A History of the Arizona Brigade, C.S.A.

by Robert P. Perkins

The history of the War Between the States as it transpired in the Trans-Mississippi West is little known. Much attention has been focused on the victorious campaigns of the gallant Army of Northern Virginia, and on the valiant struggles of the hard-luck Army of Tennessee. But thousands of brave men struggled and died for Southern Independence in the far west, fighting in campaigns whose names are now rarely heard. Among the least known of these Trans-Mississippi Army units is the Arizona Brigade. This is their story.

It may be said that the term “Arizona Brigade” is a misnomer. It was formed for the invasion and recapture of the Confederate Territory of Arizona (which was lost to Union invaders in July 1862), and yet never once set foot in Arizona. The Regiments within the Brigade were unofficially known as “Arizona Cavalry Regiments,” and yet almost all the men within them were from Texas. And it was called the “Arizona BRIGADE,” and yet never fought together as a Brigade...its Regiments were detailed to other Brigades instead.  Be that as it may, the Arizona Brigade and its individual regiments left a rich and colorful record that deserves to be told, and it is hoped this paper will accomplish that object.

The history of the Arizona Brigade can be said to begin with the collapse of the Confederate Territory of Arizona in July, 1862. The said Confederate Territory had been founded by Lt. Colonel John Robert Baylor, Second Texas Mounted Rifles, following a successful invasion by Confederate forces in August, 1861. Baylor had declared himself military governor of the new Confederate Territory, a post in which he was later confirmed by the Confederate Government. The Confederate Territory of Arizona had much support among the people of Arizona (the term “Arizona” then meaning what we would consider the southern halves of the present-day States of Arizona and New Mexico), but was militarily weak, and it maintained a precarious existence until it finally fell to Union invasion the following July.

When the Territory fell, some Confederate leaders were willing to abandon it. For example, Brigadier General Henry Hopkins Sibley, commander of the Confederate Army of New Mexico (the name by which the forces assigned to defend the Confederate Territory of Arizona were known) stated his own belief that “except for its political geographical position,” Arizona and New Mexico were “not worth a quarter of the blood and treasure expended in its conquest,” and many other Confederate leaders shared his view.1

However, John Robert Baylor thought otherwise, and in this he was supported by the many Arizona secessionists who ardently desired to see Arizona liberated from the rule of the hated Yankees. With their support, Baylor began to work to raise a new army with which he would invade and recapture Arizona for the Confederacy.2

George W. Randolph, Confederate Secretary of War

Baylor had received orders on April 14, 1862 from George W. Randolph, Confederate Secretary of War instructing him as follows...

"You are authorized to enlist volunteers in Arizona Territory and to muster them into service, singly or by companies, for three years or the war, to be organized as soon as a sufficient number of companies are mustered into a regiment, electing field officers. You will continue to organize regiments under this authority until a brigade has been raised for the defense of the Territory."3

Armed with this authority, Baylor began preparations to raise this new “Arizona Brigade” almost immediately after his arrival in San Antonio, Texas, sometime in July 1862. Baylor set up his headquarters at Eagle Lake, Texas (located between San Antonio and Houston), and began to organize and recruit. He planned to raise five Battalions of Mounted Rifles, each of 500 men, for a total of 2,000 men in the brigade. Recruiting went well, and by December 1862 Baylor already had 1,500 of the planned 2,000 men signed up. However, arming and equipping the men had proved to be extremely difficult, with the result that only three companies (about 300 men total) had been armed, and those “indifferently” at that.4

It was at this point that Baylor was suddenly removed from command, due to an action he had taken while serving as Governor of Arizona. Baylor had, in March 1862, issued an order to his military commanders in which he directed them to call in the various bands of the Apaches for “peace talks.” When the Indians came in, Baylor instructed, they were to be gotten drunk, the adults killed, and the children sold into slavery to defray the expense associated with killing their parents! News of this order had only just reached the Confederate Government in Richmond, and President Jefferson Davis was outraged when he heard of it. He immediately removed Baylor from his post as Governor of Arizona, stripped him of his rank, and cashiered him from the Army.5

But Baylor’s Brigade lived on, and plans proceeded for the ultimate invasion of Arizona. By the Spring of 1863, the brigade quartermaster had begun to amass supplies for the expedition, which was expected to begin shortly. The five Battalions of the Brigade had, by this time, been consolidated into four Regiments, designated at the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Texas Cavalry Regiments, Arizona Brigade (also sometimes unofficially called the 1st-4th Regiments of Texas-Arizona Cavalry, or 1st-4th Arizona Cavalry Regiments).6

John Bankhead Magruder

But then, news came of a Union offensive in Louisiana that endangered Texas. Union General Nathaniel Banks was pushing up the Bayou Teche, with the aim of proceeding up the Red River and occupying east Texas and securing for the Union the rich cotton production to be found there. Major General John Bankhead Magruder, desperate for troops to resist this invasion, issued orders to postpone the expedition to Arizona. The Arizona Brigade was broken up, and the regiments (most still not at full strength) were rushed to different sectors. Although the regiments would still be officially designated as members of the Arizona Brigade, and would continue to be so until the end of the war, the brigade would never again function together as a single unit. And with the dispersal of the brigade, the last chance for the recapture of Arizona was lost.7  

But though now deprived of the reason for their formation, the regiments of the Arizona Brigade would all leave a rich and varied history in the upcoming campaigns. Some of their men would serve with great distinction, and some would end up as renegades. We will now examine their records.

