Picacho Peak reenactmentPicacho Peak
The Civil War reached Arizona in February of 1862. The engagement, which was not more than a skirmish near Picacho Peak, was the westernmost Civil War battle in the United States as both sides fought over territory to expand towards the Pacific Ocean.

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Squad ready! Fire! Two, fire!

In the early days of the Civil War, forces of the North and South fought to control the Southwest. The territory of New Mexico stretched from Texas to the Pacific Ocean . It saw three Civil War battles, including the Battle of Val Verde where 202 men lost their lives. During the first year of the Civil War, the Confederacy was making a concerted effort to gain control of the Southwest, partly for its mineral resources, but even more importantly, to expand its boundaries considerably to make it considerably more difficult for the union to maintain a successful blockade. Towards that end, confederate troops, mostly from Texas , were squaring off against U.S. troops, New Mexico volunteers, and Colorado volunteers in what is now the state of New Mexico .

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National Park Service

Visitor Information:
Picacho Peak State Park
PO Box 257
Picacho, AZ 85241
(520) 466-3183

The only battle fought in what we now know as Arizona occurred at Picacho Peak between Tucson and Phoenix . In 1861, the New Mexico territory was split in two, the confederates claiming everything south of the 34 th parallel, which included the Phoenix area. They named their new territory Arizona . Arizona 's capitol was Mesilla, which was north of present-day El Paso . In February of 1862, confederate troops were received with open arms in Tucson because they provided protection from Indian raids. The continued incursion of the Confederates caught the attention of union troops stationed at Fort Yuma .

There were 1,800 volunteer U.S. troops stationed at Fort Yuma, which is just across the river from the town of Yuma across in California, and to forestall further advances by confederate forces, they started moving eastward up the Gila River, and one of the stopping places was the Pima villages near what's now Sacaton and then on down this way. This was a major thoroughfare, called the Gila Trail by many historians. Anybody going from East to West or West to East came this way.

In mid-April, Union troops headed towards a thoroughfare squeezed between two mountains named Picacho Pass. The pass is still used today for Interstate 10. To get to Tucson , Union troops would have to go through the pass. A small group of confederate troops were waiting for them. Before the skirmish, Union cavalrymen captured some confederates.

So they had captured these three. So the actual shooting, when it started, was between seven confederates and what was left of the Union troops. The battle, surprisingly it was reported at the time as having lasted about an hour and a half.

The Union troops were led by William Calloway and Lt. James Barrett. They were aware of the presence of a small contingent of confederates in this area. And so Calloway sent a small detachment under the command of Lieutenant Barrett down here, and he sent another larger detachment around the idea being to approach them from two different sides and capture them. For some reason, the larger of the two contingents never made it to this site in time. So Lieutenant Barrett, against the advice of his scout, led his men on horseback into what was then described as a mesquite thicket. Having done that, they were basically ambushed. One of the reasons for that is that being a mesquite bosk, it probably provided considerable protection from the bullets. What ultimately happened, if you're just talking about injuries and body counts, probably you could say that the confederates won the Battle of Picacho Pass.

The battle was the furthest West of the Civil War. The South may have won the Battle of Picacho Peak, but soon thereafter, they lost the war for control of the New Mexico territory.