Special to The Explorer
Each year, hundreds of spectators descend on Picacho Peak State Park to watch re-enactments of the Battle of Picacho Pass and the New Mexico battles of Glorieta and Val Verde.
This year's re-enactments are being hosted at Picacho Peak State Park northwest of Tucson on Saturday and Sunday, March 13-14.
The Civil War of the Southwest event is being coordinated with financial support from the Arizona State Parks Foundation and Union Pacific Railroad. Volunteers from across the state are offering their assistance during these two days so this popular re-enactment of Arizona's Civil War history can take place.
"We know that few people even understand what was happening during the Civil War in Arizona, and these battles bring the public together to learn about that late 1800s era in Arizona," said Janet Hawks, Arizona State Parks chief of operations.
More than 200 re-enactors are camping at Picacho Peak State Park with their authentic Civil War camping gear. The entry fee is $10 per vehicle for up to four persons, and $3 for each additional person. There is no charge for children aged 13 and younger. Food and beverage concessions are available. People should bring plenty of water, hats, lawn chairs and sunscreen. Pets are not permitted.
One battle of the American Civil War was a skirmish fought near a rocky spire called Picacho Peak located between Phoenix and Tucson. The new highway follows the old wagon route that passed Picacho in 1862.
In 1860 the New Mexico Territory, which consisted of the lands that would become the states of Arizona and New Mexico, was sparsely populated. It ranked 34th in population out of 43 states and territories with 83,009 inhabitants.
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, the U.S. Government recalled the majority of its troops from the West to build the Union army for the fighting in the east. Henry Hopkins Sibley joined the Confederacy and convinced Jefferson Davis that he would raise an army in Texas and invade New Mexico territories. He proposed that mineral resources would fill the coffers of the Confederacy and fund their massive war effort.
On April 15, 1862, 12 Union cavalry troopers and one scout were conducting a sweep of the Picacho Pass area, looking for Confederates reported to be nearby. During their patrol they discovered and captured three Confederate lookouts, but failed to see seven other Confederate soldiers before they opened fire. During the ensuing skirmish, three members were killed and three others wounded. More than an hour later, both sides withdrew from the scene.
For more information about the re-enactments, visit AZStateParks.com or call Picacho Peak State Park at (520) 466-3183.