Confederate Organisations: Trans-Mississippi and Frontier Theatres

Confederate Organisations: Trans-Mississippi and Frontier Theatres

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The Trans-Mississippi Theatre broadly covers the states of Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, western Louisiana, the Indian Territory, Arizona Territory, New Mexico Territory, and adjacent operational regions.
The largest Confederate state west of the Mississippi was Texas and its military defences quickly took shape. There were three initial objectives: to provide a base of operations to extend Confederate influence into the western territories; to secure the coastal ports against enemy incursion and to retain open ports against the blockade; and thirdly, being broadly immune to overland invasion, to provide reinforcements and supplies for the more exposed states of Arkansas and Louisiana. The Department of Texas was established on the outbreak of war on 11 April 1861 and satellite districts and sub-districts were established quickly to manage its far flung territory and evict its Federal garrisons. These coalesced around Galveston, Pass Cavallo, Houston, the Rio Grande, and the Western and Eastern Districts of the state.
Control of the Indian Territory was continually disputed with the Union. It was initially treated as an autonomous military region but on 22nd November 1861, it became the Department of the Indian Territory. The Arizona Territory operated as an autonomous military District from 1 October 1861.
The remainder of the Trans-Mississippi theatre was treated initially in a way similar to the Union, namely, to treat the Mississippi River not as a border but as the centre of the military geography. The Western Department established on 25 June 1861 brought all the territory north of the 31st parallel, up the Mississippi River and east of the Tennessee River. This gave at least theoretical unity of command of the decisive area where the Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and Tennessee converged. The District of Upper Arkansas and the Forces in Missouri took responsibility west of the Mississippi, although matters in Missouri were confused. By 4 July 1861, the Western Department had been extended to include much of Alabama, the Mississippi River counties of Arkansas and Mississippi and Louisiana north and east of the White and Black Rivers. The Western Army was esta
lished unofficially on 4 August 1861 to direct the forces west of the Mississippi.
In response to the obvious need to coordinate operations either side of the Mississippi, the growth of the Western Department continued inexorably. On 10 September 1861, it was extended to include Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, and the Indian Territory. The highly regarded General Albert Sidney Johnston assumed command but his attention was necessarily focused much more intently on developments in Kentucky and Tennessee.
The Indian Territory was unmanageably distant and on 22 November 1861 the Department of the Indian Territory was detached again to act independently of the Western Department. The same obstacles of distance and diverging priorities forced further changes in January 1862. The District of Upper Arkansas was discontinued, and became part of a new Trans-Mississippi District which straddled the river and was subordinated to the Western Department. Soon afterwards, the Western Army was discontinued, and incorporated into a new Army of the West, which was being considered for transfer from the less urgent operations west of the Mississippi to the eastern side. The Trans-Mississippi District existed from January 1862 until 20 August 1862, and included Louisiana north of the Red River, the Indian Territory, and the states of Arkansas and most of Missouri.
The most significant and far-reaching organisational decision was made on 26 May 1862, in an attempt to rationalise this unwieldy structure. The new Trans-Mississippi Department was established with the Mississippi River as its obvious eastern border and with responsibility for everything west of it. That separation allowed the Western Department to manage affairs east of the river without distraction. The Department remained in existence until the end of hostilities and was the last major Confederate command to surrender. Although internal adjustments were made in response to the evolving Union threats and invasions, the Department remained broadly intact and unchanged. It became almost synonymous with its commander, Edmund Kirby Smith, after he took command on 14 January 1863; so much so that it even acquired the nickname of “Kirby-Smithdom”.
The Trans-Mississippi Department took charge of Texas, the Indian Territory, and Arkansas, and acquired the parts of Louisiana west of the Mississippi. Texas continued to be managed as a set of smaller territorial commands, while Arkansas, Arizona, and the Indian Territory became separate Districts. The Trans-Mississippi District – in fact, more of an “along the Mississippi” district – had existed from January 1862 until 20 August 1862, and included Louisiana north of the Red River, the Indian Territory, and the states of Arkansas and most of Missouri. It was discontinued on 20 August 1862 when a short-lived District of Missouri was formed. At the same time, western Louisiana became a separate District, and the District of Texas was also formed to direct its subordinate territories.
By November 1862, the far western territories were irretrievably lost from Confederate control and the District of Texas took over the westernmost regions of the Confederacy as the District of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The Indian Territory came under the District of Arkansas in March 1863.
The Trans-Mississippi struggled to raise, equip, and retain large field forces in its comparatively underdeveloped territory. The Army of the West had long since been sent east of the Mississippi and strenuous efforts were made to raise a new force for the Trans-Mississippi. Known from September 1862 as the Southwest Army, its heterogeneous parts were dubbed the Trans-Mississippi Army in February 1863 after Smith’s arrival. The immensity of its operational area and the difficulty of obtaining and moving supplies, meant that the army never operated as a single whole, but its various segments were deployed as necessary to Arkansas, the Texas coast, western Louisiana, and even in Missouri.
The same difficulties that hampered Confederate operations, also made it difficult for the Union to penetrate far into the interior of the region. The far western territories were overrun during 1862, Arkansas was occupied slowly in stages, and a defensive cordon was established to protect Union-occupied New Orleans from the west. However, Union attempts to advance further inland, whether from the Texas coast, overland from Arkansas, up the Red River, or through western Louisiana, were repelled by skilful counter-attacks. The ambitious Confederate invasion of Missouri late in 1864 proved to be an ineffectual swan song.
This tripartite structure of Districts in Arkansas, western Louisiana, and Texas (with the western territories) changed little from August 1862 until early 1865, by which time little or no thought could be given to expansive operations. Nor were such operations required as the Union had largely adopted a passive posture west of the Mississippi after securing Arkansas, the Mississippi valley, and the majority of the Texan ports.
In April 1865, the District of Arkansas and the District of Western Louisiana were discontinued and incorporated into a new District of Arkansas and West Louisiana. This final adjustment pre-dated by just over a month the surrender of the entire Trans-Mississippi Department on 26 May 1865.

