The Confederate Territory of “Arrizona” (Arizona)

1862 Johnson's Map of the American Southwest

1862 Johnson's Map of the American Southwest

In 1861 “Arrizona” was an alternate name for the lands added to the New Mexico territory by the 1854 Gadsden Purchase. With only a small population and minimal political influence this region was largely ignored by the New Mexico territorial government in distant Sante Fe. Bandits, hostile American Indian tribes, and outlaws ran rampant as only token effort was made by the New Mexico territorial government to police the region. The loosely organized inhabitants of southern New Mexico, or Arizona as it was being called, sent several appeals to Washington D.C. to be granted independent territorial status, but its low population caused the request to be repeatedly denied. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Arizonans saw an opportunity to appeal to an alternate body for the political needs of the region and through their lot in with the secessionist southern states. Around this time the Union began to withdraw troops from the region in fear that Sante Fe would be attacked by Confederate soldiers operating out of Texas. In Texas itself Col. John Robert Baylor, recognizing a strategic opportunity, led his troops into Southern Arizona. In a series of brilliant tactical maneuvers, Baylor defeated the much larger Union garrison and seized Fort Fillmore and Messilla. Shortly thereafter Baylor declared himself Territorial Governor of the Confederate Territory of Arizona including “all that portion of New Mexico lying south of the thirty-fourth parallel of north latitude.”

Johnson's 1866 Map of the Southwest

Johnson's 1866 Map of the Southwest

The Confederate Territory of Arizona lasted less than a year before it was seized by the Union Army and dismantled in favor of the current configuration with the Arizona – New Mexico border situated along a north-south axis. Some have suggested that the current border between Arizona and New Mexico was chosen for no other reason than that it differed from the Confederate border. However, it is far more likely that this border was influenced by the prospect of a Southern Pacific railroad route. If the Confederate boundaries had remained the railroad would have would have run only through Arizona, thus denying New Mexico the political and business opportunities that would have inevitably followed. A longitudinal border, however, allowed both territories to be enriched by the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Related Posts: The Proposed Routes of the Pacific Railroad in Antique Maps

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