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American Civil War West of the Mississippi

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The Confederate Invasion of New Mexico and Arizona


by George H. Pettis, Brevet Capt., U.S.V., late Lieutenant commanding Co. K 1st California Infantry, and Lieutenant and Adjutant 1st New Mexico Infantry

Battles and Leaders of the Civil War
p. 103-111


The buffalo hunt 1 of Captain John R. Baylor culminated on his reaching El Paso (Franklin), Texas, on the border of New Mexico, in the first week in July, 1861, with about three hundred men of his regiment, the 2d Texas Mounted Rifles, C. S. A., and occupying Fort Bliss, across the river, which had been abandoned by the regular troops. He was warmly welcomed by the few secessionists in that neighborhood, prominent among whom were Colonel B. Magoffin, Judge Simeon Hart, and Judge J. F. Crosby, who were the wealthiest persons in that vicinity. On the 23d of July Captain Baylor, with about two hundred and fifty men, advanced up the Rio Grande, crossing to the west side of the river at San Tomas, and proceeding to La Mesilla. On the afternoon of the 25th Major Isaac Lynde, 7th U. S. Infantry, who was in command at Fort Fillmore, a post about four miles distant from Mesilla, proceeded against the rebels with about four hundred men, artillery, cavalry, and infantry, and after a desultory attack on the town, involving a loss of three men killed and two officers and four men wounded, he cowardly returned to the adobe walls of Fort Fillmore. On the morning of the 27th Lynde evacuated the fort without reason, and commenced a retreat for Fort Stanton, having about five hundred men. When near San Augustine Springs, Baylor appeared in his rear with less than three hundred men; and without a shot on either side Lynde surrendered his entire force, which consisted of seven companies of the 7th Regular Infantry and three companies of Mounted Rifles.

In the meantime, Fort Buchanan, situated near Tubac, and Fort Breckinridge, on the north side of the San Pedro River and above its confluence with the Gila, had been abandoned, and the troops ordered to Fort Fillmore. Upon reaching Cook's Canon, this command, consisting of Captain Isaiah N. Moore, 1st Dragoons, with four companies, were informed of Major Lynde's disgraceful surrender, whereupon they destroyed a large amount of Government stores which they had in charge, as well as private property at the eastern end of the canon, and fled precipitately to Fort Craig. On the 1st of August Captain Baylor issued a proclamation organizing all that part of the Territory of New Mexico lying south of the thirty-fourth parallel [*104] of north latitude as the Confederate territory of Arizona, the seat of government being at Mesilla, and the authority of governor being assumed by himself. August 2d, Fort Stanton, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Benjamin S. Roberts, 3d U. S. Cavalry, was abandoned, all the public stores that could not be carried away being destroyed. During the month of September Baylor sent several small parties northerly toward Fort Craig, who had a number of skirmishes with the Union troops, in which the latter were usually worsted.

On the 8th of July, 1861, the Confederate Government at Richmond authorized General H. H. Sibley (who had formerly been a major in the army, and had recently served in New Mexico) to proceed to Texas and organize a brigade of troops for the conquest of New Mexico. On the 18th of November Sibley was ready to move from San Antonio, Texas. His brigade consisted of Colonel John R. Baylor's regiment of Texas Mounted Rifles (then in New Mexico), Reily's 4th Regiment, Green's 5th, and Steele's 7th Regiment of Texas mounted troops, and he arrived at Fort Bliss on the 14th of December, and assumed command of all the " forces of the Confederate States on the Rio Grande at and above Fort Quitman, and all in the territory of New Mexico and Arizona," and his command was designated as the "Army of New Mexico."

By General Orders, No. 97, November 9th, 1861, the United States Department of New Mexico was reestablished and placed under the command of Colonel E. R. S. Canby, 19th U. S. Infantry, who had previously relieved Colonel W. W. Loring, commanding the regiment of Mounted Rifles, who had tendered his resignation to the President, and had left his station before its acceptance. After Lynde's surrender, New Mexico, south of the Jornada del Mucrto, was in possession of the rebels, and Canby set about enlisting and reorganizing the militia of the Territory. He also caused Fort Craig to be strengthened by throwing up earth-works, while Fort Union, in the north-eastern part of the Territory, was changed from its old location under the mesa, and moved about a mile into the plains, and converted into a fieldwork, all the quarters, both officers' and men's, being made bomb-proof. The Indians in the meantime were causing much trouble to both the Union and rebel commanders in their respective districts. The Mescalero Apaches, Kiowas, Comanches, and Navajoes were constantly making forays on Canby's district, while in the southern district the Gila River and Chiricahua Apaches were causing trouble for Baylor.

During the first week in January, 1862, Sibley commenced the march up the Rio Grande with his command, and arrived at Fort Thorn. On the 7th of February he left Fort Thorn for Fort Craig. On the 16th a reconnoissance in force was made to within two miles of the post, which was met by the dispatch of a force of cavalry, whereupon the Confederates withdrew a short distance down the river, and on the 19th crossed over to the eastern bank. On the 20th a considerable force of Union troops left the fort, and, crossing the river, made a feint of attack on the Confederate camp near the river crossing. The Confederates immediately placed all their artillery [*105] in battery and commenced firing, whereupon the Union artillery and cavalry returned to the fort, leaving the infantry to watch the enemy, who that night made a "dry camp" in the sand-hills directly opposite to and within sight of Fort Craig, at a distance of less than two miles. No operations were attempted by either party during the night, with the exception of "Paddy" Graydon's mule attack upon the Confederate camp. 3

[*106] Early on the morning of the 21st Sibley made a demonstration toward the fort, while the main part of his command, having abandoned a number of wagons at the eamp with their contents, proceeded northerly, passing near the eastern end of the Mesa de la Contedera, and approaching the river again at Valverde. Sibley's command in this region consisted of about two thousand men.

Colonel Canby's command consisted of 3810 men, composed of 5 companies of the 5th, 3 of the 7th, and 3 of the 10th Regular Infantry; 2 companies of the 1st and 5 of the 3d Regular Cavalry; McRae's and Hall's batteries; and Ford's company of Colorado Volunteers. The New Mexico troops consisted of Kit Carson's 1st regiment, 7 companies of the 2d, 7 companies of the 3d, 1 of the 4th, 2 of the 5th, Graydon's Spy Company, and some unorganized militia. As the enemy commenced its movements at about 8 o'clock a. m., Colonel Benjamin S. Roberts with the regular and volunteer cavalry, two sections of McRae's (provisional) battery, Hall's section of 24-pounder howitzers, Captain David H. Brotherton's company of the 5th, Captain Charles H. Ingraham's company of the 7th, and two (Mortimore's and Hubbell's) selected companies of volunteers were sent from the fort to intercept them should they attempt to approach the river at Valverde. McRae's "battery was composed of men of Company G of the 2d, and Company I of the 3d Regular Cavalry. Captain Alexander MeRae, 3d Cavalry, was in command, with [*107] Lyman Mishler, 5th Infantry, and I. McBell, 2d New Mexico Volunteers, as lieutenants. Graydon's Spy Company, and five hundred mounted militia under Colonels Pino and Robert H. Stapleton, had already been sent to the eastern side of the river to watch the movements of the enemy. Colonel Roberts was too late to prevent the Confederates from reaching the river: when he arrived at the ford at the foot of the Mesa de la Contedera he found them already there. The action was immediately begun by sending Major Duncan with his regular cavalry across the river, who were dismounted and skirmished on foot. The enemy were soon driven back, the batteries were established on the western bank, and Roberts crossed his command to the eastern side. The action commenced at 10 o'clock a. m., and consisted of artillery firing on both sides, charging and countercharging, and by 12 o'clock the Confederates had been driven from all the positions they had taken, and were forced to move their heavy guns to a position higher up the river.