This is an alphabetical Index of each Organisation by Level and then by name 

Details of each specific organisation can be found in the Introduction to Confederate Military Organisations – Types -by searching for the Level and then the Name of the Organisation

Department of the Indian Territory 22 November 1861-26 May 1862
Department of Texas 11 April 1861-26 May 1862
Trans-Mississippi Department 26 May 1862-26 May 1865

District of Arizona 1 October 1861-29 November 1862
District of Arkansas 28 May 1862-19 April 1865
District of Upper Arkansas 25 June 1861-10 January 1862
District of Arkansas and West Louisiana 19 April 1865-26 May 1865
Defences of Galveston, Texas 25 June 1861-2 October 1861
District of Galveston, Texas 2 October 1861-25 February 1862
District of Houston, Texas 3 January 1862-25 February 1862
Indian Territory 13 May 1861-10 September 1861
District of the Indian Territory #1 10 September 1861-22 November 1861
District of the Indian Territory #2 26 May 1862-26 May 1865
District of West Louisiana 20 August 1862-19 April 1865
District of Missouri 20 August 1862-28 September 1862
District of Texas 20 August 1862-29 November 1862
Eastern District of Texas 10 February 1862-28 May 1862
Western District of Texas 3 December 1861-29 November 1862
District of Eastern Texas and Western Louisiana 28 May 1862-20 August 1862
District of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona 29 November 1862-26 May 1865
Trans-Mississippi District 10 January 1862-20 August 1862

Sub-District of Galveston, Texas 25 February 1862-28 May 1862
Sub-District of Houston, Texas 25 February 1862-26 May 1865
Defences of Pass Cavallo, Texas 26 October 1861-27 November 1862
Sub-District of the Rio Grande, Texas 25 February 1862-26 May 1865
Eastern Sub-District of Western Texas 28 May 1862-29 November 1862
Eastern Sub-District of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona 29 November 1862-26 May 1865
Northern Sub-District of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona 5 June 1863-26 May 1865
Western Sub-District of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona 29 November 1862-26 May 1865
First Sub-District of Texas 15 October 1862-29 November 1862
Second Sub-District of Texas 15 October 1862-29 November 1862
Third Sub-District of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona 30 May 1863-5 June 1863

Army of Liberation (Missouri) 23 June 1861-1 September 1861
Army of Missouri 8 September 1864-12 December 1864
Army of New Mexico 14 December 1861-26 May 1862
Southwest Army 28 September 1862-9 February 1863
Trans-Mississippi Army 9 February 1863-26 May 1865
Western Army (Missouri) 4 August 1861-19 January 1862
Forces in Arkansas 11 May 1862-28 May 1862
Forces in Missouri 2 July 1861-4 August 1861

I Corps Trans-Mississippi #1 28 September 1862-30 January 1863
I Corps Trans-Mississippi #2 4 August 1864-31 March 1865
II Corps Trans-Mississippi 4 August 1864-31 March 1865
III Corps Trans-Mississippi 4 August 1864-31 March 1865
Cavalry Corps Trans-Mississippi #1 4 August 1864-8 September 1864
Cavalry Corps Trans-Mississippi #2 3 December 1864-12 March 1865
Reserve Corps Trans-Mississippi 10 September 1864-26 May 1865

Reserve Forces of Texas 24 June 1864-10 September 1864

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