The Civil War Period

During the winter of 1860-61, preceding the actual outbreak of hostilities between the North and the South, there arose strong evidences of divided sentiment in Denver and other communities of Colorado Territory. There must be taken into consideration the fact that many of the settlers in Colorado, in the towns and mining camps, were from the South, were thoroughly imbued with the southern spirit and ideals, and naturally sympathized with the cause of the South. But there were others, from the North and in the majority, who bitterly opposed everything which smacked of the false aristocracy of the Southern States. Actual war between the states was considered remote and not until the news of Fort Sumter came to Denver did the people awaken to the true character of the situation.

The military organizations in the territory were insignificant at this time. In fact, when Governor Gilpin arrived to take over the government in the new Territory, there were no Colorado troops in existence. The Jefferson Rangers and Denver Guards, small militia companies, had been organized during the summer of i860 in accordance with an act of the Legislative Assembly of Jefferson Territory, but were disbanded before the end of the following winter. Small forces of government troops were stationed at two places in Colorado Territory, at Fort Garland, in the San Luis Valley, and at Fort Wise, on the Arkansas River, near the eastern part of the present Bent County. The latter post was formerly the trading station built by William Bent and which was sold to the Government in 1859; in the fall of the year 1861 the name was changed from Fort Wise to Fort Lyon, in memory of Gen. Nathaniel Lyon, the Union leader who fell at Wilson’s Creek, Missouri, the preceding August.

Confederate Flag Raising

Governor Gilpin was a staunch supporter of the Union, but the same could not be said for many of the citizens. Rebel sympathizers could be heard on every hand, expounding their blatant views of slavery and the Southern Confederacy. The first actual demonstration of opposition to the North occurred on April 24th, just a few days after the bombardment of Fort Sumter. Upon this day a number of men raised the “Stars and Bars” over the store of Wallingford & Murphy, a log building which stood on the north side of Larimer Street, a short distance west of Sixteenth Street. A turbulent crowd, in which the Union men were predominant, soon gathered in front of the store, and demanded that the flag be taken down. The southern adherents were equally determined that the flag should stay. A general melee seemed imminent. Shortly a young man in the crowd, Samuel M. Logan, later captain in the First Colorado Volunteers, climbed to the roof of the store and tore the emblem down, without opposition from the crowd assembled. This was the first and last open display of the Confederate flag in Colorado Territory, although it is said that a few small flags were flown from private houses later. This occurrence, however, brought the Union spirit out in force and numerous manifestations of loyalty to the North were made.

Colorado Territory was placed in a complicated situation. Territorial government had just been inaugurated and actual administration was yet in the formularize state: the conditions in New Mexico heralded a Confederate menace from that direction; Indians, covertly watching for the opportunity to spring upon the white men, roamed the plains in great numbers; great distances lay between the settlements and the beginning of civilization in the east; and, in all, many other factors contributed to the feeling of isolation and uneasiness in the territory.

Defeat Of Enemy Plans

Governor Gilpin came to Denver on May 29th and began the work of organizing the new government. In the next month he formed a military staff, consisting of: Richard E. Whitsitt, adjutant-general; Samuel Moer, quartermaster-general; John S. Fillmore, paymaster; and Morton C. Fisher, purchasing agent. One of the first moves made by the governor, after the organization of the staff, was to order Fisher to purchase all the small ordnance and ammunition he could find among the people. This variegated stock of weapons was not collected without opposition from the Confederates. The latter were quietly active throughout the territory, were engaged in gathering arms themselves, and were suspected to be forming a mounted force for the purpose of raiding Denver or some other of the larger communities. Under the leadership of one McKee, a Texan, these men advertised freely for guns and were becoming more and more open and boastful in their actions, when Governor Gilpin took steps to crush them. He ordered McKee and two score of his followers arrested and imprisoned. This ended the purchase of guns by the rebel sympathizers.

There were yet many of the butternut caste in Colorado and a detachment of them succeeded in establishing a meeting place at the head of Cherry Creek in the autumn of 1861. In the meantime, the First Colorado Volunteer Regiment had been organized and a number of these soldiers were despatched to the enemies’ stronghold. Some of the latter were captured and others escaped. The rebels fled southward, taking possession of a wagon train in the southeastern part of the present state, but many of them were speedily caught by the pursuing soldiers and returned to Denver with their former comrades. After a few weeks of imprisonment they were discharged by the authorities and threatened with summary punishment if they resumed their disloyal activities. In this way the last organized attempt to oppose the North was quelled in the territory. Those of southern ideas and who wished to take up arms against the North surreptitiously departed from Colorado, individually or in small groups, and made their way to the nearest Con-federate army or community.

First Recruiting

In July, 1861, Governor Gilpin, with the cooperation of several prominent citizens, had taken steps to perfect some sort of military organization. A request was made of the Washington authorities for permission to organize a few companies of infantry or cavalry, the same to be used in the service of the North. For some reason, this request was ignored.

