The New Mexicans voted to join the Confederacy in March 1861, and a Texas battalion arrived and repulsed Union forces, proclaiming the Confederate Territory of Arizona. The Confederate General Henry Sibley conceived an ambitious offensive via New Mexico to secure the valuable gold and silver reserves of California/Nevada. Sibley’s forces were en route to invest Fort Craig when they found their passage blocked at the Rio Grande by Union Forces under Colonel Canby. A Confederate assault on Canby’s right flank was repulsed, and the Union troops counterattacked but failed to break through. Then the Confederates targeted the raw volunteers on the Union left: they buckled, the Confederates overran the Union battery, and the Union troops beat a disorderly retreat. The preliminaries of the battle are notable for the attempted use of ‘suicide mules’ laden with gunpowder by the Union. They turned back towards their handlers and stampeded their beef cattle when they exploded.
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