George Wythe Baylor, Confederate military officer and Texas Ranger, the son of John Walker Baylor, was born in Fort Gibson, Cherokee Nation, on August 2, 1832. His father died before George was 10 years old. The family moved often during his early years. In 1836 they relocated to Natchez, Mississippi. Over the next several years the family moved to Fort Gibson to Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Little Rock, Arkansas, and finally back to Fort Gibson.
In 1845, Baylor moved to Texas to live with his brother John in Ross Prairie near La Grange. He went to Rutersville College and later, through the influence of his uncle R.E.B. Baylor, he attended Baylor University at Independence, Texas. He worked for a short time as a clerk with the Commissary Department of the U. S. Army at the Alamo in San Antonio.
Gold fever took him to California in 1854. 1856 finds Baylor in San Francisco and a member of the “Vigilance Committee.” According to family letters, George could not find steady employment or strike it rich in the gold fields. By late 1859 he was back in Texas and living with his brother in Weatherford.
Baylor is reputed to have raised the first Confederate flag in Austin. He was commissioned a first lieutenant in Company H of the Second Cavalry, John Robert Baylor’s Arizona Brigade, and served as regimental adjutant before resigning to become senior aide-de-camp to Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston in August or September 1861. After Johnston’s death at the battle of Shiloh, Tennessee, on April 6, 1862, Baylor returned to Texas and was elected lieutenant colonel and commander of the Second Battalion of Henry H. Sibley’s army. When the battalion merged with the Second Cavalry regiment of the Arizona Brigade, Baylor was elected its colonel. He also commanded a regiment of cavalry during the Red River campaign of 1864 and was commended for gallantry at the battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill.
On April 6, 1865, at the headquarters of Gen. John B. Magruder in the Fannin Hotel in Galveston, Baylor quarreled with and killed fellow staff officerJohn Austin Wharton. Their fight was said to have been about “military matters,” specifically the reorganization of the Trans-Mississippi Department of the Confederate States. Wharton reportedly slapped Baylor’s face and called him a liar, whereupon Baylor drew his revolver and shot the unarmed Wharton. Baylor later said that the incident had a been a “lifelong sorrow” to him.
After the Civil War, when Lt. John B. Tays, commander of Company C, Frontier Battalion of Texas Rangers in El Paso, resigned to enter the customs service, Baylor was commissioned a first lieutenant and appointed to take his place. At this time, according to Walter Prescott Webb, Baylor “was in his prime, forty-seven years of age, six feet two inches, a fine type of the frontier gentleman. He had a fair education, a flair for writing for newspapers and an inclination to fill his reports with historical allusions.” Baylor left San Antonio on August 2, 1879, with his wife, two young daughters, and a sister-in-law, riding in an ambulance and with two wagons full of provisions and household goods, the latter including a piano and a game cock and four hens.
The caravan, guarded by Sgt. James B. Gillett and five other rangers, was forty-two days on the road to Ysleta, where Baylor established his headquarters. From there he opened his campaign against raiding Apaches, whom he often pursued beyond the Rio Grande, in cooperation with Mexican officials.
Baylor was able, through his knowledge of Spanish and his friendships with many of the leading citizens of El Paso, to put to rest the lingering hatreds caused by the Salt Wars. He was soon involved in protecting the region from attacks from the Apaches. Baylor used local guides and worked closely with Mexican authorities on the south side of the Rio Grande. One of Baylor’s greatest successes as a Ranger came in January 1881 when a small band of Mescalero Apaches, led by Chief Victorio, attacked a stagecoach in Quitman Canyon. Following the cold trail, Baylor and the Texas Rangers tracked the Apaches down the bank of the Rio Grande and into Mexico. Along the way they found items taken from the stage.
The trail turned back into Texas, where they found a fresh camp site. Following the trail into the Eagle Mountains, the Rangers came across a camp that was only hours old. Baylor’s men met up with a detachment of Rangers from Lt. Nevill’s company at Eagle Springs. After more tracking, the Rangers finally came upon the Indian camp. A fight ensued on the morning of January 29, 1881. The fight, though small, has come down through history as the last Indian battle in Texas. In 1882 he was promoted to major and given command of several ranger companies.
In 1885 Baylor’s Company A was disbanded due to budget cuts. After his Ranger service, Baylor was elected from El Paso to serve in the Texas State House of Representatives. He also served as clerk of the district and circuit courts for a number of years. He lived in Mexico from 1898 and returned to San Antonio in 1913. He died on March 17, 1916 in San Antonio, and is buried in the Confederate Cemetery.
Baylor, according to Wilburn Hill King, the nineteenth-century historian of the rangers, was “noted for excellence of personal character and conduct, and soldierly courage and zeal,” but Webb, more reserved in his judgment, wrote that “though a courageous individual fighter,” Baylor “lacked reserve, was a poor disciplinarian, and an indifferent judge of men.”
Plot: Section 3 Lot 45
GPS (lat/lon): 29.42073, -98.46391
Thomas W. Cutrer, “BAYLOR, GEORGE WYTHE,” Handbook of Texas Online(http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbaar), accessed April 11, 2015. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on March 1, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Texas Ranger Hall of Fame (http://www.texasranger.org/halloffame/Baylor_George.htm) accessed April 11, 2015.