Western Civil War Trips

In regards to the American Civil War there are several historic and unique travel stops for those planning a trip through the western U.S. If you’re looking for a unique trip idea in the West then trips to western Civil War sites might be just the thing.

civil war in new mexico

Civil War troops exhibition at Santa Fe's New Mexico History Museum

Western Civil War trips allow one to gain a different perspective of the overall strategy of the opposing sides and learn about some of the key engagements that occurred far away from the much publicized battlefields of Gettysburg and Shiloh.

Confederate activity in the West was primarily found in the Southwest. Why? The answer is that the American southwest had a good many Confederate sympathizers who had moved there from both Texas and other southern states and reaching a Pacific port such as San Diego could aid the Confederate cause greatly.

Below is a description of several of the sites which you may want to consider adding to your vacation trip planner. As with most historic sites they are either free or inexpensive to visit and provide both a fun and educational experience for the entire family. You’ll be able to take a trip back into history with great photo opportunities.

battle of picacho pass

Battle of Picacho Pass Monument

The Westernmost Battle / Battle of Picacho Pass

What was recognized as the westernmost battle of the Civil War occurred on April 15th, 1862 at Picacho Pass in present day Arizona, 50 miles northwest of Tucson and just to the south of Interstate 10.

That extreme southwest corner of the continent, while far removed from Dixie, was a Confederate sympathizer stronghold. The majority of the people who had migrated there were from the Old South and from Texas. The area was fairly neglected by the federal government and for the most part lawless so there were few reasons for strong allegiance to the Union.

John Robert Bayler was a key Confederate military figure in the New Mexico Territory. In 1861 he organized troops to fight southwest Union forces and after some success overtaking Union outposts declared himself military governor of the”new” Arizona Territory, which represented the southern part of present day New Mexico and Arizona.

plaza mesilla new mexico

Along the plaza in historic Mesilla New Mexico

Baylor appointed a cabinet and the Confederate Congress confirmed his position. He referred to Tucson as the western capitol of the Arizona Territory and Mesilla (present day Mesilla NM) the eastern capitol. .

The initial Confederate successes in Arizona turned against them due to the efforts of a Union general by the name of  James H. Carleton, pictured right. In 1862 Carleton marched the 1st California Volunteers from Fort Yuma eastward toward Texas. He linked up with Union General Canby in New Mexico and the Confederate threat in the territory was largely eliminated.

It was during this expedition that the Battle of Picacho Pass took place. On April 15th, 1862 twelve troopers and a scout of the 1st California Volunteer Cavalry led by a Lt. James Barrett was scouting the pass looking for rebels. They came across three Confederate pickets and, against his orders to wait for the main Union column to join him, attacked the pickets. Barrett failed to see seven other Confederates hiding nearby and when they opened fire Barrett and two of his men were killed.

Barrett made the same mistake that George Armstrong Custer made 14 years later but on a much smaller scale. After the ninety minute fight both the Union cavalry and the rebels retreated. The rebels retreated east to Tucson and warned of the advancing Union forces. Rather than stay and fight, the Confederates retreated eastward and left the strategic town of Tucson wide open for Union occupation.

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Ruins at Fort Craig NM across the Rio Grande from the site of the Battle of Valverde

The Battle of Valverde and Fort Craig

The Battle of Valverde took place on February 21, 1862 and lasted the entire day. This represented a big victory for the Confederates and they did move northward from there to capture both Albuquerque and Santa Fe. After the Battle of Valverde the Union troops involved retreated back to Fort Craig which was not attacked. The Battle of Valverde is considered the largest Civil War battle in the southwest. The battle site is about seven miles north northeast of the fort and on the east side of the Rio Grande.

Eventually, Sibley and his forces were defeated further north at the historic Battle of Glorieta Pass located just to the east of Santa Fe along the old Santa Fe Trail. The ultimate goal of the Confederates was to attempt to capture Fort Union further north and the Colorado gold fields further north yet. Stopping this Confederate advance was why the Battle of Glorieta Pass was so significant for the Union.