In the same month of July, recruiting was begun near Idaho and vicinity by Samuel H. Cook, for service in a Kansas Regiment. This must be considered as the first actual recruiting in the territory for service in the cause of the Union. When Cook had nearly completed his recruiting Governor Gilpin persuaded him to keep the men in Colorado, to form a unit of the First Regiment of Volunteers. This regiment was conceived in the mind of the governor, as he had decided to assume the initiative and organize a regiment despite the silence of Washington. As governor of the territory he was vested with authority to raise a military force for the defense of the citizens.

John P. Slough, a Denver attorney, by this time had received a commission from Washington to enlist two companies of infantry for the regular service. The original plan was for this command to relieve the United States Regulars at Fort Garland, thus releasing the latter for work at the front. In July and August, Governor Gilpin appointed company officers and ordered the enlistment of nine companies which, with Cook’s two, were to comprise the new regiment. In the latter part of August he made additional arrangements for two more companies, which were to perform the service intended for the two units to be raised by Slough, and afterward to form the basis of the Second Regiment of Colorado Volunteers, then contemplated.

Recruiting offices having been located at the more important places in the territory, by the end of September the quota of the First Regiment was practically filled. John P. Slough was appointed colonel of the regiment; Samuel F. Tappan was made lieutenant-colonel; John M. Chivington, later of Sand Creek fame, was commissioned major. Chivington, in view of his former vocation as a preacher, was tendered the position of chaplain at first, but his bellicose spirit was too strong for such an office and he chose the major ship. The companies and their officers, also places where recruited, were:

Company A, Capt. Edward W. Wynkoop, was recruited at Denver by Colonel Slough.
Company B, Capt. Samuel M. Logan, was recruited at Central City by Lieutenant-Colonel Tappan.
Company C, Capt. Richard Sopris, was recruited partly in Denver and partly in the Buckskin Joe district in the South Park.
Company D, Captain Downing, was formed mostly in Denver.
Company E, Capt. Scott J. Anthony, was recruited in the California Gulch and Buckskin Joe districts.
Company F, Capt. Samuel H. Cook, was formed of men from the vicinity twenty-five miles west of Denver, which is now Clear Creek County.
Company G, Capt. Josiah W. Hambleton, was recruited in the Clear Creek district.
Company H, Capt. George L. Sanborn, raised mostly at Central City.
Company I, Capt. Charles Mailie, a German company recruited at Denver, Central City and in other Clear Creek mining towns.
Company K, Capt. Charles P. Marion, recruited mostly in Denver and Central City.
Captains Hambleton and Marion were both cashiered for insubordination in November and were succeeded by Captains William F. Wilder and Samuel H. Robbins respectively.

Comfortable barracks, costing about $40,000, were constructed on the east side of the South Platte River, two and a half miles above the mouth of Cherry Creek, and here the regiment was taken in October. The encampment was given the name of Camp Weld, in honor of the first secretary of the territory, Lewis Ledyard Weld.

By the end of November two more companies were raised at Cañon City, and were known as “Captain ‘Jim’ Ford’s Independent Company” and “Captain Theodore Dodd’s Independent Company.”

These Colorado soldiers might be described by the word nondescript. Regulation government supplies and equipment failed to arrive for some time, and each man carried a different kind of weapon. When the regulation guns did arrive, they were few in number and of inferior quality. Currency was another obstacle in the governor’s path. Congress had not included in its appropriations for the Colorado territorial government any funds for military purposes. Governor Gilpin found it necessary to resort to some means to meet expenses, so issued negotiable drafts directly upon the national treasury, which were accepted here as legal tender. He was outside of his authority in doing this, but was not aware of it at the time. When the drafts began to reach Washington the merry music began, and the paper was all repudiated by the Government. This led to a financial depression in the territory, as there had been about $375,000 worth of these drafts issued, and the feeling against Gilpin became extremely bitter. He visited Washington in the attempt to straighten matters out, but was unsuccessful, and the question was finally submitted to the cabinet. Early in 1862 this body of men voted to remove Gilpin from office. In May, 1862, John Evans succeeded to the office of governor of Colorado Territory.


In order to show the temper of the people in regard to the conflict being waged, the Territorial Legislature adopted the following resolutions the first of October:

“Be it Resolved by the Council and House of Representatives of Colorado Territory, as follows, to-wit:

“Resolved, That the deplorable Civil war in which the United States Government is now engaged, was brought about by the unjustifiable and traitorous acts of the disunionists at the South, and therefore the sole responsibility for all its legitimate consequences rests with them alone.

“Resolved, That all the resources of the Country both in men and means to their utter exhaustion should be at once called out, if needed to defend the National Government, and to preserve the integrity of the Union.

