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THE ADVANCE OF THE CALIFORNIA COLUMN
TO ARIZONA AND NEW MEXICO.

In early 1862, Colonel James H. Carleton, commander of the District of Southern California and the First California Volunteer Infantry, was ordered by Brigadier-General George Wright, commander of the Department of the Pacific, to organize, equip and lead an expedition from Southern California through Arizona, into New Mexico to reinforce the Department of New Mexico and aid in the expelling of the Confederate forces then in New Mexico.

The Confederate Army of the Southwest, was then advancing up the Rio Grande in its conquest of New Mexico.  The Army of the Southwest was under the command of Brigadier General Henry H. Sibley, formerly a major who had served in New Mexico.  Sibley had been to Richmond, talked to President Davis, and convinced him to take New Mexico, then California, and then the South would have control of the southern route, and eventually have the Pacific Coast. By mid 1861, all of the regular troops with the following exceptions, had been withdrawn to the East and the seat of the rebellion.  The troops remaining in the southwest and the Pacific Coast were as follows:


9th U.S. Infantry in Department of the Pacific.
3rd U.S. Artillery in Department of the Pacific
5th U.S. Infantry in Department of New Mexico.

These regulars were to remain in their respective Departments until the end of the war. The exception is, several batteries of the 3rd Artillery were ordered east in 1863.  By then the Department of the Pacific had more than adequate soldiers to defend the Pacific Coast.

The California Volunteers who were involved with the march from California to the Rio Grande and into western Texas were as follows:

1st California Volunteer Infantry

Colonel James H. Carleton, Lieut. Col. Joseph R. West; Colonel Joseph R. West
Company A, Capt. Edward B. Willis
Company B, Capt. Valentine Drescher
Company C, Capt. William McMullen
Company D, Capt. Hugh A. Gorley
Company E, Capt. Thomas L. Roberts
Company F, Capt. Washington L. Parrin
Company G, Capt. Henry A. Green
Company H, Capt. Bernard J. McMahon
Company I, Capt. William P. Calloway
Company K, Capt. William Moore

5th California Volunteer Infantry

Colonel George W. Bowie
Company A, Capt. Joseph Smith
Company B, Capt. Charles A. Smith
Company C, Capt. John S. Thayer
Company D, Capt. William ffrench
Company E, Capt. Benjamin F. Harrover
Company F, Capt. James H. Whitlock
Company G, Capt. Hugh L. Hinds
Company H, Capt. Sylvester Soper
Company I, Capt. Joseph Tuttle
Company K, Capt. Thomas Theo. Tidball

1st California Volunteer Cavalry

Lieut. Col. Edward E. Eyrie; Maj. David Fergusson Company A, Capt. William McCleave
Company B, Capt. Emil Fritz
Company C, Capt. Edward D. Shirland
Company D, Capt. Nathaniel J. Pishon
Company E, Capt. William C. Mead

2nd California Volunteer Cavalry

Company B, Capt. John C. Cremony

3rd United States Artillery

Light Battery A, First Lieut. John B. Shinn

Thompson's Howitzer Battery

First Lieut. William A. Thompson, Company E, 1st California Volunteer Infantry

This command was composed of men from various companies and were assigned to duty under Lieut. Thompson.  This Unit was composed of  2 12-pounder Mountain Howitzers mounted on Prairie Carriages, drawn by mules.  This battery is referred to by some as the "Jackass Battery".

Due to an extremely wet rainy season in the winter of 1861 and 1862, in Southern California, getting transportation ready and waiting for roads to dry out, getting required stores to support the advancing 2,300 men devolved upon Colonel Carleton.  By February 1862, he had his advance units at Fort Yuma, on the Colorado River.

After the muster in of additional California Volunteers, Colonel Carleton, in a series of troops replacements to outlying Southern California posts had concentrated his troops, and in a series of slow movements by detachments, marched them from Los Angeles to Fort Yuma, 250 miles to the east and south.