See the Trips Into History articles on the links below…

The Confederates Who Fled to Mexico

New Mexico Fort Ruins

People of the Civil War

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Map showing position of Fort Craig NM and the Battle of Valverde

Mesilla New Mexico / Confederate Stronghold

For years during the late 1850’s there were several efforts by people in the southern part of the territory to carve out their own government as the “Arizona Territory“.  This actually occurred when the Confederates invaded and took temporary control of southern New Mexico Territory naming Mesilla it’s capital. A good many civilians who occupied the Mesilla Valley were Confederate sympathizers. The local Mesilla newspaper ran editorial after editorial supporting the southern cause as well as a push for a new Arizona Territory.

This all went on while the Apache Wars were in full swing. If anything, the Civil War and the temporary withdrawal of U.S. troops made the Apache matter much worse for Mesilla Valley residents. It seems that the Confederates had no better luck, and probably worse luck, than that of the Union forces in trying to quell the Apache raids.

church mesilla new mexico

San Albino Church, Mesilla NM

Historic Mesilla NM
When you drive to old Mesilla, one of the first things you’ll notice is the beautiful cathedral on the north end of the plaza.This is the Basilica of San Albino.The church was originally built of adobe in 1855 and the current structure was erected in 1906. The church was designated a basilica in 2008.

Another very interesting and historic structure is the old home of Colonel Albert Jennings Fountain. Colonel Fountain moved to Mesilla in 1873 and practiced law. He served as a member of the territorial legislature, a judge, a special prosecutor, a district attorney and a deputy court clerk. Fountain was a staunch Republican. The old Colonel Albert Jennings Fountain family home was located two blocks northwest of the Mesilla plaza. The restored and renovated home is now privately owned.

Both New Mexico and Arizona are filled with historic sites that tell the story of the Civil War in the Southwest. In addition to being able to learn more about this period of American history, the scenery is spectacular and you’ll have plenty of great photo opportunities.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Trips Into History. Photo of Picacho Pass Monument in the public domain)

 

The Confederates Who Fled To Mexico

 

Out of all the  interesting stories about the American Civil War, the one regarding General Jo Shelby and his men, all Confederate soldiers, is one of the most interesting you might come across.

It’s a story about the bloody conflict in Missouri and Kansas, the Civil War west of the Mississippi River, and a group of Confederate warriors who followed their leader into Mexico rather than surrender to Union forces.

confederate jo shelby

Joseph O. Shelby

Joseph Shelby The Southern Businessman

Joseph Shelby ventured from Lexington Kentucky, his home, to Waverley Missouri in the 1850’s and founded a hemp plantation. Hemp was a very important product for baling cotton for shipment. Slaves were used to turn the hemp into rope. Cotton was king in the South and Shelby acquired a fortune along with several steamboats. It was said that Jo Shelby was the largest slave holder in Missouri.

The slavery issue was boiling for years and years. In states like Missouri and Kansas which had a good number of immigrants, the issue of slavery divided populations.

It was this sharp division that accounted for the massive bloodshed and guerrilla warfare prevalent in both states. The massacre of innocent civilians at Lexington Kansas was just one example.The Lexington massacre was the event that made southern guerrilla leaders like William Quantrill an infamous figure. His group has often been referred to as Quantrill’s Raiders. Out of this group came Bloody Bill Anderson who many thought more ruthless than Quantrill himself. Whether Quantrill’s excesses were condoned by the Confederate leadership is something that’s been debated for close to 150 years.

The slavery issue was something that sooner or later would come to a head. As we all know it certainly did after the election of Abraham Lincoln and the subsequent attack on Fort Sumter.

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Early picture of Southern guerrilla leader William Quantrill

A Time to Make a Decision

One of the unique things about the American Civil War was that when the time for hostilities eventually arrived, people literally had to choose which side they would support. The old saying “brother against brother” couldn’t be more true. Some times the decision was quick and at other times it took some deliberation.

Jo Shelby’s family back in Lexington Kentucky were by and large Union supporters. Shelby on the other hand, a prosperous Missouri businessman with slaves, thought otherwise. This is not unique. This type of family division occurred all throughout the country. There were several instances where two brothers were military officers but on opposite sides of the conflict. it’s often been said that the Civil war split families like non other.

Jo Shelby The Warrior

At the outbreak of war, Jo Shelby was actually asked to join the Union side. This was an offer made to many who may have been thought of as sitting on the fence. Shelby declined and went back to his Waverley Missouri home and put together a regiment.

