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Bear Flag Rising:
On June 14, 1846, a band of rebels calling themselves "Osos"--their name inspired by grizzly bears whose "fighting spirit" they admired--gathered in the plaza of Sonoma, California. At dawn that day, they had ridden into the town and occupied it, forcing the Mexican Colonel Vallejo to surrender. In celebration of their bloodless victory, the rebels fashioned a flag bearing their emblem: a brown bear on a white field, a red stripe along the bottom and a red star in the upper corner, and the words "California Republic"--painted in pokeberry juice. The Osos cheered as the Bear Flag was raised for the first time.
Dale L. Walker's Bear Flag Rising tells how America wrested California from Mexico, and the events that changed the map of the U.S. more radically than any event after the Louisiana Purchase. Walker enlivens California's already colorful history with capsule biographies of the heroic villains and villainous heroes that populated the area. Notable among these are Commodore Robert Field Stockton and General Stephen Watts Kearny, both ostensibly with the same purpose--to claim California and fulfill America's Manifest Destiny--but with differing methods and goals. Caught between the rival conquerors' enormous egos, celebrated explorer John Charles Frémont ended up with his career (and, possibly, his life) in danger. Thoroughly researched, engagingly written, Bear Flag Rising is an excellent addition to the growing list of books on the American West. --Sunny Delaney [via]