FORT UNION
Historic Resource Study
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CHAPTER FIVE:
FORT UNION AND THE ARMY IN NEW MEXICO DURING THE CIVIL WAR

     While the nation was splitting in two and the opening stages of what developed into the tragic Civil War were unfolding in the East, there was considerable discussion about the future of the Union among officers stationed at Fort Union and throughout the Department of New Mexico. Many of them faced and made the difficult decision of whether their primary obligation was to the nation or their home state. Those who chose the latter left the U.S. Army and departed from New Mexico. The beginning battles of the Civil War seemed far removed from the territory. For the troops at Fort Union and in the rest of the department, the primary concern, until Confederate troops invaded southern New Mexico in the summer of 1861, remained the protection of transportation routes and settlements from Indian raids. After the Confederate threat was repelled, the Indians were again the principal challenge.

     As it became clear in the spring of 1861 that a war between the Union and the seceded states (soon to be known as the Confederate States of America) had begun, there were numerous rumors in New Mexico that Confederate Texans (Texas seceded in February 1861) were coming to capture the territory and Fort Union. This post was considered a prime target because of the quartermaster, commissary, and ordnance depots, holding all kinds of supplies, weapons, and ammunition that were crucial for the Confederate volunteer troops. [1] There was also fear that Texans might attack the indispensable supply trains coming to Fort Union from Fort Leavenworth, and the commander at Union was directed to hold a mounted force in readiness for action on the Santa Fe Trail if that became necessary for the protection of the freighters. [2] Before long the rumors of a Texan invasion proved to be true, and attention of all troops at Fort Union was focused on defending the post from attack. Meanwhile, the composition of the troops in the department changed.

     When the Civil War began in the East, many units of the regular army were transferred from their stations in the West and Southwest to the region of conflict. Shortly after armed conflict began, General-in-Chief Winfield Scott directed that all companies of the Fifth, Seventh, and Tenth U. S. Infantry stationed in New Mexico Territory and at other western forts be sent as soon as possible to Fort Leavenworth for reassignment. Colonel Canby persuaded the war department to leave most of those troops in New Mexico Territory to face the Confederate threat until volunteers had been enlisted and trained to replace them. [3] When the infantrymen departed, only four companies of dragoons and the Regiment of Mounted Riflemen would be left to represent the regular army in New Mexico. These were augmented by volunteers raised in the territory. Volunteer regiments were raised in each state and territory to help with the war effort and provide protection for transportation routes and settlements. Throughout the years of the protracted struggle, New Mexico volunteers (joined by volunteers from Colorado and California) provided much of the manpower for the army in the territory. These troops performed laudable service for the Union cause.

     Very few people, in the East or in New Mexico, understood that New Mexico Territory might be a key factor in the ultimate success or failure of the Confederate States of America. As it turned out, the Confederacy, without a good portion of the American West, could not establish a viable nation. It is impossible to know if the war for secession would have turned out differently had the Confederate States of America gained control of the territories of New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah and the State of California, perhaps even the northern provinces of Mexico, thereby creating a large, two-ocean country, but that conquest undoubtedly would have made a major difference. The key to the Southwest for the Confederates was New Mexico Territory.

     Some Confederate leaders mistakenly assumed that the New Mexicans could easily be dissuaded from their attachment to the Union. Many inhabitants of southern New Mexico Territory, especially at Mesilla, and in the present state of Arizona were disaffected and easily won over to secession. But the bulk of New Mexicans (except for a few secessionist sympathizers), residing along the Rio Grande from Socorro north, held no fondness for Texas or Texans and many would join Union troops to resist an occupation force comprised primarily of volunteers from Texas. Confederate leaders failed to understand that New Mexico was tied to the Union by the small thread of Santa Fe Trail, and they apparently never appreciated how easy it would be to cut that thread and isolate New Mexico from its source of supplies and reinforcements. At the same time, most Union leaders had little if any understanding of the significance of western territories in the outcome of the conflict. Little was done to meet the needs of the Union troops in New Mexico until Confederate troops invaded the territory, and even then the efforts were negligible.

