– The Colorado shifts, and Lake Cahuilla
begins its last full dry-out.
– A spring flood, the Colorado shifts once again, and Lake Cahuilla begins to refill.
– The Colorado briefly flirts again with exiting straight into the Gulf of California, causing minor fluctuations in the Lake's levels, but after a couple of decades, it settles down and continues to empty into Cahuilla
– Father Kino's
expedition follows the Gila River to its end in the Colorado and crosses over into California. Four days later comes upon the vast expanse of Lake Cahuilla. Its shores are highly (compared to OTL) populated with Cahuilla
– Kino founds "Mission San Pedro del Lago de Plata" on the southeastern shore of Lake Cahuilla, just north of where the Colorado empties into the lake.
– Mission San Pedro has grown to four-hundred residents.
– Continual raiding by Yuma Indians result in the Mission requesting from Mexico City – and quite surprisingly, getting – a military presence. Fort Cahuilla (Cahuilla Presidio) starts out with a mere thirty-seven men, but by 1745 will house over three-hundred as the area and its responsibilities grow.
– Expeditions from the Mission follow the shores of the lake northwards, then head west through the wide pass, eventually dropping down into the San Gabriel Basin.1
Ambitious plans are made for a series of eight additional missions, each two day's ride apart, stretching from Mission San Pedro to the coast of the Pacific. In actuality, only three missions will be built along this route – "Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de la Resorte de las Palmas,"2
with five "way stations" of varying levels of support (from a eight by twenty foot single room adobe next to a well to what will become the city of Agua Caliente) filling in the "gaps."
– Supplying the presidio is now putting a strain on the Mission, so with a combination of convicts, debtors, and other "volunteers," the town of "El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Lago de Cahuilla" is founded approximately eight miles south of the Mission, also on the shores of the Lake. The land about the town proves remarkably fertile and the small community prospers – apart from the occasional Yuma raid.
– Spain parcels out a few ranchos along the shores of the lake and in the newly charted San Gabriel area surrounding the mission lands. Cattle ranching, already started to a small extent on the Mission lands, suddenly takes off – primarily because cow hides are one of the few things of value that can be transported back to Mexico. Over the next decade, a regular trade route of small boats sailing down the length of the lake, then out the New River to the Gulf of California (and waiting big
boats) develops. Stories of the "Leather Boats" will last many decades longer than the boats themselves.
1739 – 1749
– Jesuits build an additional nine missions along the coast of California – two south and seven north of Mission Buenaventura. Several pueblos and presidios follow in their wake. By 1748, Spanish population in California is nearly four-thousand – though over three-thousand of that is still in the Cahuilla Valley area – and a newly minted Governor of California sits in a ten-room "mansion" in Cahuilla.
– October 14th
. While searching for some lost cattle, in the mountains north of Lake Cahuilla, a vaquero from Rancho de Sotres stumbles across some shiny gold flakes. Word of this quickly spreads throughout the Cahuilla Valley and by the end of the month it seems like half the population is in the surrounding hills, looking for gold.
. The presidio commander sends a report of the gold discoveries to Mexico City by courier and ship – with stories, rumors, and outright lies preceding it like that ship's bow wake. Prior to this, Spain has had to "bribe" people to go to California with offers of free land, loans, not being hanged at the end of the week, and so forth. But as the golden rumors (much magnified, of course. By the time they stories reach the Yucatan, for example, the Chocolate Mountains are up to being about 75% gold...) spread throughout New Spain, the thin trickle of immigrants becomes a swiftly running stream. Over ten-thousand are estimated to have made the journey to California in the next year.
– Prospectors and mines flood into the Cahuilla Valley, severely overtaxing both the military to keep peace, and the farmers (what farmers aren't prospecting themselves) to feed. While some gold strikes are made, they aren't nearly large enough (or numerous enough) to absorb all the newly arrived fortune seekers. Many begin to spread west towards the coast, now finding small gold strikes in the mountains north of the basin as they go. It becomes apparent – at least, to them
– that gold is everywhere
in California, and the only problem is to find it first.
The prospectors continue to spread out, basically following the mountains northwards.
– By now the Spanish are getting their act together and many of the larger mines are now property of the crown. The numbers of individual prospectors are diminishing – mostly due to death of one sort or another – but with the original gold strikes now under government control, they move out even further.
