The Civil War opened in April 1861. A number of army
officers serving in New Mexico
at the time resigned their commissions to join the
Confederate Army. One was Col. Henry Hopkins Sibley,
who had been stationed at
Albuquerque and was then in
command at Fort Union,
Maj. Edward R. S. Canby was left in charge. Promoted
to colonel, he would lead the
New Mexico forces in
defending the territory. Sibley soon became a
brigadier general, charged with annexing
New Mexico for the
and gaining control of
Colorado’s gold mines.
Gen. Sibley looked the part of a general, but he had
trouble making decisions and often sought the advice
of his junior officers. He had another weakness that
would doom his New Mexico
military campaign – he was too fond of rum and
In September 1861 President Abraham Lincoln
appointed Henry Connelly, of Peralta, as
New Mexico’s governor
because he trusted Connelly to be loyal to the
Union of the
United States and
because Connelly, who had lived here a long time,
had the sympathy of native New Mexicans.
Just five days after his inauguration in
Santa Fe, Gov. Connelly
contacted each county in the territory urging the
establishment of a militia, or home guard, for the
defense of the territory against the enemy – Texans
serving in the Confederate Army.
An overly confident Sibley in late January 1862 led
an invasion force known as the Army of New Mexico,
which consisted of three regiments of cavalry and a
battery of artillery, from his headquarters in
El Paso into the
Territory of New
Mexico. He had
previously issued a proclamation to the people of
New Mexico announcing his
intention to take possession of the territory.
Canby anticipated just such an invasion and had
tried to shore up his fighting forces with a
volunteer infantry and cavalry paid and equipped by
government. Kit Carson commanded the First Regiment
of New Mexico Volunteers, and Col. Miguel Pino and
Lt. Col. Manuel Chaves commanded the second. Canby
favored Hispanics in filling officers’ ranks,
believing it would attract more volunteers.
Albuquerque became a
rendezvous for recruits, who were sent south to
south of Socorro.
Texans had already seized Mesilla in southern
New Mexico when Sibley
pushed north along the Rio
Grande. Sibley expected to
meet Canby’s forces at the federal stronghold at
Gov. Connelly had also arrived at
Canby assured the governor that he had 4,000 men, of
whom 1,200 were regular army troops, and all were
ready to fight.
The two sides met on a battleground outside the
fort. In a hard-fought battle, known as the Battle
of Valverde, the Union
was holding the line. Then Col. Tom Green, standing
in for Sibley who was drunk in his tent, ordered an
all out charge straight at Union regulars. The ploy
worked. Union soldiers broke and ran, which caused
the volunteers, many of them poorly trained, to flee
in panic. They took refuge in the fort. Sibley, not
wanting to attack the fort, ordered his forces to
continue their march north.
When Colonel Canby realized he was being bypassed,
he became concerned for the military stores at the
Albuquerque post. He sent his
quartermaster, Maj. James Donaldson, to slip through
the lines and warn the small forces in
Santa Fe to remove or destroy
the supplies stored in both places.
The governor also slipped quietly out of
and rode north. Concerned that
was defenseless and would soon be taken by rebels,
he advised ranchers and small farmers to gather
their sheep and cattle and conceal them in the
The citizens of Albuquerque
collected their valuables and took them out of town
or buried them.
In Albuquerque Capt. Herbert M. Enos, the assistant
quartermaster and ranking officer, moved as many
supplies as possible from the military depot and
destroyed the rest.
On March 1 Enos sent six wagons to the
to gather firewood. The wood cutters spotted the
approaching enemy, and a rider galloped into the
plaza with the news that the rebel army was only 20
miles away at Los Lunas.
Enos ordered some army wagons, already filled with
arms and ammunition, to leave immediately for
Santa Fe, guarded by a few
also had the volunteer militia load the several
remaining wagons with baggage, which he would lead
north to Santa Fe.
At dawn the lookout reported that the Confederate
Army was south of town near what would become the
neighborhood of Barelas.
on March 2, Enos ordered his men to burn the
buildings that held military equipment, along with
neighboring stables and corrals.