     Despite the miscalculations made by both sides, the Confederate invaders of New Mexico, although initially successful, were eventually repulsed on the Santa Fe Trail not far from Santa Fe, and the ultimate fate of the Confederate States of America was sealed before the conflict was a year old. The troops at Fort Union, mostly volunteers from New Mexico and Colorado territories, were primarily responsible for the first significant defeat of Confederate troops in the department. Although the eventual outcome of the bloody carnage known as the Civil War was determined by what happened on eastern battlefields, the possibility for Confederate victory was improbable after the battle at Glorieta Pass and Johnson's Ranch on March 28, 1862. Prior to those battles, however, it appeared that New Mexico might, indeed, fall to the Confederacy.

     Horace Greeley alleged that Secretary of War John B. Floyd, a southerner, assigned the command of the Department of New Mexico to Colonel William Wing Loring, a known secessionist, early in 1861 for the purpose of debasing the allegiance of the troops to the Union. Greeley concluded that Loring and Crittenden (colonel and lieutenant-colonel, respectively, of the Regiment of Mounted Riflemen) intended to lead the troops into Texas and offer them "to the service and support of the Rebellion." [4] That may have been speculation on the part of Greeley. It is impossible to find evidence of such plans in the records of Colonel Loring's administration of the department. However, Loring, Crittenden, and other southern officers soon cast their lot with the Confederacy.

     When it was learned in New Mexico Territory that secession had begun, most officers of southern nativity evaluated their loyalty. Within a few months, many elected to resign their commissions in the U.S. Army and offer their services to their native states or the incipient Confederacy. By law, officers in the army could resign their commissions. [5] Thus, for those who chose to do so, it was simply a matter of submitting a letter of resignation to the department commander, who forwarded it to the secretary of war for approval by the president. As soon as a letter of acceptance was returned, the officer was free from his obligations to the Union Army. Enlisted men, however, enjoyed no such privilege. They enlisted for a specified period of time and could not resign. An enlisted man who wished to leave the army and join a rebel force could do so only by desertion (a crime punishable by law if the deserter were apprehended). Because of these regulations, a higher proportion of officers than enlisted men left the Union Army. [6] Mrs. Lane recalled that "very few soldiers left the army, while in New Mexico, to join the Southern Confederacy." [7]

     At Fort Union, Second Lieutenant DuBois (a native of New York and solidly committed to the Union "whether wrong or right") recorded in his diary that "the soldiers are loyal. Most of the officers going south themselves." He observed that even the officers "going south," with the exception of Longstreet, "urge their soldiers to remain true." As for himself, DuBois wrote, "I became involved in several bitter political discussions here & threatened if an effort was made to seduce my regiment from its allegiance I would assume command myself & fight it out." There was pressure placed on all officers to join the southern cause. DuBois noted that "high positions were offered me" to join the "southern army." He "declined, although it is hard to fight as a 2d Lieutenant when I might have a much higher rank." The pressure continued on officers, and DuBois wrote a few days later that "tremendous efforts are being made to coax them South." He remained steadfast for the Union and departed from Fort Union on his long-awaited leave of absence on March 17, 1861. [8]

     It was difficult for officers from southern states to resist the call to join the secessionist cause. Among those in New Mexico, most of whom had been at Fort Union at one time or another, who resigned their commissions for that purpose were Colonel Thomas Turner Fauntleroy, Major Henry Hopkins Sibley, and Captain Richard Stoddert Ewell, First Dragoons; Lieutenant John Pegram and Second Lieutenant Benjamin F. Sloan, Second Dragoons; Colonel William Wing Loring, Lieutenant Colonel George B. Crittenden, Lieutenant Laurence Simmons Baker, and Second Lieutenants Henry C. McNeill and Joseph Wheeler, [9] Regiment of Mounted Riflemen; Lieutenant Lucius Loomis Rich and Second Lieutenants Robert Clinton Hill and Bryan Morel Thomas, Fifth Infantry; Captain Cadmus Marcellus Wilcox, Seventh Infantry; Lieutenants William Kearny and Henry Brooke Kelly, Tenth Infantry; Major James Longstreet, pay department; and Lieutenant Dabney H. Maury, assistant adjutant general. Several of those officers rose to high ranks in the Confederate service. Sibley, who was the commanding officer at Fort Union in May and June 1861, led the Texas volunteers up the Rio Grande valley the following year, a major objective of which was the capture of Fort Union for the Confederate States of America. McNeill was one of the officers in Sibley's Brigade.

