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The author, a recent doctoral graduate of Louisiana State University, is working on a study of the Confederacy in the Southwest. He ? Assistant Professor of Social Science at Arkansas Agricultural and Mechanical College. The Skirmish of Picacho MARTIN HARDWICK HALL at the outbreak of the civil war New Mexico was a vast territory which consisted roughly of the present-day states of Arizona and New Mexico. For several years the people living in the Gadsden Purchase area, commonly called Arizona, had been unsuccessfully agitating for separate territorial status.1 Within a few weeks after the formation of the Confederate States of America, the Anglo-Saxon element of Arizona, largely Southern in origin,* held "secession" conventions in Mesilla and Tucson. Both bodies voted in favor of separation from New Mexico and attachment to the newly created Confederacy.8 During the first week of July, 1861, Lieutenant Colonel John R. Baylor, commanding a detachment of about 375 mounted men, occupied Fort Bliss, Texas, for the Confederacy. Forty miles to the north, in New Mexico, lay Fort Fillmore, which was held by a much larger force of Union troops. In a brief campaign, Baylor succeeded in capturing the whole enemy garrison , thereby bringing practically all of southern New Mexico under Confederate military control.* Shortly, Baylor gave expression to the desires of the populace by creating the Confederate Territory of Arizona. In anticipation of approval from Richmond, Baylor assumed the office of governor and designated Mesilla the territorial capital.5 1 Hubert H. Bancroft, History of Arizona and New Mexico, /530-/888 (San Francisco: The Hickory Co, 1889), pp. 504-8. 2 Loomis M. Ganaway, New Mexico and the Sectional Controversy, 1846-1861 (Albuquerque : University of New Mexico Press, 1944), pp. 107-8. s Bancroft, op. cit., p. 511; Mailla [N. Mex.] Times, March 30, 1861. * Baylor to Washington, September 21, 1861, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), Ser. I, Vol. 4, pp. 16ff.; hereinafter cited as O.R., followed by the series number in roman numerals, the volume number In arable, the part number (¡f any), and the page, as O.R., I, 4, pp. 16ff. 8 Proclamation to the People of the Territory of Arizona, August 1, 1861, OJJ., Ì, 4, pp. 20-21. 27 28MARTINHARDWICKHALL Baylor's campaign proved to be only a preliminary, for Confederate plans soon called for far more than just the annexation of Arizona. During the month of December, 1861, General Henry Hopkins Sibley arrived with a brigade of mounted troops.6 His immediate objective was to defeat the remaining Union armies in northern New Mexico and to bring all the territory under Southern authority. But he did not intend to stop here, for his ultimate aim was the conquest of California. Sibley knew that there were many in southern California who espoused Confederate sympathies. He believed that once he secured New Mexico (and possibly Colorado), his army could easily penetrate southern California. With his brigade augmented by volunteers from that quarter, he felt that he would be able to overcome the Federal forces in the northern part of the state.7 It is true that Sibley's plan was largely visionary, but the importance of conquering California for the Confederacy goes without saying. * * * General Edwin V. Sumner, the Union commander of the Department of the Pacific,8 was concerned about internal dissension in California, for apparently a large portion of the population of the southern part of that state was pro-Confederate. As a security measure Sumner saw to it that many of the volunteer military units which were being raised in the north were stationed in that "disaffected" area.9 Meanwhile, the Union high command in Washington instructed Sumner to raise an expeditionary force in California which would embark from San Francisco, proceed by water to Mexico, and then march overland "to regain the public property in . . . [Texas] and draw off insurgent troops from Arkansas, Missouri," and elsewhere .10 Permission to cross Mexican soil was obtained from the national Mexican government and from the governors of the states involved.11 As Sumner was in the midst of carrying out...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 27-36
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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