THE GRAY AND THE RED
Fighting the Apache in Confederate Arizona
by Robert Perkins
Picture this scene...the merciless sun of the Arizona desert beats down on a party of settlers, trapped in a narrow canyon by a large band of Apache warriors. Their wagons are formed in a circle, and the settlers reply as best they can to the incessant fire of the Apaches, who are hidden among the rocks and brush on the canyon slopes. Ammunition, and above all water, are running low, and the Indians show no sign of giving up their attack. The situation of the settlers seems hopeless...then, the shrill note of a bugle cuts the air, sounding the charge! Pounding into the canyon at the gallop, sabers flashing, guns blazing, and guidons fluttering in the breeze, come the saviors of the beleaguered settlers...Confederate cavalry! The graycoated soldiers scatter the red men, saving the settlers from certain doom.
While one might think that this is a scene from a Hollywood Western movie or a television Western series, episodes such as this actually took place in the deserts of the American Southwest during 1861 and 1862. It is a little known fact that, during the first year of the War Between the States, the Confederate States Army was the primary defense of the white population of what is now the States of Arizona and New Mexico against the depredations of the dreaded Apache Indians. The campaigns of the Confederate forces against these ruthless Indians are filled with all the romance of Old West history...lonely frontier outposts surrounded by Indians, cavalry pursuits of wily Apache raiding parties (sometimes ambushed and massacred by their quarry), running gunfights over miles of trackless wasteland. Indeed, these campaigns would have made a fit subject for a John Wayne movie! Yet today, the struggles of the Confederates and the Apache in the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico are almost totally forgotten. This article will attempt to correct that injustice.
Of course, the Apaches had been a source of turmoil in the Southwest for centuries before the Confederate States of America created its Territory of Arizona (embracing all of the present day States of Arizona and New Mexico south of the 34th parallel of north latitude). Bert Fireman, noted writer of Arizona history, explains:
"The Apache was by tradition and training a raider and warrior, taking his sustenance and other useful things anywhere they might be found. He did not differentiate between hunting wild animals and siezing domestic livestock; both were desirable food items. He had little interest in objects other than his clothing and weapons, roaming the Southwest in search of consumable and functional booty. He readily fought for the things he wanted—food, women, guns, clothing, animals, and as they became known to him, items such as coffee, sugar, flour, whiskey, and soap."
The Apache had plagued the more settled Indian tribes, such as the Pima and the Papago, for centuries. They plagued all later groups which entered their domain, from the Spanish, to the Mexicans, and finally the Americans. It was only natural that they should become a thorn in the side of the Confederacy as well.
The situation faced by the Confederates in their new Territory of Arizona was indeed grim. Upon the outbreak of war in 1861, the United States Government withdrew almost all of its troops from the region, sending them east to participate in the great battles about to erupt there. As a result, the citizens of the New Mexico Territory, especially the southern and western regions which were to become the Confederate Territory of Arizona, were left virtually undefended against the raids of the Apache. To make matters worse, the Apache came to believe that they had "conquered the American nation" (to quote John Ross Browne, who journeyed through Arizona in 1864 and left a vivid account of conditions there), and that the soldiers were leaving because the Apaches themselves had driven them out. Their reaction is described by a contemporary source as follows:
"The Apache marauders swept down from their mountain strongholds, and carried death and destruction throughout southern Arizona. Mines, ranches, and stock ranges were abandoned, and the few whites left in the country took refuge within the walls of Tucson. The savages endulged in a saturnalia of slaughter, and the last glimmer of civilization seemed about to be quenched in blood. The Indians advanced to the outskirts of the town, carrying death and devastation in their track. They swept down on the scattered settlements, killing and destroying everything in their path. The horribly mutilated bodies of men, women, and children marked every mile of the road to the Rio Grande. The blaze from many a comfortable home lit up the midnight sky, and the agonizing shrieks of the victims, and the fiendish yells of the red demons, were the sights and sounds throughout the Gadsden Purchase."
Granville Henderson Oury
Rescuer of Tubac
And even in the towns there was no safety. The fate of Tubac, south of Tucson, is an example. In August of 1861, Tubac was surrounded by a band of approximately 200 Apache Indians. The settlers there held the Apache at bay for several days. But then, food and ammunition began to run low, and they realized that they had to have help. Under cover of night, an express rider was sent to Tucson. A company of 25 militiamen, carrying a Confederate flag and under the command of Granville (or "Grant") Oury, came to the rescue and scattered the Indians. But the few remaining settlers soon abandoned Tubac and gathered at Tucson, and Tubac was burned by the Apaches and plundered by Mexican bandits from Sonora.
