Colonel Slough, with the troops from Colorado Territory, together with the small regular force at Union, had advanced through this place in the direction of the enemy.
On the 26th the advance guard of our forces, making a reconnaissance and without anticipating any encounter with the enemy, came in contact with his advance guard of 600 men, neither, it would, seem, being aware of the presence or near approach of the other. This took place at the Canon del Apache, the east and thereof, on the road to and about 20 miles from Santa Fe. An action ensued, in which the enemy were entirely routed, with a loss of 25 or 30 killed and wounded and 62 prisoners. A flag of truce was sent in at night by the enemy asking a suspension of hostilities for the purpose of burying their dead and taking care of the wounded. The 27th was occupied in these acts of humanity. The main body of their forces being at the canon,only about 7 miles distant they advanced on the 28th in full force to the attack of ours, which had all been called to the scene of action. The engagement commenced at about noon and lasted until sunset, without any decisive result. The cause of this indecision as to result was that early in the day Major Chivington, with 500 men, had been ordered to make a detour on the heights (mesa) and observe the operations of any forces that might approach in that direction. His position on the table-land, and parallel to the whole length of the canon, gave him a full view, part of the way, of everything that was in it, and to his joy and surprise when he reached the lower end of the cannon he found the enemy's whole train parked, together with the mules and horses necessary for its transportation, guarded by 200 men. The nature of the country enabled him to approach very near without the observance of the guard. He made a sudden and unexpected attack upon them,and captured the whole train of 80 wagons, with all the stock except the few upon which some of the guard made their escape. He also captured 40 prisoners, and after burning the train, with all its contents of provisions and ammunition, he returned to the command late at night by the way of the same tableland over which he had advanced.
Meantime and before his arrival at the train the enemy had advanced 1,200 strong to attack our forces at the east and of the canon and about 7 miles distant. The absence of Major Chivington from the field gave the enemy a greatly superior force, ours not passing 700 men, and hence the contest was delayed and became very obstinate and doubtful until dark. Both armies remained upon the field a short distance from each other, but Major Chivington having returned and rejoined our forces made our numbers nearly equal.
There were some reports that General Sibley was moving by another road upon Fort Union with the balance of his forces. It was thought best to fall back to a point at which he must necessarily pass in order to reach that place. This was done, and our forces will to-morrow take a position at Bernal Springs for the purposes indicated. Our loss in killed, wounded, and missing in the two day's encounter will reach 150; that of the enemy fully double that number. It is the opinion of those who are better capable of judging that the enemy lost their entire stock of provisions and ammunition in the train that was burnt, and hence that he will have to fall back on Santa Fe or scatter in confusion through the country seeking subsistence. A few days will determine his future movements. I had forgot to state that the enemy lost three pieces of artillery in the engagement, two with the wagons an done on the field.
42 R R-VOL IX