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Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, head of the Trans-Mississippi Dept. for the CSA

During the war years Jo Shelby and his men operated under the leadership of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department. Shelby took part in several battles in the Missouri, Kansas, and Arkansas areas, some more key than others. He grew a reputation for daring and led a group of soldiers to be feared. During these years Shelby had some interaction with the Confederate guerrillas including names such as William Quantrill, Frank James, older brother of Jesse James, and Cole Younger.

How involved Jesse James was with Quantrill’s Raiders has been debated. At the time of the Civil War Jesse James would have been only sixteen years old.

What ensued after that and during all the years of the Civil War is a story like non other. The Missouri/Kansas area was a hotbed of conflict over the slavery issue and Jo Shelby was very much involved.

The End Times

After Lee’s surrender to Grant and the fall of Vicksburg the Confederates were doomed. Word of Lee’s surrender took several weeks to reach Confederate troops operating west of the Mississippi. The leadership of the Trans-Mississippi Department eventually made the decision to surrender as well. Before doing so they promoted Jo Shelby to general although there was no way for Confederate records to show this.

Not every Confederate soldier and officer made the same decision. The only real choice anyone had who desired to hold out was to flee to Mexico. A good many of those finding themselves in and near Texas at war’s end did indeed cross the Rio Grande. To many this was preferable to surrendering. Even doing this had great risks and some were killed just over the border by warring Mexican factions.

Union General Philip Sheridan was sent to Texas by Grant to round up renegade Confederates and to restore Union rule. Sheridan’s troops were on the heels of any Confederates fleeing to the border.

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1864 portrait of Maximilian I of Mexico

Shelby Enters Mexico

Jo Shelby and his men also made the decision to cross over into Mexico with the goal of offering their services to the French backed Maximilian who had recently taken over rule of Mexico. Maximilian was essentially installed in Mexico by Napolean III. Shelby and his men envisioned being a type of foreign legion for these rulers.

At the same time Maximilian’s mostly French troops were being opposed by Benito Juarez and his Juaristas. If Shelby thought he was leaving a war zone by going into Mexico he was mistaken. The fighting south of the border was intense and bloody.There was an ongoing guerrilla war in the area from Mexico City to the north and northeast.

The Juaristas would deal severely with any troops, Confederate or Union, who they believed entered Mexico to offer aid to Maximilian’s forces. After a few skirmishes with Juaristas, Jo Shelby and his hundreds of troops eventually made it to Monterrey where they hooked up with French commanders.

Shelby’s idea was to head west to the Sonora area and attempt to recruit Americans to fight for Maximilian. He felt he could recruit thousands but was denied permission to travel west. Instead he and his men were ordered to go south to Mexico City for a meeting with Maximilian and his French army chief.

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Monument to Benito Juarez in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

Emperor Maxilmilian, aside from the fact that his military leader was okay with the idea,  never did accept Shelby and his men into his armed forces as a unit. A few of his men did join a specialized military unit that had it’s origins in Africa.

Maximilian’s decision not to employ Shelby’s unit was likely influenced by pressure from the U.S. The U.S. never liked the idea of the French in Mexico but with the Civil War going on there was very little they could do. At the same time Maximilian was making diplomatic efforts to build relations with Washington.

President Abraham Lincoln even commented that the Union could fight only one war at a time. Emperor Maximilian never allowed any ex-Confederates to join his largely French Foreign Legion army with the exception of just those few men from Shelby’s regiment. He did however grant land to Shelby and other Americans near Veracruz for the purpose of establishing a colonies within Mexico for ex-Confederates.

mexican benito juarez

Benito Juarez

Because of the military and political gains of the Jauraitas, led by Bentio Juarez, this colonial arrangement lasted only a short time. Just two years after it’s establishment the French were overthrown (they had basically decided to begin withdrawing all troops) and Maximilian, installed by Napolean III, who was from Europe’s Hapsburg dynasty, was executed. The Confederate colonies were being attacked as well and many colonists began fleeing back north to the U.S. These events ended the ex-Confederate colonies in Mexico.

Jo Shelby’s Return

Because of the turmoil and uncertainty  in Mexico, Jo Shelby returned to the United States in 1867. His prior farming operation and luxurious mansion were gone.The mansion and the outbuildings had been burned to the ground during the war.

