A Deaf Ear Has Been Turned in the Southwest

Colonel John R. Baylor had established the Confederate Territory of Arizona at Mesilla in July. His forces had driven the Federals 100 miles back to Fort Craig near Valverde and battled nearby Native Americans. But by this month, the Federals, commanded by Colonel Edward R.S. Canby, were poised to launch a counteroffensive. Baylor wrote Brigadier General Henry Hopkins Sibley at San Antonio expressing concern that Canby was planning to assault Fort Fillmore and Mesilla in early November.

Sibley had assembled a 2,700-man brigade known as the Confederate Army of New Mexico to seize the Santa Fe Trail, Albuquerque, and all routes to California. Sibley’s plan was to join forces with Baylor, advance up the Rio Grande River, and drive the Federals out of the Southwest while living off captured supplies. It was hoped that Confederate sympathizers would join the cause, thereby enabling Sibley to continue west to conquer California and even possibly northern Mexico.

But Canby now posed a serious threat to Sibley’s grandiose plan. A spy had informed Baylor of Canby’s intentions, and Baylor responded by withdrawing his forces south to Fort Quitman. Baylor notified Sibley that if he did not receive reinforcements, he would have to abandon Mesilla, the capital of the Confederate Territory of Arizona.

Confederate Col. John R. Baylor | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Baylor also complained to Colonel Earl Van Dorn, commanding the Department of Texas, that he had “petitioned time and again for re-enforcements to prevent this disaster, to all of which a deaf ear has been turned.” Baylor angrily stated that if it was “the wish of the colonel commanding the department that Arizona should be abandoned, and I presume it is, he can congratulate himself upon the consummation of that event.” He concluded by writing that it was “unnecessary to ask for re-enforcements, as I presume they are not to be had. I shall therefore fall back, and await the arrival of Brigadier-General Sibley.”

Sibley’s forces would not cover the 700 miles from San Antonio to Fort Fillmore for another month and a half.


  • Cutrer, Thomas W., Theater of a Separate War: The Civil War West of the Mississippi River. The University of North Carolina Press, (Kindle Edition), 2017.
  • Frazier, Donald S., Blood & Treasure: Confederate Empire in the Southwest. Williams-Ford Texas A&M University Military History Series (reprint), 1995.
  • Hall, Martin Hardwick, Sibley’s New Mexico Campaign. University of New Mexico Press, 2000.
  • United States War Department, War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1 – Vol. 4. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1880-1902.

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