Searching for gold in the Coastal Range
near Monterey Bay, one prospector stumbles upon not gold, but cinnabar. What with the need for mercury to refine all the gold ore now being found (and the only current source being many, many
miles away), this is actually a more valuable find than any of the gold so far.
It's therefore rather a pity for him that it becomes property of the Spanish Empire almost as soon as he gets back to Cahuilla...
News of the gold strikes reaches the British and French colonies on the east coast of North America – then a couple of months later reaches Britain and France themselves. It causes some excitement ("will the Spanish never
stop finding gold in America?") and a handful of eager young foreign gold hunters are seen in California over the next few years, but "handful" is the operative word as the area is just too far away, too primitive, and too filled with Spaniards to attract all that many.
– Gold production in California is at around 500,000 to 700,000 ounces a year, money that both Spain and New Spain can well use. There are mines as far north as Lake Nevada5
and prospectors have reached as far as the northern end of "El Valle Magnífico" (the Great Valley6
). Spanish population stands at about 40,000, still mostly concentrated in the Cahuilla Valley, but with another concentration in Santa Cruz, near the cinnabar mines.
Indian population, on the other hand, has dropped dramatically. Every prospector was a nice little disease vector worming its way all through the Californias and back into what will be Nevada and Arizona. As far away as the Great Salt Lake, tribes are experiencing strange diseases that they've never seen before – and it's killing many, many of them. And it's not helping that, in typical Spanish fashion, the local tribes are seen by everyone but the missionaries as a labor force for the mines. In 1740, there were around 250,000 Indians in the Californias – by 1760 their numbers had crashed to less than 100,000.
It's also in this year that prospectors first come upon the vast placer deposits along the northern Sierra Nevada. Gold fever, which had
been dying down (mostly as it started to become obvious that prospecting for gold was really prospecting for gold for the government of New Spain), now takes a major upswing as this is gold you don't even have to mine
– you just pick it out of the water!
Okay, it's not really
that easy, but while the initial placer deposits last, gathering gold is something even an individual can do, and five or six can mine as many ounces as some of the medium-sized mines back in Cahuilla.
– Spanish population is around 55,000 and there are over three-dozen pueblos providing support for the mines. Cahuilla, in fact, is now a city
of nearly 7,000, with Santa Cruz a not unimpressive 2,000.
In spite of Cahuilla's city status, more Spanish now live in North California than the Cahuilla Valley/South California and the shift is continuing. 1769, in fact, will see the governors' seat shifting to Santa Cruz.
Gold is coming out of California as around 2,000,000 ounces a year from the port of Santa Cruz and the "port" (even now, it's just a set of primitive tie-ups) at the New River are shipped back to Mexico and thence to Spain. But this will be the high-water mark of gold in the Californias. Production will begin to drop the following year and by the end of the century will be down to a mere 300,000 ounces a year. This will result in a slow shift back towards cattle ranching as the big game in town in the early years of the next century – at least, in the Californias. Over in Nevada, something interesting would be happening...
– June 3rd
, Three English ships bombard the port of Santa Cruz as a sideline to the Seven Years War
. This kills 23 people, but has little other effect on world events. North California, however, will celebrate this as "The Day We Beat The English" right down to current times and the "Tres de Junio" celebration is now quite widespread.
– California has grown enough now that it chaffs under the rule of Mexico City (not the least reason being Mexico gets to skim a large chunk of the gold), wishing to become a separate province of the empire in its own right. It ends up becoming two – the southern half ("Alta California del Sur") remaining under the control of Mexico, the northern ("Alta California del Norte") reporting directly to Spain.
– The British colonies on the east coast have that little disagreement with London...
– The Californias continue to grow, passing a 100,000 Spanish population in 1790 (a year that sees the free Indian population dropping below 50,000) and 120,000 in 1800. Because of this, Spain begins shipping Black (and other) slaves into the province. They'll number nearly 10,000 by 1800.
– The War of Mexican Independence. Spain loses control of her "New Spain" possessions. But will, for a brief period, retain control of North California.
– The "brief period" ends as Mexican troops remove the Spanish governor in Santa Cruz following some really pathetic resistance by the few Spanish troops that do not almost immediately go over to the Mexican side. The takeover is not supported by all of the Californios, however, as it puts North California back under Mexican rule.
– Americans begin moving into Texas. By 1830 they will outnumber the Mexicans there by ten to one.
