Great crowds turned out for the Civil War in the South West to watch more than 200 re-enactors battle out the great Civil War engagements of the South West. Two were fought in New Mexico, Valverde and Glorieta Pass, is often called the Gettsyburg of the West. The third battle, Picacho Peak is fought near the actual battle spot, just across I-10, lies the unmarked grave of a Union trooper who died, buried where he fell at the skirmish known as the Battle of Picacho Peak. Today hundreds turned out to relive those days of the the Confederate Territory of Arizona, and the 150th Anniversary is on everyone mind. “This is a rare thing,”! “A 150th anniversary”! says VJ Audegis and Annette who have been coming for 12 years to this contest between the blue and grey. “This is a really special year”, “this anniversary preceded by the statehood celebration has made it a very exciting year” say Baldy Cervantes and his thirteen year old son Elvis. Both had attended the Civil War in the South West Weekend before and wanted to become re-enactors so they both joined on the spot.
Both father and son are reveling in the anniversary this April 15, the 150th year, of that chance encounter at Picacho Peak, called the most western battle of the Civil War. This summer Cervantes and Elvis are taking off three weeks and driving back to Gettsyburg for the 150th anniversary and re-enactment, a four day event that will see more boots on the ground this July, than has trampled those grounds since the original battle when 133,000 men battled and died in the most desperate fight of the Civil War. Cervantes is proud of his Arizona roots and his Hispanic culture, so when the recruiter mentioned the First Texas were made up of a number of Texacans, and their reenacted force was lily white now. “They needed us”, he said, “We fit right in”.
“We know that few people understand what was happening during the Civil War in the Southwest and these battles offer the public a glimpse into history and how the battles were fought,” says Rob Young, Picacho Peak State Park Manager. “This is also a popular camping park for RVers because it is just off the highway and surrounding Sonoran Desert habitat is so unusual, especially when there are magnificent poppies.” The Mexican Poppy were looking good about three weeks ago but warm days and hot wind frazzled this year’s crop into a less than an average display with pockets of opportunity if you catch them at the right place, at the right time, that spot won’t be Picacho Peak this year.
Today Confederate hats are flying out the tent door and Gerald Durbin, owner of the Coon River merchantile, can hardly keep up with the line at cash out. Confederate hats out sell Union all day long. Pausing for a breathe, between checkouts of hardtack, hats of blue and gray, uniforms, flags and dresses he reasons the Johnny Reb look allows variety enough to let its owner change his persona, “those Yankee troops never change”, he explained. “Like cookie-cutters, everyone looks just alike.” Fifteen year old Taylor Horrid, chose the Confederate side and dressed in period clothes to came with his uncle. He was having fun learning about the Civil War.
For Taylor, learning how to load, fire, clean a black powder musket has been great and military drilling is something he learned and now loves. He looks forward to learning more about the United States and its history. Brother Bryson thinks it’s fun to “help people learn about history”. His friends think his re-enacting “is pretty cool” and a few friends have joined up. Bunch of loosely connected California re-enactors who frequently see each others at events, camped together at Picacho. “We’re all history buffs” and we find re-enacting to be “a good kick in the ass”, says Ray Daniel (right). “Ain’t that a good looking peacock”, says First Sgt Mark Guyton (right) a re-enactor from Mesa whose brother, Robert (the peacock), mustered him in.
Since 1855, the 4th Cavalry has continuously served the United States of America in the Indian Wars, the Civil War, the Philippine Insurrection, World War II, Vietnam and the Gulf War. Today the 4th Cavalry is a historic and ceremonial regiment stationed at Fort Huachuca and its Troopers are active duty and retired military who care for their horses and drill weekly.
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