Incident at Stanwix Station

Incident at Stanwix Station
Furthest West Armed Action Between the Union and Confederate Armies
by Dr. Robert Massey, Chairman
Sesquicentennial Committee, Arizona Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans

March 30, 1862: Arizona Territory, CSA (80 miles east of Fort Yuma, CA)

On March 30, 1862, a detachment from Company A, Baylor’s Regiment of Arizona Rangers, CSA fired the first shots of the Civil War in what is now The State of Arizona.
The incident took place at Stanwix Station, an abandoned Butterfield Overland stagecoach station located on the road, below a bluff overlooking the Gila River. The Rebels were in the process of burning 30 tons of hay that had been pre-positioned at the station by the Union Army.

The 1st California Cavalry (272 men) arrived at Stanwix on March 29 and set up camp near the station. Pickets were sent out in pairs to protect the camp and warn of any advance of Confederate troops. In the early morning hours of March 30, 1862, a group of Confederate Arizona Rangers surprised two Union pickets and ordered them to surrender or be shot. The soldiers refused to surrender. The Rebels fired several shots, hitting one private in the right shoulder. The wounded man, Pvt. William Semmilrogge (Co. A, 1st Cavalry, CA Volunteers), and his companion fled the scene and ran back to their camp. They reported to their commander, Capt. William Calloway, that they had been shot at by approximately 40 mounted men.

The Confederates, finding themselves facing a much larger force, turned and galloped to the east. Capt. Calloway ordered his Californians to saddle up and give chase. Before they could get mounted, Capt. Nathaniel Pishton’s (or Pishon’s) company of US cavalry arrived in camp. The new arrivals were ordered to give pursuit at once even though the horses and men were tired from a long nights advance. The chase lasted over twenty miles with the Union cavalry breaking off at Oatman Flats as their horses and men were near exhaustion. The Confederates continued their ride back to Tucson and warned their Commander, Capt. Sherod Hunter, of the advance of the Californians.

The skirmish at Stanwix Station was significant for several reasons. It marked the farthest west advance by the Confederate Army; it was the farthest west
armed conflict between the military forces of the Union and the Confederacy during the war; it saw the first shots of the war fired in what is now Arizona; and it was the site of the first combat casualty of the Civil War in what is now Arizona.

© Robert Clyde Massey, 2013 All Rights Reserved
[Permission is granted to reprint for educational / informational purpose]

Don Jolley, artist from Mesa, AZ