Liberating New Mexico Territory
Confederate Invasion 1862


     It became evident early in the war that the territory in New Mexico held a deep interest with those forces in Western Texas. In December of 1861, the commander of the Army of New Mexico, Brigadier General Henry Hopkins Sibley published a proclamation to the people of the territory that the Confederacy possessed great interest in their liberation from federal despotism.

     The purpose of this movement was to re-establish a connection with the citizens, to relieve it of the former governmental institution imposing back breaking tariffs, and to restore their civil and political liberties.

     The document was a precursor to invasion and promised protection to them and their families provided they cooperate. In stating so, the Confederate Commander offered fair payment for all supplies and forage along his route, however, should he learned these supplies had been destroyed or moved to deprive his army, they would be punished for aiding and abetting the enemy.

     In question to the tariffs, General Sibley declared by virtue of power given him by his President in Richmond that all levying of taxes by the Federal Government was, at that moment, abolished. He furthermore implored the soldiers of the enemy's army to reconsider their commissions and enlistments by abandoning it and joining him. It was a very bold declaration, coming from a representative whose government couldn't even master the purse strings to finance the endeavor.

     The proclamation caught the attention of Colonel E. R. S. Canby of the 19th Infantry, presently commanding the Department of New Mexico. In writing to the commander of the military district, it was his premise that Sibley's entry into the state was arranged by the Secretary of State to the territory itself. By the end of January however, he was still slow to move to the threat fearing revolution from the people in his rear.

     The movement was touchy. The volunteers under Colonel C. St. Vrain and his executive officer Lieutenant Colonel Christopher (Kit) Carson, felt with the departure of the regular troops over a quarter million dollars of federal property would be left vulnerable to the invading rebels.

     The Federals under Canby had marched out in February with almost four thousand regular and volunteer troops from the territory to give Sibley battle. They clashed on the 21st of the month at Valverde. General Sibley was first driven back, but found a good defensive position along a river bed; counter attacked causing Canby and his forces to throw in the towel.

     The invasion seemed to be going well, however, one month later at Glorietta Pass the deployed forces of Colonel John Chivington defeated Sibley's on the field and the Confederates were eventually forced to give up New Mexico. The volunteer forces of Colorado and New Mexico proved their worth to the department commander. The defeat turned the tide of warfare from the territories back to the states themselves. The Union could claim an early victory during the war, however with communication and distance at the time, a victory overlooked.


Dan (Aldie) Daniel Moran
© 2002

Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at dmoran@us-civilwar.net