“Resolved, That the pretended right of secession, as claimed by some of the states of the Union, has no warrant in the Constitution and is wholly repugnant to the principles on which our government was founded.

“Resolved, That after this rebellion shall have been crushed out, the supremacy of the Federal Constitution shall have been fully conceded, and the rights of the Union shall have been amply guaranteed, then there should be invoked the same spirit of concession and compromise to perpetuate our institutions, in which they were first conceived and framed.

“Resolved, That the people of Colorado Territory, utterly ignoring all former political classifications, heartily sympathize with the Federal Government in its present contest, approve of its leading acts, which have been necessarily undertaken for its own self-existence and self-defense, and pledge themselves to cooperate to the full extent of their power, in all constitutional measures which may hereafter be adopted toward the prompt and decisive conclusion of the war thus waged on its part only for the maintenance of the Constitution and the enforcement of the laws.”

Another resolution was approved on October 29th which placed confidence in Governor Gilpin and accorded him the support of the Legislature.

In addition to the volunteer companies already formed and which were enlisted for the term of three years, two home guard companies, designated as Nos. 1 and 2, were formed in the City of Denver. Joseph Ziegelmuller was the captain of the first one and James W. Iddings of the second. The duty of these troops kept them in Denver as guards, but they were regularly mustered into the United States service and mustered out in the spring of 1862. In November, three companies of the First were taken to Fort Wise from Camp Weld and there remained during the winter months, under command of the post officer, Lieut. James M. Warner. The companies which had been raised at Canon City, recruited by Ford and Dodd, remained there until the close of the year for equipment and muster.

Menace From The South

Shortly after Texas seceded from the Government in March, 1861, the Confederate authorities in that state began to prepare to take possession of the Federal forts which stood upon Texas soil, also to take over the Territory of New Mexico, which then included all of the present State of Arizona. In a short time all the Union troops which had been stationed in Texas were withdrawn, leaving many supplies in the hands of the Confederates.

Adequate provisions had been made for the expected war by John B. Floyd, secretary of war under President Buchanan, who was a southern sympathizer. Anticipating the secession of the rebel states, he abundantly stocked all the forts in Texas and New Mexico with provisions and munitions of war, also stationed a greater number of army officers than necessary at the New Mexico posts, believing that when the South withdrew from the Union these officers would give their services to the cause and persuade a greater part of the soldiers to do likewise. Although many of the officers did desert the blue for the gray, the whole force in this territory was not seriously crippled thereby.

Col. William W. Loring, a North Carolinian, was unwisely placed in charge of the Union army in New Mexico, with headquarters at Santa Fe. Colonel Loring bore an excellent reputation as an officer, but favored the southern cause. He remained in office at Santa Fe for about three months, doing all in his power to aid the Confederates in their plan of invading New Mexico, then formally resigned and joined the Confederate army. Col. Edward R. S. Canby, an officer of unquestioned loyalty, succeeded Loring and established his headquarters at Fort Craig, on the Rio Grande, one hundred and fifty miles above El Paso. Conditions in New Mexico and Arizona were then in turmoil. New Mexico was considered to be largely for the North, but in the country now constituting Arizona, where there were few people, rabid southerners were in the majority. In a con-vention held at Tucson in the late spring of ‘6i the western half of New Mexico was definitely listed among the Confederate states and a delegate to the Con-federate Congress elected.

Baylor’s Campaign

In July, 1861, Lieut.-Col. John R. Baylor, C. S. A., with several companies of Texas mounted infantry and artillery, invested Fort Bliss, on the Rio Grande below El Paso. Here he left a detachment and began to march up the Rio Grande with the remainder of the force, carrying with him a small field battery. First he approached Fort Fillmore, thirty-six miles above El Paso, and commanded by Maj. Isaac Lynde. The latter made a feeble effort to resist the southern troops, was defeated, and abandoned the fort. With some five hundred Union troops he sought refuge at San Augustin Springs, twenty-five miles northeast of Fort Fill-more, but Baylor continued the pursuit and compelled the Union commander to lay down his arms, despite the wishes of Lynde’s under officers to make some sort of fight. This exhibition of weakness compelled the evacuation of Fort Thorne, forty miles up the river from Fort Fillmore. The garrison was removed to Fort Craig. The Confederates, evidently believing they could capture Fort Craig, moved on up the valley of the Rio Grande, but were met by a detachment from the fort and compelled to retire. Colonel Baylor lost no time in proclaiming to the inhabitants that he had assumed control of the southern half of New Mexico in the name of the C. S. A. and that the town of Mesilla would be the seat of government.

Colonel Canby realized the distinct menace of Baylor’s success along the Rio Grande and immediately began to assemble all available Federal troops at Fort Craig. The post was strengthened and enlarged and every preparation made to receive the enemy.

History of Colorado

Source: History of Colorado, Wilbur Fisk Stone, Editor, Volume I, Chicago, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1918

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