Saturday, March 16, 1861
The land that now makes up southern Arizona and New Mexico was the last continental land acquired by the United States. This was the Gadsden Purchase of 1854. The land became part of the Territory of New Mexico. By 1858, the Butterfield Overland Stage Company was contracted to carry mail from San Antonio, Texas to California. Mining had also taken off and it was looking like southern New Mexico Territory would be the California of the southwest.
Two forts (Buchanan and Breckenridge) had been established in the southern part of the territory to protect the stage route and the towns along its path. The stage line was being regularly attacked by Apaches. By February, kidnappings, murders and torture by both whites and Apaches had become regular. The army did what they could, but couldn’t be everywhere at once.
It wasn’t necessarily because of this that southern New Mexico Territory wished to be under their own government; they had wanted that from almost the beginning. Due to the Indian attacks and the seeming lack of protection by the US Cavalry, the people of southern New Mexico territory wished to join the Confederacy.
On this date, the Mesilla Convention met and voted to secede from the Union. This wasn’t exactly the same as a state deciding to leave, of course. The folks of southern New Mexico Territory didn’t even have a territory of their own to withdraw from Federal rule. Nevertheless, they wished to form the Territory of Arizona and wished for that territory to be part of the Confederate States of America.
The territory was made up of all land within the New Mexico Territory south of the 34th parallel.1
It would take some time for the territory to be accepted by the Confederate government, but in the minds of the people, they were now part of the Territory of Arizona, CSA.
Just two days prior, the Texas Secession Convention passed a bill requiring all elected officials to swear an oath to the Confederacy. Governor Sam Houston, by now an American hero, refused to take the oath of allegiance. He loved Texas too much to “bring civil strife and bloodshed upon her.”
For a time, Lincoln had considered Houston for a cabinet position. It was generally known that he was a Unionist. However, in September of 1860, Houston had remarked at an anti-secession meeting that “the Union is worth more than Abe Lincoln.” He may not have been pro-secession, but, as we’ll see, he was not a complete Union man.2
When he did not respond to his name being called to take the oath, his seat was declared vacant and was immediately filled by Lt. Governor Edward Clark, who had no problem at all with the oath. He was sworn in on the same day.3
This was also the last day of the first session of the Provisional Confederate Congress. The day was filled mostly with appointments of former US military officers to Confederate military posts.
In hopes of bringing the British around to recognizing the Confederacy as a legitimate nation, they appointed William Lowndes Yancey, Pierre A. Rost and A. Dudley Mann as commissioners to England.4
Though Texas had seceded from the Union and was officially part of the Confederacy, United States Senator Louis Wigfall was still in Washington. Actually, by this date, he was in Baltimore writing to Confederate General Beauregard that he had “established a recruiting station here and I am induced to believe that it will meet with decided success.” Wigfall was working under “the authority of the [Confederate] Secretary of War” Leroy P. Walker.
“I have made arrangements for sending them to you,” informed Wigfall of secessionist volunteers, adding “supposing that you would have use for them.”5
- Chains of Command: Arizona and the Army, 1856-1875 by Constance Wynn Altshuler, The Arizona Historical Society, 1981. [↩]
- Sam Houston, The Great Designer by Llerena Friend, University of Texas Press, 1954. [↩]
- Life and Select Literary Remains of Sam Houston of Texas by William Carey Crane, J. B. Lippincott & co., 1884. [↩]
- Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, 1861-1865, Volume 1. [↩]
- Official Records, Vol. 1, p276. [↩]