The long-expected engagement in New Mexico came off at Valverde, on the east bank of the Rio Grande, four miles above Fort Craig on Friday, February 21. The battle commenced at eight o’clock in the morning and lasted until sunset. The action was commenced by a portion of Col. Baylor’s regiment, 200 strong, under the command of Major Pyron, who were ordered to flank the enemy. Upon reaching the river valley, they discovered the enemy on the left. Major Pyron’s command charged to a good position, covered by timber and a wide slough. Before they were reinforced, they held this position for nearly an hour, under a heavy fire of small-arms, shell, grape, and round shot.
The first regiment then reinforced them. Col. Scurry, and then Capt. Teel’s battery came into action, and afterward, the 2nd regiment came into position.
The enemy first attempted to turn our flank when Major Lockridge came to their assistance, and nobly did he do it. Then they made several attempts all along our lines, but without effect. Then again, they made a concentrated attack upon our left, with such vigor as to compel our forces to fall back from their first position to another.
While in this position, and late in the evening, the enemy crossed the river with their battery, which proved fatal to them. The Confederate reserve (Col. Steele’s command), some 450 men, now joined in the action. A charge was made at the enemy’s battery, and along their whole line, and the battery was taken at revolver and shotgun, after a desperate struggle, when the enemy fled with great slaughter. The enemy suffered the most while retreating across the river when the slaughter was terrible.
This charge was made for eight hundred yards under a most galling fire. The enemy fought desperately, and their dead lay in heaps about the battery’s guns. The battle was fiercely contested and one of the severest of the present war, as desperate as any on record for the number of men engaged. The roar of small-arms, shell, canister, grape, and round shot, is described as having been terrific, and individual instances of great bravery and gallantry, numberless, while our whole army fought like veterans and patriots.
The day was fiercely contested throughout, and until the latter part of the day, the enemy had gained some advantages. The firing had ceased upon both sides, for over an hour, when the Federal General, deeming our forces routed, crossed the river in force and with his battery, to complete his victory when the gallant charge was made which crowned our arms with success. In the terrible retreat of the enemy across the Rio Grande, many sank Dead and wounded beneath its turbid and bloody waters, to rise no more forever. The current was strong, and the channel narrow, consequently wounded, was but to meet death.
The enemy’s loss has not been accurately ascertained, but their killed and wounded must have been over five hundred. It was impossible to ascertain how many Federals perished in the river.
Col. Kit Carson’s regiment of New Mexico Volunteers was covering the retreat when a shell was thrown into their ranks, killing and wounding some twenty, when they became panic-stricken and fled to the mountains.
The regulars fought with great bravery, and before the action, both officers and men were confident of success.
The retreat across the river exhibited a perfect Leesburg rout, but the regulars of the enemy, formed upon the opposite bank, under a galling fire, and retreated to the fort in the perfect order of a dress parade. The victory, though achieved gloriously over double our numbers, was dearly-won. Nevertheless, we have to mourn the loss of 46 heroes and have 115 wounded.
Jerry Thompson, “Valverde, Battle of,” Handbook of Texas Online, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/valverde-battle-of.
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.