Battle of Picacho Pass

Last updated

Coordinates: 32°37′52″N111°24′56″W / 32.63111°N 111.41556°W / 32.63111; -111.41556

Geographic coordinate system Coordinate system

A geographic coordinate system is a coordinate system that enables every location on Earth to be specified by a set of numbers, letters or symbols. The coordinates are often chosen such that one of the numbers represents a vertical position and two or three of the numbers represent a horizontal position; alternatively, a geographic position may be expressed in a combined three-dimensional Cartesian vector. A common choice of coordinates is latitude, longitude and elevation. To specify a location on a plane requires a map projection.

Contents

Battle of Picacho Pass
Part of the American Civil War
Picacho Peak.JPG
Picacho Peak
DateApril 15, 1862
Location Picacho Peak, New Mexico Territory (USA), Arizona Territory (CSA)
Modern Day: Picacho Peak,
Pinal County, Arizona
Result

Confederate victory

  • Union cavalry retreat
  • Confederates driven back into Texas by May
Belligerents
Flag of the United States (1861-1863).svg United States Flag of the Confederate States of America (1861-1863).svg Confederate States
Commanders and leaders
James Barrett   Henry Holmes   (POW)
Strength
13 cavalry 10 cavalry
Casualties and losses
3 killed, 3 wounded 3 captured, 2 wounded (disputed)

The Battle of Picacho Pass or the Battle of Picacho Peak was an engagement of the American Civil War on April 15, 1862. The action occurred around Picacho Peak, 50 miles (80 km) northwest of Tucson, Arizona. It was fought between a Union cavalry patrol from California and a party of Confederate pickets from Tucson, and marks the westernmost battle of the American Civil War.

American Civil War Civil war in the United States from 1861 to 1865

The American Civil War was a war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North and the South. The Civil War is the most studied and written about episode in U.S. history. Primarily as a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people, war broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina shortly after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The loyalists of the Union in the North proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights to uphold slavery.

Picacho Peak State Park

Picacho Peak State Park is a state park surrounding Picacho Peak in Picacho, Arizona. The park is located between Casa Grande and Tucson near Interstate 10 in Pinal County. Its centerpiece spire is visible from downtown Tucson, a distance of 45 miles (72 km). The summit rises to 3,374 feet (1,028 m) above mean sea level. Though appearing to be the remnant of a volcanic neck, it is now believed to be a tilted and eroded piece of rock overlain by a lava flow. The place name is redundant: "picacho" means "peak" in Spanish.

Tucson, Arizona City in Arizona, United States

Tucson is a city and the county seat of Pima County, Arizona, United States, and home to the University of Arizona. The 2010 United States Census put the population at 520,116, while the 2015 estimated population of the entire Tucson metropolitan statistical area (MSA) was 980,263. The Tucson MSA forms part of the larger Tucson-Nogales combined statistical area (CSA), with a total population of 1,010,025 as of the 2010 Census. Tucson is the second-largest populated city in Arizona behind Phoenix, both of which anchor the Arizona Sun Corridor. The city is 108 miles (174 km) southeast of Phoenix and 60 mi (97 km) north of the U.S.–Mexico border. Tucson is the 33rd largest city and the 58th largest metropolitan area in the United States (2014).

Background

After a Confederate force of about 120 cavalrymen arrived at Tucson from Texas on February 28, 1862, they proclaimed Tucson the capital of the western district of the Confederate Arizona Territory, which comprised what is now southern Arizona and southern New Mexico. Mesilla, near Las Cruces, was declared the territorial capital and seat of the eastern district of the territory. The property of Tucson Unionists was confiscated and they were jailed or driven out of town. Confederates hoped a flood of sympathizers in southern California would join them and give the Confederacy an outlet on the Pacific Ocean, but this never happened. California Unionists were eager to prevent this, and 2,000 Union volunteers from California, known as the California Column and led by Colonel James Henry Carleton, moved east to Fort Yuma, California, and by May 1862 had driven the small Confederate force back into Texas. [1]

