Tag Archives: Fort Fillmore

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

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The Confederate Campaign in New Mexico Continues

August 1, 1861 – Lieutenant Colonel John R. Baylor issued a proclamation establishing the new Confederate Territory of Arizona, while Brigadier General Henry Hopkins Sibley prepared his own Confederate campaign into New Mexico.

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

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

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

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

Baylor, whose Texas “buffalo hunters” had recently moved up the Rio Grande Valley and captured Fort Fillmore, proclaimed that Arizona 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.

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.

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

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

Later this month, General 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 sought 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.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, William C., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 529; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 62-63; 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. 296; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 53, 58; Josephy, Jr., Alvin M., War on the Frontier: The Trans-Mississippi West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 20; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 103-04; Smith, Dean E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 528-29

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

Confederates Look to Conquer New Mexico

July 8, 1861 – Henry Hopkins Sibley received a promotion to Confederate brigadier general and “entrusted” to command the Department of New Mexico due to his “recent service in New Mexico and knowledge of that country and the people.”

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

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

Sibley had traveled to Richmond to convince President Jefferson Davis that he could conquer southern New Mexico, or the unofficial Confederate Territory of Arizona. Such a conquest could help give the Confederacy access to the valuable gold mines of California. In fact, Confederate Lieutenant Colonel John R. Baylor had recruited a force in Texas to conduct a “buffalo hunt” that was really a smaller effort to gain the Southwest for the Confederacy.

Not only did Davis approve Sibley’s plan and promote him, but he also authorized Sibley to set up a military government once the territory was secured. Brigadier General Earl Van Dorn, commanding the Department of Texas, and Texas Governor Edward Clark were notified of Sibley’s mission.

While Sibley began the long journey back to Texas, Colonel Baylor’s “buffalo hunt” proceeded. Baylor had been given the 2nd Texas Mounted Rifles, 1,000 men strong, by General Van Dorn back in May. But by this month Baylor had only 258 men left, the rest having deserted.

Meanwhile, Federals deserted Forts McLane, Breckinridge, and Buchanan this month. Colonel E.R.S. Canby, commanding Federals in New Mexico, learned that Baylor sought to conquer the territory and ordered a concentration of 500 troops at Fort Fillmore, near Mesilla and the Texas border.

Baylor and his depleted force crossed the Rio Grande at San Tomas on July 23 and camped 600 yards from Fillmore. This marked the first Confederate invasion of a U.S. territory in the war.

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Sources

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 294; Faust, Patricia L, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 48; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 41, 44, 50; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 90, 92-93, 100