[ February 21, 1862
^ f j Confederates launch a two pronged attack on Federal right and lety
On the Confederate left Ma], Charles Pryon's assault is repulsed V
McRae's Federal batter)1 is overrun ¿-nd New Mexico Volunteers rouied
Texans had long coveted New Mexico. In July 1861 a small force of Texans entered New Mexico Territory and occupied Fort Fillmore. Later, at San Augustin Spring, they captured a much larger force of U.S. regulars. A Territory of Arizona was set up, and a delegate sent to Richmond.
This was the beginning of a dream. To make it a reality, Confederate Brigadier General Henry H. Sibley raised a 3,500-strong brigade, concentrating it at Fort Thorn. On February 7, 1862, Sibley's force started north. Posted at Fort Craig was Colonel Edward R. S. Canby and 3,800 Federal soldiers.
The Confederates closed on Fort Craig on February 16, but found they were outnumbered, and the Federals prepared. Sibley bypassed Fort Craig by fording the Rio Grande south of the fort, and continuing north. On February 21, Canby rushed a third of his command to hold Valverde Ford. Seizing the initiative, the Federals crossed the Rio Grande, and compelled the Confederates to fall back to the river. The fighting escalated as both sides committed reinforcements. The Federals held their own until a Confederate charge captured a battery on Canby's left. This turned the tide and Canby's force recrossed the Rio Grande and withdrew into Fort Craig. The Confederates had opened the door to Santa Fe and Colorado.
Leaving Canby's troops to "wither on the vine," the Confederates occupied Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Their next objective was Fort Union, long the major Federal supply depot in New Mexico. But, by the time the Confederates resumed the advance, reinforcements from the Denver mining camps, led by Colonel John Slough, had reached Fort Union. On March 22, Slough led 1,342 men from the fort toward Confederate-held Santa Fe.
On hearing of the Federal advance, some 400 Confederates took to the field. On
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