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Over the past month, we’ve been recalling New Mexico’s role in the Civil War.
It’s often a surprise to newcomers and even New Mexicans that we did, in fact, have Civil War battles and skirmishes here. They’re not Gettysburg, but we have battlegrounds: Mesilla, Valverde, Cubero, Albuquerque, Glorieta and Peralta.
And we have heroes. In the retelling, our chroniclers usually say we were rescued by Coloradoans, which isn’t entirely true. They forget Manuel Antonio Chaves. Every school child should know this name.
In late January 1862, Brig. Gen. Henry H. Sibley led an invasion of Texas Confederates to take New Mexico and Colorado territories. Sibley moved north from El Paso along the Rio Grande. At the Battle of Valverde, outside Fort Craig (south of Socorro), Confederates bested the Union regulars and poorly trained volunteers in a hard fight, and then pushed north to occupy Albuquerque. There they resupplied from a small Union outpost at Cubero, taken over by Southern sympathizers.
The Confederates marched toward Fort Union, as Colorado volunteers, led by Maj. John Chivington, hurried from Denver to shore up the thin Union forces in New Mexico.
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