The troops were now concentrated, supply lines were established by sea from San Francisco, San Pedro, and a base of deembarking in the Gulf of California was established.  Also, a Supply Depot on the Arizona side of the Colorado was established -- all was ready for the march of the Column from California.

Carleton's orders and directives prescribed a precise line and method of march, to be accomplished by detachments along the now abandoned Overland Mail Route -- using their Stations and watering facilities as his line of march.  The men on the march, as ordered by Colonel Carleton, would carry their knapsacks and all of their equipments on their person.  This was hard, but Carleton wanted his men hardened for the hardships that were to come.  These detachments, from one to two companies, would march with an interval of twenty-four hours between them.  They were to march at night, to keep them out of the hot sun of the day.  The cavalry for the most part, walked their horses over half the distance to Tucson, so that they would be fresh when needed.

The first detachments, 24 hours in advance, were to clean out and enlarge the water holes, clean and enlarge the springs so that the water capacity would be larger so that the next detachment would have enough water.  The following detachments would clean and enlarge if the leading detachment did not get it accomplished.
  But due to a extra hot and dry spring in Arizona and a very extremely hot summer, reaching 115 degrees in the shade at Fort Yuma, this did not completely work out as planned.  Some watering holes were drying up, which necessitated the troops having to make an extra small march to the Gila River for water.

The distance from Fort Yuma to Tucson, which followed the abandoned Overland Mail Route, along the Gila River, was 273 miles.  This route varied from almost on the river to at some points 10 miles south of the river.  The hardest part was the Gila Bend cut off, which was a 40 miles stretch with little or no water.

The main march commenced in February 1862, and the last units of the column were in Tucson by August 1862, and the advance were already well into New Mexico and into western Texas.

At the Pima Villages, Mr. Amni White had established a Flour Mill and purchased wheat and other crops from the Pima and Maricopa Indians who were friendly with the Americans.  These Indians were farmers, and with an almost continual flow of the Gila River, provided water and their farms flourished.  They grew melons, fruits and some vegetables, and wheat, which was used for flour.  Thus, the Column would have amply supply along the line of march.  Hay was stacked at the Stage Stations along the Gila for the animals of the command.

The Confederate troops, in February, 1862, under Captain Sherod Hunter, occupied Tucson, and then sent his scouts out along the road to California.  As they passed the stacked hay, the stockpiles were destroyed, thus creating a forage supply for the column.  Mr. Amni White was captured, and all stocks at his mill were confiscated by the Confederates. Being unable to take this flour  and other supplies with them, gave them to the Indians.

A brief list of affairs, are here listed concerning the various encounters with the forces of the Confederate States and the Apache Indians during their march to the Rio Grande.

Stanwix Station, Capture of Captain McCleave, Battle of Picacho Pass, Eyrie's Affair in Apache Pass, and the Battle of Apache Pass.  All of these affairs happened from April to July 1862 in Arizona during the march.  These will all be addressed in later articles.

The advance for the most part went as planned, but had a few minor setbacks, due to Confederate troops, Apache Indians, an extremely hot spring and summer, and a scarcity of water, as the desert heated up.  Also including the destruction of much needed forage and supplies by Hunter's command.

Going back to late 1861, Lieut. Col. John R. Baylor upon his advancement into Mesilla, New Mexico, created the Confederate Territory of Arizona, the northern boundary being the the 34 degree of latitude, the southern boundary the boundary of Mexico, the eastern boundary the Rio Grande River and the western boundary the Colorado River.  Mesilla was designated as the Capitol of the Territory, and Baylor proclaimed himself governor of the new territory. This was all later confirmed by the Congress of the Confederate States, keeping the same boundaries and governor.

The 1st California Cavalry was the first unit to start the advance into Arizona.  Captain William McCleave, Company A led the advance.  Captain McCleave taking a escort of 9 men, rode in advance of his company for a juncture with Mr. Amni White at the Pima Villages.  Capt. McCleave left his escort at a water hole and went forward with two men to White's Mill.  Here he was surprised and captured by Capt. Hunter, on March 6, 1862.  The remainder of Captain McCleave's escort was also captured and taken captive.  They were paroled the next day, March 7, 1862.  These paroled troops retreated back westward and informed Col. Eyrie of the capture of McCleave.  The capture of Captain McCleave will be dealt with in a later article.