Lt. Col. John Robert Baylor
Second Texas Mounted Rifles
Confederate Governor of Arizona
One of the first problems, then of the newly appointed Confederate Governor of Arizona, John Robert Baylor, was to find some way to curtail the raids of these bloodthirsty Indians. Baylor had only recently (July 1861) invaded and occupied southern New Mexico Territory and proclaimed it the Confederate Territory of Arizona. His tiny force of soldiers was obviously insufficient both to keep watch on, and if necessary repel invasion by the Yankees, and at the same time to pacify the Indians. All told, he had about 250 men at his disposal.
Baylor’s first action was to call up the local militia units and to muster them into the Confederate service. Of course, the quality of these varied. Some were excellent, such as the Arizona Rangers (raised at Mesilla in May 1861 and commanded by Captain George Frazier), and the Arizona Guards (raised at Pinos Altos in May 1861 and commanded by Captain Thomas Mastin). Others were of mediocre timber, such as the "Minute Men" of Pinos Altos, many of whose members deserted at the first opportunity, and only half of which were even armed (indeed, the Captain of the Company, one William Markt, would write to Governor Baylor on October 8, 1861, asking for "30 or 40 muskets" to distribute among the unarmed members of the company).
Members of Baylor's Regiment, Arizona Rangers
as they appeared during the Arizona Campaign of 1862
Governor Baylor also hoped to raise a regiment of "Arizona Rangers" for service on the frontier. This regiment, unfortunately, never became a reality. Only one company of the proposed six was ever recruited. Under the command of Captain Sherod Hunter, a former First Lieutenant in Captain Frazier’s company (also called the "Arizona Rangers," but not a part of the proposed regiment), this "Company A, First Regiment of Arizona Rangers" would go on to have a brilliant career in Western Arizona, not against the Apaches, but against the Union California Column. Their one bonifide encounter with the Apaches was a defeat for the Confederates (more on this later).
With these companies, and such units of his own Second Texas Mounted Rifles as could from time to time be spared, Governor Baylor set about attempting to pacify the Apaches. It would prove to be a most difficult task, indeed!
Chief of the Gila River Apaches
The Arizona Guards were in action almost immediately after their induction into the Confederate service (on August 1, 1861). In early August, a group of Americans (mainly ranchers from the region of Tucson and Tubac who were abandoning their homes in the face of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Fort Buchanan and the rapidly escalating raids of the Apache) left for the Rio Grande. Known as the Ake Party, the group consisted of six double wagons, two buggies, and one single wagon when it reached Tucson. At Tucson, several other people joined the procession, including Moses Carson, half-brother of the famous scout and trailblazer, Kit Carson. The party, now composed of 24 men, sixteen women, seven children, and several hundred head of cattle, sheep, goats, and horses, left Tucson on or about August 15, 1861. The large number of livestock would present an irresistible temptation to the Chiricahua and Gila River Apaches under Cochise and Mangas Coloradas.
The journey was uneventful until the party crossed the Mimbres River and made for the springs at Cook’s Canyon (in present day New Mexico, about 40 miles northwest of Mesilla). When the last wagon had entered the canyon, the Apaches, estimated to number about 100, sprang their ambush and immediately stampeded the stock herds. They then charged the wagons, and were stopped from getting into the wagons only by a series of mounted countercharges by several men of the party. The wagons were drawn into a circle, and the settlers withstood a siege that lasted the remainder of the day. The Apaches poured in a withering fire from the surrounding slopes, and the settlers responded as best they could from the wagon-lager, killing several Apaches. Finally, toward the end of the day the Apaches withdrew, taking their plunder (400 cattle and 900 sheep) with them. The whites retreated to the Mimbres. They had suffered a loss of four men killed, five wounded.
The last wagon in the party, carrying most of the women and children, had turned about at the first volley and fled back toward the Mimbres River. Unmolested by the Apaches, this wagon reached the settlement on the Mimbres and sent a plea for help to Pinos Altos, where the Arizona Guards were stationed.
