Monday, October 31, 2016

Civil War in the Superstitions

October 24, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Several years ago I heard a couple talking about witnessing an American Civil War skirmish in the Superstition Wilderness between the Union and Confederate soldiers. As I listened, it sounded quite bizarre. The couple said they were hiking between Peralta Trail Head and First Water Trail Head when they came across two Civil War military detachments near Brush Corral. Members of the detachment didn’t speak or look at them. Actually the soldiers were like ghostly images in military uniforms. Some of the men were mounted cavalry and others were marching infantry.

Their story fired my curiosity. I started to investigate their story. They assured me they were not telling a tall tale, yet I couldn’t find any account of a civil war military action in the Superstition Mountain area that would have justified a re-enactment.

The next thing was to try and contact some of the local Civil War re-enactment groups for information. I was absolutely certain there were no Civil War battles in the Superstition Wilderness Area and the nearest skirmish was fought at Picacho Peak in April of 1864. I did find some information about a skirmish fought near Pinyon Camp in the Superstition in 1866 by the Arizona 1st Volunteers led by Brevet Lt. John D. Walker against the Apaches. This battle was fought after the Civil War ended. As I continued my research a story began to emerge.

Yes, a civil war skirmish had occurred in the Superstition Wilderness. Actually there were two skirmishes— one at Pinyon Camp along the Peralta Trail FS 102 and one at Brush Corral in Boulder Basin between West Boulder and East Boulder Canyons. The engagement at Brush Corral was between two cavalry units and two infantry units. The skirmish at Pinyon Canyon was between an infantry company and a cavalry unit.

An infantry company had ambushed the cavalry unit at Pinyon Camp. Re-enactment groups from Phoenix, Tucson and Mesa recreated these skirmishes on November 14, 1984. The circumstances and details of these skirmishes are now available after some thirty years. Several groups made these re-enactment skirmishes possible. These units were from the 7th Confederate States Cavalry, Mesa, Arizona, the 6th U.S. Cavalry, Tucson, Arizona, the 7th Georgia Infantry Regiment and the 1st U.S. Infantry, both units from Phoenix, Arizona.

The infantry units entered the mountains from First Water Trail Head and Peralta Trail Head at 7 a.m. on November 14, 1984, and the cavalry units entered the mountains from First Water and Peralta Trail Heads at 8 a.m. An ambush was staged at Pinyon Camp between an infantry unit and a cavalry unit. All units met at Brush Corral for the battle between Union and Confederate forces in the Superstitions.

The 7th Confederate Cavalry Re-enactment group organized the annual Picacho State Park re-enactment of the only American Civil War battle in Arizona. Several thousand people drove to Picacho State Park each year between 1979-2016 on the second weekend in March to witness the outstanding portrayal of the “War Between The States” skirmish in Arizona. Larry Hedrick of Apache Junction headed this group and did all the announcing between 1979-1992.

The 7th Confederate Cavalry also participated in the Inaugural Parade for Ronald Reagan on January 20, 1985. They also served as the Honor Guard at the Capitol Rotunda during the Inaugural Event and marched in the Inaugural Parade for George H. W. Bush. The group also recreated the Battle of Gettysburg at Apache Land on July 3 and 4, 1979 for Arizona to witness. The battle drew several hundred people.

An old friend of mine, Dan Hopper, was at Parker Pass on the Dutchman Trail when he witnessed an infantry unit pass him and his partner. He said they were all in uniform carrying what appeared to be cap and ball rifles of the Civil War period. He said none of the soldiers talked or look at them. He also said they were like ghostly figures marching into battle. Dan just recently told me this story. If you were a witness to this re-enactment in the Superstition Wilderness Area in 1984, you now know the whole story.

Larry Hedrick, organizer of the 7th Confederate Cavalry Reenactment group and central in the founding of the Superstition Mountain Museum. Photo by the Arizona Republic.
The legendary 7th Confederate Cavalry Unit has been disbanded for several years. Lt. Larry Hedrick organized and commanded this unit. The unit was cited many times for community service and historical preservation in Arizona. Hedrick was dedicated to preserving the history of the Picacho Pass, Arizona’s only American Civil War battle. A lot of history was associated with this skirmish in the Arizona desert near Piacacho Peak, which today is known as Piacacho State Park along I-10 Highway between Phoenix and Tucson.
Larry Hedrick also dedicated more than thirty-five years to the concept and building of a museum devoted to the preservation of the history and lore of Superstition Mountain and the Lost Dutchman Mine. I worked closely with Larry during the first ten years and witnessed his dedication, devotion and hard work to see the concept materialize into its building at Goldfield Ghost Town on January 31, 1990. Finally the museum had a building. This required ten years of hard work and dedication to a cause. I am certain it would have never happened without Larry Hedrick working closely with Bob Schoose to make this dream come true. We all stood proudly in front of the new museum building on January 31, 1990.

Again, it was Larry Hedrick who pursued the land transfers that eventually led to the money and property the museum board eventually acquired. This story is a reminder of just what goes into a dream and an idea that it is designed to protect and preserve the history of any given area or event.

History begins with proper preservation. The future lies in the hands of historians and those who guard the events of our times for the future. Larry R. Hedrick was such a man. He is a man who should be recognized for his dedication, determination and devotion to history and this museum. There needs to be something better than just a plaque. Something heroic needs to recall this man’s dedication, determination, devotion, and work in this community.