Jo Shelby settled in Adrian Missouri with his family and took up farming which he was involved in before the war except this time without slave holdings. His story is remarkable when you consider that in 1893 President Grover Cleveland made him U.S.Marshal for the Western District of Missouri and he held that post until he died four years later. At the time of his death he left behind a wife, seven sons and a daughter. Joseph Shelby is buried at Forest Hills Cemetery in Kansas City, Missouri.

Below are links to additional Trips Into History articles you might find interesting…

The Ironic Surrender of Robert E. Lee

The Confederate Navy

Civil War Submarine

Visiting Waverley Missouri

If you wonder how the town of Waverley Missouri, located on the banks of the Missouri River, regarded ex-Confederate officer and town businessman Joseph Shelby, just take a walk on the town’s main street. There in a park you will find a life sized statue of Joseph O. Shelby sitting upon his horse.

joseph shelby statue waverley missouri

statue in honor of Joseph O. Shelby in Waverley Missouri

The group responsible for the statue raised funds by selling copies of the book, Shelby and His Men. The statue was dedicated in June of 2009 to much fanfare. There were bands, reenactments, speeches, boy scouts and dozens of Shelby family members. This was Waverley Missouri’s way of finally honoring their Civil War hero who many feel was the finest cavalry officer in the entire Confederate army.

If you have the opportunity to visit Waverley Missouri, there s a stretch of highway that was once part of the famous Santa Fe Trail. Waverley served a an important port along the Missouri which cargo could be sent west along the old trail. There’s an annual “Blazin The Trail” event that goes along a twenty mile stretch of the old Santa Fe Trail (Hwy 24) between Waverley and Lexington Missouri.  Along the route during this celebration are shops, crafts, wine, antiques, restaurants and plenty of family events and shows.

Waverley Missouri is about 65 miles east of Kansas City.

To learn more about Jo Shelby and his life before, during and after the Civil War, I would recommend the following books…

General Jo Shelby’s March by author Anthony Arthur and General Jo Shelby: Undefeated Rebel by authors Daniel O’Flaherty and Daniel E. Sutherland.

(Article copyright 2013 Trips Into History. Photos and images from the public domain)

 

Events of the Civil War

 

There have been thousands of books, movies and articles written about America’s Civil War. The vast majority of these chronicle the conflicts that occurred from the deep South all the way north to Gettysburg. This of course was for good reason because the most large and decisive battles took place in this eastern area of our country. Events of the Civil War that haven’t been publicized near as much were the battles and skirmishes that occurred as far west as the Arizona Territory border with California.

u.s. grant and robert e lee

Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee

The Remote Southwest

At the time of the Civil War, the Arizona region represented the southern part of the New Mexico Territory which was acquired from the Mexican government in 1848 at the end of the Mexican-American War. Because of it’s geographic location in the southwest, the New Mexico Territory was a bit cut off from the Union states to the east as well as from Washington D.C. where most of the decisions were made. In addition to being remote the New Mexico Territory had a majority of it’s population emigrating from southern states, ex-Texans being one of the largest groups.

The Fight For Succession and the Southwest

There were several key events of the Civil War in the far west during the Civil War years. In Texas which was aligned with the Confederacy, Union forts which were established along the line of settlement were under attack by southern sympathizers. In most cases the outnumbered Union troops simply surrendered the fort.

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Confederate Mountain Howitzer display at Old Town Albuquerque NM

The Comanche Indians who roamed throughout central and west Texas were able to take advantage of the Civil War turmoil to step up attacks on settlers. The Texas Confederate sympathizers were no more close to the Comanches than the Union troops were and for decades these Texans also had battled the Comanches. The absence of Union troops to guard the settlements during the war just made things more dangerous for non-combatants on the southern plains.

Another situation at the same time was playing out in Arizona, then the southern part of the New Mexico Territory. Because of the vast size of the territory and it’s capitol being in the far north, Santa Fe, many of the southern territory occupants felt ignored by both Santa Fe and by the federal government in Washington D.C. This was the official reason however it was only part of the story. The other part that influenced events of the Civil War in the west was that the Confederacy was quite interested in establishing a route to the Pacific. If for no other reason it would be a new supply route which was needed badly.

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John R. Baylor of the Confederacy

The Confederate John Baylor

A man by the name of John Baylor decided to take action. Baylor who was born in Kentucky spent time as a Texas politician and when the war broke out organized the 2nd Texas Mounted Rifles. This occurred in 1861. Their purpose was to drive the Union forces out of the southwest.

