The Battle of San Pasqual

At the break of day on December 6,1846, a gunshot rang out across the San Pasqual Valley, marking the beginning of one of the most well-known battles in California during the Mexican-American War. 

The Battle of San Pasqual is recorded as the bloodiest battle in California history, and it is also regarded as the most controversial as to the outcome. Many historians argue in favor of the Mexican side, as they had far less casualties than that of the American side. Regardless of who was victorious, the outcome remains that as a result of the Battle of San Pasqual, Southern California fell under American control.

Resources for Further Exploration

Interested in learning more about the significance of the Battle of San Pasqual?  While this list is in no way comprehensive, it is a great place to get started.  From videos of past events to detailed historical information, we hope you enjoy these resources.

Online Resources

Video of Battle Day 2016 (2 minutes)

This 2-minute video features a visitor’s perspective of Battle Day at San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park in 2016.

Video of Battle Day 2017 (6 minutes)

This 6-minute video features several living history stations where you can hear from park staff and volunteers about what life was like for the Dragoons and Californios in 1846.

“Write Out Loud” Performance at Battle Day 2019 (16 minutes)

This 16-minute performance features an eyewitness story of the dramatic events that occurred on the frigid morning of December 6, 1846, brought to you by the actors of San Diego’s “Write Out Loud.”

Geoffrey Regan, “The Battle of San Pasqual”(excerpted from Snafu: Great American Military Disasters, 1994)

This article gives a vivid description of the events that lead to and occurred during the Battle of San Pasqual.


Miroslava Chávez-García, Negotiating Conquest: Gender and Power in California, 1770s to 1880s (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2004). (Full text available as a pdf here.

This study examines the ways in which Mexican and Native women challenged the patriarchal traditional culture of the Spanish, Mexican, and early American eras in California.  

Neal Harlow, California Conquered: The Annexation of a Mexican Province, 1846-1850 (University of California Press, 1989).

As a young nation, the United States was obsessed with the ideal of “Manifest Destiny”--the imperialist 19th-century belief that white American settlers were destined to expand across North America. Conquering the western coast was no simple feat, as many events took place before the Americans could claim victory. California Conquered: The Annexation of a Mexican Province, 1846-1850 provides an in-depth narrative of the end of the Mexican era in California.

Douglas Monroy, Thrown Among Strangers: The Making of Mexican Culture in Frontier California (University of California Press, 1990).

From the interaction of the indigenous peoples of this region with Spanish settlers to later Mexican and American settlers, the consistent theme of this book is that of different groups of people being “thrown among strangers” and the cultural and historical shifts that happened as a result of those interactions.  

Leonard Pitt, Decline of the Californios: A Social History of the Spanish-Speaking Californians, 1846-1890 (University of California Press, 1999).

The San Pasqual valley is home to more than just the historic battle. Californios called this picturesque valley home for over 150 years before American control. Decline of the Californios: A Social History of the Spanish-Speaking Californians, 1846-1890 offers an enduring study of Spanish-speaking Californians—a group that includes both native-born Californians, or Californios, and immigrants from Mexico—charting one of the earliest chapters in the state's ethnic history.

Peter Price, The Battle At San Pasqual December 6, 1846 and the Struggle for California (San Diego: Pembroke Publishers, 1990). 

The Battle of San Pasqual is arguably the most important battle fought in California during the Mexican-American War. It is also the most argued in regards to who won on the early morning of December 6, 1846: the Americans or Californios? The Battle At San Pasqual December 6, 1846 and the Struggle for California, is full of important illustrations, maps, and accounts of this historic battle.

Elizabeth Judson Roberts, Indian Stories of the Southwest (San Francisco: Harr Wagner Publishing Company, 1917). (Full text available on Google Books.)

Hal-ah-wee, also known as Felicita LaChappa, was the daughter of chief Ponto, leader of the Kumeyaay village that was in San Pasqual Valley in 1846. Felicita witnessed the clash of the Californios and Americans on that bitter December morning. Her first-hand account can be read in Indian Stories of the Southwest.

Youth Educational Materials

“Manifest Destiny,” Digital Public Library of America 

In this primary sources set, students will learn about white Americans' desire and self-believed right to colonize the United States from coast to coast, better known as Manifest Destiny. Featuring a detailed teaching guide equipped with discussion questions and classroom activities, this primary sources set will allow the students a greater understanding of the role Manifest Destiny played in the Mexican-American war.

“Manifest Destiny and the West,” Uncovering America, National Gallery of Art

In this comprehensive lesson plan, students will learn about the role artists played in shaping the public’s understanding of the westward expansion of the U.S. The lesson plan includes multiple activities and resources for further exploration, and is a fantastic way for students to see the impacts Manifest Destiny had on all who call North America home. 

“Faces of the Frontier: Photographic Portraits of the American West, 1845-1924,” Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

This online exhibit tells the stories of the continuous changes throughout the American West during the 19th century. Photography was first introduced in 1839, giving Americans at the time a deeper understanding of the West. “Faces of the Frontier” is an opportunity for students to see the people who helped define this era.

Hands-On Activity: How to Make Hardtack (Recipe by The American Table)

Hardtack is a filling, sturdy meal that can last for days if kept dry, and was the source of nutrition Dragoons had to rely on for survival during the Mexican-American War. Experience the life of a soldier at battle by making your own hardtack at home--all you need is flour and water!

Hands-On Activity: Cattle Roping

Californios quickly learned how to control their cattle on the ranchos.  One of ranching’s most important tasks is ensuring your livestock is healthy and that your cattle don’t stray into your neighbors’ herd. To prevent these things from happening, rancheros quickly learned how to rope their cattle.  You can practice your technique at home using the tips presented here! 

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