– Prospecting east of Tajoe, Jose Rivera stumbles upon one of the world's largest silver lodes. Over the next year, nearly 20,000 miners leave the Californian mines and head to "La Ciudad de la Virgen de Plata" (now La Plata in Nevada). The shear size of the strike numbs the mind – and most of it ends up with the powerful back in Mexico City, building them ever bigger mansions and buying them ever more expensive gewgaws. To say this annoys those living in the Californias (and "Nevada" is still part of North California at that time) is to be understating to the point of absurdity. Silver will continue to flow from the mines for the next fifty years, though the high-point will come in less than ten.
– The new Mexican constitution centralizes power and further annoys the Californios – still angry at being ruled from far-off Mexico City and that whole silver thing – no end. Over the next few years, Mexican troops will be needed to quell several riots and crush the "Californio Revolt" (an attempt by the big land owners to break away from Mexico) in 1838. Many of the big families are stripped of their lands as Mexico City begins handing out new rancho grants to people they feel they can trust (i.e., the wealthy in Mexico City) all over the Californias in an effort to replace the current power structure with one loyal to Mexico. This works, in a limited fashion, but also increases the undercurrent of anger by the native Californios not only in North California, but in South as well.
– Texans declare their independence from Mexico. Mexico responds by sending in the army and things go very bad for the Texans over the next year. However, support (both official and unofficial) in the U.S. increases as it looks like all those darn brown foreigners (whose country it is) will defeat those proper white Americans (who left America).
– While not officially at war with Mexico, fighting in Texas is increasingly being fought by troops from and supplied by the United States. On August 13th
, a frustrated and angry Mexico, therefore, declares war on the United States.
U.S. troops now move into Texas to fight directly alongside the Texans. At first this does little but to stabilize the lines somewhat and give the Texans some small wins.
Then the U.S. makes an endrun, landing in Veracruz and beginning the long march towards Mexico City, while a second force moves west from Texas into New Mexico.
Mexico frantically tries to move its armies about to stop these incursions – and somewhat succeeds. The U.S. push is stopped just south of Mexico City, but the northern force captures Santa Fe and begins heading westwards towards Cahuilla.
Mexican response is to pull more troops off the Texas front and send them both into New Mexico to try and recapture Santa Fe (and cut the American advance off) and to Mexico City to try and push back the now stalled American advance there. Unfortunately, the U.S. controls the upper Rio Grande and Mexican troops are forced to march through the desert towards Santa Fe. By the time they reach Albuquerque, they are literally dying on their feet and are easily routed by the much smaller – but in much better shape – American force stationed there.
Meanwhile, the Texan/U.S. forces now move through the thinned Mexican lines, not stopping until they reach the Rio Grande just fifty miles north of the Gulf of Mexico. Mexico reacts again, and the troops headed for Mexico City turn around and head back towards Texas.
And it's now that the Californios revolt again...
– Like 1842, Mexico spends most of its time chasing American armies, pushing them back – or at least, holding them – once they reach them, but loosing ground everywhere they pull their troops from for the chase. Most of Texas and New Mexico is under U.S. control by now, while the U.S. continues to advance towards California and the "dagger" from Veracruz remains pointed straight at the throat of Mexico City.
In the Californias, Mexico has effectively lost control of everything outside of Santa Cruz and the Cahuilla Valley to the Californio Revolucionarios and those revolutionaries are now talking with the United States (and Britain. There's a lot of sympathy for Britain amongst the Californios – not the least reason being three of the revolution's leaders have ancestors from there who came during the 1749 gold rush. Still, the United States is now a lot closer...) .
Worse, the monetary lifeline of silver and gold has been cut.
Mexico is also forced to divert troops to revolts in the Yucatan and other locations. Actually, the Mexican army in total outnumbers the U.S. one by over four to one (even counting in the Texan irregulars) – all that Nevada silver has bought other
things besides silk and diamonds – and it is nearly as modernly equipped. But it seems like it has to be just everywhere
, all at once, and Mexican commanders find that they spend more of their time moving than they do fighting.
, U.S. troops cross the Colorado into the Californias. They are met by leaders of the Californio Revolucionarios twenty miles outside of Cahuilla. A joint operation is planned to separate California from the rest of Mexico. With the U.S. already in control of the Santa Fe trail and U.S. ships hounding Mexican ones off the Pacific coast, if they can gain control of the New River and the port on the Gulf of California, they will have literally cut the entire province off from Mexico.