Thomas J. Mastin, Captain of the Arizona Guards, received the Ake Party’s message that same evening. Realizing that a night pursuit would likely lead to an ambush of the pursuers, Mastin ordered the pursuit to begin the next morning. Mastin did not head for Cook’s Canyon, however, for he had a hunch as to where the Apaches were headed with their plunder. Instead, he ordered the Arizona Guards to proceed with all speed to the passes over the Florida Mountains, near the Mexican border. Mastin knew that the Apaches could not travel very fast, loaded down with the hundreds of head of livestock plundered from the Ake Party. Mastin and 35 men of the Arizona Guards arrived at the Florida Mountains early the next day. There they secreted themselves in the foothills and awaited the Apaches.
Mastin’s hunch paid off. The Arizona Guards had not been long at their post in the Florida Mountains when their pickets reported the approach of the Apaches. The Guards charged the Apaches as they entered the pass, and a running fight ensued. The Apaches were routed, and much of the livestock was recaptured. As many as eight of the Apaches were killed, with no loss to the Confederate troops. The Arizona Guards pursued the Apaches back to Cook’s Canyon, where they attempted to regroup, but to no avail. A minor skirmish at the canyon, with no further casualties to either side, ended the engagement. The Apaches, thoroughly chastened, fled to their traditional retreats in Mexico.
An unfortunate soldierloses his scalp. Many Confederate
soldiers in Arizona met this fate in 1861 and 1862.
The elation felt by Governor Baylor over the victory gained by the Arizona Guards at the Florida Mountains must have been considerably dampened when, less than ten days later (August 25, 1861), news arrived of not one, but two defeats for Confederate arms at the hands of the Mescalero Apaches (not the same Apaches so recently defeated by the Confederates, which were Chiricahuas).The Mescalero Apache ranged over the plains and hills of western Texas and southeastern New Mexico (their homelands being roughly bordered on the west by the Rio Grande River). Like their cousins to the west, the Chiricahua (under Cochise) and the Mimbreno Apaches (under Mangas Coloradas), the Mescalero Apaches fought the Confederate forces during August and September of 1861.
In the region of Fort Davis, Texas, one Mescalero band, led by a chief named Espejo and his two war captains, Antonio and Nicolas, was creating severe problems for the Confederates. Apache raiders burned wagon trains, held up stagecoaches, and terrorized everyone who tried to use the vital road between El Paso and San Antonio that Fort Davis guarded. Something had to be done, and the Confederate authorities decided to attempt to make overtures of peace and friendship. Unfortunately, these efforts would lead not to peace, but to a massacre of Confederate soldiers by Mescalero warriors.
On or about August 5, 1861, Nicolas was busily engaged in the profitable business of raiding ranches when word came to him that the white chiefs wanted to talk. Nicolas, his curiosity piqued, and undoubtedly sensing a great opportunity for mischief and profit, came into Fort Davis with the announced purpose of making a treaty. The post commander, one Colonel McCarty, was impressed by his protestations of friendship, and Nicolas was sent on to El Paso to sign a treaty with Confederate peace commissioners led by one James Magoffin. McCarty and Nicolas rode together to El Paso on one of the very stagecoaches that his band had been so busily robbing of late, a fact that must have amused the Apache greatly.
George Wythe Baylor, a brother of Governor John R. Baylor who
had listed his occupation in the 1860 Census as "Indian Killer,"
was a member of the Confederate Peace Commission which tried
to negotiate a treaty with the Mescalero Apaches in 1861.
Upon his arrival in El Paso on August 7, 1861, Nicolas met with the Confederate Peace Commission...Magoffin, McCarty, and Colonel George Wythe Baylor, brother of the Confederate Governor of Arizona, John R. Baylor. The Confederates offered an attractive deal...not only peace, but rations, blankets, and gainful employment for Nicolas and his men as paid scouts for the Confederate army...and Nicolas seemed suitably impressed. "I am glad I have come," he said. "My heart is full of love for my pale-face brothers. They have not spoken with forked tongues. We have made a treaty of peace and friendship. When I lie down at night the treaty will be in my heart, and when I arise in the morning it will still be there. And I will be glad I am at peace with my pale-face brothers. I have spoken."
Fort Davis, Texas as it appeared in the 1880s.
