Welcome to Military History Online   
uggs kensington ugg outlet ugg bailey button triplet moncler jassen ugg online moncler uk moncler outlet
MHO Home
Battles of the Southwest Home
The Bascom Affair
Arms and Equipment

California Column Advance
Confederate Invasion
Battle of Picacho Pass
Myths and Fallacies
Story of Old Butch
Official Reports
Oberly's Narrative
Dr Irwin's Medical Record
US Army HQ 1862
Mowry Letter to Coult
Phelan Ration Report


This part of the narrative of the Battle of Picacho Pass, Arizona, April 15, 1862, between U.S. Forces and C.S. Forces, will undertake to try and straighten out certain myths and fallacy's that have arisen concerning the fight 138 years ago. It is hoped by this writer, to attempt to bring out the incorrect stories of the fight and present the know facts to the reader, so that they may come to a sensible understanding of what happened 138 years ago. 
The ground itself, 138 years after the fight, is still and isolated site, situated on State Land, 45 miles north of Tucson, and still in a pristine condition except for modern day trash which was discarded by hunters who have thrown a lot of trash along the old Overland Mail Route which passes through Picacho Pass, midway between the Picacho Mountains on the East and the Picacho Peak a high volcanic spire rising to the west. One interesting thing, is the entirely different composition of the two high points. I am no geologist so will not venture to say what the Picacho Mountains consist of, but the Picacho Peak is volcanic, being dark in color as to light in color of the Picacho Mountains. Just to the east of the old Picacho Pass Station rises a small volcanic outcropping which is a prominent marker for the area. This small barren prominence which is just to the south and east of where the Picacho Pass Station is about halfway between the peak and the mountains. Interstate 10 and the Southern Pacific Rail Line are about one half mile to the West running parallel to the old Overland Mail Route which is just about in the center of the pass. From the location of the old station one can see the State Park on the slope of the peak on the West side of the highway. One can hear the rumble of the passing trains, and also the sound of passing vehicles as they pass the site, looking to the west to see where the battle took place. Not knowing that they are looking in the wrong direction, but only seeing the park and a rest stop for refreshment, gas and food.
Extensive research, done by five people, who I will list at the end of this article, have come primarily to the same conclusions as this writer has, only differing in small things. The findings we have come to are again I repeat, due to extensive research, traveling the routes on foot and by automobile, using old and outdated maps, modern maps, GPS positioning, aerial photographs, and numerous hours of discussing pro's and cons of the fight. As one passes by the Battle site now one will look to the Picacho Peak and exclaim, there is where the fight took place, not knowing they are looking in the wrong direction as so many myths and fallacy's have been written and told about the fight. It is the sole intention by this writer, to present the facts as they appeared to me and others and let them decided for themselves. Below are the facts as we have uncovered them and are presenting to the reader:
The Battle of Picacho Pass, as it is termed here in Arizona, was no more than a Skirmish by military standards. There was a total of 22 men who were involved in the fight But in Official Records, and all subsequent correspondence, reports, Newspaper Articles, and countless years of telling and retelling it is widely known and accepted as a battle instead of a skirmish.
There are many myths about the fight at the Picacho Pass, that have arose the last 138 years.  Very little research has been done concerning Picacho Pass, termed by many as the most western battle of the Civil War between Union and Confederate troops. The main fight itself was very brief, estimated from 1 hour to one and a half hours, more of a Apache Indian type of fighting, and what I term as a general melee. Men running around seeking advantageous cover to fire upon one another, then to reload and seek a new point of concealment to again fire. Nothing was organized, but was a total disorganized fight.
There are numerous claims as to Confederate soldiers being killed and wounded, and there is a claim by a descendent from Texas that she had a relative killed in the fight, including a photograph of the soldier. After very extensive research, this claim proved false, as the named soldier was in New Mexico at the time if the Picacho Pass fight. 
The so called wounded, numbering anywhere between 3 to 6 has also been not proven beyond any reasonable doubt. If there would have been wounded Captain Hunter would have said so in his report, as during his advancement from the Rio Grande to Tucson, he listed the name of one man who died at the San Simon Station. One Newspaper article, which will be attached to this article, lists Confederate losses, but again this is a Newspaper article probably to appease the readers, of such a one sided affair. Captain Calloway or others surely would have noted if there we any Confederates left wounded and dead in the vicinity, and it was not mentioned at all. Captain Calloway mentioned in his report did not know if there were any dead Confederates, but lists the items captured and the prisoners taken. If there were any dead or wounded left on the site, they would have been seen by the soldiers and the dead buried. There is no mention of his anywhere that we have found. The Confederates in their hasty retirement from the pass would not have taken any dead back to Tucson, or wounded, as this would have slowed the flight, and Captain Hunter or others would have noted it.
About one half mile to the west of the old station runs the Southern Pacific Railroad Line, and just beyond that is modern day Interstate 10. The Railroad when they built the line through the pass in 1880 supposedly ran parallel to the mail line of the 1858 thru the 1880 period. In the 1920's a railroad signalmen found and old wooden cross, supposedly having the inscription for the burial of Lieut. James Barrett and his fellow companions. When the graves were excavated, they hit a piece of wood which proved to be a crude coffin. One man reached inside, and removed an old piece of blanket and some bones. These were examined and in later years, proved to be the bones of a female, about 25 years of age, and upon examination of the blanket, it proved not to be an army blanket. The one thing here is that Lieutenant Barrett, Privates Johnson and Leonard were not buried in coffins, as there were not any coffins available. Generally, a soldier killed in battle in this part of the country, was normally rolled in his blankets and then buried, as numerous writing have described this. We have also come to the same conclusion. The three dead soldiers were rolled in their blankets and buried where they fell. 
The cross for the graves is now in the collection of the Arizona Historical Society, and I have examined it along with other people and have come to the conclusion, that the carvings of the names on the cross are just to sharp at the edges for being out to the elements for 60 years prior to discovery. The wood that the cross is made of also does not correspond with wood boards as they would have been cut and sawed in the 1860 period, much larger dimensions than those used today. Also the last is where would Calloway or one of his men come up with the boards for the cross. The last and most deciding factor on the cross, is the weathering of the wood. One has to look at the climatic weather conditions in the area. Picacho Pass usually had a daytime temperature in the summer months in excess of 100 degrees, the wind blows very hard through the pass and the wind driven sand will erode wood and adobe very badly. Then consider the rainy season. When the wind blows the rain in torrents, eroding wood to a certain extent. The very bottom of the cross, shows signs of being in the ground only for a few inches, and one side is kind of weather broken and the other side is still square. How could something buried so shallow stand for 60 years. The last true clincher, was that the cross arms has finishing nails holding it to the upwright led. Only square cut nails were used in the 1860's. These are the facts as presented for the reader to make up his own mind in the evidence presented. 
In later years, after the war, dates cannot be ascertained at this time, but somewhere between 1866 and 1874, two of the bodies were disinterred from the battle site and reinterned in the Government Cemetery in Tucson, then located at the Corner of Alemada Street and Stone Avenue. This Cemetery was closed in 1873 to any further burials. The Post Return for Camp Lowell, and Fort Barrett at the Pima Villages, have no record of the movements of the bodies.
Privates Johnson and Leonard in 1874, with the establishment of Fort Lowell, 7 miles to the east of Tucson, Johnson and Leonard were again disentered and reintered in the Fort Lowell Cemetery. Their grave numbers in the Fort lowell Cemetery were 24 and 25. In 1892, the Army Quartermaster ordered all soldiers buried in now abandoned army posts, to be reinterned in the National Cemetery at San Francisco. Johnson and Leonard made their final move to the National Cemetery in San Francisco where they now lay in final rest. Johnson is buried in grave 1366 Section West Side, and Leonard grave 1291 Section West Side. The above is all proved from research by myself and others as to who was buried and reburied from Picacho Pass, to Tucson and thence to San Francisco.

Now the real mystery is the whereabouts of Lieutenant James Barrett, also buried at Picacho Pass, April, 16, 1862. Where is James Barrett? There is some people who think that Capt. McCleave, had Barrett's body reburied somewhere else. That the two were old Dragoon friends from pre civil war days. This has been researched, and Capt. McCleave, then a private and ending up 1st Sergeant in Captain Carleton's Dragoon Company was stationed in either California or New Mexico. Barrett also a old 1st Dragoon soldier was stationed in Oregon and discharged there and then went to San Francisco. So far no connection has been determined that they knew each other. Captain McCleave was captured prior to Barrett's death, and would not have learned of it until July 1862, when he was released. From that point on McCleave
was in New Mexico and never returned to Arizona. After the Civil War, Major McCleave was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the 8th Cavalry, and did not serve in southern Arizona until his death in 1879. There is no evidence at the present time to link the two as being old buddies and McCleave having his body reburied. There is no evidence that Barrett was buried in Tucson Government Cemetery, Fort Lowell Cemetery or the National Cemetery in San Francisco. This writer received a letter from the Department of the Army, Arlington National Cemetery, from the office of the Administrator, and there is no record of Lieutenant James Barrett buried at Arlington National Cemetery. So where is Barrett? After all I have researched I have come to the conclusion that Second Lieutenant James Barrett, Company A, First California Volunteer Cavalry, lies in a lonely unmarked grave where he fell at the Picacho Pass Battle Site. I have given all the evidence great thought, and I have come to know this man and referred to him as Jimmy my lost Lieutenant. In the past I know I have been by his grave, but there is nothing to show a mound, a depression.
Every year on the anniversary date or as close as possible, there in a re enactment of the Battle of Picacho Pass, and each passing year it gets larger and larger. Now they have both Union and Confederates in opposing battle lines, and noted celebrities such as General Grant. There are monuments to the fallen Confederates and the Confederate Daughters are involved due to the myth that a Confederate soldier was killed at the site. The battle is fought in the State Park on the slopes of Picacho Peak, almost a mile from the original battle site.
There has been so many untruths, myths, and improper conducting, and misrepresentation of the battle of Picacho Pass, and probably in the future will get even more embedded and even more myths shall rise. But I guess that is the way people want it, not a group of 22 American Men fighting for their lives and beliefs on a barren desolate piece of desert, but a glorious colorful pageant.
In concluding I have tried with diligent research, reading, and walking the site, to present the Battle as it actually occurred, the myths and stories, and wrongs that have come from something so simple a straight forward and present them to the reader to come to their own conclusions of the real truth. I shall continue my research and hopefully uncover more facts and myths and present them as they unfold for the readers.
At this time there is underway, a project to get the Picacho Pass Battle Site and Picacho Pass Overland Mail on the National Register of Historical Places. The paper work is being written up and will be presented from the above article and hopefully in the future, we may strive to get a Proper US Government Gravestone placed on the site of Lieutenant Barrett's burial. 
These goals are being very earnestly pursued and we will succeed. 

Written by Arnold Franks
Copyright © 2000 Arnold Franks

 < Prev

Next >