Photographers take to the Picacho Pass Civil War re-enactment

Robert Thoresen

PCQC members spent March 15 taking in a full day of Civil War reenactments at Picacho Peak State Park. One is the reenactment of the Picacho Pass Battle and the other two represent reenactments of battles at Glorieta and Val Verde, New Mexico Territory (which were more strategically significant). The Confederates had hopes early in the war of taking possession of California and New Mexico Territory. An army of 2,500 had traveled from Texas and had occupied New Mexico. A component of about 200 Texans and sympathetic territorial settlers continued the deployment west to occupy the Tucson Barrio in March 1862. What happened at Picacho Peak on April 15, 1862, was a skirmish. A Union Cavalry party of twelve met up with a Confederate picket patrol of 10 and three Confederates were taken prisoner. What the patrol didn’t notice were the other seven pickets who open fire and killed the patrol’s lieutenant and two other Cavalrymen. What is recorded as the westernmost battle of the American Civil War was really a group encounter that lasted about one hour, was fluid and totally unplanned. The Union patrol retreated back to their main camp further west in today’s Pinal County and the Confederate pickets went packing to Tucson. Final score: three Union dead, two Confederates wounded and three Confederates captured. Within two months the Confederates abandoned Tucson as the Capital of the Confederate Territory of Arizona and rejoined their main force in New Mexico who had already been defeated at Glorieta and were to be stymied at the Battle of Val Verde, New Mexico. The two battles in New Mexico were much more strategically significant. Both involved 2500 troops on each side, had significantly large casualties and effectively ended the dream of a Confederate Southwest extending to California. The only remaining battles during the war in Arizona were against Apaches who usually came out as the winners.

The reenactment is organized by the Arizona Civil War Council which was created in 1983. The event at Picacho Pass is a weekend event in March and does three reenactments of the battles in New Mexico territory in 1862. Approximately 200 reenactors come from around the country to appear and partake for the two days. They also camp at the park with their authentic camping gear, weapons and uniforms. Union forces seemed to be much better outfitted. The council also organizes events at Fort Verde, The Pioneer Living Museum in Phoenix, Casa Grande, Yuma and events in Nevada and California.

PCQC members’ lunch options were either at the Dairy Queen at the I-10 Interchange, some feed at Rooster Cogburns Ostrich Farm or selections from the numerous meal trucks at the park for the event. The common option was the four wheel meal trucks with the meal consumed in a folding beach chair.