Arizona History and the War Between the States

The Creation of Arizona Territory and American Expansion
Subsequent to the close of the Mexican War in 1848, the area now comprising the states of Arizona and New Mexico were collectively organized under a provisional military government until 1850, when the Territory of New Mexico was created.  From that time and into the early 1860s, pioneers living in the southern regions of the territory, primarily south of the Gila River, desired greater support and investment from the Government of the United States.  This, in part, drove some citizens to push for alternatives in order to obtain that support.  With the initiation of secession beginning in 1860, residents believed their fortune would be better served by aligning themselves with the fledgling southern Confederacy and thus, held a secession convention in early 1861.  By March 1861, southern New Mexico Territory, below the 34th parallel, declared themselves independent and petitioned to join the Confederate States as the Territory of Arizona.  By October of that year, a representative was seated in the Confederate Congress.  Shortly thereafter, President Jefferson Davis proclaimed the Territory of Arizona organized in February 1862, a full year before the Arizona Territory was created as a territory of the United States.



Arizona Territory Timeline

 1846-1849 Wartime/Military Provisional Government
 September 9, 1850 U.S. Territory of New Mexico Established
 March 16, 1861 Mesilla Convention & Ordinance of Secession
 March 28, 1861 Tucson Convention & Provisional Territory Established
 August 28, 1861 Tucson Ratification of August 1st John Baylor Proclamation
 October 1, 1861 Representative G.H. Oury sent to Confederate Congress
 January 13, 1862 Territory Established by Confederate States Congress
 February 14, 1862 Territory Declared by President Davis after act ratified January 18th
 February 24, 1863 Territory Established by United States Congress
 February 14, 1912 Admitted to the Union as the 48th U.S. State


Arizona Territory - U.S. and C.S.
The image below illustrates the differences between the U.S. and C.S. Arizona Territories.  The entire area originally encompassed the Territory of New Mexico, obtained under peace terms at the close of the Mexican War in 1848 and the Gadsden Purchase of 1854.  The C.S. territory was organized as the region south of the 34th parallel, stretching from the eastern edge of the New Mexico Territory, and west to the Colorado River (the lower halves of the modern states of Arizona and New Mexico).  In an attempt to blunt Confederate efforts, the U.S. Congress and President Lincoln opted to organize the U.S. territories vertically, with Arizona in the west and New Mexico in the east (the areas of our present day states).



War in the West and Clash of Armies in the Territory
During the War Between the States two engagements occurred between Union and Confederate forces within Arizona.  What is largely considered to be the western most "battles" of the war occurred in what is now Pinal and Yuma Counties.  The Battle of Picacho Pass occurred on April 15, 1862, between advance elements of the California Column (Union), as it proceeded east towards New Mexico, and Confederate pickets protecting the route to Tucson.  Ten Confederate skirmishers engaged thirteen Union Cavalry troopers, resulting in three killed and three wounded Union soldiers and two wounded Confederate soldiers.  Additionally, three Confederates were captured.  While this action delayed the Union advance, it by no means halted it, and the remaining Confederates made for Tucson to report the Union's position.

A lesser known clash occurred even farther west, on or about March 30, 1862, near what is now the eastern boundary of Yuma County and the Gila River.  From 1858 - 1861, the Butterfield Overland Mail Company, under contract by the U.S. Government, provided stage and mail service between Missouri and California, via the southern passes.  Stations along the route provided food, shelter, and forage to facilitate travel by horse and stagecoach.  Knowing Union forces would make use of the supplies along the Butterfield Overland route to support their march east, Confederate forces in Arizona began to systematically destroy supplies stored at the stations in order to stop or slow the advance.  At one such station, known as Stanwix, approximately 80 miles east of Fort Yuma, Union scouts encountered Confederate soldiers destroying forage and supplies and a short gunfight ensued.  During the clash one Union soldier was wounded and the Confederates withdrew.  Thus, the "Skirmish at Stanwix Station" represents what is likely the western most engagement of uniformed forces during the war.  The engagement was referenced in several dispatches on both sides.