The Confederate Territory of Arizona

Lieutenant Colonel John R. Baylor, whose Texas “buffalo hunters” had recently moved up the Rio Grande Valley and captured Fort Fillmore, issued a proclamation establishing the new Confederate Territory of Arizona. This consisted of “all that portion of New Mexico lying south of the thirty-fourth parallel of north latitude.” Baylor decreed that “all offices, both civil and military, heretofore existing in this Territory, either under the laws of the late United States or the Territory of New Mexico, are hereby declared vacant, and from the date hereof shall forever cease to exist.” The territory would be under military rule “until such time as Congress may otherwise provide” for a civil government.

The Confederate Territory of Arizona | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Baylor established government of two branches, executive and judicial. Baylor’s force, now known as the Confederate Army of Arizona, controlled the executive branch. Baylor installed himself as governor with the power to appoint a cabinet, marshals, and justices of the peace. The judicial branch consisted of a two-member supreme court and two judicial districts that included appeals and probate courts. The judiciary would take on any pending cases in the territory. Mesilla, the town occupied by Baylor’s Confederates near Fort Fillmore, became the new Arizona capital.

“Governor” Baylor now awaited Confederate reinforcements at Mesilla. Though the Confederacy had not authorized Baylor’s expedition, the Confederate Congress quickly endorsed the proclamation and seated the Arizona delegate. Most New Mexicans considered the expedition to be merely a “Texas invasion,” not a true Confederate conquest. Meanwhile, Federal forces abandoned Fort Stanton under pressure from Baylor’s troops.

Later this month, Brigadier General Henry Hopkins Sibley arrived at San Antonio to take command of the Confederate Army of New Mexico. President Jefferson Davis had assigned Sibley to lead the army in securing all the New Mexico Territory for the Confederacy. Local newspapers reported that Sibley was seeking volunteers to form a brigade for “frontier service,” and patriots were urged to come to San Antonio “armed and fully equipped for a Winter campaign.”

Sibley planned to advance on Albuquerque and Santa Fé, seizing control of the Santa Fé Trail and the main paths westward to California. The main Federal force in New Mexico, stationed in Santa Fé, was led by Colonel Edward R.S. Canby. Sibley and Canby had been friends before the war while campaigning together against Native Americans in the U.S. Army.

Native Americans in New Mexico continued posing a problem to both Federals and Confederates. Lieutenant John R. Pulliam’s Federals clashed with Natives near Fort Stanton, while Baylor’s Confederates fought Apaches around Fort Bliss near the Texas-New Mexico border. Operations continued into September.


Bibliography

  • Davis, William C. (Patricia L. Faust ed.), Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War. New York: Harper & Row, 1986.
  • Faust, Patricia L. (Patricia L. Faust ed.), Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War. New York: Harper & Row, 1986.
  • Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville. New York: Vintage Books, 1958.
  • Josephy, Jr., Alvin M., War on the Frontier: The Trans-Mississippi West. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983.
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day. New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971.
  • Smith, Dean E. (Patricia L. Faust ed.), Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War. New York: Harper & Row, 1986.

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