Arizona in the days of the Confederacy
If you're like me, and never paid much attention to history class in school, the days of the Confederacy in the United States are kind of a blur. I know that I learned about Abe Lincoln, and Robert E. Lee, but as far as the Southwest is concerned, I had know idea. So I've been doing some research, and I'll tell you what I know so far. Let's time-travel back to 1862.
It's 1862, and we're standing in the Salt River Valley. Phoenix isn't there yet. In fact, there's nobody there. It's not even Arizona yet, it's called New Mexico. And it's just desert for miles and miles, and we can see gigantic empty canals, which had been abandoned hundreds of years ago. The people who live along the Gila River, just south of where we are, refer to them as "those who have gone". This area is patrolled by Apaches, so we'd better move on.
As we travel south towards the Gila River, we see the Pima people. They have villages all along the Gila, and have been trading with non-Indian people for a long time, especially in an area that is now called Maricopa (where Harrah's Ak-Chin in now). We're traveling to Tucson, which is there, and has been since 1775.
Now waitaminute, don't confuse modern Tucson with the Old Pueblo. When we get to Tucson, we won't see freeways, and Starbucks. It's a dusty, sleepy little town. And for the Confederate Army, which is marching from Texas, it's just a place to stop on their way to California.
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Yes, the Confederates were planning to attack California. In 1862 it was worth the effort. Unlike the area now known as Arizona, it was strategically important. There were sea ports on the west coast, and the Confederate's plan was to take possession of them.
But the Confederate army never got very close. After a battle with the Union Army from California, at Picacho Pass, which is north of Tucson, they left. I won't go into any detail here, but I recommend that you stop at Picacho Peak Park the next time you drive between Phoenix and Tucson, and you can learn more there.
So the period of time that Arizona was controlled by the Confederacy was very short. And really it was just Tucson, when it was the Old Pueblo. But it did happen. And if you're just learning about it, like I am, it's worth knowing. Because a nation that forgets its past has no future.
Image at the top of this post: the Confederate Memorial in Wesley Bolin Plaza, 17th Avenue and Washington, Phoenix, Arizona. Just east of the State Capitol building.
Posted by Brad Hall