It was from here that Lt. Reuben Mays and 14 Confederate
soldiers set out in pursuit of Mescalero Chief Nicolas and
his band on August 9, 1861. They never returned.
On August 8, with the Confederate commissioners feeling confident that all was well, Nicolas was sent back to Fort Davis. On the stagecoach ride back to the Fort, however, Nicolas revealed his true colors. He stole Colonel McCarty’s revolver from its holster and leapt out of the coach, disappearing into the brush before the coach could stop. He was soon back with his band, and they all no doubt shared a good laugh at the foolishness of the whites.
The next day (August 9), Nicolas and his warriors stole most of the Fort Davis stock herd, killing two guards in the process. A small detachment of Confederate cavalrymen was sent out in pursuit, consisting of 14 men commanded by Lieutenant Reuben E. Mays. Unknown to them, these men were riding to their doom.
The Apaches had not gone very far when, on August 10, they were overtaken by the Confederate detachment. In a quick attack, Mays and his men succeeded in recapturing about 100 head of horses, but the main force of the Apaches escaped without loss. When the Confederates caught up to them again later that day, they were posted in what one historian has called "their favorite defensive layout...warriors on both sides of a narrow canyon, where there was plenty of cover, and only one road in." It was obviously a deathtrap, and their Mexican guide could smell an ambush. "If we go in there," he said, "not one of us will come out alive." Mays was impressed by this warning, and replied simply, "Well then, we won’t go in."
However, to his distress Mays found himself immediately at odds with his men over this decision. "We aren’t cowards," they protested. "Let’s go in there and lick hell out of them!" Bullied into submission, Mays relented, and, against his better judgement, gave the order to advance. The Confederates charged into the canyon, and were met by a hail of fire from Nicolas's 100 cunningly placed Apache warriors.
The whole affair was over in less than ten minutes with Lieutenant Mays and all but one of his men killed (the sole survivor being the same Mexican scout who had warned against advancing into the canyon in the first place, who fled with news of the massacre back to Fort Davis). Most of the bodies were never found. A search party sent to the site found only "hats, boots, and a number of horses that had been killed, besides several bodies of men who were recognized as men of Lieutenant Mays' party."
And this was not the end of Mescalero activity during this time period. A little over two weeks later, Lieutenant John R. Pulliam, in command of a detachment of Company D, Second Texas Mounted Rifles at Fort Stanton, reported the massacre of a Confederate spy detachment by another Mescalero band at the Gallinas Mountains (a day's ride north of Fort Stanton). On September 1, Pulliam detailed four men...T.G. Pemberton, Joseph Mosse, Joseph Emmanacker, and Floyd A. Sanders--to said mountains to watch for any advance by the Union forces from the north. In view of the threat from hostile Indians, the four men were instructed to "reach the water on the morning of the second day, water the horses, fill up the canteens, leave the spring, and noon at a safe and sufficient distance away." Pulliam's orders were not followed, however. The men seem to have felt that there was no danger of attack, and, on or about September 3, "camped at about 100 yards above the spring in a grove of pine trees, where they and their fire were visible to any person going to the spring from the road." While the Confederate troops were cooking their breakfast, three Indians were seen running over an adjoining hill. The men immediately began to saddle up their horses, but it was too late. They were "assailed by a shower of arrows," and found themselves surrounded by an overwhelming force of Mescalero Apache warriors.
Mescalero Apaches on horseback pursued Private
Floyd Sanders of Company D, Second Texas Mounted Rifles,
for almost ten miles before he effected his escape.
His comrades were not so fortunate.
Pemberton, Sanders, Mosse, and Emmanacker each took cover behind a tree, and loaded their rifles. A nasty surprise awaited them however, for on their attempt to fire their rifles, the men "to their horror found that they would not go off." The soldiers immediately drew their revolvers, and attempted to make a defense. After several shots had been fired the men were dislodged from their positions, and mounting their horses, tried to make an escape. A running fight of over two hours duration took place in which Pemberton, Mosse, and Emmanacker were slain. Sanders saved himself by putting the spurs to his horse and galloping "down an almost perpendicular mountain amidst a shower of arrows." Sanders was followed by the Indians for almost ten miles before he effected his escape, and had his horse not proved fleeter than the ponies of the Apaches, he would certainly have shared the fate of his unfortunate comrades.
