Presidio of Santa Barbara

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Presidio of Santa Barbara (1782-1848) - A Spanish Presidio established in 1782 by Spanish Governor Felipe de Neve in Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara County, California. Became a Mexican fortification after the Mexican War of Independence and U.S. fortification in 1846 at the beginning of the Mexican War. Abandoned in 1848.

Presidio of Santa Barbara Entrance Sign
Presidio of Santa Barbara El Cuartel - Guard House
Presidio of Santa Barbara

The Spanish Period (1769-1821)

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. The six missions associated with Presidio of San Francisco were Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana, Mission San Buenaventura, Mission Santa Barbara, Mission Santa Ines and Mission La Purisima.

Construction on the Presidio Santa Barbara began on 21 Apr 1782 on a site blessed by Father Junipero Serra. The early configuration was a 330' quadrangle with mud and brush walls. Today the trace of the quadrangle is about 400' on a side. This trace is the outline of the strong adobe outer wall that eventually enclosed the expanded quadrangle. The Presidio Chapel served as the Church for the early Santa Barbara community. The garrison in 1783 numbered 61 officers and men.

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 Presidio of Santa Barbara was abandoned by the Mexican government as a fortification about 1831 and allowed to deteriorate. The church and mission continued for a while but tended mainly to the spiritual needs of the community. The Presidio property was eventually turned over to the civil authorities.

The American Period (1846-Present)

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. U.S. Navy Commodore Robert F. Stockton first raised the American flag over the Presidio of Santa Barbara on 1 Aug 1846 but lacked the troops to properly garrison the Presidio. Stockton left ten U.S. Marines who were replaced with ten of Lt. Colonel John C. Fremont's cavalry troops. A large Mexican force retook the Presidio and ran off the U.S. Cavalrymen. Fremont and his California Battalion recaptured the Presidio and town in December 1846 and U.S. troops occupied the post until the late spring of 1848. The Presidio was turned over to the civil authorities of Santa Barbara just after the end of the Mexican War and the start of the California Gold Rush.

Current Status

Presidio of Santa Barbara Marker

Now the El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park in Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara County, California.

USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 1828935

Location: El Presidio de Santa Barbara, State Historic Site, Santa Barbara County, California.

Maps & Images

Lat: 34.422695 Long: -119.698856

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 338'



Visited: 5 Dec 2012

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