Mesilla, New Mexico Town in New Mexico, United States

Mesilla is a town in Doña Ana County, New Mexico, United States. The population was 2,196 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Las Cruces Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Las Cruces, New Mexico City in New Mexico, United States

Las Cruces is the seat of Doña Ana County, New Mexico, United States. As of the 2010 census the population was 97,618, and in 2015 the estimated population was 101,643, making it the second largest city in the state, after Albuquerque. Las Cruces is the largest city in both Doña Ana County and southern New Mexico. The Las Cruces metropolitan area had an estimated population of 213,676 in 2014. It is the principal city of a metropolitan statistical area which encompasses all of Doña Ana County and is part of the larger El Paso–Las Cruces combined statistical area.

California Column

The California Column was a force of Union volunteers sent to Arizona and New Mexico during the American Civil War. The command marched over 900 miles from California through Arizona and New Mexico Territory to the Rio Grande and as far east as El Paso, Texas, between April and August 1862.

Like most of the Civil War era engagements in Arizona (Dragoon Springs, Stanwix Station and Apache Pass) Picacho Pass occurred near remount stations along the former Butterfield Overland Stagecoach route, which opened in 1859 and ceased operations when the war began. This skirmish occurred about a mile northwest of Picacho Pass Station.

First Battle of Dragoon Springs

The First Battle of Dragoon Springs was a minor skirmish between a small troop of Confederate dragoons of Governor John R. Baylor's Arizona Rangers, and a band of Apache warriors during the American Civil War. It was fought on May 5, 1862, near the present-day town of Benson, Arizona, in Confederate Arizona.

Battle of Apache Pass

The Battle of Apache Pass was fought in 1862 at Apache Pass, Arizona, in the United States, between Apache warriors and the Union volunteers of the California Column as it marched from California to capture Confederate Arizona and to reinforce New Mexico's Union army. It was one of the largest battles between the Americans and the Chiricahua during the Apache Wars.

Butterfield Overland Mail

Butterfield Overland Mail was a stagecoach service in the United States operating from 1858 to 1861. It carried passengers and U.S. Mail from two eastern termini, Memphis, Tennessee, and St. Louis, Missouri, to San Francisco, California. The routes from each eastern terminus met at Fort Smith, Arkansas, and then continued through Indian Territory (Oklahoma), Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Mexico, and California ending in San Francisco. On March 3, 1857, Congress authorized the U.S. postmaster general, Aaron Brown, to contract for delivery of the U.S. mail from Saint Louis to San Francisco. Prior to this, U.S. Mail bound for the Far West had been delivered by the San Antonio and San Diego Mail Line since June 1857.

Battle

Twelve Union cavalry troopers and one scout (reported to be mountain man Pauline Weaver but in reality Tucson resident John W. Jones), commanded by Lieutenant James Barrett of the 1st California Cavalry, were conducting a sweep of the Picacho Peak area, looking for Confederates reported to be nearby. The Arizona Confederates were commanded by Sergeant Henry Holmes. Barrett was under orders not to engage them, but to wait for the main column to come up. However, "Lt. Barrett acting alone rather than in concert, surprised the Rebels and should have captured them without firing a shot, if the thing had been conducted properly." Instead, in midafternoon the lieutenant "led his men into the thicket single file without dismounting them. The first fire from the enemy emptied four saddles, when the enemy retired farther into the dense thicket and had time to reload. ... Barrett followed them, calling on his men to follow him." Three of the Confederates surrendered. Barrett secured one of the prisoners and had just remounted his horse when a bullet struck him in the neck, killing him. Fierce and confused fighting continued among the mesquite and arroyos for 90 minutes, with two more Union fatalities and three troopers wounded. Exhausted and leaderless, the Californians broke off the fight and the Arizona Rangers, minus three who surrendered, mounted and carried warning of the approaching Union army to Tucson. Barrett's disobedience of orders had cost him his life and lost any chance of a Union surprise attack on Tucson.

