Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Republic of Colorado

Recently, I decided to make a map as an experiment to test the limits of iPad map making. This is the result, along with some backstory.

The Civil War started out rough for the US. The Union had to face two fronts: one on the Ohio and the other in the southwestern territories. However, Union troops were mostly packed around Kentucky and Virginia and dealing with the heart of the CSA. The Confederates still wanted their strip of the Southwest fairly badly, and so they took a significant number of troops away from the homefront and allocated them to the southwest in what was called the New Mexico. Texan calvary was able to take the city of Santa Fe, which brought all of the land east of the Rio Grande under their control. Territorial of Governor of Colorado William Gilpin was asked to muster thousands of volunteers to send to Santa Fe to ward of the Confederates in the southwest. That would be a game changing decision.

On the 26th of March, 1862, the Colorado volunteers met up with the New Mexico volunteers who as a combined force would have to attempt to fight off the force of Texan calvary that took Santa Fe. They  clashed just north of the city proper, in the Glorieta Pass. The force of the volunteers was 1,300 strong, and they expected to see only around 1,000 Texans. Instead, there were around 2,500 Texan troops, which was much larger than previously expected due to the ramped up regional commitment by the CSA. The milita to take a lot of hits and they were forced to retreat fast. Today, the Battle of Glorieta Pass is largely considered the turning point for the CSA. From this starting point, they were able to take the entirety of the New Mexico and Arizona Territories, some of the Colorado Territory and even push into Southern California. They were only stopped at the Battle of Los Angeles in October 1862, where Union troops finally destroyed their momentum and was able to send them back east of the Colorado River.

Even with the war successes in the Southwest, the war in CSA's heart was going very badly. The Union had control over the states of Kentucky, Arkansas, Virginia, and Tennessee and the Confederacy was being choked off by a blockade by December 1863. At this point, many Confederate generals were questioning their earlier aims of conquering the Southwest instead of fighting for home. By June 1864, Charleston and the state of South Carolina fell, which is the point at which the Confederacy seriously looked doomed. They fought hard, but General Robert E. Lee finally surrendered to the Union Army during the Battle of Atlanta. Within days, the US had wanted to sign full terms of surrender with Davis, which was annexation back into the USA. However, his whereabouts were unknown  leading people to believe that he had been killed in battle. Instead, Lee signed the terms July 7, 1864, which effectively ended the Civil War.

What actually happened to Davis was not known until years later. President Davis took himself, along with much of the government and some wealthy plantation owners, and fled in secrecy during the Battle of Atlanta. His destination was New Mexico Territory, which was still under Confederate control. When Davis arrived in the southwest, many of his soldiers wept at the loss of the South, and made them   want to protect what they still had even more. The Confederate troops fortified themselves behind the Colorado river, de facto establishing that as the border of the Confederacy. The plantation owners brought it upon themselves to establish the capital city, which was placed on the Gilla River in Arizona that once separated the US from Mexico. They named this city Stonewall, after their beloved general who died in battle against Union troops. The Civil War might have been officially over, but a guerrilla war continued between the US and the confederacy in exile. The fighting continued in isolated incidents for around a year.

Late in 1865, however, Colorado Territory petitioned the Federal government for more troops since they claimed the Native Americans in the state were fighting for the Confederates and they were making more and more frequent incursions into Colorado Territory. They also wanted statehood, so they could have their voice be better heard nationwide. The Federal government refused the petition for statehood, but did send in more troops. Before long, the Civil War had almost started again on the Western Slope where Union troops were fighting Confederate insurgents en masse. Very many people were angry with the end result of this. Troops marching through the streets of Denver became a common sight, and troops would often push around territorial officials and tell them what to do. The people of Colorado wanted protection, but this was extreme. Tensions boiled over in May 1867 as the military put the state on full military lockdown to deal with the Indian/Confederate threat that was encroaching on Denver. The Territorial Governor John Evans was a prisoner of his own home as the local Army command decided to start making decisions for themselves. A quote that has become famous was from an unknown Colorado man screaming out his window "you make me want to join the Confederacy!"

A group of people decided to take matters into their own hands. A group of Denverites, unarmed and flying a Colorado flag, came before the Confederate forces and offered the Colorado Territory joining the Confederacy in return for Confederate help in expelling the "oppressive" Union troops from the city of Denver. The Confederates heartily accepted the offer to the relief of the Denverites.

The day of June 3, 1867 was warm, without a cloud in sight. The Confederates were weary of 7 years of straight fighting, and were ready for independence. They could care less from where it came now, even from a group of disgruntled Coloradans who had fought against them just a few years earlier. It seemed that Colorado had become a part of who they are, after the Colorado river and its grand canyons and craggy peaks was the only thing protecting them from the Union troops and keeping them alive. They gave what weapons they could to the Coloradan volunteers, who were fresh and eager to fight. That morning, a mishmash of fresh volunteers and battle weary troops marched onto Denver City from the west. The man in the front proudly waved the Colorado flag as he yelled sic semper tyrannis, and the Battle of Denver had begun.

It was a bloody, long struggle, but a force of troops cannot eternally outlast an entire battle hardened army and angry city ready to fight for what they believe in. They held out for only four days before retreating out of the city. That was met with much celebration, and former bitter enemies became allies over the strangest of circumstances. The Confederates were no longer a government in exile. The place whose rugged beauty and proud people protected them when they needed it most has become their home. That place is Colorado, and as of June 10, 1867, The Republic of Colorado, stretching from Julesburg in the east to Las Cruces in the south and Stonewall in the east, had just declared independence.

Republic of Colorado created through alternate New Mexico campaign in the Civil War

Sorry that it was a bit more long winded than I expected, and I may I have streched plausibility some, but the intended results (a republic based in Colorado) was more important than the means through which I got there. I may flesh this out into a full blown timeline if I have the inspiration and the patience to research, since I am far from an expert in Civil War topics or military of this time period.

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