Saturday, March 21, 2015

Battle At Picacho Pass

If history has taught us anything, war is not a good thing yet we continue to find ways to fight among ourselves.  Throughout the history of this country we have been involved in many wars but none was more devastating to the country than the Civil War.  Numbers are hard to come by but is believed that more than 600,000 Americans lost their lives fighting each other.  The cost was heighten due to the methods of battle as well the new technology that was developed during the war.  Sometimes families were split as members chose the which side to fight for.  The Confederacy began with seven Southern slave states declaring their independence by succession from the United States.  Eventually the Confederate States of America would include thirteen states and several territories which the Confederacy declared to be theirs.

Arizona was one of the territories whose sentiments leaned towards the Confederacy.  Succession from the Union occurred in March of 1861 with the establishment of Provisional Confederate Territory of Arizona.  The Confederacy saw the Arizona territory as access to the Pacific Ocean as well as the gold in California.  On April 15, 1862, known as the westernmost battle of the Civil war, a detachment of Union Calvary on patrol from California engaged a group of Confederate pickets or scouts at the Battle of Picacho Pass roughly eighteen miles from where we now sit in our trailer.

This morning the Arizona Parks Department hosted the Battle At Picacho Pass Reenactment and if you have never attended one of these you should.  There were three complete military camps one each for the divisions involved in the skirmish.  Complete with tents and all the accessories that you would find in a encampment.  A doctor was on hand to explain the gory details of the surgeries and methods used to perform them.  To say the least, cleanliness was not one of them.  For example, the term "bite the bullet" comes from the fact that soldiers were given a lead ball to bite on during surgical procedures.  During excavation of some of these field hospitals several of the balls were found with different teeth marks imbedded in them as if the ball was passed from patient to patient.

I stayed for the reenactment and had a great time except for the sun beating down and the perch I chose to sit on.  I was first in line.
First in line

Picacho Peak
After arriving you pay your entry fee ($10.00 for up to four people in one car) and are directed to a nice flat parking lot about a quarter of a mile away from the actual encampment.  You may walk up or take a tram provided by the park service.  Golf carts were available for the disabled attendees.
As you walk along the pedestrian trail you round a corner and see the Union Flag flying high in the morning sun light as Union soldiers stand around in groups.
The Union Encampment

The Doctors Office

None of the soldiers appear ready to do battle as they stand chatting about their leaders in their wool uniforms, sun blaring down and heat starting to present itself.
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A lone soldier sits next to his tent in the shade trying to keep cool.

Soldiers prepare ammunition for today's battle

Breakfast dishes

You walk out from the encampments to find the battle field a short distance away.  Union and Confederate cannon have already taken up positions and both armies arrive at the battle field.

The battle starts and the noise and smoke fill the air.  Cannon shots sound like loud thunder and echo though the canyons surrounding the battlefield.  Suddenly you can imagine how these men must have felt in the mist of battle.  Standing shoulder to shoulder and shooting at the enemy.  Taking turns with cannon volleys back and forth until the battle begins to wage on and the cannon fire continues from both sides.  Looking at the tactics used by the military in the Civil War you can see why so many died.  The shoulder to shoulder fighting caused many casualities just as the patriots inflicted on the British Military who also stood shoulder to shoulder.

You get the sense for what happened and how it happened watching these reenactments.  Like I said, I had never been to one but I would certainly go to another and would highly recommend them for history buffs or people who just want to know.

Hope all is well and thanks for dropping by

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