In the meanwhile, Hunter's men destroyed the stockpiles of hay that had been gathered along the line of march,  this was done at six of the stations to the westward of the Pima Villages. This was again a cause of delay for Carleton.  So far, his stocks of hay had been destroyed, his favorite Captain captured, and the pile of accumulated supplies at Pima Villages was either destroyed or given back to the Indians by Captain Hunter.

The advance again moved forward, this time under Captain William Calloway, with his command,  Company I. 1st California Infantry, Capt. Calloway, 97 rank and file;  Company A, First Lieut. James  Barrett, 83 rank and file;  Company D, 1st California Cavalry, Capt. Nathaniel Pishon, 92 rank and file; Lieut. Phelan's "Jackass Battery" 2 12-pounder Mountain Howitzers, which carried on pack mules, a total of 274 rank and file.  The command advanced to Stanwix Station, 80 miles west of Fort Yuma.  Here, two  Confederate soldiers while scouting to the west, surprised two of the pickets of the command.  Shots were  exchanged and one man was wounded.  The two Confederate scouts retreated eastward to  inform Hunter that there was a general advance into  Arizona by the Union forces. This incident occurred in late March.

Calloway advanced forward to the Pima Villages, and there was informed again of Capt.McCleaves capture, and also that there was Confederate force at Picacho Pass Station, on his line of march.  Calloway, when a day and a half march out of Pima Villages, planned a pincer movement, sending two lieutenants with a small force each, to encircle the Confederates from the south and he would continue along the main road and take them in front.  Due to delays, and an impulsive Lieutenant Barrett, who was well ahead of the others, encountered the Confederates and a fight ensued resulting in Barrett's death.  Three Confederates were captured and three Union soldiers killed. The Battle of Picacho Pass was fought April 15, 1862. This Battle will also be addressed in a later article.  Calloway, then heard that there was a very strong force in Tucson, of  some 500 men who were well entrenched.  He decided upon a retreat, believing that he was badly outnumbered.  He retired back to the Pima Villages, and continued westward until meeting  Lieut. Col.  West, First California Infantry who was moving  forward.  Calloway then again advanced, now with  sufficient  reinforcements towards Tucson.  The plan that was visioned by Carleton, was to capture Tucson  and Hunter's command  intact, but after Picacho Pass fight, surprise was now out of the question.

The advance of the troops towards Tucson continued.  On May 20,  1862, Captain Emil Fritz, Company B, 1st California Cavalry charged into the town from the west, while another company charged in from the east.  But, the Confederate forces had previously evacuated the Post of Tucson, May 14, 1862.  The Confederates were gone.

The command that entered Tucson, came not by the direct route from the Pima Villages, but by another route through Fort Breckenridge, on the junction of the San Pedro River and Arivaipa Creek.  The Stars and Stripes were raised over Fort Breckenridge, and the post was renamed Fort Sanford, in honor of the governor of California.  West then continued his advance to Tucson, leaving a garrison at Fort Sanford, where he arrived May 21, 1862.

Lieutenant Shinn, accompanied by two companies of infantry, advanced by the direct road, leaving the Pima Villages on June 1, 1862 and arriving at Tucson, June 5th, 1862 Two days later, June 7th, 1862, General Carleton arrived on June 7th, 1862 to be greeted by a four gun salute from Shinn's Battery A.

Thus, the first half of the advancement was now accomplished with its many setbacks and delays, plus two encounters with Confederate forces during the march which commenced in February and ending with Carleton's arrival in Tucson.  This advancement took almost four months.  By all means not the fastest march ever conducted in military annals, but one has to consider the logistics involved, hot desert climate, lack of water, and unforeseen delays that impeded the first stage of the march.  When one takes into the account, from the very inception of the plan, the implementation of the plan, the gathering of forces, supplies, setting up the supply lines, from beginning to end, 6 months, then it would be considered a remarkable achievement.

