Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Battle of San Pasqual


Last Sunday, December 2nd, we headed north from San Diego for a pleasant 40 minute drive to the valley of San Pasqual.  It was my first foray, as an observer, into the world of historical reenactment.  Each year on the anniversary of this relatively minor engagement in the 1846 Mexican-American War, the battlefield is once again contested by the Californios and the forces of the United States. 

I'll not repeat the Wikipedia article on the event.  You can read it for yourself.  When it arrived in the San Pasqual Valley, the American column was exhausted after months of travel.  In contrast their foes, the Californios, were well rested and determined to defend their homes and territory from the invading gringos.  Both sides claimed victory, and historians continue to discuss the outcome, but it seems to me that the Californios pretty much won what amounted to a skirmish.  At the same time they were ultimately unable to prevent the colum reaching other American forces that had already occupied San Diego from the Sea.

The reenactment takes place on the site of the battle.  California State Parks has a small but modern museum adjacent.  On the anniversary day there is also a campsite you can visit to see living history interpreters convey what it was like to live in this part of California in the mid-nineteenth century. 
The biggest downside is probably the fact that the viewing public must stay on one side of Highway 78 while the engagement takes place on the other side.  The view is somewhat marred by passing motorcycles, RVs, trucks, and whatever else happens along during the few few minutes when the forces are engaged.  The lead up to the battle is announced in English and Spanish and this actually takes longer than the fight itself.  The day were were there, there was a false start, as one of the charging US dragoons fell of his horse and proceedings were halted while the escaping horse was rounded up and the bruised dragoon escorted to the sidelines.  The charge of the Californio lancers was dramatic, and unlike the real engagement when the US artillery remained limbered, during the reenactment they fired off a shot - a real crowd pleaser.  Hostilities concluded with the opposing forces saluting each other before exiting the field for lunch.

 All this made me think about the possibility of wargaming this period.  One possibility would be to adapt something like Liberators from Grenadier Productions.  Certainly I think there's some potential here for historical skirmish games with a local flavor, as well as a few "what if" scenarios.  We'll see what 2013 brings.
Liberators! Volume 1: The War in the South - Click Image to Close

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