     There can be little doubt that the resignation of more than a dozen officers in the department had consequential psychological effects on the remaining officers and enlisted men. Some of those who switched sides had commanded for a number of years. A military leader with a reputation, who had earned the loyalty of those he commands, was difficult to replace. At the very least, the loss of these officers created disarray among officers and confusion among enlisted men. If new officers could be secured, they had to demonstrate their talent and earn the respect of fellow officers and enlisted personnel. Those effects were enhanced in New Mexico with the impending transfer of several companies out of the territory and the raising of volunteer troops to fill the void.

     As Colonel Loring awaited a decision on his resignation, the command of the department was gradually changed. Colonel Ernest Richard Sprigg Canby, Nineteenth Infantry, who had recently led an expedition against the Navajos and was in command of Fort Defiance, was called to Santa Fe in June 1861 and placed in command of the northern portion of New Mexico Territory by Loring. [10] Loring then left department headquarters at Santa Fe and moved south to Fort Fillmore to await the decision of President Abraham Lincoln on his application for resignation. Canby was confirmed as department commander with the departure of Loring. It has been claimed that Canby and Sibley, leaders of the opposing forces in New Mexico, were related by marriage, but there appears to be no verification of this. [11]

     Upon assuming command of the department, Canby was especially concerned about the "disabled condition of the mounted companies from the want of horses, and of the Quartermaster's Department from the want of draught animals." He noted that the previous two years of drought in New Mexico resulted in "great scarcity, almost famine." A combination of "the scarcity of water, grass, and forage, and constant hard service," he reported, "have destroyed a large proportion of the animals in the service." The same factors had also reduced the supply of horses in the private sector of the territory. He requested "that the estimates heretofore made for remounts and for draught animals may be filled from the East." [12] Colonel Loring had requisitioned 400 remounts for the department in April. [13] The shortage of horses to mount troops in New Mexico, both regulars and volunteers, remained a problem throughout the era of the Civil War.

     Before any volunteers were raised in New Mexico, it was imperative to have sufficient equipment for them. Since there was not time to request and transport ordnance and other supplies from the East during the first months of the Civil War, the volunteers had to be equipped from what was available at the depots at Fort Union and Albuquerque. Canby asked Captain Shoemaker, military storekeeper at the ordnance depot at Fort Union, how many volunteers he could arm. Shoemaker responded that he could outfit two regiments of volunteer infantry, although some of the equipment would be used and of an outdated style. [14] Shoemaker was directed to ship arms and ammunition to Albuquerque and Forts Craig and Stanton, where some of the volunteers were to be mustered into service and outfitted. Canby directed that the First Regiment of New Mexico Volunteer Infantry was to be inducted as follows: four companies at Fort Union, four at Albuquerque, two at Fort Craig, and two at Fort Stanton. [15] The qualifications for volunteers required that they be between 18 and 45 years of age. According to war department regulations, "all officers and men must be sound and active, free from all malformation, defects of sight, hearing, ulcers, piles, rupture, fracture, dislocation, and disease of any kind." Interestingly, however, "the lack of, or defect in, the left eye, or slight injury of the left hand, will not reject the man." Furthermore, "foreigners and stammerers must not be received, unless they can understand and speak rapidly." [16]

E. R. S. Canby
E. R. S. Canby, U. S. Signal Corps Photo, courtesy National Archives.

     The Hispanic men of New Mexico were not foreigners, but many of them could not speak or understand the English language. This created innumerable problems for the troops and, especially, the commanding officers in the department. Many orders and communications had to be translated into Spanish, and English-speaking officers had to utilize translators when directing Hispanic troops. It became necessary for the department commander to direct that "whenever troops speaking different languages are thrown together, all details will be made so that those speaking the same language may serve together." In addition, whenever possible, privates were to serve under non-commissioned officers who spoke their language. [17]

