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With the establishment of the Confederate Territory of Arizona, first by Lieut. Col. John R. Baylor, 2nd Texas Mounted Rifles, August 1, 1861 and then the signing and confirmation by President Jefferson Davis on January 8, 1862, the southern half of the Federal Territory of New Mexico, all of the area south of the 34th parallel, the Colorado River to the west, the Rio Grande River to the east, which included only two counties, Dona Ana and Arizona, constituted the new Confederate Territory of Arizona, the capitol being designated as Mesilla.

General Sibley then planned to take his army, The Army of New Mexico, north and  capture New Mexico and procure all supplies, arms and ammunition at Fort Union, the main Ordnance and Quartermaster Depot for the southwest.  He would send Colonel Reily, into Sonora to open negotiations with Governor Pesqueria for purchase of needed supplies from that sector, and also hopefully gain access to Sonoran seaports and routes for a supply line. The third part was to send Captain Sherod Hunter, Company A, Baylor's Regiment westward to Tucson, to establish his headquarters there.  He was also on this march to escort Colonel Reily to Tucson. Sibley outlined in detailed instructions, the tasks that he required of Captain Hunter.

The instructions set forth by Sibley, as given to Hunter, were numerous. He was instructed to establish his headquarters at or near Tucson. Also included was the scouting to the west as far as Fort Yuma and get reliable information from this sector and to forward it to the east. He was to establish contact with the Chief's of the Pima and Papago Indians and  make a peace treaty with them. Maintain law and order and assist the local Civil Authorities in maintaining order when called upon. He was also instructed to appoint a Customs and Duty Inspector, to collect customs, this money to be used to procure clothing, arms and other necessary items to sustain his command while in Arizona. A large order for such a remote and small command, that was to receive no assistance from Mesilla.

Captain Sherrod Hunter, with Company A, Baylor's Regiment, three lieutenants and not more than 65 enlisted men, departed Mesilla, Arizona and arrived at Tucson, February 28,  1862. His march was accompanied by Colonel Reily and his small escort to Tucson. Hunter's march was under the most severe and trying conditions imaginable. 

The winter of 1861-1862 was one of the most severe in nearly a century. The command encountered hard bone chilling wind, rain, sleet and even snow on this march.. At San Simon  and Apache Pass, it snowed on Hunter's command. At San Simon, Private Benjamin Mays  died and was buried there. To this day there is no knowledge as to where Mays lies buried,  one of the many who are buried along this desolate stretch of the Overland Mail Road, to remain  unknown until eternity.

Hunter and his men upon their arrival at Tucson was hailed by a majority. Tucson and many of the outlying areas, ones that were still left with inhabitants, had a large number of  southern sympathizers. Tucson being one of the last holdouts against Apache depredations, was then under threat of an Indian attack. Hunter's soldiers were a god send to the citizens, who now had military protection.

Once in Tucson, Colonel Reily with his escort under Lieutenant Tevis departed for Sonora, Mexico on March 3, 1862. Now Hunter went about his instructions, sending out  in all directions, to gather much needed supplies to sustain his command. From the Patagonia  Silver Mine, owned by Sylvester Mowry, formerly a 3rd Artillery officers, where he obtained 3000 percussion caps. Mowry was a southern sympathizer and he rendered full courtesies to Hunter's men when they were at his mine, some 60 miles south of Tucson. Hunter's men even went to Santa Cruz, Sonora to procure needed supplies, which is about 10 miles south of the International Boundary. 

Hunter's command were attired in civilian clothing, which they had when they enlisted in the Confederate Army. His men did not have uniforms of any description, no gray clothing at all. Also his men were armed with a wide variety of weapons, from shotguns, to military muskets, percussion and flintlock, a variety of Colt Army and Navy revolvers, and also included single shot pistols. Each man was responsible for his own ammunition, and had to procure what was available. These men were quartered where their was available space, and one can be assured that some of the poor peons of Tucson were displaced. The animals of Hunter's command were probably quartered in the old Overland Mail Station repair facility located at the Plaza de las Mesilla. After weather improved these men slept outside, using the  "Tucson Bed", lay on your stomach and cover that with your back-anywhere.

After getting his command settled in Hunter threw his scouts out to the west, along the  Overland Mail Road toward Fort Yuma. Hunter then with thirty men advanced westward to the Pima Villages arriving there about March 5th. Hunter immediately arrested Mr. Ammi White, the owner of a very productive flour mill. 

Mr. White had been stockpiling much needed supplies for the advance of the California Column. He purchased wheat, hay, fruits, melons, beans and other supplies from the friendly Pima and Maricopa Indians of this region. The Pimas and Maricopas were very successful farmer along the Gila River, which flowed year around during this period of history. They in tun sold their products to White, who in turn ground the wheat into flour. The stockpile of wheat that White had accumulated for the California troops was 1500 bushels.