This isn't going to be as easy as it sounds. Much of the Mexican army in South California – about 4,000 troops – is based
in Cahuilla – which itself remains firmly in Mexican control and even more than half loyal to Mexico. And the U.S. force is only 800 men at the end of one hell
of a long supply line that stretches halfway across the continent. The "Revolucionarios" can supply a couple of thousand men (and, more importantly by this point, food!), but to say they are "irregulars" is to be overly kind. The U.S. commander simply hopes they will point their motley collection of firearms in the right direction come the battle.
They have some advantages over the Mexicans, though. For one thing, they
don't have to leave troops behind to protect the city – something exacerbated by the Governor insisting the city (and himself, of course) be protected "at all costs!" – nor do they have to insure that none of the people in the Cahuilla Valley revolt themselves. The combined U.S./Californio force only has to hold the thin lifeline of the New River.
For another, once they capture the port they'll be able to get naval support (so far, the Navy hasn't put ships within the Gulf of California because they'd lack someplace they can go if the narrow mouth of the Gulf was cut off).
Finally, a long, thin supply line is better than no supply line at all – and while the city
is mostly loyal, the farmers
who supply it with food are mostly not.
The U.S./Californio forces march well south of the city and then straight west to the New River unopposed as they traipse through the rich farmlands. They reach the small pueblo of Villa de Branciforte, on the river with its equally small "dockyard" for the "leather boats" (still called that, though few have carried anything other than passengers or vegetables in the last half-century). Once there, they effectively blockade the river and begin to "requisition" the boats already there, and more as they drift north or south past the town. Soon they have enough to put five-hundred troops on the water, and those troops begin to drift down towards the Gulf.
In the wee small hours of December 7th
, those troops land within the port of "Las Planicies del Barro" – right at the docks – and quickly overpower the less than 100 Mexican troops stationed there. By dawn the town of 600 is theirs. Three days later, most of the rest of the American force (minus a series of small "outposts" set up to ensure the entire river is blocked to Mexican traffic) and begins to fortify the position – while couriers have headed north and west to the Pacific coastline in an attempt to make contact with the Navy.
. Christmas is a bit thin this year in the city of Cahuilla. In spite of pleadings from the presidio commander, the Governor still
won't let him send more than a token force out to meet the Americans in Las Planicies. He's scouted their position – which is disturbingly good – and managed to "encourage" some of the farms to send food into the city, but with the bulk of the army stuck "defending" the city it's about all he can do.
Mind you, the city does need some
defending. Californio irregulars have taken to sniping about the cities edges – and more alarmingly, dashing in with torches to throw at the thatched roofs that cover a lot of the buildings in town, including almost all of the big warehouses down by the lakeshore. The Governor's already had to institute rationing – and conditions would get much worse if some of those rations went up in flames.
Down in Las Planicies, the American commander is pleased to read a message just brought in by courier: Contact has been made with the Navy off of Buenaventura and ships are on the way. By the end of January, he should have another hundred men to work with and – more importantly – the big guns off the ships to defend the place. The Californias are effectively blockaded.
– On the banks of the Rio Grande near the Texas/New Mexican border, both sides are gearing up for a major battle. Mexico is hoping to punch through the U.S. forces and recapture Santa Fe – not incidentally cutting off all the U.S. forces west of that city clear to California – then begin a long swing east into Texas. Unfortunately, the U.S. knows this – it's a fairly obvious strategic goal – and has been building up their defenses there since the previous the battle of Albuquerque a year and a half ago.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is also forming up a new force down in Veracruz, in an attempt to finally
break-through and take Mexico City.
Financially, both nations are well past "beginning to feel the pinch." Actually, Mexico is in better shape, money-wise, than the U.S., what with twenty-years of silver and thirty of gold in her vaults. Unfortunately, this isn't helping the war-effort as much as it should because very few shipments of arms from Europe can successfully run the American blockade of the Gulf of Mexico. Some cannon, in fact, have actually had to have been shipped clear around South America, landed in Acapulco, then taken back
across Mexico to the Mexico City front.
Of course, the Pacific isn't all that much safer from American ships than the Gulf...
Up in the Cahuilla Valley, meanwhile, it's February 5th
before the presidio commander finally
convinces the Governor to allow him to take his forces out and actually attack
someone. Three-thousand troops begin the long march south to Las Planicies, feeding themselves off the land as they go (heck, it was getting hungry
back in the city!) and leaving a lot of angry farmers in their wake. On February 8th
, they overrun the first American outpost on the New River – abandoned by its compliment of forty men when scouts spotted the big Mexican force heading their way. The American commander had sent boats back to all the outposts, so their retreat was a simple matter of drifting down the river. Three days later, all the outposts have all pulled back to the defenses at Las Planicies while the Mexican army is still a good four days away. And thanks to this early warning, the U.S. force is quite prepared when the Mexicans finally do reach their lines.