Moving westward, Baylor prevailed in several battles and eventually made his way to Arizona and declared it part of the Confederacy. When word of Baylor’s southwest success reached Jefferson Davis he wholeheartedly endorsed the idea. The Confederacy and Baylor went ahead and proclaimed Arizona as being a Confederate state. John Baylor was thereby named governor of this new territory. He designated Tucson as it’s capitol.

It was during this time that what historians call the westernmost battle of the Civil War occurred. The site was a small distance northwest of Picacho Peak in southern Arizona between Tucson and Fort Yuma near the Butterfield Stagecoach route. The conflict was called the Battle of Picacho Pass involving the 1st California Cavalry led by a Lieutenant Barrett riding east from Fort Yuma California and a group of Arizona Confederates led by a Sergeant Henry Holmes.

picacho peak arizona

Picacho Peak Arizona

Another decisive battle took place at Glorietta Pass in New Mexico about 30 miles east of Santa Fe.

This battle was between Southern troops and the Colorado Militia. The southerners wanted to move north and engage Union forces in the western great plains. The Colorado militia prevailed and the Confederate attempt was thwarted. This battle ended the advance of Confederate General Henry Hopkins Sibley and his hoped for conquest of New Mexico. The events of the Civil War in the southwest were at first a breakthrough for the South but ended in defeat.

The Divisions in the Southwest

It’s interesting to note that the southwest was not the only area with divided loyalties. An example would be the mining camps spread throughout the west all the way from Montana down to Arizona including California.

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General Henry Hopkins Sibley of the Confederacy

All of these camps had people from all parts of the Union. Divisiveness was found in almost all camps. It usually just depended on where someone was from. Divisiveness was also very heavy in the states of Missouri and Kansas which during the 1860’s could be considered the west in some respects. The 1860’s saw much bloodshed in both states by opposing bands of militia who carried on an extremely violent campaign. The most publicized was the Massacre at Lawrence Kansas on August 21, 1863. Upwards of 200 men and boys were killed in this attack carried out by a group led by William Quantrill. The guerrilla group was referred to as Quantrill’s Raiders and were aligned with the Confederacy.
Significance of the Western Theater of the Civil War

Obviously the reason that so much more has been chronicled about the Civil War battles east of the Mississippi River is that more battles involving more soldiers took place there. The east is where the major battles were fought. The capitol’s of both sides were in the east and the population centers were in the east.

The far west was still a developing region with exception to California which gained statehood in 1850. All else were territories with limited troops spread over vast areas. Regardless, both sides understood that there were benefits to whoever gained control. The Confederacy looked at it as a kind of rearguard action. If possible they wanted to gain access to the Pacific Ocean through San Diego. They also tried to use the west as a way to attack the Union from the other direction.

prescott arizona

Today's Prescott Arizona, Arizona Territory's first capital

The Creation of the Arizona Territory

The Union on the other hand simply wanted to hold on to what they gained from the Mexican-American War and at the same time drive the southern forces out. The conflicts in the southwest during the war expedited the Union’s decision to carve out two territories in the region after the war ended. Creating the Arizona Territory alongside the Territory of New Mexico allowed the Union to govern the area much better. Becoming a territory was the first step to statehood. The Civil War was just the catalyst needed for the Union to organize the southwest territories more efficiently .

Links to additional articles you’ll enjoy include:

The Buffalo Soldiers of West Texas

People of the Civil War

The Surrender of Robert E. Lee / The Ironic Details

Historic Civil War Sites and Museums to Add to your Trip Planner

Arizona Military Museum

The Arizona Military Museum is operated by the Arizona National Guard Historical Society, a private non-profit corporation. The officers and directors serve as docents, and they perform other necessary functions in conjunction with National Guard support to operate and maintain the museum. The museum is located at the Papago Park Military Reservation, 5636 E. McDowell Rd., Phoenix, Arizona.

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Civil War soldier reenactment at New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe

New Mexico History Museum / Palace of the Governors

Located in Santa Fe New Mexico, the 96,000 square foot museum behind the Palace of the Governors on the historic Santa Fe Plaza, presents six time periods key to the development of New Mexico and the American West. From the Civil War through the Lincoln County War and the Railroad Wars, New Mexico was a violent, vibrant place during its 63 years as a U.S. Territory.

Arizona History Museum

Located at 49 E. 2nd Street, Tucson Arizona, this museum’s focus is southern Arizona history from Spanish colonial through territorial eras. Included among the many exhibits are Geronimo’s and Wyatt Earp’s personal possessions.

Picacho Peak State Park

Lots of Civil War history at this site of a key Civil War Battle. Among the events held at Picacho Peak State Park are re-enactments of an Arizona Civil War skirmish and the New Mexico battles of Glorieta and Val Verde. The park is closed from late May through the summer. The 2013 reopening will be on September 14th. The park is located about 75 miles east of Phoenix Arizona just south of Interstate 10.

Two very interesting books I would recommend for a more detailed account of the Civil War in the southwest include The Civil War in Arizona: The Story of the California Volunteers, 1861-1865 by author Andrew E. Masich and Civil War in Apacheland: Sergeant George Hand’s Diary, 1861-1864  by author Neil B. Carmony.

(Photos and images of Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, John R. Baylor and Henry Sibley from the public domain. Remaining photos from author’s collection)

 

Re-Riding on the Pony Express Trail

There’s one fun and historic event that occurs each year sponsored by the National Pony Express Association. It’s a Re-riding of the 1,966 mile Pony Express Trail and it takes place each June. This event offers a fun and close glimpse into the era of the famed Pony Express.

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Frederick Remington's "Coming and Going of the Pony Express"

The NPEA’s main aim is to keep the spirit and memory of this National Historic Trail alive. Headquartered in Pollock Pines California, right on the old trail itself, the NPEA works to preserve the trail and what better way to do that than to put together a reenactment of the Pony Express ride.

Prior to the NPEA forming, there were three re-rides of the trail. The first Pony Express Re-Ride was held in 1935 which commemorated the 75th anniversary of the trail. There was another re-ride held in 1958 sponsored by the Western States Trail Ride. This famous re-ride actually carried U.S. Mail. Then again in 1960, as a 100 year commemoration, there was a re-ride put together by the Western Pony Express Trails Association along with the Central Overland Pony Express Trails Association.

The next ride after the ones mentioned above didn’t occur until the NPEA was formed in 1977.

The Old Trail

The Pony Express National Historic Trail runs from Missouri to California. The very fact that riders accomplished this arduous and dangerous task of getting mail to Sacramento California from St. Joseph Missouri in about ten days overshadowed the fact that the Pony Express only existed for eighteen months. Only ten days to deliver a letter to California was fascinating to the public at that time considering the alternative routes would have been by steamer either around Cape Horn or over to and across the Isthmus of Panama. In both cases it was months, not days.

pony express postage stamp

100th Anniversary of the Pony Express U.S. Postage Stamp

The Pony Express operated in the west during the American Civil War. This was several years before the Indian Wars on the Plains began. This was years before Red Cloud’s War and the Fetterman Massacre in Wyoming, sixteen years before Custer’s defeat at the Little Bighorn and decades before the Indian Wars in the west officially came to an end.

It was a time when traveling on horseback day and night over primitive routes through Indian country could be quite dangerous in the least.

Necessities included a fast horse, a wiry rider and the ability to find your way in daylight and darkness. You may have seen the old advertisements for Pony Express riders which suggested that orphans were preferable. It was both dangerous and adventurous.

Today’s Pony Express Trail

The proposed route for the Pony Express was very simple. It headed west out of St. Joseph Missouri, up the Platte and Sweetwater rivers, through South Pass Wyoming and the Rockies to Salt Lake City. The route then ran out across the Utah and Nevada deserts, up and over the Sierra Nevada and into California at the south end of lake Tahoe and then down the western side of the Sierra Nevada.

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Today's Old Town Sacramento, the western terminus of the Pony Express

Segments of today’s Pony Express Trail are both publicly and privately owned. The National Park Service depends on many organizations and private land owners to keep this historic trail alive. This involves communication with state governments and municipalities. The Pony Express National Historic Trail follows the 1,900-mile route taken by those daring riders through the states of  Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California.

