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Antique Maps of the "Horizontal" Territory of Arizona

Arizona Territory

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History of the "horizontal" territory of Arizona

In 1854, when President Franklin Pierce signed a law ratifying the agreement negotiated by James Gadsden at the end of the previous year, the United States purchased from Mexico almost 30,000 square miles of land, south of the Gila River and west of the Rio Grande. This "Gadsden Purchase" included territory to the south of those previously acquired by the U.S. at the end of the Mexican War in 1848, basically adding land needed in order to be able to run a trans-continental railroad along a route being promoted by Southern business interests.

This land was added to what was then New Mexico territory and as American settlers moved in, this exacerbated what had been a simmering problem in the territory, viz. the difficulty of governing the southern part of New Mexico from the capital, Santa Fe, located in the northeastern part of the territory. Most of the population in New Mexico centered around the capital and in the northern counties and the rugged terrain in the middle of the territory made communication between this area and the southern parts difficult. Those in the southern region--called either "Gadsdonia" or "Arizona"--felt that they were being ignored by the north-centered territorial government, and in 1856 conventions were held in Tucson and Mesilla which called for the creation of a new territory to be created from the southern part of New Mexico. The U.S. Congress, however, deemed that the population was too small to create this territory.

The dissatisfaction of those in the south continued and this only increased as large numbers of new settlers poured in after gold was discovered along the Gila River in 1858. In July 1860, another convention was held in Tucson, which drafted a constitution for a "Territory of Arizona," to be organized out of New Mexico Territory south of the 34th parallel. The convention elected a territorial governor, Lewis Owings, and sent a delegate to Congress.

This time Congress refused to accept the new territory because of the slavery issue. Many of those in the proposed new territory were pro-slavery, with business connections with the southern states, and this new territory lay below the old Missouri Compromise line of demarcation between slave and free states. Thus anti-slavery Congressmen were convinced the new territory would eventually become a slave state, something they were keen to avoid.

When the Confederacy was created in February, 1861, Arizonians finally saw a new opportunity to create their own territory, so a convention was held in Mesilla, which voted on March 16, 1861, to secede from the Union and petition to join the Confederate States. These eastern Arizonians asked those to the west join them, resulting in a convention, held in Tucson, where the westerners voted, on March 28, 1861, to join those in the east in forming the new, secession territory. Owings was again selected as governor, but things didn't proceed any further for a few months.

That summer, Col. John Robert Baylor, from Texas, moved his troops into the area to support the Arizonians' cause. He fought and won the Battle of Mesilla and then on August 1, 1861, declared the creation on the Confederate Territory of Arizona. This act was authorized by the Confederate Congress on January 13, 1862, and then officially recognized when President Jefferson Davis signed the proclamation on February 14, 1862.

The initial victories and political success of the Arizonians lasted only a short time. In March, 1861, at the Battle of Glorieta Pass--just southeast of Santa Fe--a Confederate army was victorious on the field, but their supply train was destroyed and it soon became clear that it was militarily and logistically impractical to try to maintain their forces in New Mexico and Arizona. Thus by July 1861, the Confederate troops had retreated to Texas and the Arizona territorial government set up shop in El Paso. The Confederacy never again wielded any control within the borders of its purported territory of Arizona, but still the territory continued to be represented in the Confederate Congress and troops fought under its banner until the end of the Civil War.

By the 1860s it was clear that New Mexico Territory was too large to be practically governed from Santa Fe and so needed to be divided. When in February 1861 all the Southern representatives left Congress, it was then practical to create new territories in any shape that those in the North wished. In order to preclude a de facto recognition of the Confederate territory and to preclude a potential slave state, Congress decided to create the new territory of Arizona not with an east-west axis from the southern part of New Mexico, but on a north-south axis from the western part of the territory. On February 24, 1863, Congress passed an act to establish a slave-free Territory of Arizona, from the lands lying west of a line run south of the western border of Colorado.


Available maps

"Johnson's North America." New York: Johnson & Browning, 1860. 22 x 17. Lithograph. Original hand color. Very good condition.

A map of North America at an interesting period in its history. In the north, Alaska is still shown as "Russian Possessions" and what would, beginning in 1867, become Canada is still shown as "British America." In the south, Chiriqui, Veragua, and S. Jago Vero are shown an independent of Columbia, which at that time had control over Panama. In the United States, this map is interesting in showing the pre-Civil War situation in the American West, including a couple of proposed territories. Nevada Territory, though not created for another year, is tentatively shown, as is the proposed horizontal Arizona Territory, running below New Mexico. Arizona was created a year later, but with a north-south shape, rather than the east-west one shown here. $250

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©The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd. Last updated January 31, 2015