The FIRST TEXAS CAVALRY REGIMENT, ARIZONA BRIGADE, was formed on February 21, 1863 as a result of Special Order #81, District of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, which directed that the First Cavalry Battalion of the Brigade, commanded by Lt. Colonel William P. Hardeman, be consolidated with several independent cavalry companies to form a regiment. Hardeman was commissioned as Colonel of the new Regiment. Other field officers were Lt. Colonel Peter Hardeman (brother of the regimental Colonel who would replace his brother as Colonel), and Major Michael Looscan. After Peter Hardeman took over as Colonel, and Looscan resigned as Major, Edward Riordan became the Lt. Colonel, and Alexander P. Terrell became the regiment’s Major.8

The First Regiment served mainly in the Red River area of Texas, Arkansas, and the Indian Territory (what is now Oklahoma) during the war. It served with a number of different commands, but mainly with Colonel Richard M. Gano’s Texas Cavalry Brigade (which itself was assigned to several different commands during the war).9

Battles in which the First Regiment was involved were the Camden Expedition (March-May 1864), the Battle of Poison Spring (April 18, 1864), the Battle of Massard’s Prairie (July 27, 1864), and the Battle of Cabin Creek (September 19, 1864). The regiment also fought a number of skirmishes with hostile Indians and with raiding parties of Union soldiers sent out from Fort Smith, Arkansas, the names of which are not recorded.10

Of the battles listed above, the Battle of Poison Spring (in which not only the First Regiment, but also several other Texas Cavalry Regiments and at least two Regiments of Choctaw Indians, were involved) was probably the most famous, or perhaps we should say “infamous,” and as such it deserves some further elaboration. For the Battle of Poison Spring has gone down in history as the “Fort Pillow of the West,” due to an alleged massacre of Union negro troops which took place there.

The events which lead up to the battle began in March, 1864. A Union army, under Major General Frederick Steele, was moving south from Little Rock, Arkansas, heading for Shreveport, Louisiana. Steele’s aim was to link up with the army of Major General Nathaniel Banks, which was moving northward up the Red River toward Shreveport. However, Steele’s army had run short of supplies by mid-April, with Union soldiers living on half-rations. The Union army halted at Camden, Arkansas, and a supply base was set up. On April 17 a foraging expedition of 198 wagons guarded by about 1,000 men, which included the First Kansas Colored Infantry (about 500 men strong), was sent out to secure supplies for the army.11

The expedition left Camden with orders to take, by force, corn and other food from Southern farmers in the surrounding areas. The expedition looted the farms of many poor Southern families, leaving them destitute and starving. And food was not all they took. According to Colonel Charles de Morse, 29th Texas Cavalry, after the battle the Confederates found “the enemy’s train of 200 wagons, laden with corn, bacon, stolen bed quilts, women’s and children’s clothing, hogs, geese, and all the et ceteras of unscrupulous plunder.”12

Samuel Bell Maxey

On April 18, as the plunderers were on their way back to Camden, they were ambushed by a large Confederate force (which outnumbered the Union troops by at least three-to-one) under the command of Brigadier General Samuel B. Maxey. A fierce battle ensued, in which the Confederates overwhelmed the Union force. The Confederates caught the wagon train in a thundering crossfire of artillery and then charged it from the front, sides, and rear.13  Union casualties were extreme. About 600 Union soldiers were left dead on the field, “principally negroes who neither gave nor received quarter” (to quote Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith, Commander-in-Chief of all Confederate forces west of the Mississippi River, who spoke of the affair in a letter to his wife penned shortly after the battle). Among the approximately 200 Unionists who were captured (again according to General Smith) were only two negro prisoners.14

Almost immediately, the Union authorities charged that a massacre had taken place. Confederate soldiers were accused of having driven captured wagons back and forth over the fallen negro wounded until none were left alive (incidentally, the white Confederates were not the only ones charged with atrocities that day...the Choctaws were accused of scalping both dead and wounded prisoners).15  But, as with the more famous incident at Fort Pillow (which, as it happened, occurred within days of the fight at Poison Spring), we really don’t know what happened. Maybe a massacre took place, and maybe it didn’t. As one prominent historian of the Red River Campaign has said regarding Poison Spring, “it is often difficult to draw the line between legitimate killing and murder.”

Was there a massacre at Poison Spring, motivated by race hatred, as Union accounts claimed? The fact that the looters in the Poison Spring case were negroes may have contributed to the ferocity of the reaction by the Confederate troops upon discovering the contents of the captured Union wagons. But, then again, if the colored troops really did “give and receive no quarter,” as General Smith claimed in his letter previously quoted, there may have been no massacre at all. And one has to ask...what might have happened if a large Confederate force had managed to trap and overwhelm some portion of General William T. Sherman’s army of looters after it left Georgia and South Carolina in flames? It is hard to imagine that white men, apprehended under similar circumstances, would not have met a similar fate.