General Carleton after seeing the the miserable conditions in Tucson, declared Martial Law, and on his own, created the Territory of Arizona, naming himself as governor and his adjutant Benjamin C. Cutler, Military Secretary of State.  With this order was established, apprehending brigands, murders, southern sympathizers, trying them before a Military Tribunal, and either sentencing them to imprisonment at Fort Yuma or expelling them from the territory.

All of the rolling equipment was in a very sad state, and required extensive repairs.  The wheels of the wagons were shrunk, wagon boxes badly deteriorating, and all harness was in a stage of drying out and breaking.  All of these necessary repairs, including shoeing of mules and horses would be required before further advancement to the Rio Grande could be continued.

Two depots were established, the Quartermaster Depot at the Plaza de las Arman, and the Overhail Depot at the Plaza De La Mesilla., where the Overland Mail Company had its repair facilities located.  Once these depots were established the repair of the rolling stock was begun almost immediately.

Tucson then was established as the major depot between Arizona Depot on the Colorado River and Mesilla, New Mexico.  From this point, all repairs and transfer of supplies occurred.  Tucson had become supplier to many of the outlying smaller posts, picket stations, etc. in southern Arizona. This was to remain so until the final departure of the California Volunteers in 1866.

After all affairs were in order, within a short period of time, Carleton continued his advance to the Rio Grande.

The first unit pushed forward, under the command of Lieut. Col. Edward E. Eyrie, First California Cavalry, with Companies A, B, and C.  Eyrie's march was uneventful until he reached Apache Pass, June 29, 1862, 125 miles east of Tucson on the Overland Mail Route.  Here, while watering his horses and men, there occurred an affair with the Apache Indians, which resulted in the death of three of his men.  A short pursuit was given but there were no results. This affair will also be dealt with in a later article.  Eyrie then proceeded out of the pass and when out in the flat country encamped for the night.  During the night, shots were fired in to the camp, slightly wounding the Assistant Surgeon and killing a horse.

The next day, Eyrie continued his march along the mail route, and on July 4, 1862, raised the Stars and Stripes over abandoned Fort Thorn on the Rio Grande River.

Lieut. Col. Eyrie established contact with Colonel Chivington, First Colorado Volunteers at Fort Craig, New Mexico, and commanding the District of Southern New Mexico.  Eyrie wanted to continue his advancement on to Mesilla,  but was overruled by Colonel Chivington, and then later Colonel Howe, who superceded Col. Chivington in the command of the district.  Eyrie, after all being a guest in this district and department, followed the orders of the District Commanders.

At this time, July 6, 1862, Captain William McCleave was exchanged for two Confederate Lieutenants who were prisoners of the Union forces.  Mr. Jones, the expressman, sent by General Carleton, who had been captured, also was returned.   These men were held as prisoners in Mesilla, by Colonel  William Steele, 7th Texas Mounted Volunteers, whose force numbered from 400 to 600 men, exact figures are unknown. 400 and 600 men.

The next command to make the march from Tucson to the Rio Grande, was Captain Thomas Roberts, Company E, 1st California Infantry.  Robert's command, consisted of the following troops, Company E, 1st California Infantry, Company B, 2nd California Cavalry, Capt. John C. Cremony, Lieut. William A. Thompson's Howitzer Battery, consisting of two 12-pounder Mountain Howitzers on Prairie Carriages, his small battery was organized from the companies of the 1st California Infantry.  Also accompanying this command, was a Wagon Train consisting of twenty-two wagons, under Wagon Master Mr. Jesse Allen.  Roberts force consisted of 126 men including the teamsters.

