unteers, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Valdez, to watch the movements of General Sibley's Confederate forces, supposed to be attempting to reach the river near Valverde, and to prevent their effecting that object. This mounted force was supported by Captain McRae's field battery of four pieces, Lieutenant Hall's, Tenth Infatnry, two 24-pounder howitzers, Captain Brotherton's company of the Fifth, Captain Ingraham's of the Seventh Infantry, Captain Hubbell's company of the Fifth Regiment, and Captain Mortimore's of the Third Regiment New Mexico Volunteers.
On reaching the crossing at the foot of the mesa of the Contadero I discovered that the Confederate forces had already reached the river and occupied the large bosques in the Valverde bottom with quite heavy forces of cavalry and several guns. Major Duncan, commanding the regular cavalry, in advance, promptly crossed the ford, and dismounting his force, commenced the action by skirmishing on foot, and in a spirited and sharp skirmish with the Confederates cleared the bosque of their forces, enabling me to establish the batteries to cover the crossing and to shell the enemy from the heavy timbers he had already seized.
A careful examination of the field of battle made by me some months ago impressed me with the importance of seizing and holding the thick bosque at the lower ford the moment I discovered the Confederate forces had reached the river. For this reason I directed all the strength of my command toward the accomplishment of that object. But the enemy had discovered it was the strength of their position, and they struggled with desperation to keep it. It was of paramount consequence to lose no time in gaining this point, as re-enforcements were rapidly increasing the Confederate forces, and their possession of this bosque in force gave them the command of the ford. They were first driven from it by the dismounted cavalry. Three times afterwards, with accumulated strength, they swarmed into it, but they were three times driven out by the slaughter of McRae's and Halls' guns, that disabled, in their last attempt to establish a counter-battery, one of their pieces and destroyed one caisson. My anxiety to gain this position was extreme, and three times I sent orders to Major Duncan to take it and hold it at all hazards. It was my intention to place McRae's battery there, and had the dismounted cavalry, conforming to my orders, vigorously supported the advance of Brotherton, with his company of bayonets, and held the position twenty minutes, McRae's guns and Halls howitzers could have been crossed over and placed in battery on this key of the field. The disorder of the Confederates was very great at that time. Their re-enforcements were swarming down from the mesa in confusion, and the effect of our guns from this commanding point I had hoped to gain would have forced them back on the mesa and kept them from the river.
I cannot withhold my expression of regret that the commanding officer of the cavalry made no effects to take and hold this bosque after my reiterated orders had been conveyed to him to do so. The success of my plan seemed to me beyond peradventure at the time I crossed Captain Brotherton's company over and reiterated the order to Major Duncan to support him and clear the bosque. Colonel Carson's regiment and Captain Selden's command of regulars would then have been crossed at the lower ford and thrown upon the Confederates' left flank with an assurance of victory as certain as the laws of nature.
The failure to secure this position in the early part of the action forced upon me the subsequent operations on the Confederates' right