Tag Archives: Arizona Territory

The Confederate New Mexico Campaign Ends

May 14, 1862 – Brigadier General Henry H. Sibley’s dream of making the New Mexico Territory part of the Confederacy ended as the remnants of his broken army finally made it back to El Paso and his detachment abandoned Tucson.

Brig Gen H.H. Sibley | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Brig Gen H.H. Sibley | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

The Confederate detachment of Sibley’s army under Captain Sherod Hunter had held Tucson and operated in western New Mexico (present-day Arizona) since February. During that time, Federal forces had been mobilized from various forts in California and concentrated at Fort Yuma to drive Hunter out. In early May, Hunter, having less than 100 men, evacuated Tucson upon learning that Colonel James H. Carleton’s “California column” of about 1,800 troops were approaching.

A couple weeks later, a Federal detachment under Lieutenant Colonel Joseph West entered Tucson and found that both the Confederates and their secessionist allies were gone. The Federals quickly prepared to continue pushing east, reopening the overland mail route all the way to Mesilla and controlling the territory once more.

Meanwhile, the survivors of Sibley’s Army of New Mexico straggled into El Paso. Since their victory at Glorieta, the Confederates had endured terrible hardships due to lack of food and water, having retreated hundreds of miles through the unforgiving desert while being pursued by Brigadier General Edward R.S. Canby’s Federals. Sibley reported:

“Except for its geographical position, the Territory of New Mexico is not worth a quarter of the blood and treasure expended in its conquest. As a field for military operations it possesses not a single element, except in the multiplicity of its defensible positions. The indispensible element, food, cannot be relied on. I cannot speak encouragingly for the future, my troops having manifested a dogged, irreconcilable detestation of the country and the people.”

Sibley’s remaining troops assembled on the parade ground at Fort Bliss, Texas, on May 14. Of the 3,700 men who had begun the New Mexico campaign, less than 2,000 remained. Sibley thanked the troops for their sacrifice during “this more than difficult campaign,” then continued his withdrawal to San Antonio. This ended Confederate aspirations to create a Territory of Arizona and effectively ended the war in the Southwest.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (20 May 1862); Davis, William C., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 529; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 304-05; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 146-47, 155; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 207, 214; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 687

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Sibley Reaches the New Mexico Territory

December 14, 1861 – Brigadier General Henry H. Sibley’s Confederate Army of New Mexico arrived at Fort Bliss near El Paso, Texas, as part of the plan to conquer the New Mexico Territory.

Brig Gen H.H. Sibley | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Brig Gen H.H. Sibley | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Sibley’s 3,700 men had left San Antonio in late October, covering nearly 700 miles in a month and a half. The force consisted of the 4th, 5th, and 7th Texas Volunteer Cavalry, and other companies. As his men reached Fort Bliss, Sibley arrived at Fort Fillmore, about 40 miles up the Rio Grande from Bliss. He assumed command of all Confederate forces north of Fort Quitman, which only included Lieutenant Colonel John R. Baylor’s force.

Baylor had experienced difficulties in New Mexico since proclaiming the region to be the Confederate Territory of Arizona and installing himself as governor. Baylor had initially made Mesilla his territorial capital, but he later withdrew his forces to Fort Bliss upon hearing rumors that a superior Federal force would be approaching shortly.

The withdrawal had prompted the editor of a Mesilla newspaper to write scathing articles about Baylor’s leadership, or lack thereof. The editor called Baylor’s move “a Manassas… without a fight or even a sight of the enemy.” Baylor confronted the man on December 12, and when the editor brandished a knife, Baylor pulled his pistol. The crowd witnessing the scene pleaded with Baylor not to shoot, but he fired into the man’s face. Baylor surrendered to his second-in-command; the editor managed to write more incendiary articles before dying two weeks later.

Sibley took command from Baylor, keeping him as the territorial governor to administer all civil matters. When Sibley arrived, he issued a proclamation to New Mexicans declaring that his soldiers had come as liberators.

Within two weeks of taking command, Sibley dispatched Colonel James Reily to determine if the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora would aid the Confederacy if Federal forces landed on Mexican soil to invade from the south. Reily was also to negotiate with the Sonoran government to use the port of Guaymas on the Pacific for trade. These negotiations, which took place early the following year, bore no significant results for the Confederate cause.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Davis, William C., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 529; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 90; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 149; Smith, Dean E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 528-29; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 687

The New Mexico Territory: October 1861

October 25, 1861 – Colonel John Baylor, commanding the proclaimed Confederate Territory of Arizona at Mesilla, expressed concern that Federals were working to drive him out of the region.

Brig Gen H.H. Sibley | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Brig Gen H.H. Sibley | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Baylor wrote to General Henry Hopkins Sibley at San Antonio that Federal Colonel E.R.S. Canby was planning to assault Fort Fillmore and Mesilla in early November. Since July, Baylor had driven the Federals 100 miles back to Fort Craig near Valverde and battled nearby Natives. 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. The army began its march from San Antonio three days ago while Sibley temporarily remained behind.

A spy had informed Baylor of Canby’s plan, and Baylor had 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.

Baylor also complained to the commander of 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.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (October 25); Frazier, Donal S., Blood & Treasure: Confederate Empire in the Southwest; Hall, Martin Hardwick, Sibley’s New Mexico Campaign; Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 4, p. 129, 132-33

The Confederate Territory of Arizona

July 27, 1861 – Federal troops retreating from Fort Fillmore surrendered to their pursuers, giving the Confederacy control of the southern New Mexico Territory.