The U.S.'s six big cannon (off of one of the Navy's ships) far outrange and out bang the Mexican's few small field pieces, so the Mexicans are forced to dig in, far outside the U.S. lines. Unfortunately "dig in" is not a strategy that will accomplish their goals, for the U.S. forces are far from being blockaded (Navy and requisitioned civilian ships bring in food and other supplies daily) and they have no problem whatsoever with just sitting there, shooting at anyone who comes too close.
The "Battle of Las Planicies" lasts for over two weeks before the Mexicans – with nearly 30% casualties and out of food (they shouldn't have angered those farmers...) are forced to retreat back towards Cahuilla from the U.S. lines – which themselves have suffered 20% casualties, but which are still quite well supplied, food-wise.
Demoralized, they reach Cahuilla on March 7th
and news of their defeat equally demoralizes the city. With the Californios in control of most of the Californias and all contact with Mexico cut, the Californias are effectively out of the war. Santa Cruz will surrender to Californio forces on April 27th
. Cahuilla will hold on until the end of the war, but it's a futile gesture.
To the east, the far larger "Battle of Juárez" is another disaster for Mexico. Not only does their army not break through the American forces, but it is pushed back nearly fifty miles south. Over two-thousand troops are taken prisoner when a fast American force swings around and encircles a large chunk of the left flank.
Much further south, and the Americans are now within bombardment range of the outskirts of Mexico City. There, they are stopped – but panic in the city reaches epic proportions.
In fact, the Mexican government is gradually losing control of much of Mexico, what with the entire north now under U.S. control and much of Sonora, Chihuahua, and the Chiapas in open revolt. The handwriting is on the wall – the Mexican army can't fight the American and
hold down half the country.
On June 30th
, envoys from Mexico request terms for a cease-fire and eventual peace treaty...
– It is many months in the making, but in April, Mexico signs the peace treaty with the U.S., officially ending the Mexican/American war. The terms are harsh: The U.S. gets all land north of the Rio Grande and north of a line drawn east and west from the top of the Gulf of California (this gives Mexico no land link with Baja California and, in fact, the U.S. almost insisted they get that too – but Mexico had to salvage some pride, and the U.S. really didn't want it, so...). The Alta Californias, New Mexico, and Texas are now all U.S. territories.
To add insult to injury, Mexico will be forces to pay the equivalent of fifty million
U.S. dollars in reparations over the next twenty years. As it turns out, it would end up only paying about half that amount (the U.S. Congress would "forgive" the debt in 1857), but this would poison U.S./Mexican relations for the next century.
Meanwhile, Congress was arguing about how to organize the new territory. Unlike most of the U.S.'s previous land grabs, much of this one was already highly populated. Texas was around 100,000. North California had over 130,000 people all on its own, with South having a further 70,000. Even New Mexico had over 50,000 residents.
But large swaths of land were virtually empty (well, they had Indians, but of course, they didn't count). What would be Utah and Colorado had been essentially untouched by Mexico, and almost all of what would be Nevada's population was centered over the silver mines (with more and more people drifting away every year as the mines slowly spiraled towards exhaustion).
Texas, of course, wanted everything east of the Rio Grande all the way up into Colorado and the borders of the old Louisiana Purchase – and wouldn't say "no" to large chunks of land west and north of it. The Californios were adamant that North and South California remain intact – which would be fine, except "South California" to them stretched almost all the way east to Santa Fe, and "Northern" all the way to the Great Salt Lake.
New Mexican representatives said they'd be happy with New Mexico's current borders – unfortunately, with the exception of the treaty declared border with Mexico in the south, those borders were pretty vague.
In the end, Congress divided the new lands up in a fashion that annoyed most of the people living in those lands – but at least annoyed them all pretty equally. Texas ended up getting its "everything east of the Rio Grande" only as far north as the Mexican/New Mexican border, at which point a large blocky chunk was sliced from their claims and added to the New Mexican Territory. That stretched west as far as the Colorado and north to a line a hundred miles past Santa Fe.
