War Brings Change
During the Mexican-American War, a combined force of 600 American soldiers, sailors, and Marines under the joint command of Army General Stephen W. Kearly and U.S. Navy Commodore Robert F. Stockton made camp at Don Juan Avila's Rancho Niguel. They were traveling north from San Diego to the Los Angeles area between December 29, 1846, and January 8, 1847. Their mission was to secure Southern California and then retake Los Angeles, which was held by Californios.
Some 4 weeks earlier, General Kearny and 139 mostly mule-mounted dragoons had endured a grueling 850-mile march from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to California. In the San Pasqual Valley, near San Diego, they had been besieged by Californio lancers for 4 days, until Commodore Stockton arrived with reinforcements. At Avila's hacienda on the south bank of Los Alisos Creek, just west of El Camino Real and within the borders of what later became Laguna Hills, the battle-weary Americans stopped to rest before continuing their trip north.