Kearny, Stephen Watts 1794-1847Military officer; born in Newark, N. J., Aug. 30, 1794; uncle of Gen. Philip Kearny. When the War of 1812-15 broke out young Kearny left his studies at Columbia College, entered the army as lieutenant of infantry, and distinguished himself in the battle of Queenston Heights. In April, 1813, he was made captain, and rose to brigadier-general in June, 1846. He was in command of the Army of the West at the beginning of the war with Mexico, and with that army marched to California, conquering New Mexico on the way. He established a provisional government at Santa Fe, pressed on to California, and was twice wounded in battle. For a few months in 1847 he was governor of California; joined the army in Mexico; in March, 1848, was governor, military and civil, of Vera Cruz, and in May of the same year was made governor of the city of Mexico. In August, 1848, he was brevetted major-general, and died in St. Louis, Mo., on Oct. 31, following.
General Kearny and Commodore Stockton, after the occupation of California, originated primarily in the indefiniteness of the instructions which were issued from the seat of government. Those addressed to the naval commanders on the Pacific, in their judgment, justified the organization of a military force and a civil government in California, and under those instructions Commodore Stockton authorized Colonel Fremont to organize the California battalion and take its command with the title of major. By virtue of those, he likewise took the necessary steps for the organization of a civil government for California and invested Fremont with the title and responsibilities of governor. As soon as these results were comsummated, Kit Carson was sent, with an escort of fifteen men, to bear the intelligence overland to Washington, as soon as possible. Just as he had crossed the desert and was approaching the American frontier, he was met by General Kearny, with a small force of dragoons, marching westward, under instructions from his government to conquer California and organize a civil government in the territory, a work which had already been successfully accomplished. Upon learning what had occurred, Kearny insisted upon Carson's returning with him, as his guide, to California, having forwarded the despatches to Washington by another messenger of his own selection. Upon the general's arrival at Los Angeles, the capital of California, and the seat of the new government, the contest soon arose between himself and Commodore Stockton. The process by which Colonel Fremont became involved in this controversy is obvious. He held a commission in the army as lieutenant of topographical engineers, and, as such, was, primarily, subject to the orders of his superior general officer of the army. He had since yielded to the exigencies of the occasion, and, from motive and for reasons which cannot be impeached, waived any privileges he might have claimed, as the real conqueror of North California, and, in point of rank, the superior representative of the army on the Pacific coast, and, with his men, volunteered to serve under Commodore Stockton in the further prosecution of the war in South California, the subjugation of which could not be so successfully effected without the aid of a fleet. By accepting the governorship of California, a vacancy had been created in the command of the California battalion, and other changes had become necessary. The first intimation which Colonel Fremont received of General Kearny's intention to test the  validity of Commodore Stockton's acts, through him, was conveyed in the following note:
This note at once raised the question whether he was to obey General Kearny, and thereby, so far as his example could go, invalidate the acts of Commodore Stockton, in which he had co-operated, or obey Commodore Stockton, and, so far as his decision would go, sustain the validity of those proceedings which he believed to be both legal and patriotic. If he took the former course, he incurred the liability to be arraigned, and, in his judgment, justly disgraced for disobeying an officer whose rank and authority he had deliberately recognized; and he further incurred the charge of base ingratitude towards an officer whose courtesy and confidence he had shared, whose conduct he had approved, and who unexpectedly found himself in a situation to need the support of his friends. Fremont was incapable of deserting either a friend or what he deemed a post of duty; he accordingly addressed to General Kearny the following reply, on the following day:
The same day that General Kearny addressed the note above quoted to Colonel Fremont, a yet more serious correspondence commenced between him and Commodore Stockton. It is here given at length, with the introductory remarks of Commodore Stockton's biographer, who evidently wrote under the eye and approval of the commodore: Fremont throughout the California war was strictly and technically in the naval service, under Commodore Stockton. He had taken service under him with an express agreement that he would continue  subject to his orders as long as he continued in command in California. This engagement both he and Captain Gillespie had entered into from patriotic motives, and to render the most efficient service to the country. He visited California originally upon topographical, and not on military, duty. His volunteering under Stockton on special service was a patriotic impulse, in complying with which the government were in honor bound to sustain him. He therefore very properly refused to violate his agreement with Stockton, and unite with Kearny against him. Having failed to compel Fremont to acknowledge his authority, the general addressed himself to the commodore and demanded that he should abdicate the command-in-chief. The commodore, considering the subjugation of California complete, and that no further hostilities were likely to take place, was of opinion that he might now relinquish his governorship and command-in-chief and return to his ship. But, having informed the government that upon that event he intended to appoint Colonel Fremont governor, he now proceeded to carry that design into execution. General Kearny, learning this to be the purpose of the commodore, and desirous of exercising the functions of governor himself, addressed to him the following letter:
The motives which actuated Colonel Fremont in electing to pursue the course which he did upon the arrival of General Kearny, are scarcely open to misconstruction. There happens, however, to be the best of evidence in regard to them in a letter addressed to Colonel Benton at the time of the collision, which reveals in all the confidence of personal friendship the innermost secrets of his heart. In that letter, he says:
. . . When I entered Los Angeles I was ignorant of the relations subsisting between these gentlemen, having received from neither any order or information which might serve as a guide in the circumstances. I, therefore, immediately on my arrival, waited upon the governor and commander-in-chief, Commodore Stockton, and, a few minutes afterwards, called upon General Kearny. I soon found them occupying a hostile attitude, and each denying the right of the other to assume the direction of affairs in this country. The ground assumed by General Kearny was that he held in his hand plenary instructions from the President directing him to conquer California, and organize a civil government, and that consequently he would not recognize the acts of Commodore Stockton. The latter maintained that his own instructions were to the same effect as Kearny's; that this officer's commission was obsolete, and never would have been given could the government have anticipated that the entire country, seaboard and interior, would have been conquered and held by himself. The country had been conquered and a civil government instituted since September last, the constitution of the Territory and appointments under the constitution had been sent to the government for its approval, and decisive action undoubtedly long since had upon them. General Kearny was instructed to conquer the country, and upon its threshold his command had been nearly cut to pieces, and, but for relief from him (Commodore Stockton), would have been destroyed. More men were lost than in General Taylor's battle of the 8th. In regard to the remaining part of his instructions, how could he organize a government without first proceeding to disorganize the present one? His work had been anticipated; his commission was absolutely null and void and of no effect. But if General Kearny believed that his instructions gave him paramount authority in the country, he made a fatal error on his arrival. He was received with kindness and distinction by the commodore, and offered by him the command of his land forces. General Kearny rejected the offer and declined interfering with Commodore Stockton. This officer was then preparing for a march to Ciudad de Los Angeles, his force being principally sailors and marines, who were all on foot (fortunately for them), and who were to be provided with supplies on their  march through an enemy's country, where all the people are cavalry. His force was paraded, and ready to start, 700 in number, supported by six pieces of artillery. The command, under General Stockton, had been conferred upon his first lieutenant, Mr. Rowan. At this juncture General Kearny expressed to Commodore Stockton his expectation that the command would have been given to him. The commodore informed the general that Lieutenant Rowan was in his usual line of duty, as on board ship, relieving him of the detail of the drudgery of the camp, while he himself remained the commander-in-chief; that if General Kearny was willing to accept Mr. Rowan's place, under these circumstances, he could have it. The general assented. Commodore Stockton called up his officers and explained the case. Mr. Rowan gave up his post generously and without hesitation; and Commodore Stockton desired them clearly to understand that he remained commander-in-chief; under this arrangement the whole force entered Angeles; and on the day of my arrival at that place General Kearny told me that he did then, at that moment, recognize Commodore Stockton as governor of the Territory. You are aware that I had contracted relations with Commodore Stockton, and I thought it neither right nor politically honorable to withdraw my support. No reason of interest shall ever compel me to act towards any man in such a way that I should afterwards be ashamed to meet him.Early in the spring, new instructions, bearing date Nov. 5, reached Commodore Stockton, which put an end to the latter's supremacy in the quarter. In his despatch the Secretary of the Navy says:
The President has deemed it best for the public interests to invest the military officer commanding with the direction of the operations on land, and with the administrative functions of the government over the people and Territory occupied by us. You will relinquish to Colonel Mason, or to General Kearny, if the latter shall arrive before you have done so, the entire control over these matters, and turn over to him all papers necessary to the performance of his duties.Instructions of a corresponding import were of course received from the War Department, by General Kearny, and with them, or not long afterwards, a despatch from Mr. Marcy, of which the following is an extract:
The “definite instructions” to which reference is here made were never communicated to Colonel Fremont, and their suppression was very justly esteemed by him a grievance for several reasons, and  among others, because they show that by the President's directions it was at Colonel Fremont's option whether he would remain in California or not, an option, however, which was denied him by General Kearny. Early in March, and after taking the supreme command in California, General Kearny addressed Colonel Fremont the following letter:
About a month later, he received the following order from General Kearny:
A few weeks later Colonel Fremont received orders from General Kearny to report himself at Monterey with such of the members of his topographical corps as were still under pay, prepared to set out at once for Washington. Colonel Fremont then applied for permission to join his regiment, under General Taylor's command, supposed to be on its way to Vera Cruz. This request was refused without explanation or apology, and on June 14 Colonel Fremont addressed General Kearny as follows:
To this request Colonel Fremont received the following reply:
General Kearny broke up his camp near Sutter's fort on the day after issuing this order, and set out for the United States, attended by Colonel Fremont, who was treated, however, with deliberate disrespect throughout the journey. The party reached Fort Leavenworth about Aug. 22. On that day General Kearny sent for him, and directed Lieutenant Wharton to read to him a copy of the first paragraph of an order he had just issued of that date, as follows:
For Colonel Fremont's subsequent actions, see Fremont, John Charles.