Hunter while at the Pima Villages, heard rumors that a wagon train consisting of some 50 wagons was approaching. Hunter laid his plans to capture this wagon train. As it would result, there was no wagon train advancing, but Captain William McCleave was enroute to negotiate with White about the supplies. 

McCleave, rode in advance of his cavalry with a small detachment of 9 men. As McCleave drew near the Pima Villages, he left 7 men at a water hole, with two of his men rode to White's residence. Here, Hunter captured McCleave with his two men, and learned of the men at the water hole, sent some men out to capture them. This was done very successfully without any shots being fired. Hunter now knew for certain that the California Troops were advancing into Arizona. Hunter, not having the means of taking back any of the accumulated stores that were on hand at the Pima Villages, gave the wheat back to the Indians, took what could be carried on their mounts. What could not be moved was destroyed. Hunter also damaged White's Flour Mill, but not to the extent that it could be later repaired. Hunter now lingered at the Pima Villages, awaiting further developments. He then sent scouts out to the west along the Overland Mail Road. These scouts destroyed accumulated stockpiles of hay at six of the abandoned stations. After several days of lingering at the Pima Villages, Hunter decided to return to Tucson and their await further developments.

Unknown to Hunter at this time, General Sibley's Army of New Mexico was in full retreat from New Mexico. At the Battle of Glorietta Pass, Sibley's wagon train park had been destroyed by Major John R. Chivington with some of the Colorado troops. Sibley troops had stopped the advance of the Colorado troops, and had gained a victory, but with no supplies, arms or ammunition, Sibley was compelled to retire back down the Rio Grande. This retreat was closely followed by the Union forces but there were no major confrontations between the two  forces. Upon reaching Peralta, Sibley crossed to the west side of the Rio Grande, and thus  began a very disastrous retreat to Mesilla. These soldiers endured starvation, extremely inclimate weather conditions plus brushes with the Apaches. Sibley's route was strewn with deserted  wagons, dead and dying men and animals. This disaster I contribute to the total incompetence  of General Sibley, who no doubt rode in a wagon and had john barleycorn for a companion. Upon reaching Mesilla, and making the decision to continue his retreat to San Antionio, Texas, Sibley assigned Col. Frederick Steele, 7th Texas Mounted Rifles, with about 400 men to stay at Mesilla to await further developments. Steele had knowledge of the advancement of the California Column, as he had previously captured a federal courier Mr. Jones bearing dispatches from General Carleton to General Canby, commanding Department of New Mexico.

All of this Hunter was not aware of. He continued to follow the instructions given to him by Sibley and Baylor. Hunter and his men went about the task assigned, gathering what  supplies that he could, including much needed horses and mules. Beef cattle were also gathered  up, and what else could be gathered to keep his command functional. Clothing was in much  demand by Hunter's men, as their clothing was in tatters. He purchased what he could,  confiscated if he could not purchase needed items. 

After returning to Tucson, arriving there April 4, 1862. On April 6, 1862, Hunter had  the nine Union soldiers sign paroles then released them to return to Fort Yuma. Captain  McCleave and Mr. Ammi White were kept as prisoners. Hunter sent McLeave, White, and  his report, dated April 5, 1862, back to Mesilla under an escort commanded by Lieutenant  Jack Swilling.

Lieut. Col. Eyrie under orders from Colonel Carleton, ordered Captain William Calloway with his Company I, 1st California Infantry, Company A, 1st California Cavalry under Lieut. James Barrett, Company D, 1st California Cavalry, Captain Nathaniel Pishon, and a "Jackass Battery" under Lieutenant Phelan, Company B, 1st California Infantry to start the march to the Pima Villages. Calloway's command consisted of 274 officers and men, plus the two 12-pounder guns carried on pack mules. 

Calloway advanced to Stanwix Station, and there encamped his command for the night. Captain Pishon was trailing the main command a short distance. Stanwix Station had a wind  driven well and a fairly nice station. Calloway then posted his pickets and prepared for the night.  The Confederate scouts, reported to be about 30 men, came upon these posted pickets, both sides exchanging shots. One man, Private William Semmilragge, Company A, 1st California Cavalry, was slightly wounded. The pickets retreated to the camp sounding the alarm that Confederate Forces were approaching from the east. Calloway ordered a pursuit, Company A, while saddling their mounts, Captain Pishon arrived and was ordered in pursuit of the  Confederate force. After a short pursuit, Pishon's horses were tired and the pursuit had to be abandoned. This is the extreme western encounter between Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War where there was a armed confrontation. This affair or meeting, is not mentioned by many of the historians. Picacho Pass is always mentioned as the most extreme Battle of the Civil War, and then Picacho Pass at the least could be termed as a Skirmish.  This writer considers this an armed encounter, shorts fired, resulting in one man being wounded, the most western affair of the Civil War. 