     The language barrier was the most obvious division between Anglos and Hispanos, but there were deep-seated prejudices on both sides. New Mexicans saw the Anglos as conquerors who had captured their land and were in the process of destroying their culture. Many Anglos considered all New Mexicans to be inferior and not good material for soldiers. The situation was further complicated by a superiority complex of professional officers and regular troops in their views of volunteers. Many of the New Mexican volunteers did seem to be inadequate as soldiers because of the language barrier, lack of military experience, and, for some, an inordinate fear of Texans. They possessed many strengths, however, that were seldom utilized because of Anglo prejudices: understanding of the environment (routes of travel, locations of springs, and utilization of native plants) and the Indians, experiences of endurance in the face of obstacles, and courage in the midst of battle (especially against Indians). Many New Mexicans performed admirably in the service of the U.S., but most Anglo officers did not give them proper credit because of their preconceptions about "Mexicans" and volunteers. [18]

     Each community of sufficient population in the territory was encouraged to raise a company for the volunteer service. The primary reason New Mexicans joined the army was for the pay ($13.00 per month) and a bounty of $100 for those who signed up for three years. One immediate problem in New Mexico, peculiar to society there, was how to deal with peons who enlisted in the volunteers. The owners insisted that their property be returned, while some of the peons saw military service as a way to freedom. Colonel Canby did not endear the army to the wealthy class of New Mexico when he ruled that peons who enlisted in the volunteers were not to be released for that reason except by writ of habeas corpus from the U.S. courts in the territory. The local courts were not permitted any jurisdiction in these cases. [19] A month later Canby suspended the writ of habeas corpus throughout the department. [20] The writ of habeas corpus was also suspended throughout the Union by order of President Lincoln. The suspension continued in New Mexico Territory until July 4, 1865, when General James H. Carleton, restored the writ for the civil courts. Because of the frustrations of legal problems arising from the enlistment of peons, recruiting officers in New Mexico were directed in September 1863 to enroll any peon "without the consent of his master." [21]

     The enlistment of volunteers proceeded quickly in New Mexico, although some companies had difficulty filling their quotas. The colonel of the First New Mexico Volunteer Infantry, Ceran St. Vrain, was assigned to Fort Union, where the volunteers would be trained. A second regiment of volunteer infantry was also authorized in the territory, and a battalion (four companies) of mounted volunteers was raised. As soon as the volunteers were enlisted and equipped, Major William Chapman, Fort Union commander, was directed to establish a camp of instruction near the post, where the volunteers would receive their basic training. [22]

     The camp of instruction for volunteers, soon to be named Camp Chapman after the commanding officer at Fort Union and later known as Camp Cameron (to honor Secretary of War Simon Cameron), was established in July 1861 under the command of Captain Francisco S. Abreu, senior officer of the volunteers present. The camp was set up like a separate command, although everyone there was under the jurisdiction of the commander of Fort Union, with its own adjutant, sergeant major, guards, and details. The volunteers were housed in tents. They were ordered to excavate a sink or latrine for the use of the camp, "which will be surrounded by brush to screen it from view." The camp was to be "thoroughly policed" (kept clean and orderly) immediately after reveille each day. Each morning one captain or lieutenant was designated to serve as officer of the day and one second lieutenant was assigned as officer of the guard. For guard duty, three sergeants, seven corporals, and fifty-nine privates were detailed each day. One of those privates was selected to serve as orderly to the camp commander. A special picket guard, comprised of one sergeant, one corporal, and three privates was stationed each day "near the Spring to prevent any improper use of the water, such as washing or bathing in the Spring or the irrigating pond adjacent to it and to protect the public gardens from depredation." [23]

William Chapman
William Chapman, Photo Collection, Fort Union National Monument.

     At the camp of instruction the volunteers were drilled daily, beginning at 5:00 a.m. with the school of the soldier. The volunteers, except those on guard duty, were required to attend drill each day from 5:00 to 6:30 a.m., 10:00 to 11:30 a.m., and 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. They were to learn about following orders, discipline, how to march, care and use of their weapons, inspection, and everything else required to turn them from civilians into soldiers. During the remainder of the day they were to perform their other duties. Major Gabriel R. Paul, Eighth Infantry, was appointed inspector general and charged with the duty of superintending the instruction and discipline of the volunteers at the camp. At the request of Major Paul, Second Lieutenant Peter McGrath, Third Cavalry, was assigned to the camp to assist with the training of the mounted volunteers. [24] At the end of July 1861 there were six companies of New Mexico "foot volunteers" and one company of "mounted volunteers" at Fort Union. [25] More volunteers arrived as the companies were filled with recruits.

