A Civil War Biography

John Robert Baylor

Baylor was born in Paris, Kentucky on 27 July 1822. As a small boy he moved to Fort Gibson, Indian Territory where his father, John Walker Baylor, was stationed as an assistant surgeon in the US Army. The young Baylor was sent to Cincinnati, Ohio to be educated but when his father died in 1835 he went to live with his uncle at Rocky Creek, south of La Grange in Fayette County, Texas. In 1840 Baylor joined the Texas militia.

In late 1842 he returned to Fort Gibson to teach at the Creek agency but a year later was charged as an accomplice when his brother-in-law, James Dawson, killed an Indian trader. Baylor fled into Texas and took up farming and ranching at Ross Prairie in Fayette County. He was elected to the state legislature in 1851 and admitted to the bar in 1853. In September 1855 he was appointed Indian agent to the Comanche's but was dismissed in 1857 after accusing certain of the reservation Comanche's of aiding non-reservation Comanche's in raids on the frontier and feuding with his supervisor, Robert S. Neighbors.

Following his dismissal Baylor traveled widely in North Texas preaching hatred of the Comanche's and Indians in general. He edited an anti-Indian newspaper, "The White Man" and organized a vigilante force of over 1000 men. Baylor and his vigilantes defeated a small party of Comanche's in June 1860 at Paint Creek avenging the murder and scalping of a young white boy.

He was a delegate to the Texas secession convention and after Texas joined the Confederacy Baylor was given the rank of lieutenant colonel and command of the 2nd Texas Mounted Rifles. The 2nd Texas moved into what was then the Territory of New Mexico and forced the 7th US Infantry commanded by Major Isaac Lynde to evacuate Fort Filmore near Mesilla and to retreat east into the Organ Mountains. Lynde surrendered on 27 July 1861 at San Augustine Pass.

Baylor designated all of the area south of the 34th parallel, east of the Colorado River, and west of the Rio Grande River to be the Confederate territory of Arizona. He named himself as territorial governor on 1 August 1861 with Mesilla as his capital. Jefferson Davis signed a proclamation on 8 January 1862 formally establishing the territory. Baylor was promoted to colonel on 15 December 1861. He preoccupied himself with the hostile Apaches of the region. In March 1862 he sent a letter to Captain Thomas Helm who commanded Confederate troops in the region, ordering him to exterminate all Apaches. When word of this order reached Richmond, President Davis removed Baylor from civil and military command.

Back in Texas Baylor fought at the 1 January 1863 battle at Galveston as a private. He was elected to represent Texas in the Second Confederate Congress serving until the body disbanded. He was reinstated to colonel two weeks before Appomattox but saw no action. After the war he moved to San Antonio. In 1873 he sought the democratic nomination for governor but was unsuccessful. In 1876 he offered his services to the army during the Sioux War. In 1878 he moved to Montell, Texas and acquired a sizable ranch. He is reputed to have killed a man in the 1880s in a dispute over livestock but was never charged or prosecuted. Baylor died in Montell on 6 February 1894.

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