The Confederate then retired back eastward to Tucson. At Picacho Pass, 10 men were stationed as a picket guard to keep an eye to the west. With the news of the advancement, Hunter who had less that 65 men, made the decision, that he would soon have to retire from Tucson back to Mesilla. Hunter in his final effort, started gathering what stores that he could, and getting ready for a fast retirement if need be.

Captain Calloway, now also with Company B, 1st California Cavalry, Capt. Emil Fritz, advanced to the Pima Villages. Here Calloway learned of the Confederate pickets at Picacho Pass. Calloway, decided then on a pincer movement, with the intention of capturing the pickets so that none would escape to Tucson and warn Hunter of his approach. On April 15, 1862, he  sent two Lieutenants, one to the east and one to the west on a march that would bring them  behind the Confederates while he continued on the main road to take them in the front. As is  subject to all well devised plans, they are subject to going wrong, and Calloway's plan did just  that. Lieutenant James Barrett, got ahead of the other lieutenant, and struck ahead of all others.  This resulted in the death of three Union soldiers, the capture of three Confederate soldiers, and  the escape of the seven remaining Confederates to Tucson. The dead soldiers were buried during  the night, and the next day Calloway retired back to the Pima Villages under protest of his  officers. Calloway had heard rumors of there being in Tucson, 500 to 1000 Confederate Troops,  and the town was well baricaded, and they were awaiting the Union advance. Picacho Pass,  termed the western most battle of the Civil War, but hardly much more than a heavy skirmish,  will be addressed in a later article, Battle of Picacho Pass.

One detachment, while out to the south and east of Tucson, had gathered a herd  of about 40 horses and mules, and were on their return to Tucson, when at Dragoon Spring, a adandoned Mail Station, the Apaches ambushed this force. There resulted a fight, in which three men were killed, Sergeant Ford, a Mexican named Ricardo, and the third was John Donaldson. All three were buried at Dragoon Spring, where they died. Today Ford's grave is marked by a rock with an inscription chiseled into it, S. Ford, May 5, 1862. The Apaches succeeded in running of the entire herd, 30 mules and 25 horses. There are no Confederate  Reports on this minor affair and the number of men involved is unknown. Supposidly there were three Union prisoners present. These men were given firearms to assist in the fight against the Apaches, as the Apaches cared not less if the men were Union or Confederate. All white men were their enemies. There are no names of these men, and all of McCleaves men who had been captured at the Pima Villages were paroled. There are no records of any desertions at this time from Company A, 1st California Cavalry. This is one of the little unsolved mysteries of Captain Hunter's period while at Tucson. Upon their return to Tucson, the affair was reported to Hunter. 

Captain Hunter again sent out Lieutenant Robert Swope, with about 30 men to recapture the stolen stock. On May 9, 1862, Swope and his men surprised the Apaches and a fight then ensued. Lieutenant Swope charged the Apaches and 5 of the Indians were killed, one of them personally by Swope, who shot the Apache as the warrior was aiming is bow with a ditted arrow at Swope. There were no Confederate losses reported. After regaining the herd Swope  and his men returned to Tucson with the much needed stock.

At this time, seeing that there was no possible way that he could no longer impede the advance of the California men, Hunter decided to withdraw from Tucson to the Rio Grande to Mesilla. 

On May 14, 1862, Captain Hunter abandoned the Post of Tucson and headed eastward  along the same route that he had traveled westward almost three months before. Lieutenant James Tevis, with a small detachment was left in Tucson to keep an eye on the advancing Union forces. On May 20, 1862, Captain Emil Fritz with Company B, 1st California Cavalry entered Tucson and almost capturing Tevis and his small detachment. Tevis was watching the main road westward for advancing Ynion troops, and was totally surprised when Fritz entered Tucson from the north, the Canada del Oro road, which was the route from Breckenridge. Tevis and his small command barely escaped from Tucson in a hasty retirement. Tucson was now occupied by the Union and to remain so until the end of the war. 

Hunter upon reaching Mesilla, discovered that only Colonel Steele and his command and the Arizona Company were there. That the Confederate forces under Sibley had retreated much earlier. Colonel Steele, aware of the advancing Union forces when about gathering what he  could in stock, arms and ammunition and anyother much needed supplies to sustain his command.

During this period, the Mexican population became very hostile toward the Texans due to their very high handed methods, including murderer and theft of private property. The people did not want Confederate script as it was totally worthless in this far flung area of war. Numerous affairs ensued, with the Mexicans who fought the Texans. Ambushes, Confederate  Troops were killed, and in retaliation Mexicans were killed. The country was becoming very inhospitable and with the arrival of Lieut. Colonel Eyrie on the Rio Grande July 4, 1862, Steele decided to abandon the Post of Mesilla as he knew that it would be impossible to hold in check the vastly superior numbers of Union troops. On July 8, 1862, Colonel Steele pulled out of Fort Fillmore, New Mexico, and rode to Franklin, Texas and eventually to San Antonio. The forces under Steele's command were in a miserable condition, and as they rode south from Fillmore, they took what they needed and wanted. 

This is a sad end to what only 7 months before, with the creation of the Territory of Arizona by Baylor, the advancement of General Sibley into New Mexico, with visions of conquering New Mexico and possibly even Denver, advancement through Arizona and into  Southern California and gaining valuable seacoast ports. The proposed negotiations with the Governors of Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico also fell by the side. A shattered dream never  to be realized by the Confederacy. The vast mining, agriculture resources, seaports, and the possibility also on the conquest of northern Mexican states to again much additional resources, to sustain the Confederacy were forever lost.

Captain Hunter, under trying circumstances, with his small command, and to the best of his ability completed most of his assigned instructions. He delayed the Union  advancement by 5 weeks, destroying much needed supplies gathered for the advancing Union forces, and keeping the Union forces in a turmoil. Hunter's men encountered the Union  forces on two occasions, resulting in the capture of three of his men who were prisoners at Fort  Yuma. Hunter and his men had numerous encounters with the Apaches in which he lost men.

Hunter and his men later formed part of the Arizona Brigade, fought in western Louisiana bringing upon themselves many laurels. These hard bitten Arizonians in Gray are a tribute to all who fought in the war. They were equal to any Confederate soldier who fought.
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Attached to this narrative are the only two known documents at the present, of the activities of Captain Sherod Hunter, one dated April 5, 1862, from Hunter to Baylor, attachment 1,and the other dated April 20, 1862, from Colonel Steele to Adjutant General  Cooper, attachment 2.

TUCSON, ARIZ., April 5, 1862.

SIR: After a march made as speedily as practicable from the Rio Grande, attended by some violently-stormy weather, but without any accident or misfortune save the loss of one of my men (Benjamin Mays), who died at the San Simon, I have the honor of reporting to you my arrival at this place on February 28. My timely arrival with my command was hailed by a majority, I may say the entire population, of the town of Tucson. I found rumors here to the effect that the town was about being attacked by a large body of Indians; that military stores of the Federal Army to a large amount had been landed at Guaymas, and that troops from California were on the march up the Gila River for this place; and these reports were so well accredited that a few of the citizens more ultra in their Southern feelings than the rest were about [leaving] rather than fall into the hands of their Northern foes, to sacrifice all of their interests in this place, and look for safety among their Southern brethren on the Rio Grande.

Immediately after the departure of Colonel Reily, on March 3, for Sonora, accompanied by  an escort of 20 men, under Lieutenant Tevis, I started with the rest of my command for the Pima Villages, where after the my arrival I negotiated friendly relations with the Indians; arrested A.M. White, who was trading with them, purchasing wheat, &c., for the Northern troops, and confiscated the property found in his possession; a list of which I send you. Among the articles confiscated were 1,500 sacks of wheat, accumulated by Mr. White, and intended for the Northern Army. This I distributed among the Indians, as I had no means of transportation, and  deemed this a better policy of disposing of it than to destroy or leave it for the benefit (should it fall into their hands) of the enemy.

While delaying at the Pima Villages, awaiting the arrival of a train of 50 wagons which was reported to be en route for that place for said wheat (which report, however, turned out to be untrue), my pickets discovered the approach of a detachment of cavalry, and which detachment, I am happy to say to you, we succeeded in capturing without firing a gun. This detachment  consisted of Captain McCleave and 9 of his men, First California Cavalry. The captain and  Mr. White I sent in charge of Lieutenant swilling to the Rio Grande.

I learned also while at Pimo Villages that at every station, formerly Overland, between that  place and Fort Yuma hay had been provided for the use of the Federal Government, which hay I have destroyed at six of the stations thus provided. My pickets on yesterday reported troops at Stanwix's Ranch, which is on this side of Fort Yuma 80 miles.

Allow me to say, in conclusion, that I have no opinion to offer in relation to all of these rumors that are afloat, but give them to you as I received them, knowing that your judgement and experience will dictate the proper course to pursue.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,

Captain, Company A.


Camp above Dona Ana, April 20, 1862.

General S. COOPER,
Adjutat and Inspector General:
GENERAL: I have the honor to inclose to you the written letter from Captain Hunter, C.S. 
Army, now at Tucson, N. Mex.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,

Colonel Seventh Texas Mounted Men.

O.R. Series I Volume 9, pages 707-708

Written by Arnold Franks
Copyright © 2000 Arnold Franks

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