The Battle of Dominguez Rancho was a military engagement of the Mexican-American War. It occurred on October 8 and 9, 1846, when a series of skirmishes took place on and near the Dominguez Rancho 12 miles north of San Pedro harbor.
Collectively known as the Battle of Dominguez Rancho, the Battle of Dominguez Hills, or the Battle of the Old Woman’s Gun, the clash between Americans and Californios was a significant, if often over-looked, event in the War for California that concluded when Mexico ceded the territory of Alta California to the United States. In fact, the battle was the last clear victory for the local population.
During this battle, a small handful of California troops, led by Jose Antonio Carrillo, successfully held off the invasion of La Pueblo de Los Angeles by American Marines, under the command of U.S. Navy Captain William Mervine. During the skirmish, 4 US Marines were killed. The Californios suffered no casualties.
Further, by running horses across the dusty hills of Carson, and dragging a single small cannon to various sites, Carrillo and his troops fooled the Americans into believing that they had encountered a large enemy force, and forced them to temporarily withdraw.
Who Was The Old Woman?
Folklore has dubbed this encounter “The Battle of the Old Woman’s Gun” in honor of a woman who, with family and friends, had buried the small cannon in the vicinity of her home in the pueblo to keep it from falling into the hands of the enemy. We believe her name was Clara Cota de Reyes. The gun itself was eventually surrendered to the conquering Americans and can now be seen at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis.