Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Ghosts of 1000 Texans Still Whisper in the Bosque

OFF THE SOUTH VALLEY BIKE TRAIL--The call of the wild led Bob Evans and me to turn south at the end of the diversion channel instead of heading back north to Rio Bravo Blvd. We crossed the wash-out and pedaled into the bosque. This is the site of General Sibley's encampment of Confederate troops on their way back from defeat at the hands of Union General Canby in Glorieta Pass. There were about 1000 men bivouaced among the cottonwoods near the river on land belonging to southern sympathizer Judge Baird. They had lost their supplies: ammunition, food, water wagons. Most of their pack horses and mules lay dead 100 miles to the north, shot and still hitched to their burnt wagons.

These Confederate forces were part of the last Pike charge in American history. He didn't have enough guns for all his troops when he left Texas, so Sibley armed the unarmed with long, sharp poles called pikes. They were used at Valverde just south of Socorro. My god.

Now these, the defeated, were trying to make it back to off the land, carrying what water they could. They had hoped to find many more sympathizers who would help them. They had miscalculated. And living off the land with a thousand men proved to be impossible.

The battle at Valverde Ford between the forces of Canby and Sibley would form the fictional background for the Civil War battle scene in Clint Eastwood's film, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.

Later, Sibley would be accused of cowardice and being drunk during both the battles of Valverde and Glorieta. He had missed both battles due to "illness." And here, in this cottonwood forest, one can almost hear the echoing complaints of the foot soldiers that had been so poorly served by their General.

Nothing marks this spot. By vehicle, it is at the far west end of Shirk Rd. SW. By bike, well...turn south and just keep going.


NewMexiKen said...


Anonymous said...

John Fleck says -

I've ridden past there a hundred times. Who knew?