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The Bear Flag Revolt.
Emboldened by Fremont’s arrival, a motley assemblage of hunters, trappers, and settlers, led by a colorful gray-haired mountain man known as "Stuttering" Ezekiel Merritt, prepared to take action against the Mexicans. In mid-June 1846, with the tacit approval of Fremont, the Osos, as they called themselves, overran the Mexican garrison at Sonoma, announced that California would from that point on be an independent republic, and hoisted a crude white flag, made from a piece of cotton and embellished with a single red star, the figure of a bear, and the words CALIFORNIA REPUBLIC in black. (Oso is the Spanish word for bear; the rebels settled on it as their name because both the Mexicans and the Americans respected the fighting prowess of the grizzly.) The Osos were heartened by the almost immediate arrival of American warships, commanded by Commodore Robert Stockton, at Monterey, and the news that a U. S. Army division, commanded by Fremont’s old nemesis in the affair of the howitzer, Stephen Kearny, now a brigadier general, was on the March to San Diego. Encouraged himself, Fremont now proposed to the Osos that he merge his group with them and become their commanding officer. The Osos agreed, and Stockton subsequently confirmed Fremont as the commander of the California Battalion, as the new force was known, in the process of promoting him to major.