On hearing of this encounter, Lieutenant Pulliam sent a search party to the scene of the battle. The searchers found "evident marks of the poor fellows who were killed having fought with bravery and a determination to sell their lives as dearly as possible, as almost every tree was marked by blood shed by the inhuman savages who, when they outnumbered our men by ten to one, attacked them, and were able to carry off their scalps as laurels of victory." The bodies of Pemberton and Emmanacker were found, and buried with honor (a salute being fired over their graves). A cross was cut into a tree to mark the spot. Mosse's body was never found. There is no real doubt as to his fate, however...Sanders reported seeing Mosse fall, shot through the head, dead before he hit the ground.
The search party returned to Fort Stanton from the Gallinas Mountains on September 8. That same evening, word arrived that another band of Mescaleros had attacked the Placito, a Mexican village about ten miles south of Fort Stanton. Lieutenant Pulliam, with 15 men, went immediately to the village for the protection of the citizens. And this time, the Confederates were successful...they had an engagement with the Apaches, killed five of them, and drove them away from the village.
Thus, by early September, conflict between the Confederates and the Apache was well and truly underway. After the repulse by Lt. Pulliam at the Placito, Mescalero activity subsided, but this afforded the Confederates no respite. For the Chiricahua and Mimbreno Apache bands were about to precipitate what was probably the largest engagement ever between the Confederates and the Apache in Confederate Arizona.
It was probably inevitable that an engagement between the Confederates and the Apaches would occur at Pinos Altos. The mines in that region had been a source of irritation to the Mimbreno Apaches (or Gila River Apaches, as they were sometimes called), under their great chief, Mangas Coloradas, since the "yellow iron" was discovered in that region in 1860. The Apaches had conducted a war of attrition on the miners ever since, attacking outlying diggings, murdering lone miners when the opportunity offered. Indeed, their activities had severely disrupted the miner's operations in the region and many of the diggings had been abandoned by the fall of 1860.
However, enough miners had "stuck it out" at Pinos Altos to form two militia companies, the "Arizona Guards" under Captain Thomas J. Mastin, and the "Minute Men" under Captain William Markt. Unfortunately, about half of the "Minute Men" deserted at the first opportunity, and those who remained were poorly armed. It thus fell on the Arizona Guards to provide most of the protection for the Pinos Altos miners.
Mangas Coloradas, meanwhile, had struck an alliance with Cochise of the Chiricahua Apaches, with the objective of exterminating the hated Pinos Altos settlement. With a combined force of over 250 warriors, the Apache leaders had every reason to be confident of success. Unfortunately for them, they failed to reckon with Captain Mastin and the Arizona Guards.
Mangas and Cochise launched their assault early on the morning of September 27, 1861, striking simultaneously at the mining camps that radiated from the main town. The attack was a complete surprise, and many of the miners were cornered in their diggings (many were too frightened to venture out, and thus contributed nothing to the defense that day).
The Battle of Pinos Altos, September 27, 1861
Confederate troops under Captain Thomas J. Mastin fire
the old cannon in front of Roy and Sam Bean's store, loaded
with nails and buckshot, into a mass of attacking
Chiricahua and Gila River Apache warriors. This broke the back of
the Apache assault and saved the town and its inhabitants
Captain Mastin and 15 of the Arizona Guards were just arriving back in Pinos Altos from a patrol against the Apaches (the remainder of the company were still out on patrol that day) as the attack commenced. They quickly deployed for defense in the center of town, where by noon the Apaches and whites were fighting hand to hand. Finally, at 12:30 p.m., Mastin ordered the old cannon at Roy and Sam Bean's store (interestingly, the store was owned by the very same Roy Bean who later became famous in Western history as "Judge Roy Bean--The Law West of the Pecos") to be loaded with nails and buckshot and fired into the mass of screaming Apache warriors. The gun roared, a number of Apaches were felled, and the rest scattered in disorder. The Arizona Guards mounted and counterattacked, helped by the miners who poured from their homes and the town buildings, and never gave the Indians a chance to regroup. The battle was over by 1:00, with the Apaches in flight either to the Gila or to Mexico.
Casualties were heavy on both sides. The Apaches lost at least ten killed, and perhaps twenty more wounded. The whites lost five dead and seven wounded. The most severe loss of the battle was Captain Thomas J. Mastin, mortally wounded leading the charge which decided the battle (Mastin survived until October 7, 1861, when he died at Pinos Altos). Command of the Arizona Guards passed to Lieutenant Thomas Helm.
