John Robert Baylor
John Robert Baylor was born on
July 20,1822, in Paris, Kentucky, the son of Dr. John and Sophie (Weidner)
Baylor. The Baylors were a distinguished Virginia family; a granduncle had
commanded Washington's cavalry, and Baylor University was named after an uncle.
He was also a grandnephew of U.S. Senator Jesse Bledsoe. Baylor grew up on
various posts where his father, an army surgeon, was stationed. From 1835 to
1837 he attended Woodward College in Cincinnati. Emigrating to Texas in 1839, he
settled near Weatherford on the north Texas frontier and bought a ranch. Quickly
becoming a leader in his new community, Baylor was elected state representative
(serving from 1853 to 1854), battled the local Indian tribes, and found time to
edit a Democratic party paper, The White Man, in Weather-ford. From 1855 to 1857
Baylor held the office of subagent to the Comanche Indian tribe. In the prewar
period he garnered statewide notoriety as an Indian fighter and hater.
The Texas secession convention elected Baylor lieutenant colonel of the newly formed 2nd Texas Mounted Rifles, a state unit, and ordered him to occupy abandoned U.S. Army forts in western Texas. Brigadier General Henry Sibley promoted Baylor to full colonel on December 15,1861, with the formal commission coming on May 29, 1862. On May 24, 1861, President Davis ordered Baylor and his regiment (the 2nd was mustered into Confederate service on May 23, 1861) to move into the southern portion of the New Mexico Territory and succor that area's pro-secessionist inhabitants.' On July 27, 1861, his small force of cavalry (three hundred volunteers) captured five hundred U.S. Army regulars under the flagrantly incompetent Major Isaac Lynde, Union commander at Fort Fillmore. The victory panicked the local Union garrisons, and almost caused the Union abandonment of the whole of New Mexico. On August 1, 1861, Baylor proclaimed himself provisional governor of the Arizona Territory, an action subsequently recognized officially by the Confederate government. As governor his primary concern was protecting the local inhabitants from marauding Apache Indians. From personal experience Baylor, and most frontiersmen, knew the government policy of bribing the local Indian tribes to keep the peace was futile: "[The Indians] make [peace] treaties to get blankets and presents. They never think of keeping a treaty longer than they see an opportunity to rob and murder some one." Accordingly, Baylor outspokenly advocated exterminating the Indians, a policy "heartily supported by virtually everybody personally involved except, of course, the Indians."' On May 29, 1862, the secretary of war authorized Baylor to raise a force of five battalions of rangers, known as the Arizona Brigade, to be commanded by him as colonel and governor. Baylor returned to Texas in August, 1862, and began recruiting his brigade. In October, 1862, word of his Indian extermination policy finally reached Richmond. President Davis, horrified at Baylor's bloodthirstiness, promptly removed him from office and revoked his army commission. The former governor defended his actions in newspaper articles, attacking his critics as out of touch with frontier realities. He also kept his hand in the war; as a volunteer he participated in the January 1, 1863, recapture of Galveston, and in the summer recruited a company of state troops intended to help guard the frontier. In the fall of 1863 Baylor was elected to the Second Confederate Congress, beating a pro-administration incumbent. In Congress Baylor opposed extending the president's war powers, but otherwise supported the war effort. Seemingly in the president's good graces again, on March 25, 1865, he was reappointed colonel in the Confederate army, with authority to raise a regiment of draft-exempt men for service on the Texas frontier. The war ended before Baylor could return to Texas and begin recruiting.
After the war he practiced law in San Antonio and later ranched in Uvalde County. A huge man with a ferocious temper ("Anyone he liked was the best fellow in the world, and anyone he disliked was the damnest rascal living."), Baylor was involved in several bloody postwar gunfights and personal encounters. He died on February 6, 1894, in Montell in Uvalde County. He is buried in the Church of the Ascension Cemetery in Montell.
Heitman, Wood, SHSP, and C V list him as a general, his tombstone proclaims him "general," and some accounts have him "brevetted" general. In 1863 Major General John B. Magruder, impressed by Private Baylor's gallantry during the attack on Galveston, recommended that he be promoted to general to command the Arizona Brigade. However, his highest official Confederate rank was colonel.
Reference: More Generals in Gray. Bruce S. Allardice. A companion volume to Generals in Gray. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.