SUTTER, John A. (1803-1888). Letter signed ("J.A. Sutter" with encircling flourish), TO COLONEL JOHN C. FREMONT, New Helvetia [Sacramento, California], 26 April 1847.
3 pages, 4o (250 x 206 mm), integral address leaf, light stain and loss in lower central area affecting a few letters in the letter, not affecting readability.
IN THE WAKE OF THE ANNEXATION OF CALIFORNIA, SUTTER BILLS JOHN C. FREMONT FOR THE RENTAL OF SUTTER'S FORT (FORT SACRAMENTO)
An important letter from the Swiss-born Sutter, written at a critical turning point in California's early history, just a year before the famous discovery of placer gold in the mill attached to his "New Helvetia" settlement along the Sacramento River. The adobe fort, which he christened Fort Sutter, consisted of an enclosure with walls 18 feet high and three feet thick. Fremont had visited Sutter as early as 1844, on his first California exploration; he revisited the locality in 1845, scouting for the government. In July 1846, when the American flag was raised over Monterey, Sutter followed suit at his own fort. Fremont seized it on July 12, renaming it Fort Sacramento and leaving Capt. Edward Kern in charge. Here, seven months later, with California essentially in American hands, Sutter apologetically presents his bill for the "rental" of the Fort and annexed dwellings: "Capt Kern who leaves today for Monterey I take the liberty of sending you the annexed [account] with the U.S. Gov't for rent of Fort Sacramento and dwelling houses for use of the families of the U.S. Volunteers. I bring it up to the time of receipt of the letter of Capt. J.B. Hulls ordering the discharge of the Garrison although the Soldiers have been in active service under Capt Kern and Lieut. Woolworth U.S.A. some one month & half since and in fact the Garrison was not discharged untill the 18th of April and the dwellings are still occupied by the Volunteers and Emigrant families...I take the Liberty of writing you on the subject as you are the only Officer of the Govt that knows anything about the value of the place. By complying with the above request you will confer a great favor which will be reciprocated..." On page 3, in neatly ruled tabular form, Sutter sets out the account between "The United States of America" and himself for "Military Operations in California" during 1846 and 1847. The bill specifies "Rent of Fort Sacramento and four Dwellings for Volunteer families," for 7½ months, and the total (based on a rate of $1000 per month) comes to $7,500.
THE LETTER CONTAINS A PASSING REFERENCE TO THE ILL-FASTED DONNER PARTY, for Sutter's mention of certain "emigrant families" housed at his fort os an allusion to the forlorn survivors of the ill-fated Donner Party, who were stranded in the high sierra snows near Truckee, California during the winter of 1846-47. The rescue expeditions were mounted from Sutter's Fort, and many of those rescued returned there. The last Donner Party survivor reached the Fort on April 29, three days after this letter.