During these hours the Confederates kept coming upon the field in companies and parts of companies, being strung out on their march. At 12 o'clock Colonel Roberts was reenforced by Captain Dick Selden's battalion of regular infantry and Colonel Carson's regiment of New Mexico Volunteers. These new troops were soon placed in position by Colonel Roberts, and every movement made by him up to this time was successful. Several parties of the enemy had been driven from their positions, to take up new ones farther away, and the superior service of the Union guns, under the skill and conduct of Captain McRae and Lieutenant Hall, silenced the Confederate batteries and seemed to assure victory to the Union forces. Thus matters stood when Colonel Canby reached the field and assumed command at 2:15 p. m. The enemy had been driven by Colonel Roberts from all their positions, and had retired behind a high drift of sand, where they re-formed undiscovered, and prepared to storm the two Union batteries. After a short lull in the action, the two storming parties, armed with shot-guns, squirrel rifles, revolvers, and lances, and on foot, made a charge with great fury. The force that charged on Hall's battery, on the Union right, met with such a gallant resistance from the battery's support, consisting of Captain Brotherton's company, Major Duncan's dismounted cavalry, Captain Wingate's battalion of regular infantry, and Kit Carson's regiment of volunteers, that they were repulsed with great slaughter, and fled from the field. But the result was different on the Union left. McRae's battery, though held with heroic determination, with the loss of every horse, and more than one-half the gunners [*108] killed or disabled, was taken by the enemy. Captain McRae and Lieutenant Mishler were both killed at the guns. The Confederate charge was made on foot, and was led by the gallant Major S. A. Lockridge, of Colonel Green's 5th Regiment, who was the foremost to reach the battery. As he approached the battery Captain McRae was standing at one of the guns, with his left hand upon the knob of the cascabel. Lockridge placed his left hand upon the muzzle of the same piece and demanded McRae's surrender. Both raised their revolvers, which were not more than three feet apart, and fired together, and both dropped dead in their tracks. After the enemy reached the battery, there was a short hand-to-hand fight, in which revolvers, clubbed rifles, and sponge staffs were used, but the support soon fell back and crossed the river in retreat. A panic now ensued among the New Mexicans, but the regulars and the Colorado Volunteers were all withdrawn across the river in comparatively good order. The captured guns of McRae's battery were manned by the Confederates, turned to the rear, and assisted in producing the disorder that ensued. Canby retreated to the adobe walls of Fort Craig, having sustained a loss on the field of 3 officers and 65 men killed, 3 officers and 157 men wounded, and 1 officer and 34 men prisoners. The enemy's loss was about 40 killed and 200 wounded. In will be observed that while Colonel Roberts was in command of the Union troops everything was moving in their favor, but when Canby assumed command the tide of battle turned, until finally the Union forces were beaten and in retreat. It was the almost unanimous opinion of the officers engaged at Valverde, that if Canby had remained at Fort Craig on that day the Confederates would have commenced their retreat at that time for San Antonio, Texas.

After remaining two days at Valverde, to bury the dead and give needed rest to his men, Sibley moved up the river to Albuquerque, leaving his sick and wounded at Socorro. Sibley found, upon his arrival at Albuquerque, that Captain Herbert M. Enos, assistant-quartermaster, U. S. A., who was in command there, had destroyed the larger part of the Government stores at that place and had retreated with his command toward Santa Fe. On the 4th of March, Major J. L. Donaldson, quartermaster, U. S. A., commanding at Santa Fe, destroyed the Government stores at that place, and retreated with his command to Fort Union. The enemy soon after occupied Santa Fe.