South California got all its "traditional" territory as far east as the Colorado, but had a chunk of its northern desert reaches carved out for the Nevada Territory.
North California was perhaps least happy, losing all of its claims east of the Sierra Nevada, including Tajoe and La Ciudad de la Virgen de Plata with its silver mines.
Nevada Territory was essentially everything not
covered by the others, from the Sierra Nevadas east to the old Louisiana Purchase. Unlike the others, it was "unorganized" territory.
Congress breathed a sigh of relief as all this took effect on January 1st
, 1846 – at least that
was all handled...
...then Texas, New Mexico, and both Californias all petitioned for statehood...
– Slave State/Free State politics in all its amusing glory kicked into high gear as the petitions were received back in Washington. In theory, all four territories were "ready" for statehood – heck, New Mexico had been running for a couple of centuries longer than the U.S. – but balancing the Free/Slave state count was all during this period.
The Slave States felt Texas should become a state immediately – after all, hadn't we just fought an entire war
to "protect" Texas from the evil Mexicans? And, of course, it should enter as a slave state, since the Americans there had been importing slaves into it over the last twenty years just as fast as they had been importing themselves (and in complete disobedience of Mexican law, which made slavery illegal). New Mexico and South California should also be admitted as slave states, for were they not southern?
They were willing to give the Free States North California, as long as Nevada remained a territory...
Meanwhile, the Free States were willing to let Texas in as a slave state, but wanted both
of the Californias as free states – pointing out rightly that they had no slavery (though some of the conditions for the miners weren't a heck of a lot different from slavery...). New Mexico, however, should remain a territory (as should Nevada – at least both sides agreed on that one) as it was the most lightly populated and, according to them, the Slave States only wanted it in so that they could extend slavery up the Rio Grande from Texas, making the proposed state a sort of "Texas Jr."
Besides, it had that "Mexico" word in its name – and that couldn't be good.
Either side's proposal would upset the balance in the Senate (which, of course, is why both sides made their proposals as they did), so neither side's proposals moved forward. Deadlock ensued, which would last many, many years...
– Someone finally suggests a compromise that should have been done years before. Since North California and Texas were the two most populous territories - and they'd gained a further 15,000 and 45,000, respectively, over the last five years – they would both become states, one free, one slave.
As a compromise, it made sense. It kept the balance in the Senate. It got the two biggest territories out of Washington's hair, and it agreed – basically – to ignore the others for now with the hope that the problem would, in some way, go away...
Texas and North California were jubilant, New Mexico was annoyed, and South California was just outright pissed!
South California saw itself as the older – and more civilized – "big brother" of North. To have that "upstart" become a state first was intolerable!
Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot they could do about it. South California's population wasn't growing like North's – in fact, the first two years after the war it had taken a dip, as large numbers of people immigrated back into Mexico to remain Mexican citizens. And it couldn't attract immigrants from the East Coast like North did.
In spite of the rich farmland in the Cahuilla Valley and the nearly as rich along the Pacific coast, to Easterner's
eyes, the place was a desert, only reachable by traveling through even more
desert or via a really long boat journey. Well, heck, if you were going to go through all that, why not go somewhere with water and plants and a sun that wouldn't melt your brains?
And most of the Southern mines had declined into a sort of tepid, just above profitable state. So as far as exports (and ways to make money that might, fer instance, "inspire" a few Senators), the territory was back to where it was over a century before – with cow hide its only real product.
So the territorial governor – who wanted to be the state Senator – hemmed and hawed and sent representatives and attended dinners and all that...and didn't really accomplish much.
– North California and Texas become the 29th
states of the Union, respectively.
– Florida and Wisconsin become the 31st
states. South California is now frantic – there's no more slave states to "pair" up with and not likely to be any (unless Kansas fell the wrong way).
– Congress splits the territories of Nevada and New Mexico in half, creating the Arizona and Colorado territories and pretty much setting what will
be the state borders for Nevada and New Mexico...someday.
– U.S. Civil War. Four years of fighting nearly bankrupts the Union before the South is once again part of it. On the up side, Congress shorn of a need to "maintain the balance" – along with its Southern Senators – manages to create four new states during the first two years of this period – Minnesota (1857), Kansas (1858), Oregon (1858), and West Virginia (1859). Much to South California's anger, it is not
one of the new states.
– Twenty years late, to its eyes, South California finally becomes a state (the 37th
) on April 17th
, with a population of 110,000 (North California's is nearly 310,000).
