University of Rochester Library Bulletin: Excerpts from Last Diary

Volume XVIII · Autumn 1962 · Number 1
Excerpts from Last Diary

William H. Warner was born in 1812 in Columbia County, New York. He was graduated from West Point in July, 1836. He served in the Florida war, in the evacuation of the Cherokee Nation to the West, in the survey of the boundary between the United States and the British provinces, and on Brigadier General Kearny 's expedition to California. He became a second lieutenant in the Topographical Engineers in 1841 and a brevet captain in December of 1846. Warner's last diary, excerpts from which follow, describes his trip to and work in California in the years from 1846 until 1849 when he was killed.--Joan Cockcroft Tinkler


1846    [Washington]

Jan 1st Paid my respects to President Polk in uniform-
Feb. 17th The officers of American Commission gave a dinner to the Officers of British Comn.
May 8th Passed without my thinking it was my birthday
  "     9th Dined with Mr. Pakenham (British Minister)
  "     11th Went to Mount Vernon for the first time spent the night at Mr. Young's-
12th Returned in the morning- May ball at night.
June 2d. Went over to Mr. Young's & spent the night- Received intimation that I was to leave soon for Texas-
3d. Returned to W.-    Received orders for Santa Fee
5th Sold horse & buggy $150.- to Capt Walker- Went out to Mrs. Pearson's to a party- Came in & finished packing Did not go to bed-

. . .

July 1st Went back to Ft. L[eavenworth] & spent most of the day & then rode to camp about 15 miles-
July 3d. Encamped about 2 miles East of the Kanzas River-
  "    4th Left camp at 4 A.M. & got across the Kanzas with 18 wagons
  "    about 12 M. Took a long farewell of Col. Kearny's command-

Pushed on with all possible speed that I could make with ox-teams, until I arrived at Santa Fé on the 31st of Aug. Had a lonely & tedious journey of about 850 miles- 550 from Ft. Leavenworth to Bent's Fort & 300 from Bent's Ft. to Santa Fé-


25th Started for California- Followed down the Del Norte 225 miles-
Left it on the 15th Oct. & crossed over to the Gila-
Oct. 20th Struck the Gila 330 miles from Santa Fé & followed it to its mouth except a few cut-offs- 814 miles from Santa Fé arrived there 22d. Nov.-
Nov. 25th Crossed the Colorado-
Dec. 2d. Arrived at Warner's Ranch- The first settlement-
Dec. 6th Left camp & marched about 10 miles to San Pasquelle before day light where we had a battle with the Californians- Loss 18  buried on the field & 17 wounded & 1 missing- Loss of the enemy  said to be 1 killed & 13 wounded- We took one prisoner- I received  3 slight wounds in the back from the lance, & my coat was pierced  in the breast & skirt-
Dec. 12th Arrived at San Diego after a long & fatiguing march of about  1050 miles from Santa Fé

. . .


Jan 1st Spent the day regretting our pleasures were not as great as on some previous New Year's days- It is proper to say that I owe no man on earth a dollar except my servant-

. . .

[May] 12th applied to Maj. Hardie for assistance to go & survey Bird island-(Alcatrazes Id.)
18th Went to Alcatrazes Island & commenced the survey
19th Finished the Survey of Al. Island-
23d. Discharged my party- Sent them to Monterey-
28th News came of another battle between Genl. Taylor & the Mexican Army on 22d. 23d. & 24th Feb. Illumination of San Francisco- Slept at Mr. Ward's-

. . .

 [Dec. 14th Went to the ranch of Amestes where I killed my first wild goose
    "     15th Came to a ranch on the Salinas Plains-
    "     16th Arrived safely in Monterey after a pleasant excursion, I having killed eight geese, sixteen ducks, & two snipes-
    "21st Rode out to see a stranded whale-
    "31st The Officers of the Army stationed at Monterey gave a ball at the house of Mrs. Castro- It was pretty well attended & was a very handsome party- It did not break up until about ½  past 7 o'c on the morning of the 1st Jan.-


Jan 1st I commence the year with no bright prospect for the future- A life in California has but few charms for one who does not intend to spend the rest of his days here-

. . .

