This is a blog about how freedom came for the slaves during the American Civil War, but now and then I indulge in other unrelated subject matter. Such as my post last October poking fun at nervousness in certain quarters of the North in Fall 1861 about British troops in Canada. Today, I intend to indulge in another off-topic post.
February 14, 2012 is the 100th anniversary of Arizona statehood. Arizona became a state on February 14, 1912. I only have been a resident of Arizona for about a year-and-a-half, but my ties to the state go back a long ways. My great-aunt Rose (my father’s aunt) came to Arizona before World War II, when as a nurse she contracted tuberculosis. With the help of the state’s dry climate she lived long enough to see a cure for the disease and to outlive the rest of her ten brothers and sisters. She was joined eventually by her sister, Mary, and when I was a child, our family would sometimes cross the desert from California to visit them. My maternal grandparents were Canadian snowbirds that found a roost during the winter in a trailer park in Mesa, not far from my great aunts’ cluttered Phoenix apartment. So a visit to see my great aunts was usually timed so we could see my mother’s parents as well. After a couple of false starts trying to retire in California, my parents finally settled in Mesa, where my mother still lives (my father died a few years ago). Consequently, I have been in and out of the state for years, enough that it was a long a second home to me before finally becoming my first.
But enough of my family’s Arizona history. What a lot of people, even state residents are unaware of, is Arizona’s Confederate roots. At the start of the Civil War, what is today the states of Arizona and New Mexico, were part of New Mexico Territory. Although still quite isolated and rugged, by 1860, the territory was splitting apart on sectional lines not unlike the rest of the United States. The northern part of New Mexico Territory tended to be loyal to the Union and looked for leadership to the official territorial capital at Santa Fe. However, residents of the southern part of the territory abutting Mexico, some of them from the American South and alienated by federal neglect, hoped to join the Confederacy. On March 16, 1861, they met at Mesilla and voted to secede from the Union, establishing themselves as Arizona Territory. While the nascent Confederate government greeted the news favorably, as it had ambitions to achieve a continental nation from the Atlantic to Pacific, Jefferson Davis and the Confederate Congress had more pressing matters, but finally on February 14, 1862, admitted Arizona as a Confederate territory. Confederate Arizona’s existence was short-lived. Union forces defeated an attempt by Confederate troops from Texas to seize New Mexico Territory in Spring 1862 and by that summer the government of Confederate Arizona was forced to flee to Texas where it effectively ceased to exist.
When the U.S. Congress established its own version of Arizona Territory in 1866, it deliberately drew the boundary between it and the rump New Mexico Territory running north to south, so to split the old New Mexico Territory east and west instead north and south such as has been the case during the Civil War (see the map above). However, the Confederates got the last laugh, so to speak. When it selected the date for Arizona statehood, Congress, now with plenty of Southerners in it (which hadn’t been the case in 1866), chose the date of February 14, 1912 for Arizona to become the 48th state, fifty years to the date that Arizona had been accepted into the Confederacy. Another example of the South losing the war, but winning the peace.