In the first week in March, 1862, Colonel John P. Slough, commanding the 1st Regiment Colorado Volunteers, arrived at Fort Union, having made some extraordinary marches, and relieved Colonel G. R. Paul, 4th Regiment New Mexico Volunteers, of the command of the Northern District of New Mexico. Colonel Slough, who was a thorough fighting-man, proceeded to form a command, composed of his own regiment, with what regulars and New Mexico Volunteers he found at Fort Union, for the purpose of operating against the Confederates, whose next movement was supposed to be toward Fort Union; or of forming a junction with Canby's force, which was supposed to have left Fort Craig. His command numbered 1342 officers and men, with a battery of 4 guns, under command of Captain J. F. Ritter, 15th [*109] Infantry, and a battery of 4 mountain howitzers commanded by Captain Ira W. Claflin, 3d Cavalry. Slough left Fort Union on March 22d. On the 26th, when at Bernal Springs, he dispatched Major Chivington, of the 1st Colorado Volunteers, with 200 cavalry and 180 infantry, toward Santa Fe. The enemy were encountered at Johnson's Ranch, in Apache Canon, about fifteen miles from Santa Fe. An engagement followed, in which both sides claimed the victory : the Union loss was 5 killed and 14 wounded, while the Confederate loss was 32 killed, 43 wounded, and 71 prisoners. Chivington fell back to Pigeon's Ranch, and Major Pyron, who had commanded the Confederates, was reenforced during the night by Colonel W. R. Scurry and his command, who had been encamped at Gralisteo. On the 27th Colonel Slough arrived at Koslowski's Ranch ; on the 28th he moved toward Apache Canon, and at 11 o'clock a. m. the enemy's pickets were encountered. This was a terrible place for an engagement a deep gorge, with a narrow wagon-track running along the bottom, the ground rising precipitously on each side, with huge bowlders and clumps of stunted cedars interspersed. The batteries on both sides were brought forward, the infantry thrown out upon the flanks, and the firing soon became general. Colonel Slough had been informed that the entire baggage and ammunition train of the Confederates was at Johnson's Ranch, and before the action began Major Chivington's command was sent direct over the mountain, unobserved by the enemy, came down upon their camp, which was guarded by some two hundred men, and fell upon their train, consisting of sixty wagons, which, with their entire contents and a 6-pounder gun, were completely destroyed. Two Confederate officers and fifteen men were taken prisoners. This loss was the most serious that the enemy had met with in the whole of their campaign, as all their ammunition, baggage, and provisions of which they were already short were destroyed, and it was accomplished without the loss of a single Union man. The fight in the canon continued until late in the afternoon, when Colonel Slough moved back to Koslowski's Ranch. This engagement is known in Union reports as "Apache Canon," and at the South as the " battle of Grlorietta." The Union loss was 1 officer and 28 men killed, 2 officers and 40 men wounded, and 15 prisoners ; the Confederate, 36 killed, 60 wounded, and 17 prisoners. Colonel Scurry returned to Santa Fe in a completely demoralized condition, while Colonel Slough, having accomplished all that was desired, returned to Fort Union.

On April 1st Colonel Canby, who still remained at Fort Craig, left that post with a force consisting of 860 regulars and 350 volunteers, and arrived [*110] at or near Albuquerque on the afternoon of the 8th. His intention was to effect a junction with the Fort Union troops. He made a feint of attack on Albuquerque by seDding in Paddy Gray don's company, supported by a few regular cavalry under Major Duncan. The Confederates were ready to receive them, and fired a few rounds, when Canby retired and passed through Carnuel Caiion to the little adobe village of San Antonio on the east side of the Sandia Mountain, where he soon was joined by Colonel G. R. Paul and his command from that post. When news was received at Santa Fe that Canby had attacked Albuquerque, Colonel Scurry with his entire force started for that town.

General Sibley was now in straitened circumstances. Forts Union and Craig contained all the subsistence stores in the territory, with the exception of what was in the hands of the people, all of which was cached, or hidden away. He had no money to purchase with, except Confederate bills, which were valueless. He could not advance to Fort Union, as Colonel Slough could withstand any force that he could send in that direction, and he was not strong enough to attack Fort Craig. Accordingly, he determined upon retreating from the territory if Canby would allow him to do so. On the morning of April 12th, the evacuation of Albuquerque commenced by the crossing to the west side of the river of Scurry's and Steele's regiments, Pyron's battalion, and a part of the artillery. Green's regiment moved down on the east side of the river to Peralta, where it crossed over, after a serious skirmish with some of Canby's troops, in which the Confederates lost 6 killed, 3 wounded, and 22 prisoners. On the 15th and 16th the two commands moved down the river, on either side, in view of each other, and most of the time within easy cannon-range. Although Canby's force was double that of the enemy, he would not cross over the river and capture Sibley's forces, as he easily could have done, for he considered it more expedient to allow them to retreat out of the territory and through the wilderness to San Antonio, Texas, than to capture the entire party and be forced to subsist them. This action of Canby caused great discontent in his command, and the Union men of the territory never forgave him. On the evening of the 16th both forces went into camp on the river between Sabinal and La Joya. On the morning of the 17th reveille was sounded in Canby's camp, but no move could be observed in the enemy's, although their camp-fires were burning brightly. After waiting a long time for them to commence their march, Canby sent some scouts across, who soon returned with the information that the Confederate camp was vacant, and that it had been abandoned during the night. It was soon ascertained that Sibley had left the river, leaving behind all his wagons, thirty-eight in number, with their contents, and had proceeded to the westward in the direction of the northern end of the Sierra Madelena.