– Nevada becomes the 38th
state in the Union, while Colorado – experiencing a boom due to mining – is next in line.
– January 6th
, and New Mexico becomes the 41st
– The Colorado begins to shift its bed back to its direct route to the sea. Water levels begin to drop in Lake Cahuilla and panic stricken farmers and ranchers (to say nothing of city water departments) in the valley send many, many representatives to Congress to insist that they Do Something!
– "Do Something" takes a while to get through committee, but eventually Congress authorizes funds to build a canal/set of levees to divert the Colorado back
into the lake. Construction begins as soon as the river begins to recede from its springtime flooding and proceeds quickly.
– Alamo Canal is finished and the full flow of the Colorado returns to Lake Cahuilla. Lake levels quickly stabilize and return to normal with the next spring floods in 1897.
– North California passes the one-million mark. South remains a paltry 298,000, mostly in the Cahuilla Valley/San Gabriel Basin. It has actually fallen behind New Mexico in population!
– Annoyed at being "ignored" by both Santa Cruz and Eugene, the southern counties of Oregon and northern of North California succeed from their respective states and form the new state of Jefferson
. With the depression still on, both states are actually secretly pleased to see those counties go, as it makes for a nice cost savings in services without much of a loss in taxes.
– Populations of states derived from the Mexican/American War
Some Notes on all this...
Hey, what's this "Lake Cahuilla?"
It's the huge freshwater lake that periodically fills the Salton Sink. It comes, lasts a couple, three centuries, then vanishes again, usually for less than a century as the Colorado shifts between flowing into the sink and flowing straight into the Gulf of California (or, at least, did
prior to our fiddling with the Colorado and such). Its last existence actually overlaps the first century or so of the Spanish in Mexico and there are some legends to suggest that one of their ships actually got stuck in it after sailing up the New River.
I suspect that – had the people back then not put so much effort into stopping it – Lake Cahuilla would have reformed completely back at the turn of the century when the current Salton Sea formed - the three-hundred odd years between the two events was an unusually long
dry spell for the lake. This shows that the Colorado was more than able to continue to support such a lake had it not shifted in the early 1600s, so as geographical PODs go, this one is a snap.
Mind, I also
suspect that there's a good chance that if it didn't dry up in the early 1600s it would have done so later – which I moved sufficiently "later" that people would actually be able to prevent it.
Would Spain and then Mexico actually support larger colonization efforts in California?
I honestly have no idea. I suspect that at least part
of the paucity of Spanish/Mexican colonists in California was due to the cost of getting there. Going by ship is expensive, especially if you don't have any money to begin with, and Spain isn't going to spend a lot to send people on ships to a colony whose only real purpose is to keep the Russians and the British out, and whose only real export is cow skin. Oh, you could
walk it – but it wasn't what you'd call a pleasant trip and that's got to have put a lot of people off.
Have a easier (safer) land route and this problem – if not goes away – at least becomes less of an impediment. Throw in the attraction of gold and you'll actually have people wanting
to come to California.
Would the U.S. go straight into a war with Mexico over Texas – and with Mexico richer, would it win?
A richer and more powerful Mexico – along with other butterflies – delays the breakaway of Texas for several years and makes for a much
harder battle once it does. The U.S. – both individuals and via government support – sent quite a lot of help to Texas on OTL and on this ATL, they need even more. I strongly
suspect that if the Texans looked like they were going to loose their initial revolution, someone in Congress would have managed to whip up enough support to send in even more help. And eventually, Mexico would just get pissed at fighting an undeclared war with the U.S. and declare it.
OTL, the Mexican/American war wasn't the walkover for the U.S. it's usually thought as. Texas – and later the U.S. – actually, got quite a few unlikely breaks (that whole Santa Ana thing for one) which made for a winning war. And here, Mexico is even richer and more powerful than OTL, so it aught to be a lot
closer of a contest, one where Mexico's got a better than even chance they'd win.
Still, they've got some problems (some common to both OTL and the ATL, some unique to the ATL) that handicap them.
Much of Mexico really wasn't
all that keen on the government in Mexico City and revolts were a fine old tradition there even then.
Thanks to all that gold and silver (though most of the gold ended up in Spain), yes, they are
richer – but most of that "richer-ness" is centered in the government and in the powerful who support it. The common Mexican hasn't seen a peso of it and that kind of thing breeds resentment, especially in areas like California and Nevada where the wealth is leaving
– and leaving nothing but a lot of back-breaking mining jobs.