Oct 5th Started with Col. Mason for the gold placer in the afternoon- Encamped on the Salinas
 "     8th Encamped at the Pueblo of San José-
 "     10th Passed Simmon's ranch & Encamped in the hills-
 "     11th Encamped on the east bank of the San Joaquin
 "     15th Arrived at Sutter's Fort- Encamped near the American Fork-
 "16th Moved camp in the night a few rods to a house-
 Oct. 17th I started in the afternoon with Mr. Bestor for Sutter's Saw Mill on the American Fork-
 "18th Got off the road & encamped on the river near the "Mormon diggins'
 "19th Encamped on Weber's Creek-
 "20th Went to the Saw mill, left Mr. Bestor & returned to the camp of the night before-
 "21st Came to within eight miles of Sutter's & encamped on the river
 "22d. Arrived at Camp-
 "24th Col. Mason & Lt. Sherman left for the "diggins" on the Stanislau- The wagon was to leave in the afternoon but the wind was so high it waited until
 "25th The wagon left early in the morning for Sutter's Saw mill loaded with provisions leaving me quite alone to cook, eat, wash & take care of three horses-
 "29th Wagon returned-

Nov. 5th Col. Mason & Lt. Sherman returned bringing with them Lt. Emmons & Col. Stewart U.S. Navy
 " 7th Lts. Sherman & Emmons started with the wagons for Sutter's saw mill- 
 " 8th Col. Mason & Col. Stewart started for Monterey- leaving me with a Sailor to keep house-
 " 11th Lts. Sherman & Emmons returned late in the evening-
 " 12th We went to the Embarcadero
Nov. 13th I started for Sutter's mill to see Bestor- Horse was sick- Slept at log-cabin-
14th Arrived at the Saw mill-
15th Started at 2 o'c. A.M. to return- Horse still sick & tired- Met with two men towards sun down & encamped with them about sixteen miles from Sutter's Fort-
16th  Arrived again at our house about noon-
17th  Team started for Sawmill-
21st  Mr. Weiner proposed to me to enter into partnership with him & Mr. Bestor to which I agreed
22d. Sherman started to see Bestor at the Mill-
24th Sherman returned (having settled with Bestor), & said that Bestor agreed to receive me as a partner- I made a bargain with Mr. Sutter to make a survey for a town for him at $33.33  1/3  a day & he to furnish me quarters & boar
25th  I settled with Sherman & paid him on acct. of Bestor, Weiner & Compy. $4727.50- giving a draft on Capt. Folsom in favor of Howard & Millers for $1000, & borrowing for the firm of Mr. Fowler $1800,- at 2 per cent a month- for one month-
Nov. 26th   Mr. Sherman left for Monterey-
27th   Sold the remnants of provisions on hand & prepared to move to the fort-
28th   Moved into the fort & made preparations for the survey-
29th   Made a survey of the Fort-
30th   Commenced laying off lots-

Dec. 1st  A lot of provisions arrived from Capt. Folsom-
6th Mr. Picket shot Mr. Alderman-
8th Was juryman in the trial of Mr. P.- Jury could not agree-
14th Another called which acquitted Mr. P.-
15th Went to see Mr. Sinclair about the loan of some gold to Capt. Folsom & others-
17th Received from Mr. Sinclair for Capt. Folsom, James Forbes, & T.  Shillaber $20,000-
19th Sent the above named $20,000,- to Capt Folsom by Lieut. Wood worth U.S.N.-
29th Received unofficial notice of my Brevet appointment as Capt. T[opographical] E[ngineers]- also bought a house from Mr. Sutter on the bank of the American Fork- Gave $1,000,- for house & two lots- To have possession 1st April 1849-


Jany 1st Commenced the year having a hope of gaining money enough within the year to make me comfortable for the rest of my life-

. . .

[March] 9th After unfavorable winds most of the day, we arrived at Monterey & came to Anchor about 9 o'c. P.M. All went ashore & I immediately became installed in my old quarters in the house of Doña Augustia's, feeling that I had once more returned to a home where I found kind friends to give me a hearty welcome

. . .

