In 1845 Mexico ruled vast areas of what became the western and southwestern United States, including California. U.S. President James K. Polk was committed to the expansion of the United States and favored the annexation of Texas, which occurred in December 1845. The month before, Polk had sent an envoy to Mexico City in an attempt to purchase California and other parts of the Southwest. In May 1846 Mexico refused the offer. This refusal was one factor—along with the Texas annexation and lawsuits against the Mexican government by U.S. citizens—that led to the Mexican War (1846-1848) between Mexico and the United States.
United States settlers in California had become increasingly uncomfortable with Mexican rule. On June 14, 1846, they captured the presidio at Sonoma, north of San Francisco, and proclaimed the independence of the settlements. The uprising is known as the Bear Flag Revolt, because the rebels raised a homemade flag that carried the figure of a grizzly bear, as well as a star and the words California Republic. John Charles Frémont, an explorer and future Republican candidate for U.S. president, lent support to these rebels, but the republic was short-lived. On July 7, 1846, Commodore John D. Sloat, commander of U.S. naval forces along the Pacific Coast, ordered the U.S. flag raised at Monterey and formally claimed California for the United States. In August, Sloat’s replacement, Commodore Robert F. Stockton, set up a new government in California with himself as governor.
In September, however, Mexicans led by Captain José Maria Flores attacked the new republic and gained control over much of California south of San Luis Obispo. Several months later, in December 1846, a U.S. force under Brigadier General Stephen W. Kearny arrived in California.
They were defeated at the Battle of San Pasqual, near what is now Escondido, but Kearny’s men, in cooperation with Stockton’s troops, captured Los Angeles on January 10, 1847. At Los Angeles, the Mexicans, under the so-called Cahuenga Capitulation, agreed to accept United States rule. On February 2, 1848, California was ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which formally ended the Mexican War.
Scarcely more than a week before the signing of the treaty, on January 24, 1848, New Jersey-born carpenter James W. Marshall inspected a sawmill that he was building with his partner, John A. Sutter, on the South Fork of the American River, 56 km (35 mi) northeast of Sacramento. Marshall noticed flakes of yellow metal that later proved to be gold.
By the end of that year, Marshall’s discovery had set off the greatest gold rush in United States history. In 1849 gold seekers, known as Forty-Niners, came to California from every part of the United States and from all over the world. The search for gold was concentrated on the Mother Lode country, in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada. California’s population now rose to more than 90,000 by the end of 1849 and to 220,000 by 1852, the year in which gold production reached its peak. In the next two years, the gold rush ended almost as quickly as it began. Gold mining became a fairly stable and more organized enterprise. Most prospectors either became farmers, merchants, or left the state, as large mining companies took their place. Encarta "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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