Cavalry soldiers or warriors fighting from horseback

Cavalry or horsemen are soldiers or warriors who fight mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the most mobile of the combat arms. An individual soldier in the cavalry is known by a number of designations such as cavalryman, horseman, dragoon, or trooper. The designation of cavalry was not usually given to any military forces that used other animals, such as camels, mules or elephants. Infantry who moved on horseback, but dismounted to fight on foot, were known in the 17th and early 18th centuries as dragoons, a class of mounted infantry which later evolved into cavalry proper while retaining their historic title.

Reconnaissance military exploration beyond the area occupied by friendly forces

In military operations, reconnaissance or scouting is the exploration outside an area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about natural features and other activities in the area.

Mountain man

A mountain man is an explorer who lives in the wilderness. Mountain men were most common in the North American Rocky Mountains from about 1810 through to the 1880s. They were instrumental in opening up the various Emigrant Trails allowing Americans in the east to settle the new territories of the far west by organized wagon trains traveling over roads explored and in many cases, physically improved by the mountain men and the big fur companies originally to serve the mule train based inland fur trade.

The Union troops retreated to the Pima Indian Villages and hastily built Fort Barrett (named for the fallen officer) at White's Mill, waiting to gather resources to continue the advance. However, with no Confederate reinforcements available, Captain Sherod Hunter and his men withdrew as soon as the column again advanced. The Union troops entered Tucson without any opposition.

Fort Barrett was a temporary earthwork built by the United States Army's California Column in 1862 during the American Civil War. It was located in the Pima Villages two miles from the Gila river nearby Casa Blanca, New Mexico Territory and was built around the mill of settler Ammi M. White to protect it and provide a safe location to gather food and forage from the Pima people for the advance on Tucson. The fort was named after Lieutenant James Barrett who was killed in the Battle of Picacho Peak. Following the capture of Tucson in May the construction of the post ceased, and was abandoned, except as a post for vedettes and express riders.

White's Mill was a trading post and flour mill owned by Ammi M. White from 1860 to 1867. It was located among the Pima Villages near the Butterfield Overland Mail station, at what is now Casa Blanca, Arizona, during the American Civil War. Sold to Bichard & Company, by White in 1867 the mill site was destroyed by an extraordinary flood in September 1868. The mill machinery was dug out of the ruins and a new mill built by Bichard & Company at Adamsville, Arizona.

Sherod Hunter was the commander of the Confederate unit operating against Union Army forces in present-day Arizona during the American Civil War. He later commanded various Confederate cavalry units elsewhere in the Trans-Mississippi Theater.

The bodies of the two Union enlisted men killed at Picacho (George Johnson and William S Leonard) were later removed to the National Cemetery at the Presidio of San Francisco in San Francisco, California. However, Lieutenant Barrett's grave, near the present railroad tracks, remains undisturbed and unmarked [2] . [3] Union reports claimed that two Confederates were wounded in the fight, but Captain Hunter in his official report mentioned no Confederate casualties other than the three men captured.

Aftermath

Before this engagement a Confederate cavalry patrol had advanced as far west as Stanwix Station, where it was burning the hay stored there when it was attacked by a patrol of the California Column. The Confederates had been burning hay stored at the stage stations in order to delay the Union advance from California. About the same time as the skirmish at Picacho Peak, a larger force of Confederates was thwarted in its attempt to advance northward from Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the Battle of Glorieta Pass. By July the Confederates had retreated to Texas, though pro-Confederate militia units operated in some areas until mid-1863. The following year, the Union organized its own territory of Arizona, dividing New Mexico along the state's current north-south border, extending control southward from the provisional capital of Prescott. Although the encounter at Picacho Pass was only a minor event in the Civil War, it can be considered the high-water mark of the Confederate West.

Re-enactment

Every March, Picacho Peak State Park hosts a re-enactment of the Civil War battles of Arizona and New Mexico, including the battle of Picacho Pass. The re-enactments now have grown so large that many more participants tend to be involved than took part in the actual engagements, and include infantry units and artillery as well as cavalry. The 2015 re-enactment, which was held March 22 and 23, also included re-enactments of the Battle of Valverde and the Battle of Glorieta Pass, both of which took place in relatively nearby New Mexico. [4]

Further reading

See also

Related Research Articles

Confederate Arizona organized incorporated Confederate territory in present day southern New Mexico and Arizona

Confederate Arizona, officially the Territory of Arizona, and also known as Arizona Territory, was a territory claimed by the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War, between 1861 and 1865. Delegates to secession conventions had voted in March 1861 to secede from the New Mexico Territory and the United States, and seek to join the Confederacy. It consisted of the portion of the New Mexico Territory south of the 34th parallel, including parts of the modern states of New Mexico and Arizona. Its capital was Mesilla along the southern border. The Confederate territory overlapped the Arizona Territory later established by the Union government in 1863.