Despite the severe check dealt to the Apaches in late September, the miners at Pinos Altos continued to fear attack. These fears were given vent on October 8, 1861, when Captain Markt of the "Minute Men" wrote to Governor Baylor, requesting that more troops be sent to protect the town. Baylor was sufficiently impressed by Markt's plea to dispatch a force of 100 men immediately to Pinos Altos (by far the largest force he ever sent to the relief of a place threatened by Indian attack). However, no attack materialized, and the additional troops were soon withdrawn, leaving the settlement once in the care of the Arizona Guards.
On the day after Captain Mastin passed away at Pinos Altos, Captain Peter Hardeman (of Company E, 2nd Texas Mounted Rifles) wrote to Governor Baylor, describing a futile chase (probably of some of Mangas Coloradas's Gila River Apaches, in retreat from the debacle at Pinos Altos) from which he had only just returned. His account is given below...
". . .in obedience to your order, I, with a detachment of 25 of my men, accompanied by Captain Frazier, took up the line of march on the 30th ultimo en route to the Upper Rio Grande, to see if I could make any discoveries of the enemy in that portion of the country. After passing up the Jornada road some 50 miles I directed my course westward, to intersect the road running up the river by old Fort Thorn. Before reaching that road I came upon an Indian trail with a large flock of sheep. The trail being fresh, I thought proper to pursue them. After crossing the river and trailing about 10 miles northwest the trail then turned a due west course for 15 miles across a level plain to a very rough, mountainous country. Here the trail turned nearly due north through the chain of mountains. I followed them across the headwaters of the Rio Miembres (sic), and thence to the tributaries of the Gila River. Not being able to overtake them at this point, and some of my horses becoming very tenderfooted from travelling over the very rocky country without shoes, and having started from camp with only three days rations, and being entirely out at this time, I thought it prudent to abandon the chase and return to camp, which we did without the pleasure of capturing the red rascals, and arrived in Camp on the 7th instant, having been out four days without any rations or anything to eat except a few wild grapes which we were lucky enough to find in the mountains."
Hardeman's experience in this chase was to be a precursor of a change in Apache tactics. Stung by the defeats inflicted on them by the Confederates, the Apaches would in the future refrain from massed attacks on well-defended settlements, or engagements with sizeable bodies of Confederate troops. Instead, they would focus on gueril1a warfare, ambushing smal1 parties and attacking isolated settlements and mines. Time and again over the next few months, other Confederate detachments would face futile pursuits of the elusive Apaches, who faded away like mist before the morning sun, only to strike again someplace else, starting the process all over again. Confederate troops even pursued the Apaches into Mexico (the Arizona Guards, for example, penetrated as far as Lake Guzman in Chihuahua during the winter of 1861-1862, and Governor Baylor in January 1862 personally led a pursuit which reached as far south as the town of Corralitos), without ever bringing their quarry to bay. Thus did this change in Apache tactics prove extremely frustrating for the Confederate defenders.
Captain Sherod Hunter
Co. A, Baylor's Regiment of Arizona Rangers
Governor Baylor, seeing that military force alone would not solve the problem of the Apaches, determined to use other means as well. First, he sent Captain Sherod Hunter into Western Arizona with orders to negotiate treaties with the Pima and Papago Indians, long-time enemies of the Apache. Hunter and his command arrived in Tucson on February 28, 1862. There is some reason to believe that his arrival may have deterred a major attack on the town by the Apaches, although this is not certain. At any rate, Hunter sent his men out on patrols to pacify the surrounding area, and for a little while, at least, Tucson felt safe from the threat of Indian attack.
On March 3, Hunter proceeded to the Pima villages, located on the Gila River, near the site of the present day town of Sacaton. He met with the Chief of the Pimas, Antonio Azul, and, in pursuit of his orders, made a treaty for mutual defense against the Apaches. There is little doubt that the treaty would have been of great use but for the fact that the Confederate Territory of Arizona collapsed shortly after it was negotiated. Governor Baylor's essay into diplomacy thus proved devoid of results.
The Patagonia Silver and Lead Mine, owned by Sylvester Mowry,
was a special target of Apache raiders in the winter of 1861-1862.
