August 26, 2008

NEW Primary Source Book on New Mexico in the Civil War

"In December 1861 more than three thousand Texas Confederate troops amassed at Franklin (El Paso) to clear the Rocky Mountain West of Union troops. Eventually, the Texans won the battle at Valverde, New Mexico, but fresh Union reinforcements from Colorado crushed them at Glorieta Pass and drove them back to Texas. Being far removed from the battles in the East, the New Mexico Union army fell in sloppy habits and was beset with a lack of supplies and poor living conditions. Concerned the army would not be able to maintain control of the vast region, inspectors were sent from California to assess the army’s condition and military preparedness. The reports of inspectors, Major Henry Davies Wallen and Captain Andrew Wallace Evans are interestingly told in New Mexico Territory During the Civil War edited and with an introduction by Jerry D. Thompson published by the University of New Mexico.

Drunkenness of the troops and poor relations with the locals seemed to be the major problems being reported to superiors in far away California and Washington, D.C. They also reported on logistical and operational problems faced by the demoralized Union soldiers.

Wallen and Evans found the majority of the nine army posts visited to be in drastic need of repair. Most of the problems had to do with health, sanitation and general living conditions, but at Fort Craig, New Mexico, the inspectors discovered prostitutes living on base and receiving food and medication while the men did without. The fort had become intolerable because of the “sins of the officers.”

Thompson provides a unique insight into the military, cultural, and social life of posts far removed from the primary concentration of command. The men often felt forgotten by their government by being stationed a half continent away."

Full article here.

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