The SECOND TEXAS CAVALRY REGIMENT, ARIZONA BRIGADE, was formed on February 21, 1863 pursuant to Special Order #81, District of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. It was formed by consolidating Lt. Colonel John W. Mullen’s Cavalry Battalion (one of the original five of the Arizona Brigade) with two independent companies, thus raising the Battalion to regimental strength. Mullen continued to serve as Lieutenant Colonel of the new regiment, and George Wythe Baylor, younger brother of former Arizona Governor John R. Baylor, was commissioned as regimental Colonel. Completing the regiment’s field staff was Major Sherod Hunter, an Arizona Confederate who had commanded the Confederate force which occupied Tucson in the Spring of 1862 and fought the westernmost battle of the war at Picacho Pass, April 15, 1862.16

For most of the war the Second Regiment was assigned to Brigadier General John P. Major’s Cavalry Brigade of General Thomas Green’s Texas Cavalry Division and served mostly (with the exception of a brief assignment to the forces defending Galveston, Texas from December 1863 to February 1864) in Louisiana. Battles in which the Second Regiment was involved included Brashear City (June 23, 1863), Cox’s Plantation (July 12-13, 1863), and the many battles and skirmishes of the Red River Campaign of March-May 1864, including the major battles at Mansfield (April 8, 1864) and Pleasant Hill (April 9, 1864).17

The battle in which the Second Regiment figured most prominently was the capture of the Union supply depot at Brashear City, on June 23, 1863. An account of this action follows.18 

The Federal Army had established a major supply depot at Brashear City, which was located on the east shore of Berwick Bay (a broad portion of the Atchafalaya River which flows into the Gulf of Mexico). The Confederates desperately needed those supplies, and Major General Richard Taylor, commanding Confederate forces in the region, ordered their capture. Major Sherod Hunter of the Second Arizona Cavalry was put in command of the assault force.

On the night of June 22, 1864, Major Hunter led a motley force of 250 Confederate cavalrymen (three companies from the Second Texas Cavalry, Arizona Brigade, volunteers from other Texas Cavalry units, and a contingent from the Second Louisiana Cavalry) aboard a strange flotilla of flatboats, skiffs, rowboats, dugout canoes, even sugar coolers...in short, anything that would float. Hunter and his "mosquito fleet" slipped silently down the Bayou Teche to the Atchafalaya River, thence up said River to Brashear City (a distance of about 12 miles, all of which had to be traversed by rowing, as the boats had no sails).

At daybreak on June 23, 1863, Hunter's force disembarked from their strange fleet, then marched a further four miles, single file, through a swamp of mud, water, and tall palmetto to reach Brashear City. Upon emerging from the swamp, Hunter's men were greeted by the sight of row after row of white tents, pitched thickly for the space of half a mile, as well as two imposing earthwork forts. Many of the Confederates briefly lost heart and retreated back into the swamp, thinking that a large army lay before them.

However, Major Hunter was not daunted by the size of the Union force, and he rallied his men, saying "We may all be shot...Not one of us may get back to the brigade; but gentlemen, we'd better just fall down in our tracks than go back disgraced, and have old Tom Green tell us so!" Upon hearing these stirring words, which were likely sprinkled with some profane language that has been expurgated by the chronicler of this scene), Hunter's men formed up and moved ahead toward Brashear City.

As Hunter and his men emerged from the woods, Confederate artillery stationed on the shores of Berwick Bay across from Brashear City (including the four guns of the Valverde Battery, captured by the Confederate Army of New Mexico at the Battle of Valverde in 1862) opened fire. Most of the Union garrison marched off to the shores of the bay in response to this attack, leaving the rear approaches to Brashear City open. It was now that Hunter made his assault.

Major Hunter led his men in a bayonet charge that took the enemy completely by surprise. The earthwork forts guarding Brashear City were quickly captured, and then the Confederates were in the town itself. Most of the Union garrison was too stunned by this sudden onslaught to put up a fight, but the Confederates did find a few pockets of resistance that cost them 3 killed and 18 wounded. But these were soon crushed, and by 11:00 a.m. all Union resistance was at an end.

Thus, in short order, Hunter and his 250 men were the proud possessors of Brashear City, 1,300 Union prisoners, 11 heavy siege guns, 2,500 stands of Enfield and Burnside rifles, immense quantities of quartermaster, commissary and ordnance stores, as well as 2,000 negroes and between 200 and 300 wagons and tents. The overall value of the captured supplies was more than $2,000,000, and Richard Taylor's Confederate Army was to be well supplied by them for many months.

A photograph of Lt. Frank Mullen, Second Arizona Cavalry Regiment (left), shown with      

Major Alonzo Ridley, Third Arizona Cavalry (right).