Battle of Glorieta Pass 1862 battle in the American Civil War

The Battle of Glorieta Pass, fought from March 26–28, 1862, in the northern New Mexico Territory, was the decisive battle of the New Mexico Campaign during the American Civil War. Dubbed the "Gettysburg of the West" by some authors, it was intended as the decisive blow by Confederate forces to break the Union possession of the West along the base of the Rocky Mountains. It was fought at Glorieta Pass in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in what is now New Mexico, and was an important event in the history of the New Mexico Territory in the American Civil War.

New Mexico Campaign


The New Mexico Campaign was a military operation of the Trans-Mississippi Theater of the American Civil War from February to April 1862 in which Confederate Brigadier General Henry Hopkins Sibley invaded the northern New Mexico Territory in an attempt to gain control of the Southwest, including the gold fields of Colorado and the ports of California. Historians regard this campaign as the most ambitious Confederate attempt to establish control of the American West and to open an additional theater in the war. It was an important campaign in the war's Trans-Mississippi Theater, and one of the major events in the history of the New Mexico Territory in the American Civil War.

Trans-Mississippi Theater of the American Civil War

The Trans-Mississippi Theater of the American Civil War consists of the major military operations west of the Mississippi River. The area is often thought of as excluding the states and territories bordering the Pacific Ocean, which formed the Pacific Coast Theater of the American Civil War (1861-1865).

Battle of Stanwix Station battle

Stanwix Station, in western Arizona, was a stop on the Butterfield Overland Mail Stagecoach line built in the later 1850s near the Gila River about 80 miles (130 km) east of Yuma, Arizona. Originally the station was called Flap Jack Ranch later Grinnell's Ranch or Grinnell's Station. In 1862, Grinnell's was listed on the itinerary of the California Column in the same place as Stanwix Ranch or Stanwix Station which became the site of the westernmost skirmish of the American Civil War. A traveler in 1864, John Ross Browne, said Grinnell's was six miles southwest of the hot springs of Agua Caliente, Arizona.

New Mexico Territory in the American Civil War historic territory ≠ present US state

The New Mexico Territory, which included the areas which became the modern U.S. states of New Mexico and Arizona as well as the southern part of present-day Nevada, played a small but significant role in the Trans-Mississippi Theater of the American Civil War. Despite its remoteness from the major battlefields of the east and its existence on the still sparsely populated and largely undeveloped American frontier, both Confederate and Union governments claimed ownership over the territory, and several important battles and military operations took place in the region.

1st California Infantry Regiment Union infantry regiment

The 1st Regiment California Volunteer Infantry was an infantry regiment in the Union Army during the American Civil War. It spent its entire term of service in the western United States.

Traditional Arizona

Prior to the adoption of its name for a U.S. state, Arizona was traditionally defined as the region south of the Gila River to the present-day Mexican border, and between the Colorado River and the Rio Grande. It encompasses present-day Southern Arizona and the New Mexico Bootheel plus adjacent parts of Southwestern New Mexico. This area was transferred from Mexico to the United States in the Gadsden Purchase of 1853. Mining and ranching were the primary occupations of traditional Arizona's inhabitants, though growing citrus fruits had long been occurring in Tucson.

Company A, Arizona Rangers was one of the Confederate military units raised in the Confederate Arizona Territory.