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

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

After crossing the Rio Grande on July 23, Lieutenant Colonel John R. Baylor’s 258 men of the 2nd Texas Mounted Rifles had advanced from Fort Bliss near El Paso as part of their “buffalo hunt” begun before the war to wrest the Southwest from U.S. control. This would provide the Confederacy with mineral resources and cattle while connecting Texas to California and the Pacific. Baylor had already proclaimed the southern New Mexico Territory to be the Confederate Territory of Arizona; now he planned to take it outright.

Baylor’s men moved 45 miles north to Fort Fillmore, one of several forts built to protect settlers moving westward from Texas. It was garrisoned by 10 companies of the 7th U.S. Infantry under Major Isaac Lynde, who had been sent by Major Edward R.S. Canby to defend the region. The Federals outnumbered Baylor’s men by about 2-to-1.

Baylor’s superior, General Earl Van Dorn, hoped that a surprise attack by the Texans could take the fort and its defenders. But as Baylor’s men approached, Lynde received orders to abandon Fillmore and fall back to Forts Craig and Stanton; after all, Fillmore had been built to defend against Native Americans, not Confederate artillery. Baylor, unaware of the fort’s weakness, planned to besiege Fillmore and cut off Federal access to the Rio Grande. Lynde did nothing to stop the Confederates, even after learning about Baylor’s plan from two Confederate deserters.

On the morning of July 25, Baylor found out that the deserters had tipped the Federals off. Changing his plan, Baylor led his 256 remaining men across the Rio Grande and entered the small town of Mesilla. Townspeople gathered to greet Baylor’s arrival with “vivas” and “hurrahs,” as Confederates considered Mesilla (and Fort Fillmore) to be part of Confederate Arizona.

That day Lynde marched his Federal troops out of Fort Fillmore six miles toward Mesilla. Lynde had expressed reluctance to attack the Confederates because the landscape was too barren to sustain his men and livestock. But Baylor’s occupation of Mesilla left him no choice.

Baylor’s men took up positions on hills, rooftops, and inside buildings, where they watched the dust kicked up by the advancing Federals. Lynde immediately sent an aide into Mesilla to demand an unconditional surrender, but Baylor replied that if Lynde wanted surrender, he had to come and force it. The Federals fired their howitzer and then launched a feeble ground attack that the Confederates repelled, killing three Federals and wounding six. Lynde withdrew back to Fort Fillmore. 

At dawn on the 26th, Colonel Baylor left a small Confederate detachment at Mesilla and pursued Major Lynde’s Federals on a forced march to Fort Fillmore. The Confederates had lost 20 horses in yesterday’s engagement at Mesilla, and when the town residents charged exorbitant prices for replacement mounts, Baylor resolved to capture the Federal horses at Fillmore.

Lynde expected an attack and directed the digging of earthworks around the fort. But as the Confederates moved into attack position, a detachment of 25 men sneaked into the Federal herd, rounded up 85 horses and 26 mules, took the herd guards prisoner, and returned to Baylor’s main force. This convinced Lynde that he could not withstand the attack that would surely begin the next day.

Without consulting fellow officers, Lynde issued orders to retreat northeast to Fort Stanton, 154 miles beyond the Organ Mountains. This would be a dangerous move through the summer desert without horses. The Federals destroyed supplies they could not bring with them that night and prepared to evacuate at dawn. The withdrawal included over 100 of the officers’ wives and children.

Discovering that Fillmore had been abandoned, Baylor directed a detachment to extinguish the fires set by the Federals and sent his main force to pursue the enemy. The Federals began straggling in the desert heat, and Baylor began catching up with the stragglers about 30 miles outside Mesilla. As the day wore on, more Federal troops fell out and were taken prisoner.

Federals left behind equipment, weapons, and even their families along the retreat. The Confederates had fresh water to drink, but many Federals had replaced their water with medicinal whiskey before evacuating the fort. Consequently, several prisoners begged for water upon being captured.

Baylor caught up to Lynde’s main force four miles south of San Augustine Springs at a site now called Baylor’s Pass. Lynde ordered his men into line of battle, but being exhausted, their effort against the oncoming Confederates was feeble. Lynde finally offered to surrender over his subordinates’ protests.

Lynde and Baylor signed terms for the formal capitulation of some 500 to 600 Federal officers and men. The troops were paroled, given 50 old muskets, and ordered to withdraw to Santa Fé, and from there to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Many soldiers went mad with thirst on the journey. Baylor’s men obtained many new Springfield muskets, up to $17,000 in U.S. bank notes, and the colors of the 7th U.S. Infantry as they returned to Mesilla and Fort Fillmore.

Lynde’s surrender gave the Confederates control of the southern New Mexico Territory. Federals coming from Forts Breckinridge and Buchanan to reinforce Lynde now changed direction and headed toward Fort Craig, 100 miles north of Fort Fillmore on the Rio Grande. In addition, Federals at Fort Stanton soon retreated toward Albuquerque and Santa Fé. This left the territory void of Federals (except for Fort Craig) south of the 34th parallel, and it opened the path for Confederates to threaten southern California.

Federal officials severely censured Lynde for abandoning his post and dishonorably discharged him from the army in November for neglect of duty. However, Lynde was later added to the army retirement list.

Upon his triumphant return to Fort Fillmore, Baylor welcomed former Federal Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston and his California party. Johnston and 35 others had resigned from the Department of the Pacific to join the Confederacy, avoid Federal troops while traveling along the Butterfield Stage route. Johnston declined Baylor’s offer to temporarily command his force, instead seeking to hurry to Richmond. Meanwhile, Baylor began planning to administer the new Confederate Territory of Arizona.

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Sources

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 61; Faust, Patricia L, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 48; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 295-96; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 50-51; Josephy, Jr., Alvin M., War on the Frontier: The Trans-Mississippi West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 19-20; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 73; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 100-02; Smith, Dean E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 528-29