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"The Presidio of Monterrey". Volume II, plate V from: "A Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean and Round the World" by Captain George Vancouver

Monterey in 1968. Presidio of Monterey in the right of the photo.

Presidio of Monterey in 2005.

The Presidio of Monterey, located in Monterey, California, is an active US Army installation with historic ties to the Spanish colonial era. Currently it is the home of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLI-FLC). Also this is the last and only Presidio in California to have an active military installation.


Spanish fort

In 1768, Visitador General José de Gálvez the Viceroyalty of New Spain received the following orders: "Occupy and fortify San Diego and Monterey for God and the King of Spain." Two years later, a small expedition led by captain Gaspar de Portolá and Father Junípero Serra officially took possession for the upper Las Californias Province, what is now central California, via the establishment of El Presidio Real de San Carlos de Monterey (the Royal Presidio of Saint Charles of Monterey) and the nearby Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo. Portolá's actions were spurred by the Spanish fear that other nations – particularly Russia — had designs on its New World empire. Spain moved to occupy that portion of the North American west coast on the Pacific Ocean which it had only seen and claimed from maritime explorations previously, and neglected. The port of Monterey Bay, which had been visited and charted a century and a half before by the Spanish explorer, Sebastián Vizcaíno, was ripe for colonization and military fortification. Monterey became one of a series of presidios, or "royal forts," built by Spain in what is now the western United States. In 1783, it had a company of 56 men. Other California-based installations were founded in San Diego (El Presidio Real de San Diego) in 1769, in San Francisco (El Presidio Real de San Francisco ) in 1776, and in Santa Barbara (El Presidio Real de Santa Bárbara) in 1782.[1] On 20 November 1818 Argentine privateer Hipólito Bouchard, known thereafter as "California's only pirate", raided the installation. Its population took refuge in the Presidio's Rancho del Rey San Pedro (King's Farm), in the vicinity of Salinas.[2] The fortunes of the Presidio at Monterey rose and fell with the times: it has been moved, abandoned and reactivated time and time again. The only surviving building from the original compound is the Royal Presidio Chapel. At least three times, it has been submerged by the tide of history, only to appear years later with a new face, a new master, and a new mission – first under the Spanish, then the Mexicans, and ultimately the Americans.

United States fort

United States control of the area began in 1846 during the Mexican-American War when Commodore John D. Sloat, commander of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Squadron, landed unopposed a small force in Monterey and claimed the territory and the Presidio for the United States. He left a small garrison of Marines who moved the location of the fort and began improving defenses to better protect the town and the harbor. The Presidio was renamed Fort Mervine in honor of Captain William Mervine, who commanded one of the ships in Sloat's squadron. The original Presidio comprised a square of adobe buildings located in the vicinity of what is now downtown Monterey. The fort's original mission, the Royal Presidio Chapel, has remained in constant use since its founding in 1770 by Junípero Serra, who arrived with Portola's party. On a hill overlooking Monterey's harbor is an earthwork that serves as the only lingering connection between the original site and the present site of the Presidio. That earthwork was a cannon emplacement defending the harbor.

The 1846 end of the Mexican-American War and the 1848 discovery of gold in California effectively put an end to any military presence in Monterey. In May 1848, the news of the gold discovery reached Monterey and many military personnel deserted for the gold fields. In 1865, in the closing months of the American Civil War, the old fort on the hill was returned to temporary life by the arrival of six officers and 156 enlisted men, but was abandoned again in 1866. In 1902, an Infantry Regiment arrived at Monterey with the mission to construct a post to house an infantry regiment and a squadron of cavalry. Troops moved into the new wooden barracks, officially named Ord Barracks, in June 1903. It was named for former American Civil War general, Edward Ord. However, in order to perpetuate the name of the old Spanish military installation that Portolà had established 134 years earlier, the War Department redesignated the post as the Presidio of Monterey.

Presidio of Monterey

A school of musketry was located at the Presidio from 1907 to 1913, and a school for cooks and bakers from 1914 to 1917. In 1917, the Army purchased an additional 15,809 acres (64 km²) across the bay as a maneuver area. This new acquisition eventually was designated as Camp Ord in 1939 and became Fort Ord in 1940. Between 1919 and 1940, the Presidio housed principally cavalry and field artillery units. However, the outbreak of World War II ended the days of horse cavalry, and those troops left Monterey.

From 1946 onward, the Presidio itself was a sub-installation of the nearby Fort Ord. On 1 October 1994, this situation changed when Fort Ord closed and the Presidio of Monterey became a separate installation again, with the continued military areas of Fort Ord becoming known as the Presidio Annex.

Defense Language Institute

Defense Language Institute copy.png

Main article: Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center

In 1946, the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS) was moved to the Presidio of Monterey and was renamed the Army Language School (ALS). In June 1963, the Army Language School was renamed the Defense Language Institute (DLI). In 1976, the Defense Language Institute became the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLI-FLC), the Defense Department's primary center for foreign language instruction. The center constitutes the principal activity at the Presidio. The Presidio serves all branches of the Department of Defense as well as select other government agencies.

See also


  1. For the Revillagigedo Census of 1790 listing the inhabitants of Monterey and the other presidios and pueblos, see The Census of 1790, California, California Spanish Genealogy. Retrieved on 2008-08-04. Compiled from William Marvin Mason. The Census of 1790: A Demographic History of California. (Menlo Park: Ballena Press, 1998). 75–105. ISBN 978-0-87919-137-5.
  2. J. D. Conway, Monterey: Presidio, Pueblo, and Port, Arcadia Publishing, Charlston, SC, 2003, p.49

External links

Coordinates: 36°36′14″N 121°54′42″W / 36.6040°N 121.9117°W / 36.6040; -121.9117

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