The THIRD TEXAS CAVALRY REGIMENT, ARIZONA BRIGADE, was organized on February 21, 1863, pursuant to Special Order #81, District of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. It was formed by consolidating the Third Cavalry Battalion, Arizona Brigade, with several independent companies to raise the battalion to regimental strength. The Third Regiment was commanded by Colonel Joseph Phillips. Other field officers were Lt. Colonel George T. Madison (who had been the commanding officer of the original Third Cavalry Battalion) and Major Alonzo Ridley (who later became the regiment’s Lt. Colonel).19

The Third Regiment was assigned for most of the war to Brigadier General James P. Major’s Brigade of General Thomas Green’s Texas Cavalry Division, and served primarily in Louisiana. The Third Regiment participated in many battles, including those at Donaldsonville, Louisiana (June 28, 1863); Cox’s Plantation (July 12-13, 1863); Stirling’s Plantation (September 29, 1863); Bayou Bourbeau (November 3, 1863); and the many battles and skirmishes of the Red River campaign in Louisiana, including most importantly Wilson’s Farm (April 7, 1864), Sabine Crossroads, or Mansfield (April 8, 1863), and Pleasant Hill, (April 9, 1863).20

Since both the Second and Third Regiments of the Arizona Brigade were assigned to Brigadier General James P. Major’s Texas Cavalry Brigade for most of the war, brief descriptions of the major battles fought by that Brigade are in order. Both the Second and the Third Regiment would have been present for, and would have participated in, most or all of these battles...

DONALDSONVILLE (June 28, 1863): Major’s Cavalry Brigade assisted in an attack on Union-held Fort Butler, at the junction of the Bayou LaFourche and the Mississippi River near the town of Donaldsonville. The attack, made in the darkness of the early morning hours, resulted in a confused melee in which men from both sides hurled bricks from the fort’s parapet at each other. The attack was finally driven off by the fire of Union gunboats on the Mississippi.21

COX’S PLANTATION (July 12-13, 1863); A Union force of 6,000 men, led by Brigadier Generals Godfrey Weitzel and Cuvier Grover, advanced southward along the Bayou LaFourche from Donaldsonville. They had gone less than ten miles when they were ambushed at Cox’s Plantation by the Texas Cavalry of Brigadier Generals Thomas Green and James P. Major. The Yankees were severely thrashed by the badly outnumbered Texans, and forced to retreat back to Donaldsonville.22

BAYOU BOURBEAU (November 3, 1863): In cooperation with three regiments of Major General John G. Walker’s Texas Infantry Division (known as Walker’s Greyhounds due to their many long and rapid marches from one front to another), the Texas Cavalry Brigades of Thomas Green and James P. Major routed a larger Union force under Major General William B. Franklin, capturing 600 men and one cannon.23

Major's Cavalry Brigade, including the Second and Third Texas Cavalry Regiments, Arizona Brigade, 

attack the Yankee wagon train at Wilson's Farm, April 7, 1864

WILSON’S FARM (April 7, 1864): The advance guard of Major General Nathaniel Banks’ Union army, consisting of a division of cavalry and recently-formed regiments of mounted infantry under the command of Brigadier General Albert L. Lee, encountered the four regiments of Major’s Texas Cavalry Brigade on the road between the towns of Pleasant Hill and Mansfield, Louisiana. Lee’s men had never before encountered Confederate cavalry, and expected them to retreat, as had the various Confederate infantry units with which they had previously skirmished. Instead of retreating, however, Major’s Texas cavalrymen gave a thunderous Rebel Yell and charged into Lee’s leading brigade. A wild, close-range melee ensued, with troopers on both sides firing revolvers and carbines. Major’s men swept right through the stunned Yankees and attacked Lee’s wagon train, and it was only with great difficulty that the Yankees finally drove off the outnumbered Texans, who retreated, ending the battle. Union commander Lee, stunned by the sudden onslaught, called for reinforcements, which were promptly dispatched, setting the stage for the next day’s engagement at Sabine Crossroads.24

SABINE CROSSROADS, OR MANSFIELD (April 8, 1864): The Union advance guard, which now consisted not only of Lee’s Cavalry Division but also included the 4th Infantry Division, 13th Corps, under the command of Colonel William J. Landrum (Landrum’s force had been rushed forward to reinforce Lee’s advance guard after the unexpected attack by Major’s Confederate cavalry the previous day), continued to advance toward Mansfield. Confederate Major General Richard Taylor, seeing that the Union advance guard was separated from the bulk of their army by their wagon train, decided to attack. Taylor’s Confederate army executed what was almost a classic double-envelopment of the larger Union force. Major’s Cavalry Brigade held the extreme left of the Confederate battle line. Fighting dismounted, they managed to work themselves around the right flank of the Union line and take the Union force in the rear. Other Confederate units had also managed to outflank the Union force on its left flank as well, and the Yankees fled in disorder. In the confusion of the retreat some Union regiments attempted to hold their ground, and two of these (the 130th Illinois and the 48th Ohio) were surrounded and captured by Major’s Cavalry Brigade. The panic-stricken Yankees were pursued for over two miles by the jubilant Confederates, and only the timely arrival of another Union infantry division under Brigadier General William H. Emory prevented their utter destruction.25

