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Esperanza’s World – Military Forts Center – Confederate

Esperanza’s World – Military Forts Center – Confederate

Activities / Teacher Resources

Confederate Territory of Arizona

In April 1861, the Civil War began in the United States.  As a result, Arizona’s Army troops were sent to fight the war and forts in Arizona were abandoned and some even burned.  This left American settlers with no protection against attacks by Apaches.  This lack of protection, the canceling of the Butterfield Stage Mail service through southern Arizona by the U.S. government and the refusal of the U.S. government to make Arizona a separate territory from the New Mexico Territory left many citizens of Tucson with sour feelings toward the federal government.

At the same time, the recently formed Confederate states made a strategic decision to invade the Southwest and to claim it for the Confederacy.  They wished to expand slavery to this region. Soon, Lt. Colonel John Baylor invaded the New Mexico Territory and defeated the Union Army at Fort Fillmore near Mesilla, New Mexico.

Then Baylor made himself Territorial Governor of the new Confederate Territory of Arizona; the border of the Arizona Territory was the 34 ° N parallel line on a south-north line.

Of course, this was a short-lived Confederate territory because the Confederates were defeated in their attempt to invade the Southwest by Colorado Volunteers in March 1862.  However, because of the Confederate interest in Arizona and the rich mineral ores in the region, in 1863, the United States government created a separate and new Territory of Arizona divided on an east-west line at the 109 ° parallel.  Both the Union and Confederate governments claimed the territories until the close of the war.  (Some people in southern Arizona continued to support the Confederacy throughout the war.)

Battle of Apache Pass

The Battle of Apache Pass was a two day-skirmish between California Volunteers fighting with the Union Army and the Chiricahua Apaches.   A large force of California Volunteers marched across southern Arizona toward the New Mexico Territory to fight the invading Confederates.  Unknown to them at the time, the Confederates had already been defeated.

However, General Carleton, the commander of the California Volunteers divided his large column of troops into smaller groups to set out across the hot and harsh desert in the summer of 1861.   One group made it through Apache Pass without problems; a second force of 126 soldiers, 22 wagons and two howitzers arrived at Apache Pass on July 15th where Apaches awaited them and fighting began.

Civil War era howitzer

Civil War era howitzer

Eventually the Apaches were scattered by the firing of the howitzers.  However, the Apaches held the water springs at Apache Pass.  A five-hour battle ensued and the Apaches were eventually driven out of their positions and the California troopers held the springs. The next day, July 16th, the battle resumed, but for a brief time, due to the howitzers being fired again.

Because of the importance of the springs and the Apache Pass region, General Carleton authorized the building of a fort in the area.  Some of the California volunteers set to work on the construction of the adobe structures that would become Fort Bowie.