Presidio of Monterey (1)

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Presidio of Monterey (1) (1770-1846) - A Spanish Presidio established in 1770 by Spanish Governor Gaspar de Portola in present day Monterey, Monterey County, California. Became a Mexican fortification after the Mexican War of Independence.

Royal Presidio Chapel (San Carlos Cathedral) Interior
Northern Royal Presidio Boundary Marker
The Royal Presidio Chapel (San Carlos Cathedral)

The Spanish Period (1770-1821)

Four Spanish Presidios (Forts) were built by the Spanish Governors of California in what was known as Alta California (Upper California). The four Presidios were the Presidio of San Diego, the Presidio of Santa Barbara, the Presidio of Monterey and the Presidio of San Francisco. Each of the California Presidios was the headquarters of a military district:

Each of the Presidios had a number of missions associated with it in the surrounding military district. The Presidio was responsible for the military protection of the missions and converts but normally had only a small number of troops actually posted at each mission. The majority of the garrison remained in reserve at each presidio.

Sketch of the Royal Presidio
Father Junipero Serra Memorial on the Site of El Castillo de Monterey

The Spanish Presidio of Monterey was established 3 Jun 1770 by an expedition from San Diego headed by Governor Gaspar de Portola. Members of the expedition included engineer Miguel Costanso, Father Junipero Serra, Father Juan Crespi, surgeon Pedro Prat and Lieutenant Pedro Fages. The outer wall was completed in November 1770, the internal buildings except for the church were completed 20 Jun 1771. On 24 Dec 1771 Father Serra moved his operations to nearby Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo to get closer to the local Indian tribes. The total garrison numbered 60 soldiers under Lieutenant Fages in 1771.

In 1774 the Presidio was reorganized and the commander position was upgraded to a captain with a garrison of one sergeant, twenty-two soldiers and support personnel. An additional corporal and five soldiers were provided for Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo at Carmel. Lieutenant Fages was replaced by Captain Fernando Rivera who was replace in 1777 by Felipe Nerve who was replaced in 1782 by now Colonel Pedro Fages. The garrison had increased to twenty-seven by 1782 with five or six man detachments at the associated missions.

The Presidio established a fortification in 1792 overlooking the harbor and removed the presidio's cannons to this fortification, El Castillo de Monterey. George Vancouver made note of the fort during his visit in 1793. The Royal Presidio Chapel was completed in 1794.

Between 1810 and 1820 during the Mexican Revolution all the garrisons in California were on their own. The Spanish government refused to pay them and supply ships stopped coming. The garrisons had to be supported by the missions and times were hard.

The Presidio was associated with Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, Mission San Miguel Arcangel, Mission San Antonio de Padua, Mission Nuestra Senora de la Soledad and Mission San Juan Bautista.

The Mexican Period (1822-1846)

The Mexican War of Independence ended the Spanish rule over California and changed the mission system to a more secular system with decreasing reliance on the church and the mission to provide for the native population. The Spanish Presidios of California were abandoned along with the Missions by the Mexican government starting in 1831 and allowed to deteriorate. The Mexican Government established the Presidio of Sonoma in 1836 as the military headquarters of upper California. The Presidio of Monterey and the associated mission properties were eventually distributed to private interests by the Mexican Government.

On 20 Oct 1842 a U.S. warship, under the mistaken impression that a state of war had been declared between the United States and Mexico, landed at Monterey and claimed Monterey for the United States. El Castillo de Monterey was renamed Fort Gatesby but only for a day. The mistake was recognized and apologies were given and the American ship sailed away. The incident was referred to as the great mistake.

At the end of the Mexican Period the Presidio of Monterey and El Castillo de Monterey were both in ruins and had no military value.

The American Period (1846-Present)

Monterey Customs House

The Mexican War was declared by the U.S. Congress on 11 May 1846 in response to a Mexican attack on U.S. troops in Texas. The declaration of war opened the door for American occupation of California. The American period began when American naval ships entered Monterey Bay and Navy Captain William Mervine landed and had the American flag raise over the Customs House. Fort Mervine was built on Presidio Hill as the first U.S. fortification.

Current Status

Only the Royal Presidio Chapel now San Carlos Cathedral remains in Monterey, Monterey County, California.

Location: Royal Presidio Chapel (San Carlos Cathedral) in Monterey, Monterey County, California.

Maps & Images

Lat: 36.6048141 Long: -121.9114208

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 122'



Visited: 23 Nov 2012

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