     Additional rules were laid down for the volunteers at Fort Union to keep close watch over "arms, accoutrements and ammunition" issued to them and to prevent them from leaving the post without permission. To assure that the ordnance equipment and supplies were not being disposed of by the volunteers and that their weapons "are at all times in proper order for immediate service, a thorough inspection of them will be made every day at Retreat and at 8 o'clock A.M. on Sundays." No volunteer was permitted to be absent from the post for longer than "six hours without a written pass naming the Company & Regiment to which he belongs, Signed by the Capt. or Company Commander, Countersigned by the Comdg Officer of the Camp, and approved by the Comdg. Officer of Fort Union." [26] These rules were founded on the premise that the volunteers might trade items of issue for food, whiskey, or prostitutes, and that they might desert if permitted to absent themselves from the post without close supervision. Any volunteer who lost or damaged any item issued to him was to be charged for that article on payday. [27] The trading firm of Spiegelberg and Brothers at Santa Fe was designated as the sutler for the New Mexico Volunteers, providing the same commodities to these troops in camp and in the field as the post sutler provided for the garrison. [28]

     While volunteer troops were being raised to protect New Mexico Territory from Indians and Confederates, the need for such protection was made clear by the theft of the army's beef cattle herd being pastured near Galisteo on June 4, 1861. Lieutenant Claflin and 25 mounted troops were sent from Fort Union to attempt to recover the lost stock, believed to have been run off by Indians. Claflin investigated and concluded that the cattle were stolen by a band of thieves headed by a Mr. Taylor from the Galisteo area, who took the cattle and blamed the Indians, causing trouble for everyone. Claflin was convinced that reports of "Indian depredations" had been "proved to be totally false." As far as he was concerned, "the Indians who infest the valleys of the Gallinas & Pecos are white men and Mexicans." [29] Regardless of who the perpetrators were, the need for military protection was evident and more troops were required to protect government property and settlers. At least one company of dragoons, detached from the garrison at Fort Union, was kept posted at Hatch's Ranch to protect that area and scout south and east for Indians and Texans who might threaten the settlements. The troops at Hatch's Ranch were directed, if "threatened by a superior force" to retreat to Fort Union rather than fight. [30]

     There was also need to protect the Santa Fe Trail, the vital line of communications and supply from the East. Major Chapman, commanding at Fort Union, was directed by Colonel Canby to send, as soon as the volunteers were equipped for service, at least 100 mounted troops and two companies of volunteer infantry under command of Captain Duncan to protect the trail between Fort Union and the crossing of the Arkansas River in Kansas. They were to travel in wagons and take rations for 30 days. A party of ten spies and guides were to accompany the troops. This force was to make certain that the mails and supply trains were not interrupted by Indian or Texan raiders. Because it was feared that the Cimarron Route of the Santa Fe Trail would be less safe than the Mountain Route, the commander at Fort Larned was requested to advise all wagon trains passing his post to follow the Raton Route, which Captain Duncan's command would protect. [31] Many freighters chose to use the Cimarron Route, despite the warnings, because it was shorter and easier to travel with large wagons. [32] The leaders of many supply caravans assumed there was safety in numbers of well-armed teamsters and took their chances on the more threatened course.

     With the organization of the first two companies of New Mexican Volunteers at Fort Union, comprised of Company A raised at Mora and under command of Captain Jose Maria Valdez and Company B raised at Las Vegas and under command of Captain Arthur Morrison (a total of 180 officers and men), Major Chapman promised to send them with Captain Duncan to protect the route of travel as soon as possible. [33] On July 7, Captain Duncan led three officers and 102 mounted riflemen and six officers and 174 New Mexican volunteers, plus nine spies and guides, from Fort Union to protect the Mountain Route as far as Fort Wise, Colorado Territory. [34] It was an impressive force but may not have been necessary. Additional protection was provided along the Santa Fe Trail later in the summer when a number of troops being transferred from the Department of New Mexico assembled at Fort Union to march to Fort Leavenworth "in columns of sufficient strength to defend themselves." They were well supplied with ammunition in case of an encounter with hostile forces. [35] Their presence on the trail would help deter any would-be attackers on the supply wagons.

