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Valverde

fort, cavalry, river, sibley, guns, battery and canby

VALVERDE, val-viedS., or FORT CRAIG (N. Mex.), Battle of. Early in February 1862 Fort Craig, on the Rio Grande, was held by Col. E. R. S. Canby, United States army, with about 3,800 men, composed of detachments from three regiments of regular infantry, two of reg ular cavalry, two batteries of artillery officered and manned by regular cavalry, a company of Colorado volunteers, detachments from five regi ments of New Mexico militia and some un organized militia. The fort had been greatly strengthened by throwing up formidable earth works. In July 1861 the Confederate govern ment, attaching much importance to New Mex ico, had ordered Gen. H. H. Sibley to Texas, to organize and lead an expedition for its con quest. By the middle of November 1861 he had organized a brigade of four Texas mounted regiments and a battery, with which he marched from San Antonio, reaching Fort Bliss 14 De cember. Early in January 1862 he began his march up the Rio Grande, with about 7,000 men; and 16 February his advance was within two miles of Fort Craig, where it was met by Canby's cavalry, upon which Sibley, satis fied from the information he had obtained that with his light field guns an attack on the fort would be futile, withdrew down the river, and on the 19th he crossed to the eastern side, hoping to draw Canby out and fight him on open ground. On the 20th Canby sent a force of cav alry and artillery across the river and made a demonstration on Sibley's camp, but withdrew when his artillery opened a heavy fire. Early on the 21st Sibley made a demonstration toward the fort, while his main body pushed northward and approached the river again at Valverde. Lieut.-Col. B. S. Roberts, with cavalry, infantry and artillery, was sent from the fort to oppose the column should it attempt to cross the river ; and before this about 500 mounted militia had been sent to watch Sibley in his camp. When Roberts arrived at the ford, seven miles above Fort Craig, Sibley had already reached the river at the opposite side, and Roberts opened the battle by sending Maj. Thomas Duncan, with regular cavalry dismounted, across the river. Duncan drove the Confederates back, the Union batteries were established on the western bank, Roberts crossed his command to the eastern side and, after some sharp fighting, by 12 o'clock drove the Confederates from all the positions they had occupied. Meanwhile the Confeder

ates had been reinforced from their camp, and at 12 o'clock Roberts was reinforced by Captain Selden's battalion of regulars and Col. Kit Car son's regiment of New Mexico volunteers. An other advance was made, the Confederate guns were silenced and McRae's and Hall's Union batteries were crossed and put in position. Canby came on the field at 2.45 RM., bringing reinforcements from the fort, after the Con federates had been driven from all their posi tions to the shelter of a high ridge of sand, where, unseen, they reformed and prepared for a charge upon the two Union batteries. Sibley, who was sick, had turned the command over to Colonel Green of the Fifth Texas Cavalry. There was a lull in the fight, which was broken by a most impetuous assault. The Fourth Texas Cavalry made directly for Hall's battery, on the Union right, but met with such a severe fire of canister and musketry from the sup porting cavalry and infantry that, when within 100 yards of the battery, it was repulsed with great loss, falling back in disorder. This was immediately followed by a charge upon McRae's battery by the greater part of Green's avail able command on foot and armed with shot guns, squirrel-rifles, revolvers, lances and knives. Canister and musketry made gaps in the ranks, but did not stop them, and the battery supports gave way after a close hand-to-hand fight. Cap tain McRae, Lieutenant Mishler and most of the gunners were shot down beside their guns, all the horses were killed and the guns were cap tured. A panic now ensued among the greater part of the New Mexico militia, but some of them, with the regulars and Colorado volun teers, were withdrawn in comparatively good order across the river, and Canby retreated to Fort Craig, unmolested by the Confederates. Sibley buried his dead, remained two days at Valverde and moved up the river to Albu querque. The Union loss was 68 killed, 160 wounded and 35 captured; the Confederate loss, 36 killed, 150 wounded and one missing. Con sult 'Official Records' (Vol. IX) ; The Cen tury Company's and Leaders of the Civil War' (Vol. II).