Baylor declares himself governor of Confederate Territory of Arizona
On this day in 1861, the controversial John R. Baylor declared himself governor of the Confederate Territory of Arizona in what is now Mesilla, New Mexico. Baylor, born in Kentucky in 1822, had come to Texas at an early age. During the Civil War he commanded the Second Texas Mounted Rifles, who were ordered to occupy a chain of forts protecting the overland route between Fort Clark and Fort Bliss. In July 1861 Baylor seized Mesilla without opposition and pursued the federal Seventh Infantry, which had evacuated Fort Fillmore, east into the Organ Mountains. Baylor secured their surrender in the battle of Mesilla at San Augustine Pass on July 27. Though he was subsequently promoted to colonel, Baylor was succeeded in Mesilla by Henry Hopkins Sibley and removed from command in the spring of 1862 after ordering the extermination of the local Apache Indians. The victory at Mesilla was nonetheless one of the war's early and surprising Confederate successes, and Baylor's dashing actions in the summer of 1861 added to his fame as a folk hero. He died in 1894.