The FOURTH TEXAS CAVALRY REGIMENT, ARIZONA BRIGADE was the brainchild of Spruce McCoy Baird, former attorney general of New Mexico Territory (U.S.) and an ardent secessionist who had accompanied the Confederate Army of New Mexico when it retreated back to Texas. Baird began to recruit troops for the recapture of Arizona, at first independently of the larger effort which John R. Baylor was organizing at Eagle Lake, Texas. However, by the end of 1862 Baird had moved his recruiting efforts to Eagle Lake, and his embryonic regiment became part of the Arizona Brigade.26

Colonel Spruce McCoy Baird, 4th Arizona Cavalry

The Fourth Regiment was organized in February 1863, with Spruce Baird himself commissioned as Colonel and placed in command of the regiment. Other field officers were Major Edward Riordan and Lt. Colonel Daniel Showalter.27

Lt. Colonel Showalter, who would later command the Fourth Regiment after Baird resigned in early 1864, was a California politician and ardent Southern sympathizer who had been captured and imprisoned by Union authorities in November 1861 while attempting to leave California on his way to join the Confederate army in Texas. Released from his enforced confinement at Fort Yuma after five months, Showalter made a second attempt to defect, this time successfully. Slipping through the Mexican state of Chihuahua, Showalter made his way to Texas, where he took a commission in the Fourth Regiment.28

Baird’s recruiting efforts were never as successful as those of Baylor, and Baird was forced to move his recruiting efforts yet again in early 1863. He set up headquarters near the Pecos River, in far west Texas, and his recruiters signed up draft evaders, deserters, and other riff-raff who had drifted into the no-man’s-land between Confederate Texas and Union-held New Mexico. Naturally, the discipline and quality of the regiment suffered as a result.29

The Fourth Regiment only took to the field in late 1863, due to the slowness with which its ranks were filled. The regiment was not assigned to a specific brigade or division for most of the war, but rather was used as a sort of “mobile reserve” force, to be moved wherever it was needed. And shortly after it took the field, it was apparently divided into two Battalions of five companies each. One of these, under Lt. Colonel Showalter, was ordered to Fort Washita, Cherokee Nation, in the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), and the other, under Colonel Baird, was sent to Brazoria County, on the Texas Gulf Coast.30

Little is known about the activities of the two battalions prior to December, 1863. In September 1863, while stationed in the Indian Territory, Lt. Colonel Showalter’s Battalion apparently engaged hostile Indians in north Texas, and 30 November 1863 the battalion was ordered to report to Brigadier General H. E. McCullouch at Bonham, Texas. On December 15, 1863, the regiment was ordered to consolidate once again in the region of San Antonio, in response to the threat of a Union sea-borne invasion. The regiment was to serve in a command called “The Cavalry of the West,” under the command of Colonel John Salmon Ford (popularly known as “R.I.P.” Ford due to his habit, when filling out death certificates, of adding the abbreviation “R.I.P.”...for “Rest in Peace”... after the names of those men under his command who had “gone to meet their maker”). However, this consolidation did not apparently happen at that time, because although Baird’s Battalion was apparently with Ford at San Antonio as of February 5, Showalter’s Battalion apparently did not join the rest of the regiment until March 31, 1864.31

Colonel John Salmon "R.I.P." Ford

The threat against San Antonio never materialized, and the “Cavalry of the West” was soon engaged in operations against Union forces under Major General Francis J. Herron, which had occupied the lower Rio Grande region since November 1863. Ford’s operations had a simple, but undeniably important aim...to secure the routes by which the Confederacy shipped cotton to Mexican, European, and even Yankee cotton merchants who had established themselves in the border towns of northern Mexico. Confederate cotton was sold there for gold and silver, which in turn was used to purchase vitally needed war supplies for the Confederacy. And since Mexican ports could not be blockaded by the Union fleet, the Rio Grande crossings were the only relatively unimpeded means of entry for European goods into the Confederacy.

However, Union forces now occupied the important river crossing at Brownsville, opposite the Mexican city of Matamoros, forcing Confederate cotton traders to transport their precious cargo by land over costly and dangerous routes far to the west which led to trading centers at Laredo and Eagle Pass. And now, Union forces were moving up-river, threatening even these remote Confederate outposts. Something had to be done, and “R.I.P.” Ford aimed to do it!32

In a series of engagements that began in March 1864, Ford and the “Cavalry of the West” gradually pushed back the Union forces to their stronghold at Brownsville, and finally captured Brownsville itself in July 1864.33 However, Colonel Baird was not to command the regiment during any of these engagements. Upon arriving at San Antonio, he raised objections to being placed under Colonel Ford’s command. Ford held a commission from the State of Texas, but it had never been confirmed by the Confederate Goverment itself. Since Baird was a commissioned Colonel in the Confederate Army, he felt that he, not Ford, should command. Baird appealed to his superiors, and lost. Shortly afterward he turned the Fourth Regiment over the Lt. Colonel Showalter, and left.34

