The Territory of Colorado was established in 1861 in the wake of the Pikes Peak Gold Rush of 1858-1861, which brought the first large concentration of settlers to the region. The act creating the Territory was passed by Congress and signed by President James Buchanan on February 28, 1861 during the period when Southern States seceded from the Union. The organization of the territory helped solidify Union control over a mineral rich area of the Rocky Mountains. The Territory of Colorado was admitted to the Union as a State on 1876.
It is quite possible that Colorado may have been a Confederate state had she been a state at the time the War Between the States broke out. During the late 1850's, many Southerners migrated to the Colorado Territory in search of new opportunities, including working in the newly discovered gold fields. When the War broke out, many returned to the South to defend their homes; however, some remained, forming militia groups in Fairplay, Leadville, Denver and Mace's Hole (near present day Beulah). There were pockets of strong support for the Confederacy in the mining areas and in the Arkansas River Valley, from Canon City eastward to Lamar, and Canon City southward to Trinidad.
Shortly after the War began, one morning on 24 April 1861, Denver awakened to find a Confederate flag flying over the Larimer St. warehouse of Wallingford and Murphy. A crowd of men gathered to demand its removal, in which Samuel Logan, a Unionists, climbed up and tore the flag down, threatening bloodshed if it was not.
There are conflicting reports as to what happened next; some say a compromise was reached and the flag was permitted to remain for one day, while others state the flag was removed.
During the War, Confederate strategic aims in the Colorado Territory were to capture the gold fields to help finance the war and to establish communication lines with California, where there were many Confederate sympathizers. Although seemingly stationed at the periphery of the war theaters, Colorado found itself in a crucial position in 1862 after the Confederate invasion of the New Mexico Territory. The New Mexico Campaign was intended as a prelude to an invasion of the Colorado Territory in an attempt to cut the supply lines between California and the rest of the Union.
In 1861, when Confederate Gen. Henry Sibley organized his Army of New Mexico to invade New Mexico, Capt. George Madison was commissioned by Sibley to venture into Colorado with a two-fold mission: disrupt federal mail and communication lines, and to help organize Confederate recruitment in Colorado.
A rumor started that many were staying in a mountain hideout, forming a Southern military regiment. The rumor was true. Pueblo was a huge “Southern” area and those who wanted to serve the South could get hooked up in Pueblo. The mountain hideout was called Mace's Hole. In the mountains outside of Pueblo, Colonel John Heffinger was the Southern commander put in charge of recruiting and readying this Southern force.
At this time, Confederate recruits in Colorado were first sent to a camp in the Pikes Peak area, and then sent to the main Confederate encampment at Mace's Hole. Gen. Sibley was working on two objectives for his Army of New Mexico at that time: capture of the state of New Mexico to open a path to the Pacific, and capture Colorado to take the much needed gold mines for the South.
At one point, in early 1862, Capt. Madison and his men captured mail en route to Ft. Garland. At the time, they were actively planning a raid on Ft. Garland with Col. Heffinger's regiment (about 600 soldiers) from Mace's Hole. Unfortunately, Federal soldiers learned of the encampment at Mace's Hole and broke up the regiment while many of the Confederates were away. The Federals took those who remained in camp that day prisoner. Following this, Col. Heffinger, his officers, including Capt. Madison and his men, were all ordered to join Sibley in New Mexico.
In March 1862, Confederate forces, under the command of General Henry Sibley, hoping to gain control of the Colorado gold fields, attempted to enter Colorado, but were stopped by the 1st Colorado Volunteers at the Battle of Glorieta Pass in New Mexico. That was the turning point of the War in the west, and the Confederate Army never attempted to enter Colorado again.
The Reynolds Gang operated in South Park in 1864, their goal being to rob the gold mines of South Park to help finance the Confederate Government. However, their goal was never accomplished and the members were eventually captured. While they were being taken to Ft. Lyon, the first stop on their way to Denver for a military trial, they attempted their escape. A gunfight ensued and three of the gang members were killed. However two managed to steal horses in the confusion and escaped to the New Mexico Territory.
Once the War was over, many Confederate Veterans returned to Colorado or ventured out west in search of a new start. They were fundamental in helping to develop Colorado into a prosperous state. Confederate Veteran James B. Grant (20th Alabama Light Artillery Battalion) was elected the 3rd Governor of Colorado and Confederate Veteran Charles S. Thomas (Georgia State Militia) was elected the 11th Governor of Colorado as well as a U.S. Senator. Margaret Howell Davis Hayes, President Jefferson Davis' daughter, and her husband, Joel Addison Hayes moved to Colorado Springs in 1885. As her husband rose in city banking circles, Margaret became involved with charitable causes and was a leading member of local society. After her death in 1909, Addison and the children took her ashes to Richmond to be interred with the Davis family at Hollywood Cemetery.
In 1939, the 49th National Reunion of the United Confederate Veterans (UCV) was held in Trinidad, Colorado with over 5,000 veterans attending. Also represented were the SCV, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) and the Military order of the Stars and Bars (MOSB).
A marker located between Pueblo and Beulah noting Colorado's involvement in the Civil War.
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