Ft Craig, New Mexico and The battle of Valverde
The Battle of Valverde Crossing south of Albuquerque was the site of the 1862 clash between the Union garrison of Ft Craig and Confederate forces of Gen HH Sibley. The action occurred because Sibley, moving north along the Rio Grande River, had planned to capture supplies from the Union garrisons and outposts along his northward march. He had visions of taking for the Confederacy the gold fields of Colorado and eventually cutting his way through to California.
He launched his campaign from El Paso, Texas and having achieved success in capturing several Union posts in the early going planned to take Ft. Craig. But seeing the recently improved the log and earthen fort he decided to by-pass it. He knew he did not have sufficient strength to assault the works and was further dissuaded by the numerous Quaker Guns and soldiers’ caps filled with rocks placed along the fort’s outer defenses.
When the commander of the fort, Col ERS Canby, decided to come out and fight at the Valverde site, Sibley realized that he had a good chance at success.
The fight took place on and at the base of Black Mesa, now known as El Mesa Contadero which was so named because it was the base of a volcanic cone which was covered with the black lava from the last eruption. The top of the vent is still clearly visible today as a small rise in the center of the mesa.
Ft Craig was sited at the junction of the Rio Grande and the old 1000-mile Camino Real used as a major trade route from Mexico City and Santa Fe. There is a ninety mile section of the route that transits the desert stretch referred to as the Jornada del Muerto, or “journey of death” because of the lack of watering sites and the attacks of marauding Apaches, who could watch for the travelers from mountain peaks and then ride down on the unprotected groups. Ft Craig was placed to protect the travelers and played an important role in the Apache Wars of the late 1800”s
The site of the Battle of Valverde is now on private land belonging to the 1810 land grant of Pedro Armendaris 33 Ranch now owned by Ted Turner. The 385,000 acre ranch now is home to Turner’s personal bison herd and other species that he is raising for various reasons.
Should you ever be traveling on I-25, south of Albuquerque, a visit to the fort only nine miles East of the highway is worth the time.