The Fourth Regiment, now under the command of Lt. Colonel Showalter, figured prominently in the campaign to recapture Brownsville, taking part in battles at Rancho Las Rinas (June 25, 1864) and Rancho del Carmen (July 1864), among others.35 In particular, it won praise for its capture of a Yankee riverboat, the U.S.S. Ark, during one of the final battles near Brownsville on August 8, 1864.36 And on September 9, 1864, 207 men of the regiment under the command of Major Kavanaugh took part in a battle a few miles above Palmito Ranch, in which a force of 371 Confederates defeated a force of 600 Federals and 300 Mexicans with 2 pieces of artillery. According to “R.I.P.” Ford’s postwar account, the Confederates “drove the enemy for five or six miles, killing and wounding a great many.37

The praise won by the Fourth Regiment and its commander was to be short-lived, however. Within a short time, Lt. Colonel Showalter was facing court-martial. It seems that Showalter had a problem with alcohol, and had, while “in a maudlin condition,” beat a hasty retreat before a raid by the Mexican bandit, Juan Cortina, which had taken place shortly before the battle near Palmito Ranch. Colonel Ford got the charges dropped, however. “When not under the influence of liquor,” Ford explained to his angry superiors, “he [Showalter] was as chivalrous a man as ever drew a sword.”38

Records indicate that the regiment was still with Ford’s command near Brownsville until February 8, 1865, when they were ordered to Houston.39 There had apparently been rains in the area during this time, the roads were choked with mud, and the rivers were swollen, making travel very difficult, so progress toward Houston was slow.40 While on the way there, they were diverted to Corpus Christi, in anticipation of a raid by Union forces on that place.41 This diversion to Corpus Christi caused a mysterious “burst up” of the regiment, as apparently about 200 men refused to obey orders, met and appointed their own officers, and moved on to the east.42 The exact date of this “burst up” is not certain, and may have occurred in late February. These men would remain gone from the regiment until May 1865, when all but 30 or 40 of them (who were said to have crossed the Rio Grande) returned to the regiment.43  Little is known about the activities of the Fourth regiment between March and May 1865.

What was the final fate of the regiment? Here we run into something of a mystery, for there seems to be more than one answer to that question. Stewart Sifakis, in THE COMPENDIUM OF THE CONFEDERATE ARMIES, states that at the end of the war, the Fourth Regiment was stationed in Cooke County, in northern Texas, that the regiment had committed depredations against the local inhabitants, and that the regiment was, as a result, being pursued by other Confederate troops at the close of the war.44

However, there are newspaper reports indicating that, as of May 9, 1865, the regiment was stationed in Harrisburg, Texas (near Houston). On May 19, 1865, the HOUSTON TRI-WEEKLY TELEGRAPH published a letter, signed by Lt. Colonel Showalter on behalf of the regiment, which stated the determination of the Fourth Regiment to “repel the foe who dare to assail us or perish in the attempt.” This letter does not state the location of the regiment, but it was likely still in the Houston area (although one source places it near Palmito Ranch, near Brownsville, Texas). A May 23, 1865 article in the same newspaper states that the regiment had been ordered to Houston, and indicates that it broke up at about this time.45

All this begs the question…if the Regiment was in the Houston area at the end of the war, how could it also be in Cooke County, in northern Texas…some 300 miles away…being pursued by other Confederate troops at the same time? Which of these alternate scenarios is true? Or could both be true? Perhaps the regiment had, once again, been divided into two battalions as had taken place during the fall of 1863. Although there is no surviving record of this, that does not deny the possibility.

Another possibility is that the troops referred to by Sifakis are, in fact, the 200 or so troops which left the regiment during the February/March 1865 “burst up.” The activities of these men during the roughly two months they were “absent without leave” from the Fourth Regiment have not been documented, and it is not beyond the realm of possibility that they, or part of them, might have gone to north Texas before returning to the regiment. Some portion of them may have remained there to be pursued by the other Confederate troops in the region, as stated by Sifakis. This would seem to be denied, however, by the May 1865 HOUSTON TRI-WEEKLY TELEGRAPH article cited previously, which states that all but “30 or 40” of the absent soldiers returned, and that those 30 or 40 who did not return crossed the Rio Grande.

And last but not least, recent research by Dr. William Burns of Houston, Texas, has suggested yet another possibility…a case of mistaken identity. The former commander of the Fourth Regiment, Colonel Spruce M. Baird, was given authority, in June 1864, to raise a command of 100 men for the purpose of harassing Union supply trains on the Santa Fe Trail.46  Furthermore, it appears that in the following month, this proposed force was expanded from 100 men to a proposed regiment, and Baird was authorized to raise a battalion of cavalry, which would be combined with another battalion under Colonel M.W. Sims to form the new Regiment. Baird apparently completed recruiting for this battalion by October 1864. Despite the fact that he had resigned his command of the Fourth Regiment in February 1864, Baird was apparently still being referred to during this period in dispatches and newspaper articles as “Col. Baird, 4th Arizona Regiment.”47

Furthermore, an affidavit made by a Confederate deserter, one William J. Davis, to Union authorities on May 3, 1865, states that this latter command of Baird’s was stationed at Gainesville, Texas…in Cooke County. It also states that this unit included “some of Quantrill’s and Anderson’s bushwhackers”…men who might well be ill-disciplined and inclined to commit depredations against the local inhabitants…and that the unit had mutinied when ordered to leave Gainesville and move to Hempstead, Texas.48 And finally, a report in the HOUSTON TRI-WEEKLY TELEGRAPH for May 24, 1865 describes the capture of Baird’s command by two Confederate regiments near Gainesville, Texas on or about May 1, 1865.

