ST. LOUIS, March 3.
The Republican has advices from Albuquerke, New Mexico, Feb. 23d, which states that the Texans have made various significant movements in the vicinity of Ft. Craig.
On the 18th they advanced a column of infantry 1,000 strong, in line of battle, in front of the fort, and also moved a column of 800 cavalry to the west of the other defences, and then advanced within a mile and a half of the works. The halted with the secession flag floating in the breeze. After remaining some time, the commenced a retrograde movement. During the time of the advance, Col. Canby prudently concealed the greater part of his force in the rear of the fort. Then the enemy commenced retreating, and the infantry was separated from the cavalry, Col. Canby ordered Maj. Duncan to charge the cavalry of the enemy with a squadron of dragoons and mounted men, which they did in gallant style – the enemy retreating before them until they arrived at a deep ravine. The Texan infantry, in the meantime, advanced to the relief of the cavalry, and a skirmish took place at the ravine. Maj. Duncan late in the evening was recalled, and the Texans continued to fall back.
It is reported that the Texans had eight pieces of artillery, placed in a battery masked in a ravine but a short distance below where the skirmish took place. On the 19th and 20th the Texans crossed to the east bank of the Rio Grande, in order it is supposed, to take possession of the heights opposite Fort Craig.
Col. Canby crossed and pursued them in force, when the Texans on the heights fired some fifty cannon shots without damage to our forces. Col. Canby fired but two shots, deeming it imprudent to waste ammunition. On the morning of the 21st 200 Texan mules were captured. The Texans are on the heights, and destitute of water. Col. [Canby] has the pass to the water guarded by a battery of 2,000 men, and all other outlets guarded in force. The Texans must either fight desperately for water or surrender.
When the express closed on the morning of the 21st the booming of cannon was heard in the direction of Valverde, announcing that the battle had begun.
The military express has just arrived from Fort Craig with the news of a serious conflict between our forces and the Texans which lasted from 9 o’clock a.m. of the 21st till sundown the same day. The fight commenced in the morning between a portion of our troops, under Col. Roberts, and the enemy across the Rio Grande, with varied success until 1 or 2 o’clock that day. Col. Canby then crossed the river in force, with a battery of six pieces under command of Capt. McRae, of the cavalry, but detained to command the battery. Also, a small battery of howitzers. The enemy was supposed to have seven or eight pieces. The battle commenced by artillery and skirmishing, and soon became general. Toward evening most of the enemy’s guns were silenced. They however made a desperate charge on the howitzer battery, but were repulsed with great loss. Captain McRae’s battery was defended by Capt. Plimpton’s company of U. S. Infantry and a portion of Col. Pino’s regiment of New Mexican volunteers.
The Texans fought bravely and desperately, with picked men about 600 strong. They were armed with carbines, revolvers and long seven-pound bowie knives. After discharging their carbines at close distance, they drew revolvers and rushed on the battery in a storm of grape and canister. The Mexicans of Pino’s regiment were panic-stricken and ingloriously fled. Captain Plimpton’s infantry stood their ground until more than half were numbered with the dead. With his artillerymen cut down, his support either killed or wounded or flying from the field, Capt. McRae sat down calmly and quietly on one of his guns, and with revolver in hand, refusing to fly or desert his post, he fought to the last and gloriously died the death of a hero, the last man by his gun. The Texans suffered terribly in this charge. Many officers distinguished themselves on this day. Major Donaldson, who was chief aid to Col. Canby, acted bravely, and was conspicuous on every part of the field. His horse was wounded in several places, but he was not injured.
Kit Carson, in command of a regiment of volunteers who were deployed as skirmishers, did good service during the action, and behaved well. We have however, to mourn the loss of Lieuts. Michler and Stone, who like Capt. McRae, nobly and bravely maintained the honor of our flag to the last and gloriously died the death of patriots. A great many others were wounded. Our loss was about 200 killed and wounded; that of the enemy is believed to be much greater. The greatest confidence is reposed in Col. Canby, and if volunteers will do their duty, the Texans will be ignominiously driven from the country.
– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Friday Morning, March 14, 1862, p. 1