March 2015 ~~~~ Editor:  Cliff Hanger ~~~~
Battle of Picacho Pass - Wikipedia 

The Battle of Picacho Pass or the Battle of Picacho Peak was an engagement of the American Civil War on April 15, 1862. The action occurred all around Picacho Peak, 50 miles (80 km) northwest of Tucson, Arizona. It was fought between a Union cavalry patrol from California and a party of Confederate pickets from Tucson, and marks the westernmost battle of the American Civil War.

Battle of Picacho Pass Monument 

After a Confederate force of about 120 cavalrymen arrived at Tucson from Texas on February 28, 1862, they proclaimed Tucson the capital of the western district of the Confederate Arizona Territory, which comprised what is now southern Arizona and southern New Mexico. Mesilla, near Las Cruces, was declared the territorial capital and seat of the eastern district of the territory. The property of Tucson Unionists was confiscated and they were jailed or driven out of town. Confederates hoped a flood of sympathizers in southern California would join them and give the Confederacy an outlet on the Pacific Ocean, but this never happened. California Unionists were anxious to prevent this, and 6,000 Union volunteers from California, known as the California Column and led by Colonel James Henry Carleton, moved east to Fort Yuma, California, and by May 1862 had driven the small Confederate force back into Texas.

Like most of the Civil War era engagements in Arizona (Dragoon Springs, Stanwix Station, and Apache Pass) Picacho Pass occurred near remount stations along the former Butterfield Overland Stagecoach route, which opened in 1859 and ceased operations when the war began. This skirmish occurred about one mile northwest of Pichaco Pass Station


Twelve Union cavalry troopers and one scout (reported to be mountain man Pauline Weaver but in reality Tucson resident John W. Jones), commanded by Lieutenant James Barrett of the 1st California Cavalry, were conducting a sweep of the Picacho Peak area, looking for Confederates reported to be nearby. The Arizona Confederates were commanded by Sergeant Henry Holmes. Barrett was under orders not to engage them, but to wait for the main column to come up. However, "Lt. Barrett acting alone rather than in concert, surprised the Rebels and should have captured them without firing a shot, if the thing had been conducted properly." Instead, in mid-afternoon the lieutenant "led his men into the thicket single file without dismounting them. The first fire from the enemy emptied four saddles, when the enemy retired farther into the dense thicket and had time to reload ... Barrett followed them, calling on his men to follow him." Three of the Confederates surrendered. Barrett secured one of the prisoners and had just remounted his horse when a bullet struck him in the neck, killing him instantly. Fierce and confused fighting continued among the mesquite and arroyos for 90 minutes, with two more Union fatalities and three troopers wounded. Exhausted and leaderless, the Californians broke off the fight and the Arizona Rangers, minus three who surrendered, mounted and carried warning of the approaching Union army to Tucson. Barrett's disobedience of orders had cost him his life and lost any chance of a Union surprise attack on Tucson.

The Union troops retreated to the Pima Indian Villages and hastily built Fort Barrett (named for the fallen officer) at White's Mill, waiting to gather resources to continue the advance. However, with no Confederate reinforcements available, Captain Sherod Hunter and his men withdrew as soon as the Column again advanced. The Union troops entered Tucson without any opposition.

The bodies of the two Union enlisted men killed at Picacho {George Johnson and William S Leonard} were later removed to the National Cemetery at the Presidio of San Francisco in San Francisco, California. However, Lieutenant Barrett's grave, near the present railroad tracks, remains undisturbed and unmarked. Union reports claimed that two Confederates were wounded in the fight, but Captain Hunter in his official report mentioned no Confederate casualties other than the three men captured.


Before this engagement a Confederate cavalry patrol had advanced as far west as Stanwix Station, where it was burning the hay stored there when it was attacked by a patrol of the California Column. The Confederates had been burning hay stored at the stage stations in order to delay the Union advance from California. About the same time as the skirmish at Picacho Peak, a larger force of Confederates was thwarted in its attempt to advance northward from Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the Battle of Glorieta Pass. By July the Confederates had retreated to Texas, though pro-Confederate militia units operated in some areas until mid-1863. The following year, the Union organized its own territory of Arizona, dividing New Mexico along the state's current north-south border, extending control southwards from the provisional capital of Prescott. The encounter at Picacho Pass may have been only a minor event in the Civil War, but it can be considered the high-water mark of the Confederate West.


