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Setting the Stage

Henry Hopkins Sibley dreamed of fulfilling his nation's destiny of spanning the American continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Sibley's nation was the Confederate States of America, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis shared Sibley's vision of southern Manifest Destiny. If Sibley could overcome the weak Union forces in their isolated forts, the Confederacy might conquer the vast New Mexico Territory (consisting of modern New Mexico and Arizona). Once New Mexico was conquered, the doors to Colorado Territory with its rich gold and silver mines would be opened. Sibley's dream culminated with the invasion and conquest of California.

President Davis authorized General Sibley to raise volunteers for the Confederate Army of New Mexico. He assumed command on December 14, 1861, and marched the Fourth, Fifth, and Seventh Texas Mounted Riflemen westward from San Antonio to Fort Bliss, outside of El Paso. On January 18, 1862, the Confederacy declared that the southern half of the United States' New Mexico Territory would become the Confederate Territory of Arizona. Sibley ordered his men to move north towards Albuquerque, launching a winter invasion up the Rio Grande valley.

The troops encountered major obstacles that they had not foreseen, including cold weather and a barren and dry landscape. The Hispanic population of New Mexico viewed the Confederate forces as thieves who would steal their livestock, food, and money. Small, detached units had even more to fear from the Apache who killed a number of Texas volunteers. Most crucially, Sibley miscalculated the determination of the quickly assembled Union volunteers of the western territories to halt the Confederate advance. In Glorieta Pass, New Mexico, on March 28, 1862, the dream of a Confederate Western Empire gave way.



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