Battle of Olompali

The Battle of Olómpali was fought on June 24, 1846, in present-day Marin County, California. It was the only battle of the Bear Flag Revolt. The site is now a part of the Olompali State Historic Park.

Battle of Olompali
Part of the Bear Flag Revolt
DateJune 24, 1846
38.152446°N 122.571170°W / 38.152446; -122.571170
Result California Republic victory
Alta California

California Republic

Commanders and leaders
Henry Ford Joaquín de la Torre
20 militia 50 infantry, 20 irregulars
Casualties and losses
0 killed,
unknown wounded
3 killed,
6 wounded
Location within present-day California


The skirmish began when a detachment of General José Castro’s Alta California army forces from the Presidio of Monterey, under the command of Joaquín de la Torre, headed north in reaction to the declaration of an independent California Republic in Sonoma ten days earlier. Near Olómpali (north of present-day Novato) they met up with a militia group that had set out from Sonoma in hopes of rescuing two rebels who had been captured and, as they had learned the previous day, killed.[1]


During the Bear Flag Revolt, on June 24, 1846, the Battle of Olómpali occurred when a violent skirmish broke out between a group of American Bear Flaggers from Sonoma, led by Henry Ford, and a Mexican army force of 50 from Monterey, under the command of Joaquin de la Torre. The opposing forces met at Rancho Olompali, granted to Coast Miwok chief Camilo Ynitia in 1843.

On about June 16, William Todd was dispatched from Sonoma to Bodega Bay with an unnamed companion to obtain gunpowder from American settlers in that area.[2] On June 18, Bears Thomas Cowie and George Fowler were sent to Rancho Sotoyome (near current-day Healdsburg, California) to pick up a cache of gunpowder from Moses Carson, brother of Frémont's scout Kit Carson.[3]

On June 20 when the procurement parties failed to return as expected, Lieutenant Ford sent Sergeant Gibson with four men to Rancho Sotoyome. Gibson obtained the powder and on the way back fought with several Californians and captured one of them. From the prisoner they learned of the deaths of Cowie and Fowler. There are Californio and Oso versions of what had happened. Ford also learned that William Todd and his companion had been captured by the Californio irregulars led by Juan Padilla and José Ramón Carrillo.[2]

Ford then rode toward Santa Rosa with seventeen to nineteen Bears. Not finding Padilla, the Bears headed toward one of his homes near Two Rock. The following morning the Bears captured three or four men near the Rancho Laguna de San Antonio and also found a corral of horses near the Indian rancho of Olúmpali, near the mouth of the Petaluma River, which they assumed belonged to Padilla's group.[4] Ford approached the adobe but more men appeared and unexpectedly others came "pouring out of the adobe". Militiamen from south of the Bay, led by Mexican Captain Joaquin de la Torre, had joined with Padilla's irregulars and now numbered about seventy. Ford's men positioned themselves in a grove of trees and opened fire when the enemy charged on horseback, killing one and wounding another. During the ensuing long-range battle, William Todd and his companion escaped from the house where they were being held and ran to the Bears. The Alta California militia disengaged from the long-range fighting after suffering a few wounded and returned to San Rafael.[5] An Alta Californian militiaman reported that their muskets could not shoot as far as the rifles used by some Bears.[3] This was the only battle fought during the Bear Flag Revolt.[2]


  1. DeVoto, Bernard (1943). The Year of Decision: 1846. Boston: Little Brown. p. 227.
  2. Walker, Dale L. (1999). Bear Flag Rising: The Conquest of California, 1846. New York: Macmillan. pp. 132–135. ISBN 0312866852.
  3. Bancroft, Hubert Howe (1886). History of California, Vol V. San Francisco: History Publishing Company. pp. 155–159, 166 note 15.
  4. Harlow, Neal (1982). California Conquered: The Annexation of a Mexican Province 1846–1850. pp. 108–109. ISBN 0-520-06605-7.
  5. Rogers, Fred Blackburn (1962). William Brown Ide: Bear Flagger. San Francisco. p. 51.
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