We spent the last two weeks birding, hiking, and camping in SE Arizona and SW New Mexico. Birding a part of America that was the last part of America in the lower 48. All of this was a part of Mexico and only because America needed a transcontinental railroad and Mexico needed money did we get it--The Gadsden Purchase, named after James Gadsden.
History does not look kindly on James Gadsden. There is nothing politically correct about him in any sense. Almost everything bad that was happening from 1830 to 1860, he was in the middle of. In the US Army, he actively worked on the rounding up and the deporting Seminoles from Florida in the "Trail of Tears." He promoted succession by South Carolina after California was admitted as a free state in 1848-49. He then connived the state of California with a project to split the state in two where he would settle a colony in the southern half with 1200 colonists and 2000 slaves. When that didn't work, he ended up in Government of all things, as the appointed U.S. Ambassador to Mexico in the Pierce Administration, specifically, the Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Mexico, what a title.
As bad a man as he would be looked on later, but he did negotiate the last significant land acquisition to form the contiguous 48 states, the Gadsden Purchase added some 20 million acres at a purchase price of just over 33 cents/ an acre. Santa Ana, the ruler in Mexico at the time hated Gadsden, and as far as can be found, almost everyone hated him.
He tried to get more and he did get more, but the US Congress voted the original agreement down, but then agreed to by 2/3 of it at 2/3 of the price. $7.1 Million dollars was sent to Mexico City but oddly, only $6.1 million reportedly arrived. The final agreement was signed in June 1854, and the purchase basically added all the land in New Mexico south of I-10 and then a line north near the present New Mexico/ AZ border to Gila River, and all of Southern AZ south of the river.
For us birders, this Purchase added nearly 50 birds to the US Birding list, as all of the Sky Islands are in this territory, and what was almost bought, would not have given the US a port on the Gulf of Baja, but would have dropped the border south of where it was now nearly 100 miles. Many might not know that the Gila River in Arizona was the Southern boundary until Gadsden came around.
Then there was George Bascam, a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Calvary stationed at Ft Buchanan south of Tucson. He graduated next to last of his class at West Point. Bascam through idiocy and bad luck (the bad luck was that his major and captain were on leave, and indisposed), caused the decades long Apache War by trying to get the release of a local rancher boy from Cochise, but would not believe him when Cochise said he didn't do it (turned out he was correct, a northern tribe had), During the sit down, Bascam took many of Cochise's family prisoner, then Cochise escaped. Then he took a Calvary patrol prisoner, and offered to exchange them with Bascam, but Bascam only wanted the boy which Cochise never had. and hung Cochise's brother and killed others. Cochise killed the soldiers and then the war was on, with the Apaches changing their hatred of Mexicans to Americans, and taking no side in the Civil War attacking Confederate outposts as well as Union and then continuing to even 1933, when the last band was defeated in Mexico. The death and misery caused by an inexperienced young officer in charge of "getting the boy back at all costs," was incalculable. Would someone else caused the massacres later? Bascam died in the mud in the Battle of Valverde Ford New Mexico the next year, being run over by Confederate Calvary, in an inglorious end to a man that deserved such a fate.