Just as with other notable old western trails, much of the original trail has been worn away by weather and modernization. Some of the best remaining segments are to be found in Utah and California. Eventually, the Pony Express National Historic Camp Trail is planned to run past 120 historic sites related to the famous yet short lived mail operation, including what remains of 50 stations along the route.

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Placer County Courthouse California, along the Pony Express Trail

Exploring the Pony Express Trail

Driving directions and maps are available to provide modern travelers with directions along highways that approximate the historic route taken by the Pony riders during the eighteen months that it operated from 1860-1861. The link Pony Express National Trails has a map where you can pinpoint what parts of the trail you intend to visit. In California for an example, the old Pony Express Route generally follows U.S. Hwy 50 up the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. U.S. Hwy 50 is also the primary route to take through Nevada toward Utah. In Utah, the route travels northeast past Salt Lake City and into Wyoming.

Two additional articles you’ll find interesting include a Visit to Old Town Sacramento California and Traveling on the Old Butterfield Stage Line.

pony express mochilla

Pony Express Mochilla exhibit

The Utah Segment

The Pony Express Trail National Back Country Byway in Utah begins near Fairfield and ends at Ibapah, Utah.

Add Camp Floyd / Stagecoach Inn State Park on state highway 73, 5 miles south of Cedar Fort to your trip planner. Then add the Pony Express National Back Country Byway Visitor Information Site. The location is 1.8 miles west of the Fausts Junction along the north side of the Pony Express Trail. The station there was named after station keeper “Doc” Fausts. The station was a two-story stone structure located some distance from the present historical marker which was erected in 1939. The entire Back Country Byway is 133 miles long. Most of the route is range land and managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Visiting historic segments of the Pony Express Trail makes an excellent addition to your western road trip planner. The map provided by the National Park Service is a good place to start in planning your upcoming road trip. Attending a segment of the annual NPEA Re-Ride is also a great way for the entire family to learn about the days of the Pony Express. For more information, visit the NPEA site at www.xphomestation.com

(Photos and images from the public domain)

 

People of the Civil War

Union Soldiers and the Draft

One of the most interesting facts about the American Civil War, and there are many, was the composition of the troops involved on both sides. Who were the soldiers? Who were the volunteers? Why did they join the fight? Who were some of the famous immigrants from the Civil War? There were large divisions in the country and sides were being taken. Often times families themselves were split in their loyalties.

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Civil War Sword Bayonet

In the book, The Civil War: Strange & Fascinating Facts, author Burke Davis states that the White House itself was an example of the divisions in the country. President Abraham Lincoln’s brothers-in-law wore Confederate uniforms. One was even charged with brutality to Union prisoners in Richmond Virginia.

The Union instituted a draft. The Enrollment Act, passed by the Thirty-seventh Congress in response to the need to increase the ranks of the Union army, made all  males between the ages of twenty and forty-five subject to the draft. There were exceptions of course. If you were the only son of a widow, physically impaired or mentally ill, you could avoid the draft. The biggest issue in this bill, different from drafts during the twentieth century, was the allowing of draftees to pay $300 to a substitute who served for them. It’s been written that some of the wealthier draftees paid up to $1,100 for a substitute which in that day was an enormous sum. Three familiar names who all qualified for the draft but never served were the former president, Grover Cleveland, the Cleveland merchant John D. Rockefeller and the New York lawyer George Templeton Strong.

Immigrants in the Civil War

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Union Gunboat USS Cairo on Mississippi River, 1862

Civil War statistics  show the people born outside the United States played a larger role in the war than many may realize. The vast majority of the immigrants resided in the north. The figures were about 4 million in the north compared to about 230,000 in the south. To give you an idea of the number of Civil War immigrants  in the Civil War, regiments serving the north during the war, a partial list of the regiments were as follows…

In regards to Germans, they comprised ten regiments from New York, six in Ohio, six in Missouri, five from Pennsylvania, four from Wisconsin and three in Illinois. There were more spread around the country.

The Irish had two pure regiments from Massachusetts, three others in New England and four from New York. There were also two in Pennsylvania and Indiana. In regards to immigrant participation, among the famous people of the Civil War were Colonel Franz Spigel shown in the photo below.

The south had Civil War immigrants dressed in gray as well. The south had five Generals who were born in Ireland. The south had companies composed of Germans, Poles, Frenchmen, Mexican and Spaniards. Foreign nationals served in the Confederate Army as well. A claim was made by one Canadian that some 40,000 of his countrymen fought for the south although that figure might have been largely exaggerated. One Louisiana regiment reportedly was comprised of fighters of thirty-seven nationalities.

