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[22] The surviving Texans escaped to Mesilla; and Canby occupied the frontier posts so far down as Fort Staunton, leaving Fort Fillmore still in the hands of the Texans.

Gen. Sibley, who had hoped to advance in the Autumn of 1861, was still at Fort Bliss, within the limits of Texas, on the 1st of January, 1862; but moved forward, a few days thereafter, with 2,300 men, many of them trained to efficiency in the Mexican War and in successive expeditions against Apaches and other savages, wherein they had made the name of Texan Rangers a sound of terror to their foes. For Canby's regulars and American volunteers, they had some little respect — for his five or six thousand New Mexicans, none at all. Advancing confidently, but slowly, by way of Fort Thorn, he found1 Canby in force at Fort Craig, which he confronted about the middle of February. A careful reconnoissance convinced him that it was madness, with his light field-guns, to undertake a siege; while his offer of battle in the open plain, just outside the range of the guns of the fort, was wisely declined. He would not retreat, and could not afford to remain, consuming his scanty supplies; while to pass the fort without a contest, leaving a superior force undemoralized in his rear, was an experiment full of hazard; he therefore resolved to force a battle, and, with that view, forded the Rio Grande to its east bank, passed the fort at a distance of a mile and a half, and encamped nearly opposite, in a position of much strength, but entirely destitute of water, losing 100 of the mules of his baggage-train during the night, by their breaking away, in the frenzy of their thirst, from the weary and sleepy guards appointed to herd them. He was thus compelled to abandon a part of his wagons and baggage next morning, as he started for the river, the smallness of his force not permitting him to divide it in the presence of a capable and vigilant enemy.

When his advance, 250 strong, under Maj. Pyron, reached, at Valverde, a point, at 8 A. M., where the river bottom was accessible, fully seven miles from the fort, they found themselves confronted by a portion of our regular cavalry, Lt.-Col. Roberts, with two most efficient batteries, Capt. McRae and Lt. Hall, supported by a large force of regular and volunteer infantry. Our batteries opening upon him, Pyron, greatly outnumbered, recoiled, with some loss, and our troops exultingly crossed the river to the cast bank, where a thick wood covered a concentration of the enemy's entire force. The day wore on, with more noise than execution, until nearly 2 P. M., when Sibley, who had risen from a sick bed that morning, was compelled to dismount and quit the field, turning over the command-in-chief to Col. Thomas Green, of the 5th Texas, whose regiment had meantime been ordered to the front. The battle was continued, mainly with artillery, wherein the Federal superiority, both in guns and in service, was decided, so that the Texans were losing the most men in spite of their comparatively sheltered position. To protract the fight in this manner was to expose his men to constant decimation without a chance of success.

1 Feb. 19, 1862.

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E. R. S. Canby (3)
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