Watching from the shadows, some of the town’s poor
people scrambled into the burning buildings to carry
away molasses, vinegar, soap, candles, a few
saddles, carpenter’s tools and even some office
furniture, as Captain Enos led his caravan of loaded
wagons out of town.
The approaching Confederates saw three columns of
smoke rising over the town with sinking spirits.
They were cold and hungry, and their horses were
thin from fast marching and short supplies of grass.
They proceeded to occupy
Within an hour of arriving, a rider from the small
village of Cubero,
west of Albuquerque,
reported that four Confederate sympathizers had
demanded the urrender of the supplies from a small
Union outpost whose volunteer captain had no orders
to follow. Four days later a badly needed supply
When Sibley arrived after March 6, he moved into the
adobe home of Rafael Armijo and his younger brother
Manuel, which became his headquarters. The
Armijo brothers, who were store owners,
turned over $200,000 in goods. The Armijos weren’t
necessarily southern sympathizers. While most
Albuquerque residents were
Union partisans, many native New Mexicans were
ambivalent about this war between states.
New Mexico was not yet a
state and had only been a territory of the
United States for
about 13 years.
The Confederates marched north, expecting to capture
Unknown to them, Colorado
volunteers, led by Maj. John Chivington , had
hurried from Denver
to shore up the thin Union forces in
New Mexico and discourage an
invasion of their state.
Lt. Col. Manuel Antonio Chaves, a seasoned member of
New Mexico’s militia, was
asked to join the Confederates but chose to be loyal
to the Union. He led a spy
company into Santa Fe
and informed Chivington of the rebel troop strength
and their movement toward
On March 28 Chivington, reinforced by troops from
engaged the Confederates in a hard battle. Sibley
remained comfortably in
In a flanking action the Union forces also slipped
behind the Confederate lines, led by Manuel Chavez,
and burned 61 wagons in Sibley’s supply train. It
was a decisive strategy. The Battle of Glorieta Pass
was over. Without supplies the rebels had no hope of
Manuel Chaves is a little known hero of the Battle
of Glorieta Pass.
army retreated to Santa Fe
and then to Albuquerque,
where they commandeered Franz Huning’s flour mill at
what is now Laguna and Central. The mill was named,
ironically, La Glorieta. On April 8, Canby, then at
the small farming settlement of Barelas, south of
what is now downtown, ordered four Union cannons to
fire on Albuquerque. The colonel had decided to make
a noisy show of strength by his small army. The
cannons of the rebel army, located at the mill near
Town, returned fire.
The “Battle of Albuquerque” lasted several hours. It
was only an artillery shelling, with no casualties.
As the cannon balls flew back and forth, a worried
group of citizens approached Canby and told him the
Confederate Army would not allow the women and
children who had remained in their homes to leave
and find a safe refuge. Canby ordered his men to
stop firing. The Battle of Albuquerque had ended.
As the sunset glowed red, orange and pink in the
west, both citizens and Confederate soldiers watched
the campfires of a thousand Union Army soldiers burn
brightly as day turned into night. Worried residents
wondered if the ceasefire would end the following
morning and the battle would resume. They heard the
Union Army musicians playing their instruments well
into the night and saw the campfires slowly die out.
Unknown to citizens or Confederates, Canby thought a
larger force of Sibley’s forces would return to
and had ordered his soldiers to quietly move south
during the night, leaving the musicians behind for
part of the night to cover up the noise of their
departure. Canby moved into the Sandias, where on
April 1 the victorious
Colorado volunteers joined
him at the village
of San Antonio.
Canby now had a large force, which he soon sent
Sibley had by then arrived in
Santa Fe. At a meeting of his
officers, he explained their situation. They had
food for 15 days and only 35 to 40 rounds of
ammunition per man. To save his army he felt it was
best to retreat down the valley and out of the
disagreed. Some of the wounded would have to be left
Eight brass howitzer cannons would also be left
behind, buried at a corral behind San Felipe Neri
Church. Sibley wanted to be
sure the cannons would not be used against the
Confederacy in the future. They were later
recovered, and two are preserved in The Albuquerque
On the morning of April 12, the rebel army began its
retreat southwest of town, crossing to the opposite
bank of the Rio Grande.