The United States, despite being one country, is composed of several different nations. Most of us are extremely familiar with this, given the identity and culture of the South and Greater Dixie is so distinctive and recognizable. But what few people recognize is that Dixie’s soul ultimately reached out far beyond the plantations of the lowlands and the rugged hills of Appalachia; her soul extended far to the West, all the way through Texas and into the New Mexico Territory and even California.
It’s no question that Texas is part of the South, but just how far does Dixie reach? The old borders of the CSA? Her claimed territories? Sympathetic copperheads and other folks who were crushed under the blue boots of the Union?
Arguable on all counts, but ultimately, the Southwest, particularly Arizona, is special in that they are a seed of the South, more specifically, planted by Texas. For some years prior to the outbreak of the War of Northern Aggression, settlers had been moving into what was then the New Mexico territory, won from Mexico in 1846, and further enlarged to include what is now Southern Arizona with the Gadsden Purchase in 1853. The settlers primarily came from Dixie, and as such, they favored secession along with the rest of the South when Lincoln’s War came.
Tucson was the first confederate capital of the Arizona territory, and served as such until it fell to the California Column that advanced from Fort Yuma in 1863. Arizona units served the Confederacy in several engagements along the frontier, showing an expertise for guerrilla warfare and light infantry tactics, skills they had picked up fighting the marauding Apache. These units retreated to Texas after the fall of Tucson and Mesilla during the New Mexican campaign by the Union, but served with distinction in the armies of the Confederacy until the end of the war. It was after the war however, that the boom in settlement came, and again, it primarily came from the South.
After the conclusion of the war, Dixie was devastated. Thousands dead, homes destroyed, livelihoods ravaged; the entire soul of the nation had been laid low. Many sought to escape desolation and destitution by moving west into the territories, attempting to make their fortunes as miners, cattlemen, merchants, homesteaders, and other forms of labor and trade. And as most people do when they move, they brought their ways and culture with them. There is a sense of roughneck aristocracy to the southwest. Cattle barons, mine owners, and railroad entrepreneurs all dominated the upper class, acting as the frontier form of the archetypal southern gentleman, having exchanged his plantation for a ranch, and his slaves for white and Mexican laborers – all the while under their watchful gaze as the spiritual successors of the Old South masters.
The aristocrat and land owner brought with him his stylish clothing and his gentleman’s pursuits, but the common man of Dixie brought the greater contribution: the rugged, enterprising attitude of the Southern man. The spirited, rebellious, spit in the face of the odds attitude that was signature to Dixie. It arrived on the frontier, and there found itself transformed. The harshness of the frontier, from its snow capped forested peaks, to the scorched dunes and red canyons compelled the Dixian to adapt. He took on methods of the Indians and the Mexicans. He became more rugged, in a sense, more feral. Formal institutions and the trappings of civilization were a long way off. This new frontiersman applied his old Southern attitude to the wilderness and the dangers within, be they beast or man or nature itself, and not only adapted, but thrived. He tamed the wasteland and made it his own.
To this day, the traces of Dixie can be seen. Most native Arizonans trace their lines to Texas, and it is unmistakable. From the Ranch/Cowboy culture inherited from Texas, to the aristocratic attitudes of the upper class, the people who settled Arizona and remained here have no misconceptions about who they are or where they’re from. Battle flag license plates and bumper stickers are common. You can’t pass a city block without seeing the stars and bars in some form, be it a flag flown proudly in the front yard, to bumper stickers and license plates. The Texan drawl is undeniably prevalent in Arizona, particularly, the south and eastern parts of the state.
The Southern Baptist church is the most common in Arizona, excluding the Catholicism of the “undocumented migrants”. Even in sportsball, Arizonans tend to revere Texas teams as much or more than they do the ones found within their own state. Politically, the Arizonan is a free minded conservative, concerned with security, prosperity, and the well being of the community. The trials of the frontier when applied to Southern hospitality – resulted in a culture of rough riding cowboys who would give you the clothes off of their back.
The Arizonan, the seed of Texas, planted and cultivated on the dusty prairies and red soils, was a creation entirely of circumstance. Many think of the Southwest as some kind of mish-mash place without a uniformed culture, save Mexicans and cowboy boots. But in fact, we are the heirs of Texas. We carry on the torch of Dixie, in memory of our forefathers, and in honor of our own hearts.
When the time comes again, for Johnny Reb to stand his ground – Dixie can count on the Arizona cowboys to ride to her aid once more.
-By Mr. Weber