Every March, Picacho Peak State Park hosts a re-enactment of the Civil War battles of Arizona and New Mexico, including the battle of Picacho Pass. The re-enactments now have grown so large that many more participants tend to be involved than took part in the actual engagements, and include infantry units and artillery as well as cavalry.

USS Arizona (1858) - Wikipedia
The first USS Arizona was an iron-hulled, side-wheel merchant steamship. Seized by the Confederate 
States of America in 1862 during the American Civil War, she was captured later the same year by the United States Navy.

USS Arizona

USS Arizona was laid down in 1858 at the shipyard of Harlan and Hollingsworth in Wilmington, Delaware, and completed in 1859. She was intended to carry passengers and freight on a route from New Orleans to the Brazos River (in Texas) for the Southern Steamship Company but also made other voyages along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States.

As Caroline

On 15 January 1862, Confederate Maj. Gen. Mansfield Lovell seized SS Arizona at New Orleans. Her U.S. enrollment was surrendered and replaced by a Confederate Register on 17 March 1862. Arizona was converted along with several of the faster steamers seized at the same time to run the blockade to Cuba. On her first voyage to Havana, Arizona took a provisional British registry from the British consul and was renamed Caroline. She served as a blockade runner for the Confederate States of America operating from New Orleans and Mobile to Havana.

On the morning of 28 October 1862, the side-wheeler was steaming from 

Launched:  1859
Displacement:  959 long tons (974 t)
Length:  200 ft (61 m)
Beam:  34 ft (10 m)
Draft:  8 ft (2.4 m)
Propulsion:  Steam sidewheel
Speed:  15 knots (17 mph; 28 km/h)
Complement:  82 officers and enlisted
Armament:  4 × 32-pounders
1 × 30-pounder Parrott rifle
1 × 12-pounder rifle
Havana to Mobile with a cargo of munitions when she was sighted by USS Montgomery. The Union gunboat immediately set out in pursuit of the stranger, beginning a six-hour chase. When Montgomery pulled within range of Caroline, she opened fire with her 30-pounder Parrott rifle and expended 17 shells before two hits brought the quarry to.

Two boats from the blockader rowed out to Caroline and one returned with her master, a man named Forbes, who claimed to have been bound for the neutral port of Matamoros, Mexico, not Confederate Mobile. "I do not take you for running the blockade," the flag officer, with tongue in cheek, replied, "but for your damned poor navigation. Any man bound for Matamoros from Havana and coming within twelve miles of Mobile light has no business to have a steamer."

As USS Arizona

Rear Admiral David Farragut sent the prize to Philadelphia where she was condemned by admiralty court. The Federal Government purchased her on 23 January 1863. The Navy restored her original name, Arizona, and placed her in commission on 9 March 1863, Lieutenant Daniel P. Upton in command.

Nine days later, the steamer stood down the Delaware River and headed for the Gulf of Mexico. En route south, she chased and overtook the cotton-laden sloop Aurelia off Mosquito Inlet, Florida, on 23 March, captured her and sent her to Port Royal.

Shortly before Arizona joined the West Gulf Blockading Squadron at New Orleans, Farragut had led a naval force up the Mississippi past Port Hudson to close off the flow of supplies down the Red River and across the Mississippi to Confederate armies fighting in the East. His warships met a fierce cannonade as they attempted to pass Port Hudson, and only the flagship USS Hartford and her consort USS Albatross made it safely through to the strategic stretch of the river between Port Hudson and Vicksburg.

Arizona played an important role in strengthening Farragut's drastically reduced force and opening up communications between its commander and the rest of his squadron. From New Orleans she proceeded to Berwick Bay to join a naval force commanded by Commander Augustus P. Cook which, in cooperation with troops commanded by Major General Nathaniel P. Banks, was operating in the swampy backwaters of the Louisiana lowlands west of the Mississippi.