     The feared threats to the supply trains did not materialize in 1861, and the crucial supply route to troops in New Mexico remained open throughout the early months of the Civil War. The military contract supply trains, at least five of which came over the Cimarron Route, began arriving at Fort Union on July 18. Because these wagon trains had experienced no hostility from Indians or Texans along the way and reported that additional trains were behind them on the Cimarron Route, Major Chapman sent an express rider to direct Captain Duncan, who had gone on the Mountain Route, "to return with his command to this post." They arrived back at Fort Union on July 30, and Duncan reported that "nothing unusual was seen or heard on this trip." [36] Perhaps this early return of Duncan's large command was also in response to renewed concerns about a possible Texan invasion of the territory.

     By July constant rumors reached Fort Union that Texan forces were on the way to capture the territory and the post. Some of the Comancheros reported that they had seen the Texans headed toward New Mexican settlements. At the same time, the New Mexican and Pueblo spies sent from Fort Union to watch over the routes from the Arkansas River and the road from Fort Smith reported that they had found no signs of Texans or Indians along those trails. Still the rumors of imminent invasion continued. Many of the reports claimed the Texans were coming up the Pecos Valley and their main objective was Fort Union. For example, an Apache Indian reportedly told a civilian guide at Fort Craig, who informed the commanding officer at that post, who in turn sent the details to Colonel Canby at Santa Fe, that a "large body of Texans" was traveling up the Pecos Valley to capture Fort Union. According to the Indian, the Texans "encampment and stock covered near three miles of ground," and "they had Artillery with them." Captain Robert M. Morris, commanding at Fort Craig, believed this report might be true. Canby forwarded the information to the commanders at Hatch's Ranch and Fort Union, stating he did not consider it "reliable." [37] It was not "reliable." Additional spies were employed by Lieutenant Enos at Fort Union, both New Mexicans and Pueblo Indians who were disguised as Comancheros, to keep watch over all possible avenues of invasion, and they continued to report no Texans sighted. Lieutenant Ebenezer Gay, in command at Hatch's Ranch, informed Major Chapman on July 28, "as far as can be ascertained there are no Texans enroute for Fort Union." Still the rumors persisted. [38]

     The reports of a Texas invasion continued to reach Fort Union. In preparation for a possible attack on the post, Major Chapman determined that more training was needed in the firing of artillery pieces, pieces that might be the key to a successful defense. He ordered that all men not attending to other assigned duties were to participate in artillery drill from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. each day except Sunday. The instructors for artillery drill were Second Lieutenant John F. Ritter, Fifth Infantry, and Second Lieutenant Robert W. Hall, Tenth Infantry. [39]

     To further strengthen the garrison at Fort Union, the camp at Hatch's Ranch was abandoned and the company of Second Dragoons there returned to Union. [40] The defense of the post was critical because of the supplies stored there and the importance of keeping those stores out of the hands of the Confederates. The ordnance stores alone were valued at more than $270,000 (not including the cost of transportation to New Mexico). [41] Colonel Canby informed Major Chapman that Fort Union "must be held at all hazards." He also requested that Chapman report "what measures you have taken and what additional measures you consider necessary for the security of your post." [42]

     Although there had been much debate just prior to the Civil War about relocating the quartermaster and commissary depot and subdepot in the department and the garrison and ordnance supply depot at Fort Union, Colonel Canby concluded soon after taking command of the department that Fort Union was the best position from which to supply the other posts in the department. He directed that Fort Union be designated the general depot for the distribution of all supplies shipped in via the Santa Fe Trail, except medical provisions which would be issued from Santa Fe, "to the several posts and commands in the Department." A subdepot was established at Albuquerque "to meet contingencies at posts west and south of that place, and to supply passing troops and trains." Any supplies procured in the territory were to be collected and distributed from the most convenient places. [43] This order made Fort Union, just as Sumner had originally planned in 1851, the major shipping point in New Mexico Territory, a position it held until the railroad arrived nearby in 1879. It also made the post the most important objective for Confederate forces hoping to capture the territory.

