The Portola expedition of 1769-1770, diaries of Gaspar de Portolá, Miguel Costansó & Fray Juan Crespi.
The Start of the Portola Expedition. Rose Canyon, north of University City.




The Portola Expedition of 1769
On the 14th of July, Portolá began his march to Monterey, distant one hundred and fifty-nine leagues. His force consisted of Sergeant Ortega, with twenty-seven soldados de cuera under Rivera, Fages with six Catalan volunteers, all that could travel, Ensign Costansó, the priests, Crespi and Gomez, seven muleteers, fifteen Christian Indians from the missions of Lower California, and two servants, sixty-four in all. Both Fages and Costansó were sick with scurvy, but joined the command not with standing. The personnel of this expedition contain some of the best known names in California. Portolá, the first governor; Rivera, Commandante of California from 1773 to 1777, killed in the Yuma revolt on the Colorado in 1781; Fages, first Commandante of California, 1769-1773, governor, 1782-1790; Ortega, pathfinder, explorer, discoverer of the Golden Gate and of Carquines Strait; lieutenant and brevet captain, Commandante of the presidio of San Diego, of Santa Barbara, and of Monterey; founder of the presidio of Santa Barbara and of the missions of San Juan Capistrano and San Buenaventura. Among the rank and file were men whose names are not less known: Pedro Amador, who gave his name to Amador county; Juan Bautista Alvarado, grandfather of Governor Alvarado; José Raimundo Carrillo, later alférez, lieutenant, and captain, comandante of the presidio of Monterey, of Santa Barbara, and of San Diego, and founder of the great Carrillo family; José Antonio Yorba, sergeant of Catalonia volunteers, founder of the family of that name and grantee of the Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana; Pablo de Cota, José Ignacio Oliveras, José Maria Soberanes, and others. Relying somewhat on the supply ship, San Jose, which was to meet him at Monterey, but which, as we have seen, was lost at sea, and also on the supplies to be brought by the San Antonio, the governor, knowing the uncertainties of a sea voyage, took with him one hundred mules loaded with provisions, sufficient, he concluded, to last him for six months.

On the march the following order was observed. Sergeant Ortega, with six or eight soldiers, went in advance, laid out the route, selected the camping place, and cleared the way of hostile Indians by whom he was frequently surrounded. At the head of the column rode the comandante, with Fages, Costansó, the two priests, and an escort of six Catalonia volunteers; next came the sappers and miners, composed of Indians, with spades, mattocks, crowbars, axes, and other implements used by pioneers; these were followed by the main body divided into four bands of pack-animals, each with its muleteers and a guard of presidial soldiers. The last was the rear guard, commanded by Captain Rivera, convoying the spare horses and mules (caballada y mulada).
The presidial soldiers were provided with two kinds of arms, offensive and defensive. The defensive consisted of the cuera (leather jacket) and the adarga (shield). The first, being made in the form of a coat without sleeves, was composed of six or seven thicknesses of dressed deer skins impervious to the Indian arrows, except at very short range. The adarga was of two thicknesses of raw bulls-hide, borne on the left arm, and so managed by the trooper as to defend himself and his horse against the arrows and spears of the Indians; in addition, they used a species of apron of leather, fastened to the pommel of the saddle, with a fall to each side of the horse down to the stirrup, wide enough to cover the thigh and a leg of the horseman, and protect him when riding through the brush. This apron was called the armas. Their offensive arms were the lance, which they managed with great dexterity on horseback, the broadsword, and a short musket, carried in a case. Costansó, who was an officer of the regular army, bears testimony to the unceasing labor of the presidial soldiers of California on this march, and says they were men capable of enduring much fatigue, obedient, resolute, and active; and it is not too much to say that they are the best horsemen in the world, and among the best soldiers who gain their bread in the service of the king.