1st California Cavalry Regiment

The 1st Regiment California Volunteer Cavalry was a cavalry regiment in the Union Army during the American Civil War. It was first formed of five companies as 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment California Volunteer Cavalry between August and October 31, 1861, at Camp Merchant near Oakland. After the battalion was organized it was sent to Southern California, three companies being stationed at Camp Latham, near Los Angeles, and two at Camp Carleton, near San Bernardino. November 20–29, 1861, a detachment under Second Lt. C. R. Wellman was stationed at Camp Wright, and pursued and captured Dan Showalter's party west of the San Jose Valley and Warner's Ranch. The battalion remained in Southern California until the spring of 1862, when it became part of the California Column, and formed the advance force of that Column during the march to New Mexico Territory and Texas. In 1863, the Regiment was brought to full strength when seven more companies were raised to bring it to a full strength of twelve companies. The five companies first organized were mustered out August 31, 1864, the terms of service of most of the men having expired. Two new companies, B and C, were organized in New Mexico, by consolidation of the few men whose terms had not expired, and by new enlistments, and two new companies were enlisted in California, A and E, which, upon the completion of their organization, were sent to Arizona. All of the companies of First Volunteer Cavalry stationed in New Mexico and Texas, were ordered to assemble at Baird’s Ranch, near Albuquerque, to be mustered out of the service, during the month of September, 1866. Company M was the last mustered out on the September 30, 1866. 1st Volunteer Cavalry Regiment spent its entire term of service in the western United States in California and New Mexico Territory and Texas.

The history of Tucson, Arizona, begins thousands of years ago. Paleo-Indians practiced plant husbandry and hunted game in the Santa Cruz River Valley from 10,000 B.C. or earlier. Archaic peoples began making irrigation canals, some of the first in North America, around 1,200 B.C. The Hohokam people lived in the Tucson area from around 450-1450 A.D, in a complex agricultural society.

Capture of Tucson (1862)

Union forces entered Tucson on May 20, 1862, with a force of 2,000 men without firing a shot.

Presidio San Agustín del Tucsón

Presidio San Agustín del Tucsón was a presidio located within Tucson, Arizona. The original fortress was built by Spanish soldiers during the 18th century and was the founding structure of what became the city of Tucson. After the American arrival in 1856, the original walls were dismantled, with the last section torn down in 1918. A reconstruction of the northeast corner of the fort was completed in 2007 following an archaeological excavation that located the fort's northeast tower.

The Second Battle of Mesilla was an unusual engagement of the American Civil War. It was fought on July 1, 1862, and was the last engagement between Union and Confederate forces in the Arizona Territory. A skirmish outside of Confederate Arizona's capital of Mesilla between a confederate party and local pro-Union New Mexican guerrillas resisting the Confederate foraging expedition, resulted in a United States victory. Various accounts report from seven to twelve confederates killed including their commander Capt. Cleaver of the 7th Texas Infantry and as many as 40 of the local guerrillas.

Battle of Mount Gray

The Battle of Mount Gray was a little-known engagement of the Apache Wars fought at the foothills of Gray Mountain, then known as Mount Gray on April 7, 1864. A troop of the United States Army's California Column attacked a superior force of Chiricahua Apaches at their camp and routed them from the field.

La Paz incident armed confrontation of the American Civil War that occurred in La Paz, Arizona

The La Paz incident occurred on May 20, 1863 at the mining town of La Paz, Arizona, and was the westernmost armed confrontation of the American Civil War. William "Frog" Edwards, only recently released from detention at Fort Yuma, ambushed a party of unarmed Union soldiers when they stopped at La Paz to purchase supplies. Edwards' attack killed one soldier instantly and left another mortally wounded. Edwards then fled into the desert where he died of exposure and dehydration.

References

    • Hart, Herbert M. "The Civil War in the West". California and the Civil War. The California State Military Museum. Retrieved 20 December 2011.
  1. Records of California Men in the War of the Rebellion 1861 to 1867 California Adjutant General Report 1890 .p.47 claimed the three Union soldiers killed were buried with twenty feet of the Southern Pacific Railroad which went through the pass
  2. Military History.com Barret is apparently buried where he was killed; a 1928 monument lists the names of the three union men killed
  3. The Arizona Republic, Skirmish in the Desert, Saturday March 14, 2015, page D! and D2