Saturday, April 22, 2017
Copied by Mike Cachuela
April 22, 2017
Few Celebrate Where Many Once Feted
San Diego Hero who Spiked Guns
(Article from San Diego Sun approximately Oct. of 1938)
BY GRACE MONFORT
Fifty years ago all San Diego would have made merry at the fiesta and barbecue celebrating the birthday anniversary of Albert Henry Smith. Tuesday only a few old friends and members of his immediate family will attend the quiet family dinner in his home, 4902 Pacific-blvd, marking his 83rd anniversary.
Many Stories Erroneous
This act of heroism on the part of the gallant young American who came to San Diego from Long Island, New York, the same year of the Mexican attack, has been commemorated by Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West, San Diego Parlors, who placed a monument
over his grave which bears the inscription:
“Albert E Smith. civilian. spiked guns at Ft. Stockton and raised the American flag under fire
There have been many erroneous stories told about my father’s part in raising the flag in the Plaza here in Old Town.” his son said regarding the event. So far as we can learn he took no part in the ceremony which took place in the afternoon of July 29, 1846, when Fremont arrived in San Diego from Monterey, having been sent down here with his battalion of about 100 men, among them the intrepid pioneer Kit Carson.
Took To Whaleboat
"Fremont marched his battalion north on Aug. 8. At that time San Diego was garrisoned by a small force of men under Capt. Meritt. Fremont and Commodore Stockton enjoyed a brief victory in Los Angeles, but the Hispo-Californians rose and re-captured the town. Word arrived in San Diego that they were sending a force down here to wipe out all Americans as well as American sympathizers.
"The little garrison, alarmed by these rumors. took refuge in the whaleboat, Stonington, then lying in the harbor, The town was immediately occupied by the invaders and the Mexican flag
raised once more in the Plaza. The refugees were greatly concerned lest the invaders mount
the two old cannons which were lying somewhere on Presidio Hill and coming down to La Playa (to) shell the Stonington.
“My father. according to his story of the incident and as is recorded in history, volunteered to spike the enemy’s guns. That night he came ashore, stole up to the Presidio by a roundabout course, spiked the guns with files and returned to the Stonington where he reported his success.”
Smythe, in his history of San Diego says: “ Relieved from anxiety on this score and emboldened by Smith's exploit, Capt. Merritt the next morning landed all his available forces together with the whalers and two cannon from the ship and marched on the town. The invaders were formed in battle array, but soon gave way and ran over the hills. The Mexican flag was hauled down by Senora Maria Antonia Machado de Silva who carried it away to save it from the Americans.
Sold For $2 Acre
"Albert B. Smith then climbed the flagpole, attached the new halyards and hauled up the American flag. The Mexicans shot a Smith during this daring feat and he replied by waving his hat at them in defiance. He was not hit and none of the Americans were wounded.”
The brave American patriot who is described by his son as very young at the time, blue eyed and sandy complexioned, of medium height, strong and wiry, later married Guadalupe Machado, daughter of Manuel Machado, officer in the Mexican army. Albert Henry Smith and his brothers inherited “all the land beyond Tijuana” which was known as Rancho Rosario. They sold it after their father’s death for $2 an acre, he said.
“My father had all the Yankee’s good humored outlook on life, was always fond of a joke and was active and industrious, his son said. "Above all he was remembered for his cool courage and fearlessness.”
On Memorial Day, I923, the body of Albert E. Smith was taken from its grave in Old Town, and though he was a civilian, buried with military honors in Bennington Cemetary, Pt. Loma.
Twice a widower, his son, Albert Henry Smith, at present lives with his eldest daughter, Angelina Smith Gonzales. Four sons, Louis, John, Eddie and Alex also make their home in Los Angeles. Another son, Harry Smith, lives in New York with his wife and two daughters.
There Were No Houses
“There was always a very gay celebration on my birthday in the earlier days,” Mr. Smith said. “We fatted steers for months before hand for the barbecue. There was always dancing and singing at the fiesta with guests arriving days beforehand from miles around. We’d invite several hundred and twice that number would come. But there was always plenty!
“I remember San Diego when there were no houses only the barracks. Everyone lived on scattered sheep and cattle ranches which extended down into the present city.”