Mowry appealed for help from Captain Hunter's Arizona Rangers,
but Hunter was unable to assist.
Hunter's command was soon involved in operations against the Union California Column, a force of approximately 2,300 men which was poised to invade Arizona from the west. He thus found himself unable to provide assistance when Sylvester Mowry, owner of the highly productive Patagonia Silver and Lead mines south of Tucson, wrote to him in early April, 1862. Mowry's miners were a special target of Apache raiders, who ambushed several parties going to and from the mines during the winter and spring of 1862. Mowry's careful defense preparations had thus far deterred direct attack on the mines, but there were signs that such an attack was not long in coming. Hunter wrote back to Mowry on April 11, saying that "the precarious position in which I am placed will not permit me to take my command immediately to your assistance." And there is no doubt that Hunter was correct in this assessment, for by this time the invasion of Arizona by the California Column had begun. Hunter's men had already clashed with the Unionists at Stanwix Station on March 30, and in four days (April 15, 1862) they would fight the Battle of Picacho Pass. In just over a month's time they would have to abandon Tucson.
The graves of four Confederate cavalrymen killed by the
Apaches on May 5, 1862 at Dragoon Springs, Arizona
And Hunter was to have his own troubles with the Apaches. On May 5, 1862, the Apaches attacked a Confederate foraging party which was gathering stray cattle near the abandoned Butterfield Overland Stagecoach Station at a place called Dragoon Springs (about 16 miles east of the present-day town of Benson, Arizona). Four of Hunter's men were killed, and the Apaches stole 25 horses and 30 mules. It is unknown whether any of the Apaches were slain. The fallen Confederates were hastily buried at a few yards from the stone ruins of the Butterfield Stagecoach Station, where they remain to this day. They are the only Confederate soldiers known to have been killed in battle within the bounds of modern-day Arizona.
Finally, desperate to find a solution to the Apache menace, Governor Baylor decided upon a policy of extermination. He issued an order on March 2, 1862 specifying that Confederate commanders in the Territory were to "use all means to persuade the Apaches or any tribe to come in for the purpose of making peace, and when you get them together kill all the grown Indians and take the children prisoners and sell them to defray the expense of killing the adult Indians. Buy whiskey and such other goods as may be necessary for the Indians and I will order vouchers given to cover the amount expended. Leave nothing undone to insure success, and have a sufficient number of men around to allow no Indian to escape." Baylor also instructed that poisoned food should be left for Indian consumption. Whether any of Baylor's subordinates actually carried out their Governor's dastardly plans is unknown. There is no record that any of them did so, at any rate.
President Jefferson Davis removed Governor Baylor from his post
upon hearing of Baylor's plans to exterminate the Apaches.
But whether or not the order had any impact in Arizona, for Governor Baylor the impact was severe, if not immediate. Word of the order did not reach the Confederate Government in Richmond until the last months of 1862, but Governor Baylor was removed from office as soon as President Jefferson Davis heard of the extermination order. Stripped not only of his Governorship but of his Army rank, Baylor returned to Texas, where he enlisted as a private during the Galveston campaign of 1863, and later ran for and won election to the Confederate Congress, where he served until the end of the war, tirelessly promoting efforts to gain Confederate Government support for the recapture of Arizona from the Yankees. He went to his grave defending the extermination order, and indeed, the order may have been a correct, if not moral, response to the situation with which he was faced. With the limited resources under their command, treachery may have been the only means by which the Confederate forces could have hoped to subdue the Apaches. Certainly the Apaches felt no qualms about using trickery to achieve their ends!
What then can be said of the Confederate campaigns against the Apache? First, there is little evidence that the Confederates enjoyed any measure of success in curtailing the atrocities of the Apaches. The victories gained in the early part of the campaign served only to push the Apaches into guerilla tactics, which the Confederates found impossible to counter with the limited resources under their command. In that they need not have felt ashamed. The United States, with far greater resources, failed to pacify the Apaches for over 20 years after the end of the War Between the States. There were simply not enough Confederate troops to police the vast area of the Confederate Territory of Arizona.
In short, the Confederates fought, and lost, the first battles of the Apache Indian War. The Union troops who conquered the Confederate Territory of Arizona would continue the struggle, and it would finally be ended in the 1880s by the United States Army.
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