Could Sifakis have mistakenly identified this latter command of Colonel Baird’s with the Fourth Regiment? Very possibly. But whether he did or he didn’t, it appears that the vast majority of the Fourth Regiment (save, perhaps, the 30 or 40 who crossed the Rio Grande to become renegades, never to return) stood by their colors to the end.

What, then, can finally be said of the Arizona Brigade? In effect, the Arizona Brigade was a microcosm of the entire Confederate army, and its men displayed both the best and the worst qualities of the Confederate fighting man. The regiments of the Arizona Brigade left records both of valor, and of infamy. They produced both heroes and renegades. And somewhere in between was the vast majority, who did their duty to the best of their ability, saw the war through to the end, and remained true to their colors. And in the end, isn’t that all that really matters?



 1Brigadier General Henry Hopkins Sibley, report to General Samuel Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector General of the C.S. Army, May 4, 1862, reprinted in Calvin P. Horn and William S. Wallace, CONFEDERATE VICTORIES IN THE SOUTHWEST: PRELUDE TO DEFEAT, Albuquerque, New Mexico: Horn and Wallace, 1961, pp 156-157, hereafter cited as Horn and Wallace.

2An excellent discussion of the efforts of Arizona secessionists to regain their lost Territory is found in L. Boyd Finch, “Arizona in Exile: Confederate Schemes to Recapture the Far Southwest,” JOURNAL OF ARIZONA HISTORY, Spring 1992, pp 57-84, hereafter cited as Finch, “Arizona.”

3Orders from Secretary of War Randolph to Governor Baylor, April 14, 1862, reprinted in Horn and Wallace, p. 200.

4Finch, “Arizona,” p. 62.

5Odie Faulk, JOHN ROBERT BAYLOR: CONFEDERATE GOVERNOR OF ARIZONA. Tucson, Arizona: Arizona Pioneers Historical Society, 1966, pp 13-15.

6Finch, "Arizona," p. 62.

7Finch, "Arizona," pp 62-64.

8Stewart Sifakis, COMPENDIUM OF THE CONFEDERATE ARMIES--TEXAS. New York: Facts on File, 1995, pp 37-40. Hereafter cited as Sifakis.

9Sifakis, pp 39-40.

10Sifakis, p. 40.

11Alvin M. Josephy, THE CIVIL WAR IN THE AMERICAN WEST, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991, p. 212.

12Report of Col. Charles de Morse to Captain T. P. Ochiltree, Assistant Adjutant General, April 21, 1864, in THE WAR OF THE REBELLION: THE OFFICIAL RECORDS OF THE UNION AND CONFEDERATE ARMIES, Series I, Volume 34, Part I1, pp 846-848 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1900), hereafter cited as WAR OF THE REBELLION.

13Josephy, p. 212.

14Robert Lee Kerby, KIRBY SMITH’S CONFEDERACY. New York: Columbia University Press, 1972, p. 312. Hereafter cited as Kerby.

15Kerby, p. 312.

16Sifakis, p. 44; National Archives, Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers, record of Major Sherod Hunter, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, Arizona Brigade.

17Sifakis, p. 44.

18All details of this account are from L. Boyd Finch, "Surprise at Brashear City: Sherod Hunter’s Sugar Cooler Cavalry," LOUISIANA HISTORY, Vol. XXV (1984), pp.403-434.

19Sifakis, p. 49.

20Sifakis, p. 49.

21Josephy, pp 176-177.

22Josephy, p. 186.

23Josephy, p. 200-201.

24Josephy, p. 200-201.

25Josephy, pp 201-206

26Finch, "Arizona," pp 59-62; Sifakis, p. 52.

27Sifakis, p. 52.

28Finch, "Arizona," pp 64-65.

29Finch, "Arizona," p. 65.

30A report to Brigadier General Gano by Lt. B.G. Duval, Acting Assistant Adjutant General of the Confederate Headquarters District of the Indian Territory, 30 November 1863, states that Lt. Colonel Showalter and “his battalion” were at Fort Washita in the Cherokee Nation and were being ordered to report to Brigadier General H. E. McCulloch at Bonham Texas, see WAR OF THE REBELLION, Series I, Volume 22, Part II, pp 1083-1084 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1900). Also, on December 15, 1863, Captain Edmund P. Turner, Assistant Adjutant General of the Headquarters District of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, sent orders to Colonel Baird, who was presently in Brazoria County, Texas (on the Gulf Coast), to “collect all the men of your command, including Colonel Showalter’s companies in the Indian Territory, and proceed without the least delay to San Antonio”...see WAR OF THE REBELLION, Series I, Volume 26, Part II, p. 509. This again documents that the regiment had been divided. Finally, the size of Showalter’s Battalion is given in a report from Colonel John S. Ford to Captain E. P. Turner, dated 31 March 1864, which states that “Lieutenant Colonel Showalter arrived yesterday with five companies”...see WAR OF THE REBELLION, Series I, Volume 34, Part II, p. 1106.