The German Immigrants of Missouri

missouri governor jackson

Claiborne Fox Jackson, 15th Governor of Missouri

It’s very interesting to explore many of the regiments put together on the Union side. Missouri is an interesting example look at. The Missouri example highlights just how important immigrants were for the Union cause. According to the Missouri Civil War Museum, the governor of Missouri did not wish to answer Lincoln’s call for troops. In fact, Missouri Gov. Jackson preferred the State to join the Confederacy but he didn’t have the votes to back it up. What he did do however was appoint a southern sympathizer as head of the Missouri Militia.

As history notes, Missouri was the site of some of the worse atrocities to occur during the war. These included raids by the likes of Jesse James and Quantrills Raiders. Missouri had many of it’s citizens join up on both sides of the conflict. The state sympathies were heavily divided and this fact explains why some of the most violent encounters took place there.

The German community in St. Louis understood the political situation. They knew what Governor Jackson’s feelings were and watched the situation carefully. The Germans were pro Union. Eventually, German immigrants formed their own militia regiments and drilled them in secret. What they were waiting for was word from Washington to act and of course arms. They were ready, willing and able to act against the state if Jackson went ahead with plans to secede. President Lincoln through a St. Louis Congressman knew quite well what the situation was. As a result, Lincoln did give the okay for the German armed militias and sent an army captain named Nathaniel Lyons from Kansas to St. Louis.

The Breaking Point in Missouri

immigrants of the civil war

German immigrant Colonel Franz Sigel, 3rd Missouri Infantry

The tipping point with the Missouri situation occurred in May of 1861. This is when the Missouri Volunteer State Militia gathered at Camp Jackson, just north of St. Louis at the behest of Governor Jackson. Here Gov. Jackson’s forces received arms and ammunition from the Confederate Government. Many of these war supplies were stolen from the Federal Arsenal at Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Lyons rallied his forces composed of ten regiments of primarily German American, an artillery battery and two companies of U.S. Infantry (regular Army). This massive force, approximately 10,000 men was set in motion to capture the 700 man Missouri State forces at Camp Jackson situated on ground now occupied by St. Louis University. The Union forces were able to stop the secession movement in Missouri. The U.S. Infantry and the German regiments were instrumental in keeping the Unions western gateway open. Civil War immigrants, particularly German immigrants, were the key to saving Missouri from secession.

Three additional photo articles we’ve published that you’ll find interesting are The Confederate Navy and the Civil War Submarines. On our Western Trips site see the Civil War Infantry photo article.

Planned Missouri Civil War Museum

There were many interesting and diverse groups of people of the Civil War. There are also many venues to explore on the subject. Below are two sites in Missouri which will make excellent additions to your Missouri road trip planner.

The Missouri Civil War Museum is located within the Jefferson Barracks Historic Site in St. Louis, Missouri. The museum facility is located at the west side of the Jefferson Barrack’s historic grass parade grounds. This site is recognized as the oldest active military installation west of the Mississippi River. This museum is focused on Missouri during the Civil War. It is the fourth largest Civil War Museum in the nation and one of the largest Civil War research libraries in the nation. The museum’s stated purpose is to educate the public of the true aspects and history of the American Civil War and its relevance to the state of Missouri. At this museum,  Missouri’s unique Civil War story is brought to light with artifacts and exhibits. As of this writing, the museum is still being worked on.

The museum hopes to open in late 2012 .For the latest information on the museum’s opening you may want to refer to the museum website.

www.mcwm.org

Another must stop for Civil War buffs is the Carthage Civil War Museum in Carthage Missouri. The Carthage museum showcases artifacts and information about the Battle of Carthage and the Civil War in southwest Missouri. Also on display is information  on one of Carthage’s famous residents, “Belle Starr“. Carthage is about 272 miles southwest of St. Louis in the southwestern corner of the state near Joplin.

Two good books to explore the subject further are The Civil War: Strange & Fascinating Facts by author Burke Davis and Civil War on the Missouri-Kansas Border by Donald L. Gilmore.

(Photo of Civil War Sword from author’s collection. Remaining photos from the public domain)