     Confirmation of the Texas invasion of New Mexico came to Fort Union on August 4, 1861, when word arrived of the surrender of the garrison of Fort Fillmore by Major Isaac Lynde, Seventh Infantry, to the rebel forces commanded by Lieutenant Colonel John R. Baylor, Second Texas Mounted Rifles, CSA. [44] Baylor had recruited volunteers from the towns and farms of central Texas and led them to Fort Bliss, which had been abandoned by U.S. troops when Texas seceded in February 1861. Colonel Canby was apprised of the possible invasion of his department from Fort Bliss and concentrated troops from several southern New Mexico posts (Forts McLane, Breckenridge, and Buchanan) at Fort Fillmore, under command of Major Lynde. He also requested additional volunteers from the governors of New Mexico and Colorado territories. He hoped to turn back the Texans before they could establish a foothold in New Mexico.

     Baylor led approximately 500 Texans into New Mexico Territory on July 3, 1861, bypassed Fort Fillmore, and occupied the nearby town of Mesilla. Major Lynde, convinced that Fort Fillmore was indefensible against artillery because of its location, decided to destroy what supplies his troops could not carry away and abandon the post. On July 27, 1861, Lynde led his troops from Fort Fillmore and headed north to Fort Stanton. It was reported that the soldiers had filled their canteens with whiskey instead of water, and as they marched across the desert they became intoxicated and suffered greatly from want of water. As Lynde's troops approached San Augustin Springs, Baylor's Texas force arrived on the scene. Lynde surrendered his entire command (seven companies of Seventh Infantry and two companies of the Regiment of Mounted Riflemen) plus Captain Alfred Gibbs and 70 troopers who were escorting a beef herd to Fort Fillmore and had met up with Lynde just prior to Baylor's approach. [45] These troops were paroled, which meant they could return to their homes but could not participate in military operations, and moved to a camp near Fort Union to await transportation to the States.

     Lynde's surrender left the lower Rio Grande valley open to Confederate advance as far as Fort Craig at the north end of the Jornada del Muerto, approximately 30 miles south of Socorro. Canby directed that Fort Stanton be abandoned, and Major Benjamin S. Roberts, Regiment of Mounted Riflemen and commander at Stanton, led his command to Albuquerque. Other troops were concentrated at Fort Craig, making it the primary point for the defense of the settlements along Rio Grande valley to the north. Canby kept a large force at Fort Union to protect the route of supply and to meet any invasion of Texans from the east. Most of the troops in the department were stationed at Craig, Albuquerque, and Union. A small force remained at Fort Marcy at Santa Fe to protect the department headquarters. [46]

     The news of the fall of Fort Fillmore and capture of Lynde's forces put Major Chapman into a panic operation at Fort Union. He considered the site of the post indefensible because of the nearby bluffs and immediately started construction of the second Fort Union, an earthwork located approximately one mile east of the original post. He explained everything to department headquarters.

     "I will endeavor to enroll and arm all the reliable citizens in this neighborhood. I have taken no steps toward fortifying this post, as I found upon examining the ground on the bluff in rear of it, that I could not spare a sufficient force to defend any work I might erect there for its defense that would not be commanded by higher ground in the rear and on both flanks. An enemy once in possession of the bluff in rear, would render this post untenable and in attempting to defend it, I would lose all the ordnance stores, provisions &c. I have determined to cross to the East side of the creek out of range of field pieces & small arms and construct an entrenched camp with a bomb-proof Magazine and store houses sufficient to contain all the stores. It will be necessary in case of an attack by a superior force to burn this post lest the enemy should get possession of it. Capt. [Cuvier] Grover will have charge of the working party on the entrenched camp and it will be pushed forward day and night to completion. I will defend it at all hazards. The men off duty have been drilling at Artillery for several days and are progressing very well. . . . Lt. Enos sends tonight to Las Vegas for additional shovels to expedite our work."

     "It will be necessary to have more tents as all the troops will have to encamp in the work. These Mexican volunteers are more afraid of the Texans, than they are of death, and in case of an attack by the latter, I cannot rely upon them. If I can use them in constructing the proper defenses and station them behind entrenchments they may render good service." [47]

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