His line of march was along the Overland Mail Route, from Cieneiga, San Pedro Crossing, Dragoon Spring, thence to Ewell's Springs and into Apache Pass and then to the Station at San Simon, where he was to set up a forward supply point, for the other advancing detachments of the California Column. Roberts' march went well until he entered Apache Pass, July 15, 1862, when  the rear of his command was attacked by Apaches.  Roberts fought his way to the Station, and there deployed his small force and fought the Indians for about six hours, finally driving them off, after using the howitzers.  Roberts had previously divided his command, leaving Captain Cremony with the cavalry who were advancing to Ewell's Spring.  Roberts, after getting water, retired to the western summit of the pass, and left a small detachment there.  He then retired to Ewell's Springs to insure the safety of the wagon train.  Roberts had dispatched a small cavalry detachment from the pass to warn Cremony of the fight with the Indians.  This detachment was attacked by about 50 Apaches when it was out of the pass and into the flat country.

A running fight ensued, and several horses were killed, one private wounded, and one private cut off and driven to the south.  This last private made a one man stand against about fifteen Apaches.  Private Teal's story will be related later in another article.

After getting the command reorganized, Captain Roberts again advanced into Apache Pass July 16th, and again a fight ensued with the Apaches over the spring.  After a short fight, the Apaches, when again fired upon by the howitzers of Thompson's Battery, retreated in haste over the ridge.  Watering was then accomplished and Roberts left the pass and passed out into the flat country and on to San Simon Station, where he established a small forward supply point as ordered.  The Battle of Apache Pass, July 15 and 16, 1862, will be covered in another article, dealing with the affairs, battles, skirmishes, encountered during the march.  Also, to make mention of a mascot involved in the fight, Old Butch and his story, will also be covered in an article about Old Butch.

Captain Cremony, with his company, was to escort the empty wagons back to Tucson.  Cremony did not use the Pass Road, as his command was not large enough, and the safety of the wagons was paramount.  Cremony's return was uneventful and the wagons all arrived safely back at the Tucson Depot.  Roberts sent dispatches with Captain Cremony, and in them he highly recommended the establishment of a post in the pass, as that each advancing detachment would also have to fight for water.

The next detachment sent forward, was accompanied by General Carleton.  When in the Apache Pass, Carleton wrote General Order No. 25,  July 27, 1862 establishing the post in the pass to be named Fort Bowie, in honor of Colonel George W. Bowie, commanding officer of the Fifth California Infantry.  Carleton's order was quite explicit, in him he wanted the post supplied and armed, who was to be the garrison and also the post commander.

Carleton then moved on to the Rio Grande, and arrived there August 7, 1862, at a point three miles of Fort Thorn.  Following on Carleton's heels were the remainder of the California Column.  Carleton, whose command numbered 1493 officers and men, was concentrated on the Rio Grande, and ready to do battle.  The California troops were not engaged with the Confederate forces, as they had all retired into Texas.

The California troops now manned posts from Fort Yuma to Mesilla, New Mexico. A major supply and repair facility at Tucson, a garrison at Fort Bowie, at El Reventon, Tubac, San Pedro Crossing, and even abandoned Fort Buchanan.  The California troops occupied posts in west Texas, Fort Davis, Fort Quitman, Fort Bliss, and Franklin, Texas, as well as several posts along the Rio Grande.  Now ensued not fighting Confederates as was the original intentions of the War Department and the Department Commander General Wright, but a three year constant warfare with the hostile Indians of Arizona and New Mexico, the Apaches and the Navajos of northern New Mexico.

The Territory of Arizona was now divided into two Military Districts, the District of Western Arizona, headquarters at Tucson, Major David Ferguson, 1st California Cavalry as the commander, and the District of Arizona, headquarters at Mesilla, New Mexico,  commanded by Colonel Joseph R. West.  In October 1862, Carleton was ordered to the command of the Department of New Mexico, but through his insistence, he retained the California Column under his command until the end of the war.

In summing up the march of the California Column, from January to August, 1862, when the volunteers were gathered at Fort Yuma, 2,350 rank and file, marched from Yuma to the Rio Grande and into Texas, a distance of over 1,000 miles, establishing and manning depots, forts and other points, under the harshest of conditions in itself is a remarkable feat due to the planning and foresight of General Carleton.  Also, the fortitude and resolve of the Volunteer Soldiers who accomplished this feat, who died and suffered extreme hardships to serve their country in her time of need.

Written by Arnold Franks
Copyright © 2000 Arnold Franks

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