American Civil War
The Territory of Arizona was a territory claimed by the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War, between 1861 and 1865. It consisted of the portion of the New Mexico Territory south of the 34th parallel north, including parts of the modern states of New Mexico and Arizona. Its capital was Mesilla along the southern border. The Confederate territory overlapped, but was not identical to, the Arizona Territory created by the United States in 1863.
The territory was officially declared on August 1, 1861, following the Confederate victory at the Battle of Mesilla. Confederate hold in the area was soon broken, however, after the Battle of Glorieta Pass, the defining battle of the New Mexico Campaign. In July, 1862, the government relocated to the town of El Paso, Texas, where it remained for the duration of the war.
However, the territory continued to be represented in the Confederate Congress and Confederate troops continued to fight under the Arizona banner until the war's end.
History[edit | edit source]
Origins of Secession[edit | edit source]
Before the start of the war the land of the current states of New Mexico and Arizona was part of the New Mexico Territory and the Gadsden Purchase, which ran parallel to William Walker's Republics of Lower California and Sonora. As early as 1856 concerns had been raised about the ability of the territorial government in Santa Fe to effectively govern the southern part of the territory, which was separated by the Jornada del Muerto; a difficult stretch of desert.
Other concerns were the lack of substantial numbers of troops to fight the Apaches who were terrorizing mining camps all over Traditional Arizona. Another was the closing of the mail stations which connected the Arizona frontier colonies to the East. The Arizonans felt abandoned which fueled dissatisfaction for the federal government.
Secession[edit | edit source]
In July 1860, a convention of settlers from the southern part of the territory was held in Tucson. The convention drafted a constitution for a "Territory of Arizona" to be organized out of the New Mexico Territory south of 34° N.
The convention elected Lewis Owings as the territorial governor, and elected a delegate to Congress. The proposal, however, did not succeed in Congress because of opposition from anti-slavery Congressmen, who feared the new territory might eventually become a slave state.
After the start of the American Civil War, support for the Confederacy was strong in the southern part of the New Mexico Territory, largely due to its neglect by the United States government. In March 1861, the citizens of Mesilla, New Mexico called a secession convention to separate themselves from the United States and join the Confederacy.
On March 16, the convention adopted a secession ordinance citing the region's common interests and geography with the Confederacy, the need of frontier protection, and the loss of postal service routes under the United States government as reasons for their separation. The ordinance proposed the question of secession to the western portions of the territory, and on March 28 a second convention in present day Tucson, Arizona, also met and ratified the ordinance.
The conventions subsequently established a provisional territorial government for the Confederate "Territory of Arizona." Owings was again elected as provisional governor and Granville Henderson Oury was chosen as a delegate to petition for the territory's admission into the Confederacy.
The Confederate Territory of Arizona became officially recognized when President Jefferson Davis signed the proclamation on February 14, 1862. To commemorate this event, February 14, 1912, the fiftieth anniversary, was selected as official date of statehood for Arizona.
Civil War[edit | edit source]
The Confederate Arizona Territory was important to the role of the New Mexico Territory in the American Civil War, primarily because it offered Confederate access to Union California. Consequently it was the scene of several important battles in the war's Trans-Mississippi Theater.
The rebels established a military post, Fort Yuma on the banks of the Colorado River in 1862 adjacent to the Union army post with the same name on the other side in California, and when the end of Confederate rule arrived, the Fort Yuma on the Arizona side was abandoned by Confederate troops who were mostly an Irish-immigrant cavalry composed of Irish Americans.
They avoided capture by Union soldiers by fleeing to Mexico 10 miles away. In July 1861, a force of Texans under Lieutenant Colonel John Baylor, arrived in El Paso, Texas, across the border from Mesilla.
With support from the secessionist residents of Mesilla, Baylor's 2nd Texas Mounted Rifles entered the territory and took a position in the town on July 25. Union forces under Major Isaac Lynde at nearby Fort Fillmore prepared to attack Baylor. On July 27 the two armies met outside of town at the Battle of Mesilla in a brief engagement in which the Union troops were defeated.
Major Lynde then abandoned Fort Fillmore and began a march north to join the troops at Fort Craig under Colonel Edward R. S. Canby. However, his retreat came to a halt in severe heat and was overtaken by Baylor. Lynde surrendered his command without a shot fired at San Augustine Springs, in the Organ Mountains.
On August 1, 1861, the victorious Baylor proclaimed the existence of a Confederate Arizona Territory, which comprised the area defined in the Tucson convention the previous year. He appointed himself as permanent governor. Among his cabinet members was the Mesilla attorney Marcus H. MacWillie, who served as the territorial attorney general.
The next month, Baylor's men and a Union force would fight a small engagement at the village of Canada Alamosa. Ending with another Confederate victory.
Efforts by the Confederacy to secure control of the region led to the New Mexico Campaign. In 1862, Baylor was ousted as governor of the territory by Davis, and the Confederate loss at the Battle of Glorieta Pass forced their retreat from the territory. The following month, a small Confederate picket troop north of Tucson fought to with an equally small Union cavalry patrol from California in the so-called Battle of Picacho Pass.
Before the Picacho Pass skirmish, Union and Confederate forces fought a smaller engagement; known as the Battle of Stanwix Station. By July 1862, Union forces were approaching the territorial capital of Mesilla, and the government vacated to Texas.
The territorial government relocated to San Antonio, and remained there in exile, although MacWillie continued to represent the territory in the First and Second Confederate Congresses. Resistance in Arizona continued at the partisan level, and Confederate units under the banner of Arizona fought until the end of the war in May 1865.
Apache Wars[edit | edit source]
In 1862, the column of California volunteers, who fought at Stanwix Station and Picacho Pass, fought at the Battle of Apache Pass, against 500 Apaches. The battle is considered part of the American Civil War.
There were also several engagements between Apaches and Confederates. The Battle of Dragoon Springs marks the only known Confederate combat deaths in the modern confines of Arizona. Other engagements include the Siege of Tubac, the Battle of Cooke's Canyon, the Battle of the Florida Mountains, the Battle of Pinos Altos and a number of other smaller skirmishes and massacres.
Arizona Territory Confederate units[edit | edit source]
- Herbert's Battalion of Arizona Cavalry
See also[edit | edit source]
- American Indian Wars
- Arizona Territory
- List of Arizona Territory Civil War units
- New Mexico Territory in the American Civil War
References[edit | edit source]
Further reading[edit | edit source]
- Kerby, Robert Lee, The Confederate Invasion of New Mexico and Arizona, Westernlore Press, 1958. ISBN 0-87026-055-3
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