Pinal County

Battle of Picacho Pass


On the morning of April 15, 1862, 50 miles northwest of Tucson. A small skirmish between the Union Calvary patrol from California and a party of Confederate pickets from Tucson took place. Tucson, where Confederate sympathies were high due to a lack of attention from the federal government. Tucson had been declared the capital of the western district of the Confederate Arizona Territory which included southern Arizona and New Mexico. These rebels tried to convince California citizens to join them in their beliefs. However, as the government heard of this, They sent union volunteers, known as the California Column, led by Colonel James Henry Carelton, into Arizona. These men used Fort Yuma as a base. Previous encounters to this one included Dragoon Springs, Stanwix Station and Apache Pass, all of which were relatively close to the Butterfield Overland Stagecoach Route. Confederates fought to keep this route open however, they did not have much success.

Twelve Union calvary troops and one scout, under command of Lieutenant James Barret of the 1st California Calvary were conduting a sweep of the Picacho Pass area. They had heard that there were Confederates in the area. These confederates were under the command of Sergeant Henry Holmes. Despite Lt. Barrett's orders to not engage until a main column came, they surprised and captured three Rebel pickets. However, they failed to notice the other seven Confederate Soldiers as they opened fire.

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Another error by Barret included not ordering a calvary charge on the Rebels and as they took cover in thickets, the union officers provided an easy target. After 90 minutes, the engagement was over and the Confederates watched the calvary retreat. The confederates moved back to Tucson to finish their picketing but was advised to leave by Tucson's garrison, as Union forces were moving their way. As rebel reinforcements failed to arrive, Hunter and his men retreated and left Tucson for the Union to capture. Lieutenant Barrett's grave is still near the railroad tracks, however, unmarked. The two others left dead were later moved to San Francisco. The Confederates made their way to California, burning hay at stage stations to slow the Union forces. The Confederates later went on to fight in other battles, but they never got across their ideals to others. A great way to witness a close replica is a reenactment every March at Picacho Peak State Park. For more information on the Park of reenactment, please visit:



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