Diary of Orrin Brown—March 24, 1865

Fort Union Officer's Quarters, 1958Diary of Orrin Brown, Goldsboro, North Carolina

Sixth Part of Journal

 Tuesday–Mar. 24

We still lay here behind our temporary breastworks and every little while the boys are made to dodge down their heads to keep out of the way of the shot and shell and the sharpshooters balls which are thrown in here at us, there was one man wounded in the regt. yesterday in the arm by a musket ball. We drew two days rations of Hardtack today we were relieved from the front line this evening and moved to the right and in the rear of another regt. and put up another line of works.

While Pvt. Brown is pinned down on the Neuse River awaiting supplies, let us return west to New Mexico Territory, 1862.  After the Union defeat at the Battle of Valverde in February, Confederate Texans under Gen. Henry Hopkins Sibley had rolled north up the Rio Grande valley in search of victuals—presaging Sherman’s March to the Sea, Sibley had fully intended to live off the land.  This limited his supply train back to El Paso and across the long lonely trails back to the heart of Texas.

Col. Canby, in nominal command of the Territory, kept his Federal forces inside Ft. Craig.  Sibley marched on Albuquerque, taking control of the town on 7 March after Union defenders abandoned the villa.  Days later an advance guard of 500 Rebels took the capital of Santa Fe uncontested, as the Territorial governor had also fled the advance for the protection of Col. Gabriel Paul at Fort Union on the Eastern Plains*.  Along with the Union post at Cubero about 60 miles west of Albuquerque, Sibley secured about 3 months worth of supplies for his expedition.

Meanwhile, a call for volunteers had gone out in Colorado to stop the advancing Texans.  A regiment of “Pike’s Peakers” under Col. John P. Slough marched on the double-quick south, making up to 40-miles a day in the late winter’s cold.  Slough, a fiery Denver lawyer, pulled rank on Paul, an experienced regular Army officer 13 years his elder, and commandeered the troops stationed at Ft. Union to immediately march against the Rebels at Santa Fe.  This was counter the ever-cautious Col. Canby’s instructions to secure the fort first and foremost.  The Coloradoan apparently didn’t think much of Canby after his inaction at Valverde.  Col. Slough set out from Ft. Union at noon on the 22nd with 1,342 volunteers and regular army troops, reaching Bernal Springs on the Santa Fe Trail late on 24 March 1862.  He then sent the later-disgraced Maj. John M. Chivington of the First Colorado Volunteers forward with 180 infantry and 238 cavalry, to see what they might see up Glorieta Pass.  On the 26th, they would see plenty of grey coats coming down Apache Canyon.

We’ll pick up their story again in two days.

*The Santa Fe Trail army outpost active 1851-1891, not to be confused with the Fort Union fur trading post on the Upper Missouri River in Dakota Territory from 1828 through the 1860s.



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