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Confederacy grows as Baylor defeats Yankees in Arizona and declares himself governor

July
24
1861

On this day in 1861, Lt. Col. John Robert Baylor led 300 men of the Confederate Second Texas Mounted Rifles in an assault on Union forces under Maj. Isaac Lynde at Fort Fillmore, Arizona. Baylor was under orders to occupy a chain of forts protecting the overland route between Fort Clark and Fort Bliss. He entered the nearby town of Mesilla that night. The next morning Lynde ordered an artillery attack on Mesilla, but after three of his men were killed and six wounded, he withdrew. Learning that Baylor had requested artillery from Ft Bliss, Lynde abandoned the fort the night of July 26. The next day, Baylor gave chase. The Confederates rode into Lynde’s camp in the early afternoon, and Lynde surrendered his force of 492 men. Baylor proclaimed Arizona Territory, C.S.A., and named himself governor. He remained there until the spring of 1862. The victory at Mesilla was one of the Civil War’s early and surprising Confederate successes.

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