Chapter 4: The U.S. - Mexican War in San Diego

7. What was the Pauma Massacre?

A major event involving the native Americans of San Diego during the war was the Pauma Massacre. A few days after the battle of San Pascual eleven Californio men and youths took refuge in an adobe house on Rancho Pauma owned by JoséAntonio Serrano. While they were there they were tricked into allowing themselves to be captured by Luiseño Indians led by Manuelito Cota. The Indians took all the men prisoner and then took them to Warners Ranch. There they consulted with a Mexican named Yguera and William Marshall, an American who had married the daughter of a local Indian chieftain. What happened next is subject to some debate. According to Doña Juana Machado de Ridington, Marshall instigated the massacre that followed by telling the Indians that they would be rewarded by the Americans.

After a short captivity the captives were put to death by a torture of red hot spear thrusts. Doña Juana Machado de Riddington reported that, at the time, she had heard rumors that the Americans had authorized the Indians to kill and rob Californios, but that these rumors turned out to be false. Another Californio rumor was that Bill Marshall hated José Maria Alvarado who was among the prisoners because Alvarado had married Doña Lugarda Osuna, who Marshall had once loved. José Antonio Estudillo remembered that the killings were carried out by Indians from Mission San Luis Rey and that other natives from San Pascual had set out to rescue these captives but had arrived too late.

Immediately after learning of the capture of the Californios a punitive force of 22 Californios set out led by José del Cármen Lugo and with a force of friendly Cahuilla Indians. They ambushed the Luiseño force and killed more than a hundred and took 20 captive and they were later killed by their Cahuilla allies, according to their custom.

The Pauma massacre illustrated the persistence of native animosities towards the Mexicans and the possible manipulation of Indian hatreds by the Americans. It also depicts how later reminiscences by Californios attributed a prime role to the Americans in the massacre. News of the massacre along with the fact that in 1847 the Indians vastly outnumbered the Californios and Mexicans may have worked to demoralize the Californio resistance movement in San Diego County.

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