[June] 13th Found Capt. S[mith] when I got up- We rode up into the redwoods- measured a tree which girted forty feet, two feet from the ground
   " 14th Rode down to the post- Found very large strawberries, & the larges[t] raspberries I ever saw- They were not sweet or well flavored-

. . .

[June] 29th  Received orders to take charge of an exploring expedition across the Sierra Nevada-

July 4th  Genl. Smith started from Benicia on a tour through the mines-
10th  Finished my quarterly returns- Orders came for Lt. Col. Casey to take command of escort of Ex. Expedition
13th  Capt. Lovell arrived with his compy.- I started at evening for San Francisco on the Govt. Schooner Capt. Lincoln Got aground in the straits-- 
14th  Got off about 8 o'c. A.M.- Was becalmed the greater part of the day- Anchored in the night near San Francisco-
July  15th Arrived at San F.- could do nothing it being Sunday-
16th  Was very busy getting an outfit for my expedition-
17th  Left San F. about 2 o. 'c. P.M. for Benicia- Arrived at camp in about four hours- Worked hard to finish my maps before starting on my expedition-
22d  Carried my maps of Benicia down & turned them over to the clerk of Mr. Phelps-
28th  Started for Sacramento City about 4 o'c. P.M. by land- Went about 6 miles
29th  Went to Barker's-
30th  Encamped at El Rio de los Putos
31st  Arrived at Sacramento about 3 o'c. P.M. & encamped at Sutter-

Augt. 13th  Having completed my preparations for the expedition, I moved camp to the north side of the American Fork- I slept at the Fort
" 14th Rode over to camp & found it necessary to go back to town-Raised camp at evening &   went in the night to some holes of water near Feather River-
 "15th Moved early to Bear Creek- Went in the afternoon over to Hock & spent the night-
Augt. 16th Returned to camp- Heard that Col. Casey was camped near- Went to see him-
17th  Went to the Yuba & encamped- Stopped at Capt. Sutter's as I passed-
18th  Camped at the crossing of Feather River-
19th  Encamped at the bend of Feather River-
20th  Encamped on Little Butte Creek-
21st  Encamped at Deer Creek- Made arrangements to dry beef-
24th  Col. Casey arrived-
26th  In the morning made a requisition upon Col. Casey for men provisions &c.-
29th  Crossed Deer Cr. with camp-
30th  Went about nine miles & encamped in the hills-
31st  Went about nine miles- Encamped & had too many sick to move-

Sept. 4th  Having hired some new men in place of the sick soldiers, we moved about eighteen  miles- Encamped on the first cool little stream-
5th Went about ten miles to Deer. Cr.- Pretty little valley for grass & water- Here we remained one day & again reorganized leaving all the soldiers sick except three- Hired five men in their stead-
7th moved on again-
8th Ferguson went back sick-


[Warners diary ends here, at the beginning of his exploratory expedtion into the Sierra Nevada. The purpose of the expedition was to determine the most practical route for land travel across the mountain barrier to accommodate the increasing number of visitors to California. Captain Warner was also instructed to consider the practicability of a railroad through the pass of Cow Creek. It was during this expedition, on the twenty-sixth of September 1849, that Captain Warner was killed by Indians. He was thirty-seven years old. There are various descriptions of the location and the details of his death. J. Goldsborough Bruff in Gold Rush, New York, 1944, p. 228, describes the murder as follows:

The wounded man told me that Capt. Warner's command was, including the Captain, 12 men. At the time he fell, they were riding through a narrow, deep, and rugged defile;- the guide was ahead, Capt. Warner next, &c- Suddenly a flight of numerous arrows were among them; Capt. Warner reeled and fell from the saddle, the guide was mortally wounded, but they kept him in the saddle; and as Capt Warner was full of arrows, through his breast, and the indians above ready to annihilate the small crippled party, they hastened out of the defile, bearing away the wounded guide and 2 others- one dangerously, and himself, slightly.