It must be understood that the marches of these troops with such a train through an unknown country and by unused paths, could not be long ones. It was necessary to explore the land one day for the march of the next, and the camp for the day was sometimes regulated by the distance to be traveled to the next place where water, fuel, and pastures could be had. The distance made was from two to four leagues], and the command rested every four days, more or less, according to the fatigue caused by the roughness of the road, the toil of the pioneers, the wandering off of the beasts, or the necessities of the sick. Costansó says that one of their greatest difficulties was in the control of their caballada (horse-herd), without which the journey could not be made. In a country they do not know, horses frighten themselves by night in the most incredible manner. To stampede them, it is enough for them to discover a coyote or fox. The flight of a bird, the dust flung by the wind, any of these are capable of terrifying them and causing them to run many leagues, precipitating themselves over barrancas and precipices, without any human effort availing to restrain them. Afterwards it costs immense toil to gather them again, and those that are not killed or crippled, remain of no service for some time. In the form and manner stated, the Spaniards made their marches, traversing immense lands, which grew more fertile and pleasing as they progressed northward.

The departure having been fixed for the 14th of July, the governor ordered out six soldiers and a corporal to explore the country for the distance of the first two days marches. These soldiers left on the morning of the 12th, and returned on the afternoon of the following day with the information that they had found a watering-place sufficient for the men and horses at a distance of six or seven leagues (the Spanish league in use at this time was a distance of about 2.6 miles).

Friday, July 14, 1769

Gaspar de Portolá
Here we remained until the 14th day of the month, both to unload the effects belonging to the missions and to make other arrangements to carry out our march. Seeing that there was already falling . . . to march as soon as possible. And, because Don Pedro Pratt advised further that the best remedy would be a change of climate, I took with me six volunteers with their lieutenant, Don Pedro Fages, and the engineer, Don Miguel Costanso, who also were sick. We proceeded for three hours. Much pasture, but no water for man or beast. After giving water to the animals, as we knew there was none in the place where we were to sleep, we started in the afternoon and proceeded for two leagues. We halted in a canyon, to which we gave the name of San Diego, where there was an abundance of pasture.

Miguel Costansó
No entry

Fray Juan Crespi
We set out from this port of San Diego on this day of the seraphic doctor, San Buenaventura, about four in the afternoon. We went northwest, over level land well covered with grass on account of the proximity of the estuaries, which have good salt deposits. Afterwards we came upon the beach of the second harbor that San Diego has, although it is closed, so that it cannot be entered.(1) On some parts of the road there are rosemary and other small bushes not known to us, and on the right hand we have a mountain range, moderately high, bare of trees, of pure earth well covered with grass. We saw many hares and rabbits for this port abounds in them. At about two leagues we came to a very large village of heathen who are in a valley formed by this second harbor where there are some small springs of water. We called this spot the Village of the Springs of the Rinconada de San Diego. As soon as the heathen saw us approaching they all came out into the road, men, women and children, as though they came to welcome us, with signs of great pleasure. We gave them such presents as we could. Here we left the shore, and entered a valley between hills but on the same road. It has many willows and some alders and live oaks, and we understood from the heathen of the preceding village that in this valley there were some small pools of good water, and we believed it to be so because it was so green. Although the valley is not very broad it is well covered with grass, and on all sides of it there are knolls, ridges, and hills, all of good land. We found small pools, which contained water enough for the people but the horses had nothing to drink. After traveling two hours and three quarters, in which we must have covered about two and a half leagues, we stopped and made camp near the little ponds which we called the Pools of the Valley of San Diego.(2) As soon as we arrived at this place, it being already dark, the heathen came. They brought some very large sardines, and one of them made a long speech, after which the governor and the captain accepted the sardines, reciprocating with beads and some clothing, with which they left in great good humor. Day's march, two leagues and a half.

(1) Mission Bay
(2) In Rose Creek canyon, northeast of Mission Bay.

July 15 To Dieguito Creek and Valley, east of Del Mar