Canby now proceeded leisurely down the river, and arrived at Fort Craig on the afternoon of the 22d. Sibley's retreat was a most desperate one. He passed on the west side of the Sierra Madelena, through the Sierra de San Mateo, until he reached the dry bed of the Rio Palomas, down which he continued until he reached the Rio Grande, where supplies had been sent from Mesilla [*111] to meet him. His command was entirely worn out, and nearly famished. The distance from where he left the Rio Grande until he reached it again was over one hundred miles, and the Confederates were ten days accomplishing this distance with five days of poor rations. The route was through the worst country in that territory, with no guides, trail, or road. What artillery they got through with was dragged uphill and lowered by the men, who used long ropes for that purpose. The undergrowth and brush were so dense that for several miles they were forced to cut their way through with axes and bowie-knives. Nearly all the ammunition was abandoned on the w r ay, as was nearly everything else, except what the men carried upon their persons. On passing over the route of these unfortunate men, nearly a year after, I not infrequently found a piece of a gun-carriage, or part of a harness, or some piece of camp or garrison equipage, with occasionally a white, dry skeleton of a man. At some points it seemed impossible for men to have made their way. During this retreat the Confederates were unmolested by the Union troops, with the exception of the ubiquitous Captain Graydon, 4 who, with his company, followed them alone for a long distance, picking up a large amount of serviceable articles which they had abandoned on their way.

Sibley himself arrived at Fort Bliss in the first week of May, while his command was strung out for fifty miles to the rear. He remained here but a few days, and upon hearing that the "California Column," under the command of Colonel James H. Carleton, was rapidly approaching from Southern California, he commenced his farther retreat for San Antonio, Texas. His force was entirely demoralized, and moved on its way without discipline or command, every man for himself, until all finally arrived. Sibley's command, when he reached Fort Bliss, in 1861, numbered nearly or quite 3700 men; when he returned it was less than 2000, making a loss of over 1700 men, the bones of a large number of whom were left on the arid plains of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.


Footnotes

1. See Mrs. Caroline B. Darrow's "Recollections of the Twiggs Surrender," Vol. I., p. 33; also map on p. 8 of that volume - Editors.

2. On November 25th, 1861, for his conduct Major Lynde was dropped from the army. This action was revoked November 27th, 1866, by general orders, restoring him to his commission and placing him on the retired list of the army. G. H. P.

3. Captain James Graydon (familiarly known as "Paddy" Graydon) had been a soldier in the regular army, and on the approach of the Confederates had been authorized to organize an independent spy company, and as such it was mustered into the service of the United States. As its name implies, it was truly an "independent" company. It was seldom under the restraint of a superior officer, as it was nearly all the time on the road, its captain not liking the monotony of garrison life. Captain Graydon was a brave man, and no undertaking was too hazardous for him to attempt. His company were nearly all natives of New Mexico, and they would go anywhere their captain would lead them. On the evening of February 20th, when the enemy were encamped opposite Fort Craig, Graydon was allowed to make a night attack upon them. Without explaining the details of his plan, he had prepared a couple of wooden boxes, in each of which half a dozen 24-pounder howitzer shells were placed, with the fuses cut. These boxes were securely lashed on the backs of two old mules, [*106] and the captain with three or four of his men crossed the river just below the fort and proceeded in the darkness toward the Confederate camp. Graydon's project was to get the torpedo nudes within sight of the enemy's picket-line without being discovered, when he was to light the fuses, and the mules, being directed toward the picket-line, would move in the direction of the animals there. He finally arrived within 150 yards of the picket-line, and everything being in readiness, the fuses of the boxes were fired, and the captain and his party commenced their retreat, when to their consternation they found that the mules, instead of going toward the enemy, were following themselves; the shells soon began to explode, the Confederate camp was quickly under arms to repel an attack, aud Paddy Graydon and his companions made their way back to Fort Craig, where they arrived before morning, with the loss of the two mules.

