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Alonzo Ridley, (1826–1909), 49er, Undersheriff of Los Angeles County, Confederate Army officer from California, who led the Los Angeles Mounted Rifles on their epic march across the Southwestern deserts to Texas in 1861.

Alonzo Ridley was born June 3, 1826. He sailed from Massachusetts for California from Boston on the SS Pharsalia January 28, in 1849.[1] Northern-born, he had arrived in California and became a trader among the Indians in the San Joaquin Valley. In May, 1852, Alonzo Ridley and David McKenzie came in the region of Tejon Pass for the purpose of trading with the Indians and took up permanent residence there.[2] While living there Ridley sired a daughter, Guadalupe, with a native woman.[3] He then became a sub-agent to the Tule River bands of Indians. During the Tule River War of 1856 as an Indian sub-agent he was with a detachment of twelve soldiers from Fort Tejon that participated with soldiers from Fort Miller, and the militia companies of Tulare County in the final battle with the Indians at their fortress on the north fork of the Tule River.[4] As a resident in in Tejon, and familiar with the Indians of the area he was later named Undersheriff for the northern portion of Los Angeles County.

Los Angeles Mounted Rifles[]

In 1861, althougth northern born, Undersheriff Ridley, like many in Southern California was pro secessionist and was elected Captain of the Los Angeles Mounted Rifles.[5] From its inception, the Los Angeles Mounted Rifles was known to be pro-Southern and a worry to Union authorities. Its organizer, George Washington Gift, and Captain Ridley both in later years acknowledged that the unit's purpose was to serve the Confederacy.

After the news of the Battle of Fort Sumter and the beginning of the war reached Los Angeles on April 24, Ridley believed that the unit should cross the deserts to Texas. In late May and early June, Federal troops drawn from Forts Mojave and Tejon and from San Francisco occupied posts in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Pedro harbor to prevent a secessionist rising. Ridley secretly arraigned for the departure of the Rifles despite these nervous and watchful Union authorities. However a more rushed departure was forced on him when Albert Sidney Johnston and Lewis Addison Armistead with his son joined the party, fearful of arrest by the authorities. Ridley had planned for the Rifles to leave for Texas on June 30, but now the departure was moved up to June 17, but to deceive the authorities word was circulated that it had been delayed to June 25.

Followng its epic journey across the deserts of Southern California and southern New Mexico Territory to the Rio Grande River the Rifles brought in a prisoner that had sneaked in to spy upon their camp. He turned out to be Enrique D'Hamel a Cuban member of Captain Bethel Coopwood's Spy Company of Col. John Robert Baylor's command of Texans. Ridley knew Coopwood who had been Assistant District Attorney in San Bernardino County. He had left California earlier in 1861 and in early July enlisted the San Elizario Spy Company (composed mostly of Californians) for Baylor.

Ridley sent D'Hamel to inform Coopwood that he and a party of Californians had arrived. Soon Coopwood arrived and the next day, they met Baylor's troops at Mesilla, New Mexico, on July 28, 1861. On August 1, Baylor proclaimed the Confederate Territory of Arizona with himself as its Governor. After a delay of two weeks, the Los Angeles Mounted Rifles were completely disbanded as a unit. Its members mostly joined Confederate Army units in Texas, some the Confederate Navy.

Civil War service[]

Captain Alonzo Ridley remained with General Johnston. At Bowling Green he received a captain's commission, and was given authority to select from the soldiers a company to act as scouts. He was at the Battle of Shiloh, his unit capturing a large number of paniced Union troops along the river bank on the first day of the battle.[6] Following Johnstons death he went to Texas to fight there. He became a Major in the Texas Cavalry, 3rd Regiment, Arizona Brigade.[7] He was present at the Second Battle of Galveston. During the Bayou Teche Campaign in 1863 in the Bayou Teche region in middle Louisiana he was captured at the Second Battle of Donaldsonville during the assault on Fort Butler. He remained in captivity until the wars end.

Later life[]

After the war Alonzo Ridley, went to Mazatlán in 1866 as an agent to aid the scheme of Maximilian I of Mexico to encourage the immigration of former Confederates to the colony of Carlotta near Cordova.[8] After some years he moved from Mexico to the Mesa/Tempe area of Arizona Territory. Alonzo Ridley died on March 25, 1909 in Tempe, Arizona and is buried in Double Buttes Cemetery there.[9]

References[]

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