The Southwestern Historical Quarterly
THE ALTA CALIFORNIA SUPPLY SHIPS, 1773-76
CI-IARLES E. CHAPMAN
Historians have been prone to regard the expeditions of 1769
to Alta California' as accomplishing permanent occupation of
that region by Spain, simply because uninterrupted possession
thenceforth ensued. A little reflection upon the failure of many
promising attempts in previous centuries to found colonies in the
Californias, or, indeed, wherever colonization has been undertaken,
might lead to a conjecture that Alta California must have had its
period of uncertainty, and a study of the documents would prove
the conjecture- true.
Climate and natural resources were not enough to keep civil-
ized men alive, however well the numerous Alta California In-
dians were able to subsist. Everything that the Spaniards needed
had to come from Mexico, or in many cases from Spain itself.
Alta California was a land without manufactured articles of any
sort, from guns and powder down to nails and fish-hooks, with-
out agriculture, without domestic animals, without laborers, with-
out white women. All there was, was the tiny garrison of sol-
diers and a few missionaries. All supplies had to come from the
port of San Blas, Mexico, even food, for the colonists could not
subsist on acorns and chance supplies of bear-meat. There were
difficulties with the long sea-route from San Blas, especially as
regards transport of animals and settlers, so that overland routes
were temporarily made use of, but as regards food-supplies, goods,
and effects, the San Blas supply-ships were for many years prac-
tically the only reliance of Alta California, without which the
province would almost certainly have been abandoned. In 1770
and again in 1772 the province was barely saved by the timely
arrival of supply-ships. The same thing was to occur for the
third time in 1774.
It is the purpose of this article to deal only with Bucarely's"
'In this article "Alta California" will be used for the region from Sarn
D)iego to San Francisco, "Baja California" for the peninsula, and "Cali-
fornias" where both are meant.
2Antonio Maria Bucarely y Ursfia was viceroy of New Spain from 1771
to 1779, and was one of the greatest rulers that land ever had.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 19, July 1915 - April, 1916. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101067/. Accessed July 25, 2014.