On 14 April, while carrying army units, she, USS Estrella, and USS Calhoun attacked CSS Queen of the West on Grand Gulf, a wide and still stretch of the Atchafalaya River. A shell from USS Calhoun blew up the Queen of the West's boiler and ignited the cotton lining her hull. The burning cotton-clad drifted downstream for several hours before running aground and exploding. The three Union steamers also captured 90 members of the doomed vessel's crew who had jumped overboard to escape scalding.

Six days later, USS Clifton joined the same force and, working with four companies of Union infantry, took Fort Burton, a Southern battery consisting of two old siege guns emplaced at Butte La Rose, Louisiana. This victory opened a passage for Union ships - through Atchafalaya Bay and the River of the same name - connecting the gulf with the Red and Mississippi Rivers. Thus, Farragut could bypass Port Hudson with supplies, messages, and ships.

After this path was clear, Arizona entered the Red River and descended it to its mouth where she met Farragut's flagship, Hartford. On 3 May, she was part of a three-ship reconnaissance force that ascended the Red River until it encountered heavy fire from two large Confederate steamers, Grand Duke and Mary T., which were supported by Southern shore batteries and snipers. Since the narrow channel prevented the Union ships from maneuvering to bring their broadsides to bear on their attackers, they were compelled to retire.

As they descended, the Northern vessels met a large force led by Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter who ordered Arizona and Estrella to join him in a much more powerful drive up the Red River. He allowed USS Albatross, the third ship, to return to the Mississippi to report to Farragut.

The next morning, Porter's force arrived at Fort DeRussy - an uncompleted stronghold the South had been building on the banks of the river - and found it abandoned. After partially destroying the fortifications, Porter continued on up stream to Alexandria which surrendered without resistance. Before Porter left the river, Arizona took part in a reconnaissance of the Black River, a tributary of the Red. On 10 May, she joined in an attack on Fort Beauregard at Harrisonburg, Louisiana, on the Ouachita River.

Following her return to the Mississippi, Arizona supported operations against Port Hudson which finally fell on 9 July five days after the surrender of Vicksburg removing the last Southern hold on the river and finally cutting the Confederacy in two.

Arizona then returned to New Orleans for repairs. During this work, Acting Master Howard Tibbito relieved Upton in command of the side-wheeler.

On 4 September, Arizona departed New Orleans and proceeded to Southwest Pass to embark 180 sharpshooters to be distributed among USS Clifton, USS Sachem, and herself in a forthcoming attack on Sabine Pass, Texas. She next proceeded to Atchafalaya Bay where she met her consorts and a group of Army transports, distributed her sharpshooters, and continued on to Sabine Pass.

On the morning of 8 September, the combined force crossed the bar and then split, with Sachem and Arizona advancing up the Louisiana (right) channel, and Clifton and USS Granite City moving forward through the Texas (left) channel. When they arrived within range of the Confederate batteries they opened fire preparatory to landing the troops. The Southern gunners held their fire until the gunboats were within close range before countering with a devastating cannonade. A shot through her boiler totally disabled Sachem, another carried away Clifton's wheel rope, causing her to run aground under the Confederate guns. Crocker who commanded Clifton as well as the whole naval force fought his ship until, with ten men killed and nine others wounded, he ordered the magazine flooded to prevent its exploding, deeming it his duty "to stop the slaughter by showing the white flag...." Sachem also surrendered. Clifton was taken under tow by CSS Uncle Ben. With the loss of Clifton's and Sachem's firepower, the two remaining gunboats and troop transports recrossed the bar and departed for New Orleans.

The Sabine Pass expedition had, in the words of Commodore Henry H. Bell, "totally failed". Nevertheless, Major General Banks reported: "In all respects the cooperation of the naval authorities has been hearty and efficient...."

Arizona subsequently served on blockade duty along the Texas coast, especially at Galveston.

