. He brought a cannon. The field piece made short work of the wooden parapets and the Indians were forced to surrender. To create fear and prevent future outbreaks he killed the prisoners and buried them in their own trenches.
Pleased with the victory, the Governor put Mariano Vallejo in charge of all the military forces in California. In the next few years, Mariano grew in power and influence. When anyone wanted something, Mariano Vallejo was the ‘man to see.’
The elder Vallejo brother went on to greater achievements. Mariano fought Sem-Yito, an Indian Chieftain of the Patwin, for two years and finally defeated him. As he matured, Vallejo had learned a thing or two about the art of human relations. He made Sem-Yito an ally and a friend. Sem-Yito became a Christian and changed his name to Solano, after the name of the Mission at Sonoma. Later Mariano made Sem-Yito (now Chief Solano), his friend and ally and had Solano live with him and his family for a time.
Between 1835 and 1846, the Vallejo brothers sent more than a hundred military expeditions into Northern California to subdue the Indians. Many of these attacks and battles against the Indians were led by Sem-Yito, now with the Spanish name of Francisco Solano. Chief Sem-Yito was responsible for some of the greatest battles against the Wappo, Cainamiro, and Sariyomi tribes.
Next Week: Chief Solano.
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