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Sibley's New Mexico Campaign

  • Time Period: November 1861- May 1862
  • Area: New Mexico
  • Explanation: Henry H. Sibley proposed that the Confederate government send an army of Texans into New Mexico, from El Paso, Texas, and press through Arizona gathering supplies and recruits and subduing California. Certain of much Confederate sentiment and cooperation in the sparsely defended deserts, Confederate officials gave Sibley a brigadier general's commision and approval for his plan.

Late in Spring of 1861, Henry Hopkins Sibley, who had just resigned from the U.S. Army, proposed that the Confederate government send an army of Texans into New Mexico from El Paso and press through Arizona gathering supplies and recruits until reaching and subduing California. Certain of much Confederate sentiment and cooperation in the sparsely defended deserts, Confederate officials gave Sibley a brigadier's commision and approval of his plan.

Sibley's 3,700-man Army of New Mexico left san Antonio in November, stopping in El Paso to proclaim to the New Mexicans that they came as liberators. Then they moved to their first objective, Fort Craig, under command of Col. E.R.S. Canby. This southern New Mexico stronghold and nearby Valverde saw several days' inconclusive fighting that left Canby victor by default; sibley lost too many men and supplies to continue beseiging the Federals. Desperate for food and material, the Texans went north around Fort Craig to Albuquerque, where the Federals had stored $250,000 worth of goods. Attacking, the Confederates found the defenders gone and the supplies destroyed.

Sibley detached 600 men to try plundering Santa Fe, but they met similar federal tactics. Worse, holding a barren prize, the small force had to fend off 1,300 of the federals attacking from nearby Fort Union. Although this battle of La Glorieta Pass culminated in a miraculous Confederate victory, the Texans' few supplies were captured in the fight, leaving them destitute. The detached force retreated to Albuquerque only to find Canby, recently promoted to brigadier general, outside the town with 1,200 men. Facing defeat and starvation, Sibley retreated to Texas.

Dogged almost all of the way to Fort Craig by Canby's men, the weakening Confederate troops finally slipped from Federal sight in a night maneuver that took them home by a circuitous route. Nearly dead of thirst and starvation, 1,700 Confederate survivors eventually reached safety in El Paso on May 4th.

Campaign Battles

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