On another occasion, when the enemy were on their retreat from the territory, Paddy Graydon, with one man, arrived late at night at the village of Socorro, when he was informed that there were seven Confederates in town, quartered in a house not far away. Paddy, with his army of one soldier, immediately approached the house that contained the enemy, and commenced giving orders in a stentorian voice: "Captain Adams, move your company to the north side of the house, and commence firing as soon as you see a man move out of the building! Captain Brown, you proceed to the rear of the house with one platoon of your company, and send your second platoon to the south side, and observe the same orders that I have given Captain Adams!" Then, after much ordering of his own imaginary company, he called upon the enemy to surrender, which they soon proceeded to do by coming out of the house, without their arms, which were secured by the gallant captain, and the next day the seven men were delivered to the commanding officer at Fort Craig as prisoners of war.

Although the captain was in the service several months with his company, the same men and the same number were mustered out as had been originally mustered in, when in fact, unofficially, he had really lost more than a dozen men in action, and as many more by desertion. This was brought about as follows: When his first sergeant reported to him of a morning that private "Juan Chacon" or "Jose de Dios Montoyn y Armijo" had deserted during the previous night, no record was made, as the first Mexican peon he would chance to see that day would be pounced upon, and the captain would say, in Spanish: "Here, Juan Chacon, get into your place. I have a great mind to shoot you for desertion." Whereupon the poor peon would probably answer: "No, senor; yo soy Jesus Garcia, y no estoy soldado " (No, sir; I am Jesus Garcia, and I am not a soldier). "Callo la boca, chevato" (Close your mouth, you brute). "Here, sergeant, give this man a uniform, and give him a horse, as I'll excuse him this time." The result wonld be that the new recruit, at the next camp, would get a suit of clothes better than he had ever dreamed of possessing, and a good meal. The men picked up in this manner often became the best of soldiers. G. H. P.

4. Captain James Gravdon's laconic report of the pursuit is dated Polvadera, N. M., May 14th, 1862. He says:

"Last night I reached here from Salada. On the 8th I reached Nugales Spring. From there the road ran between the hills for about 15 miles, then took toward the Magdalene Mountain, where they found water: distance from Nugales about 29 miles; road very rough. On the road they deserted 1 wagon and a camp and left 3 dead bodies half buried. ... I had all buried. From there the road took to Feather Springs, -- I called it so on account of feather-beds being strewed around; distance from Dead Man's Spring seventeen miles. They encamped there. From there they took the road to Ojo del Pueblo; distance fifteen miles; road very rough. Here they blew up a caisson, burned three wagons, hospital department, medicines, etc.; left a few shell and round shot. From there they took to the Salada; distance from Ojo del Pueblo about thirty miles; road very rough. On this road, near and at Salada, they blew up and burned G caissons, 1 12-pounder howitzer and 2 mountain-howitzer carriages. I found out where they had buried some 40 shell, loaded, in one place, and 38 in another: 78 in all. I took them up and hid them in another place. To-morrow the quartermaster from here sends for them. They burned up about 19 wagons, 10 ambulances, 6 caissons, and 3 carriages. I think they left 3 howitzers, 1 12-pounder and 2 mountain. I had with me a man who came with them, who saw them leave the howitzers. I believe the Mexicans have the large one buried, and by offering a reward we could find out. They destroyed six 100-pound barrels of powder at Saluda, and a great deal of camp-equipage. The road from Ojo del Pueblo is strewn with old harness, iron ovens, and in fact everything but small ammunition. It seems they destroyed very little if any, of that. It appears that the Mexicans have carried off a great deal. There is nothing worth sending for in the shape of ammunition except the shell. The distance from Nugales to Rio Puerco is about 109 miles; road very bad. Sibley's command made it in five days. Left dead on the road about 60 or 70 mules and horses." EDITORS.


Original Source for This Version



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