So while Mexico will have a larger and more powerful army, it will need
a larger and more powerful army just to keep things under control.
The U.S. is probably going to have control of the seas. That in itself nullifies a lot of the Mexican treasury, because most of their armaments are going to be coming from Europe. And if they can't get there...
On the whole, therefore, I think that the U.S. would win. But it's going to cost them a whole heck of a lot more – the effects of which I didn't (much) try to cover in this timeline. One possibility is that the Civil War happens differently (or not at all) because, fer example, Congress boosts taxes on big land owners (on the logic that the whole war was mostly for
big land owners – admittedly, this is unlikely) to the point were slavery starts dying simply because the plantations can no longer afford it. Or the fights over slave/free states grow sufficiently worse that there are none of those "compromises" that held things together for another decade. I pegged it to happen four years earlier than OTL by assuming the Republicans gained power a bit faster under these conditions.
I also assumed it finished somewhat quicker (a year's worth) as I suspect that – short of a time-machine load of AK-47's – the South did about as well and lasted about as long as it could on OTL
– and on any ATL it's likely we'll only see them lose faster.
Speaking of the Civil War, how come not all that much happens after 1850 here?
Well, I got up to over ten pages on this and the Mexican/American War was still going on, so I kinda cut it short – just a couple of highlights. Doesn't help that it started going off in unexpected directions for me so that I got a bit lost. I should pick it up again after I've thought about it some more (and read comments on this part!).
Okay, so how'd "The State of Jefferson" get in here?
I figured that my POD could more
than butterfly the "Jefferson" movement earlier and stronger (politicians in the Bay Area, fer example, could no longer tell people in Northernmost California that their problems are "not us, it's those guys down in SoCal" – thus diminishing the links between them even more). Since this is a poorer California (and probably U.S. in general), I also suspect that those same politicians would see dumping those northern counties as a great way to lower their bills for services too.
But, basically, it's there because I thought it would be cool. I'll pull it out if people think it's too ASBy.
The total population of the "Californias" as only about two-thirds the current population of OTL's single California, with most of that in the north, is this reasonable?
Well, I pretty much think
so, anyway. With the gold rush over a century before they got the place, to the East Coast, California was never the "Golden State," it was just another state they got out of the Mexican war. It was mostly psychological – people didn't head there because it didn't have the "draw" it did in our world, at least, for South California.
North California, is actually a little bit more densely populated than OTL. Gold or no, it's still a very good place to immigrate too, and the population starts off a lot
higher than on OTL. As far as attracting people, think of it more as "South Oregon" than "North California."
But South California was – and is, OTL – mostly desert. And people just didn't go
to deserts to live. They might go there for cattle/sheep ranching, or to the Cahuilla Valley for farming (though most Easterners didn't have a strong grasp on irrigated farming), but as a place to live and work outside of those professions? Hah!
Toss in industry starting in the North first, and the whole effect becomes magnified.
What kind of states are the Californias, anyway?
North California started out pretty Hispanic, but what with immigration and time, is now pretty much like Northern California is on OTL (with the exception that they can't blame all their problems on being "ruled" by Southern California...). Biggest difference is that Chinese immigration was much lower than on OTL, so that there wasn't as much of a "they're taking our jobs!" backlash as here. In fact, the whole place is (at least, historically) a bit more multicultural than on OTL.
South California, now – think New Mexico, writ slightly larger. Mind, it's not New Mexico poor
, but it's a long way from California rich
too. In the last few decades, it's been attracting a lot of retires – for pretty much the same reasons Arizona and New Mexico do OTL – which has boosted both the economy and the population a bit (it only recently exceeded New Mexico's population again for the first time in nearly a century). Much of that new growth is – once again – in the Cahuilla Valley as its got the good water supplies – no big aqueducts to SoCal on this
Cahuilla City's got a lot of history behind it to glory in, but it's only about 200,000 in population (which is, admittedly, a good percentage of SoCals total) and that number's been pretty stable for some time. So it's pretty much a faded old lady, South California's capital and a nice tourist spot, with most of its working residents working in the tourist industry or the government.
If you like, you can see this timelines "Los Angeles" analog (probably called "San Gabriel," from what I've got here) as a big artists colony, like Santa Fe. That'd be neat.
Just remember, everyone, this is a first draft of this timeline – so don't be surprised if you find tons of "now, wait a minutes!" in it. I expect that...