Later in the year, yellow fever broke out on board Arizona, forcing her back to New Orleans until the ship's company had returned to good health. During the month of November, she had made trips to Calcasieu Pass, Vermilion Bay, and Mermentau Lake on convoy and transport trips, and on 10 December she transported Captain John B. Marchand to Forts St. Philip and Jackson to investigate a mutiny. In December 1863, Arizona went to Berwick Bay and, when the rise of water permitted, entered Grand Lake and the Atchafalaya and remained there on constant blockade. In February 1864, she went to New Orleans and, when repaired, returned to Sabine Pass for blockade duty, one of 14 vessels under Captain Marchand in USS Lackawanna. That duty lasted until September 1864 when Arizona proceeded to New Orleans for repairs. There, she was fitted out for service as the flagship of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron. In January 1865, Lieutenant Commander George Brown took command of the ship.

On the evening of 27 February 1865 while underway from South West Pass to New Orleans, 38 miles (61 km) below New Orleans, a fire broke out in the engineer's after storeroom and spread very rapidly. Brown ordered the magazine flooded and, when no possibility of saving the ship remained, ordered the crew to the boats. Some leaped overboard and swam to shore. The vessel drifted to the west bank of the river, grounded, and burned until she exploded 35 minutes past midnight. Out of a crew of 98 on board four were missing.

The USS Arizona Civil War Project Fund

The USS Arizona Civil War Project Fund is a public charity incorporated in 2014 with the mission of supporting and funding the activities necessary to locate, survey and secure the wreck of the USS Arizona. Additionally, upon the successful identification of the wreck, the organization will work to preserve the history, artifacts and educational legacy of this vessel through various partnerships and public outreach. Further information can be found at their website.

 Stanwix Station  - Wikipedia

Stanwix Station, in western Arizona, was a stop on the Butterfield Overland Mail Stagecoach line built in the later 1850s near the Gila River about 80 miles (130 km) east of Yuma, Arizona. Originally the station was called Flap Jack Ranch later Grinnell's Ranch or Grinnell's Station. In 1862, Grinnell's was listed on the itinerary of the California Column in the same place as Stanwix Ranch or Stanwix Station which became the site of the westernmost skirmish of the American Civil War. A traveler in 1864, John Ross Browne, said Grinnell's was six miles southwest of the hot springs of Agua Caliente, Arizona.

Skirmish at Stanwix Station

The westernmost skirmish of the American Civil War, which occurred at Stanwix Station, took place on March 29, 1862, when Capt. William P. Calloway and a vanguard of 272 troops from the California Column discovered a small detachment of Confederates led by 2nd Lt. John W. Swilling burning hay, which had been placed at Stanwix Station for the California Column's animals. After a brief exchange of gun fire with the much larger Union force, the Confederates retreated to Tucson, the capital of the western district of the Confederate Territory of Arizona. The skirmish resulted in the wounding of a German-born Union private, William Frank Semmelrogge (Semmilrogge), who subsequently recovered. There appear to have been no other casualties.

The significance of the incident was twofold. First, the burning of hay, not only at Stanwix but at five other former stagecoach stations along the Gila River east of Fort Yuma, delayed the California Column's advance to Tucson and Mesilla, the territorial capital of Confederate Arizona. Before the Confederates evacuated Tucson, they also removed or destroyed the supplies gathered for the Union advance by Ammi S. White at the Maricopa Villages. Secondly, and of more immediate importance, Swilling was able to reach Tucson and warn Capt. Sherod Hunter, district military commander of western Confederate Arizona, of the approaching California Column. This led Hunter to place pickets at strategic locations, leading to the Battle of Picacho Pass, where ten Confederate pickets were attacked by a Union cavalry detachment of about twelve. This "battle" was also only a skirmish, distinguished from the Stanwix Station fight simply by the comparatively more severe casualties; three dead and three wounded Union soldiers, and three Confederates taken prisoner.

Stanwix Station (SPRR)

The stagecoach lines were abandoned in the 1880s when the Southern Pacific Railroad completed laying track to Tucson from Yuma. The SPRR built a station just to the east of the Maricopa County line on Stanwix Flats and called it Stanwix Station.

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