CHAPTER V. Leave San Francisco for Sonoma
Islands in the bay
Liberality of "Uncle Sam" to sailors
Thomas O. Larkin, U.S. Consul
Signs of rain
The seasons in California
More warlike rumours from the south
Mission of San Rafael
An Irish ranchero
Return to San Francisco
Discomfort of Californian houses.
October 13. - This morning the United States frigate Congress, Commodore Stockton, and the merchant-ship Sterling, employed to transport the volunteers under the command of Captain Fremont (one hundred and eighty in number), sailed for the south. The destination of these vessels was understood to be San Pedro or San Diego. While those vessels were leaving the harbour, accompanied by Mr. Jacob, I took passage for Sonoma in a cutter belonging to the sloop-of-war Portsmouth. Sonoma is situated on the northern side of the Bay of San Francisco, about 15 miles from the shore, and about 45 miles from the town of San Francisco. Sonoma creek is navigable for vessels of considerable burden to within four miles of the town.
Among the passengers in the boat were Mr. Ide, who acted so conspicuous a part in what is called the "Bear Revolution," and Messrs. Nash and Grigsby, who were likewise prominent in this movement. The boat was manned by six sailors and a cockswain. We passed Yerba Buena, Bird, and several other small islands in the bay. Some of these are white, as if covered with snow, from the deposit upon them of bird-manure. Tens of thousands of wild geese, ducks, gulls, and other water-fowls, were perched upon them, or sporting in the waters of the bay, making a prodigious cackling and clatter with their voices and wings. By the aid of oars and sails we reached the mouth of Sonoma creek about 9 o'clock at night, where we landed and encamped on the low marsh which borders the bay on this side. The marshes contiguous to the Bay of San Francisco are extensive, and with little trouble I believe they could be reclaimed and transformed into valuable and productive rice plantations. Having made our supper on raw salt pork and bread generously furnished by the sailors, as soon as we landed, we spread our blankets on the damp and rank vegetation and slept soundly until morning.
October 14. - Wind and tide being favourable, at daylight we proceeded up the serpentine creek, which winds through a flat and fertile plain, sometimes marshy, at others more elevated and dry, to theembarcadero, ten or twelve miles from the bay. We landed here between nine and ten o'clock, A.M. All the passengers, except ourselves, proceeded immediately to the town. By them we sent for a cart to transport our saddles, bridles, blankets, and other baggage, which we had brought with us. While some of the sailors were preparing breakfast, others, with their muskets, shot wild geese, with which the plain was covered. An excellent breakfast was prepared in a short time by our sailor companions, of which we partook with them. No benevolent old gentleman provides more bountifully for his servants than "Uncle Sam." These sailors, from the regular rations served out to them from their ship, gave an excellent breakfast, of bread, butter, coffee, tea, fresh beefsteaks, fried salt pork, cheese, pickles, and a variety of other delicacies, to which we had been unaccustomed for several months, and which cannot be obtained at present in this country. They all said that their rations were more than ample in quantity, and excellent in quality, and that no government was so generous in supplying its sailors as the government of the United States. They appeared to be happy, and contented with their condition and service, and animated with a patriotic pride for the honour of their country, and the flag under which they sailed. The open frankness and honest patriotism of these single-hearted and weather-beaten tars gave a spice and flavour to our entertainment which I shall not soon forget.