31The assignment of the 4th Regiment to Ford’s command was per orders issued to Colonel Ford by Captain Edmund P. Turner, Assistant Adjutant General, on December 22, 1863...see WAR OF THE REBELLION, Series I, Volume 26, Part II, p. 525. A report by Colonel John S. Ford, dated February 5, 1864, states that Colonel Baird (and presumably his battalion) was with him in San Antonio as of that date...see WAR OF THE REBELLION, Series I, Volume 34, Part II, p. 946. And yet Lt. Col. Showalter’s Battalion did not join Ford’s command until 31 March...see WAR OF THE REBELLION, Series I, Volume 34, Part II, p. 1106.

32Kerby, p. 195.

33Kerby, pp 194-195.

34Finch, "Arizona," p. 67.

35Colonel John S. Ford, report to Brigadier General J. E. Slaughter, July 2, 1864, in WAR OF THE REBELLION, Series I, Volume 34, Part I, pp 1054-1056; see also BIOGRAPHICAL SOUVENIER OF THE STATE OF TEXAS, Chicago, Illinois: F.A. Battey and Company, 1889, p. 302. The affair at Rancho Las Rinas is called variously “Rancho las Rucias,” “Rancho Las Rinas,” and “Rancho las Ruoinas” in the various sources.

 36John S. Ford, R.I.P. FORD’S TEXAS, Stephen B. Oates, ed., Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1987, p. 368. Hereafter cited as Ford.

37Ford, p. 374.

38Kerby, p. 370; Finch, "Arizona," p. 69.

39Regimental Returns for Baird’s Regiment, Texas Cavalry, also known as 4th Regiment, Arizona Brigade, June-December 1864, on microfilm at at a library in San Antonio, Texas, show that at least part of the regiment was stationed at Camp Hood, near Brownsville, during this period. And the February 8, 1865 order for the 4th Regiment to move to Houston is found on a list of original documents relating to John S. “R.I.P.” Ford held by the Nita Stewart Haley Memorial Library in Midland Texas. Both of these were researched by Dr. William Burns III of Houston, Texas, descendant of Private William Burns, Company G, 4th Regiment, Arizona Brigade, to whom the author is deeply indebted for his kindness in researching not only these and other sources, but especially the HOUSTON TRI-WEEKLY TELEGRAPH and other Texas newspapers to which the author had no access.

40Major General John Slaughter, January 30, 1865, in THE WAR OF THE REBELLION, Series I, Volume 48 (Part I), p 1355.

41Report of Major A.M. Jackson, Tenth U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, to Lt. Col. C.T. Christtensen, Assistant Adjutant General, Military Division of West Mississippi, March 16, 1865, in WAR OF THE REBELLION, Series I, Volume 48 (Part I), p. 1190. Major Jackson states that the Fourth Regiment was, at the time, on its way from Brownsville to Galveston, but this is probably an error.

42HOUSTON TRI-WEEKLY TELEGRAPH, March 22, 1865. Possible dating for this “burst up” may possibly be found in an "Abstract from Return of the Western Sub-District of Texas, Brig. Gen. James E. Slaughter, C.S. Army, commanding, for February 1865" found in THE WAR OF THE REBELLION, Series I, Volume 48 (Part I), p. 1407. This abstract shows that, as of the end of February 1865, a total of 291 out of 520 men of the Fourth Regiment, Arizona Brigade, were assigned to the Western Sub-District of Texas. Where were the other 229 men? Might these be the “about 200 men” referred to in the TELEGRAPH article? A notation from the papers of John S. Ford, located in the Nita Stewart Haley Memorial Library in Midland, Texas, states that the Yankees were expected to attack Corpus Christi on or about March 1, so it makes sense that the diversion to Corpus Christi…and thus the “burst up”…would have been made in late February.


44Stewart Sifakis, COMPENDIUM OF THE CONFEDERATE ARMIES--TEXAS, New York: Facts on File, 1995, p. 52. 

45HOUSTON TRI-WEEKLY TELEGRAPH, May 9, 10, 19, and 23, 1865. L. Boyd Finch, CONFEDERATE PATHWAY TO THE PACIFIC: MAJOR SHEROD HUNTER AND ARIZONA TERRITORY, C.S.A., Tucson, Arizona: Arizona Historical Society, 1996, p. 223, states that as of May 19, Lt. Colonel Showalter and the Regiment were encamped near Palmito Ranch, but no confirmation of this has been located for this in other sources.

46Major General John Bankhead Magruder, orders to Brigadier General Boggs, June 6, 1864, in WAR OF THE REBELLION, Series I, Volume 34 (Part IV), pp 650-651.


48Affidavit of William J. Davis, May 3,1865, in WAR OF THE REBELLION, Series I, Volume 48 (Part II), pp 375-376.


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