Stuck inside on a cold winter’s day? Gather the kids and let’s head out west, cuz #OTD in 1862, the zaniest Civil War battle went down in New Mexico, featuring sloshed generals, celebrity Mountain Men, Napoleonic cavalry charges in a WAY-too-modern era, even suicide-bomber mules!
And it was all cuz this guy, Henry Sibley, pitched an idea to Jeff Davis: to conquer the West for the Confederacy, seizing the gold and silver mines in Nevada and Colorado before securing an ocean port in California to break the Union blockade.

Okay, so it was a TAD ambitious …
Let's run down the Ill-Fated Civil War Expedition Checklist(™):

Did Sibley have enough men? No.

Were they packing outdated weaponry? Yep: shotguns.

Did they prep for weather? (Tips canteen over; it’s dry.)

Don’t tell me Sibley packed booze instead of water? (clink; cheers!)
The Union general opposing Sibley was his dear friend Edward Canby, who MIGHT have been his bro-in-law, it’s unclear. (As if family dinners in the 1800s weren’t awkward enough with all that starched linen and abolition talk; now you gotta throw murky relations into the mix?!?)
Also on hand was Kit Carson, one of the most famous men in America because of his (sigh) “frontier exploits.” There’s a lot to say bout Carson, but the Battle of Valverde was the most notable moment in his brief Civil War career, leading a group of mostly Hispanic volunteers.
Rounding out the cast was Irish scout James “Paddy” Graydon, who got an idea the night before the battle that was in NO WAY inspired by The Devil’s Nectar: He strapped boxes of howitzer shells (!) to broken-down mules, and led them toward the Rebel camp, where he lit the fuse …
… but the mules were so faithful they followed Graydon back toward the Union lines, until he got nervous and started running, whereupon he heard a huge explosion behind him.

Is the story true?

Well, America’s Official Raconteur(™) Mark Twain told it, so …

Probably not.
The low point of the battle--nay, the war--was when 2 companies of Texas Lancers (yep, straight outta Napoleonic times, we’re talking mounted dudes carrying homemade pikes) did A Glorious Charge.

I mean, there’s “fighting the last war,” then there’s bringing pikes to a gunfight.
See, cuz of all the irregular uniforms, the Lancers THOUGHT they were charging Carson’s raw troops. But they headed straight for the Colorado volunteers -- hardened miners and ruffians and cowboys who LIVED to shoot people off horses.

So as the Lancers rode towards them, the Coloradans licked their tobacco-stained, flagrantly mustachioed lips and said, “Am I DREAMING?” before ending, with two deadly volleys, the first Lancer charge of the Civil War.

It was also the LAST Lancer Charge of the Civil War.
Over half the Texas Lancers were killed or injured; one of their captains, a rich 31-year-old slave owner, shot himself a few days later. The colonel who ordered the charge, Thomas Green, never learned his lesson: he would die CHARGING FEDERAL GUNBOATS on the Red River. #Dude
But Green ran the show at Valverde; Sibley spent the battle drunk in an ambulance. This was, sadly, a lifelong affliction, which helps explain the grandiosity and poor planning behind his Great Western Invasion. In fact, it was a lack of water that REALLY spurred the Rebels on …
… and a couple of desperate charges to reach the Rio Grande (and drinking water) won the field for the Rebels. It was no one’s finest hour: not Canby’s, not Green’s, certainly not Sibley’s -- and a month later, lacking supplies and transportation, the “invasion” sputtered out.
Someday I’ll do a thread on the tents & stoves Sibley patented before the war, which were used by the U.S. and British armies until WW II. When Sibley asked for royalties after the Civil War, the U.S. was like, “Sorry, Hank, you joined the Rebels. That kinda violates our NDA ...”
And I’d like to think veterans of the swampy, wooded campaigns back east saw pictures of the stark New Mexico battlefield and were like, “Wait, when did we land on the MOON? Did I miss it when I was in The Wilderness?”

But, yes, Virginia, the Civil War was fought out West, too.

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More from @CivilWarHumor

19 Feb
Yesterday in 1865, two black regiments of Union soldiers entered Charleston, S.C., as the last of the Rebel forces withdrew. The city was surrendered by its mayor, Charles MacBeth, who, we hope, muttered, “Something wicked this way comes” as the Federal soldiers filed past …
MacBeth had been in a tricky spot, where fair is foul and foul is fair. Bands of Rebel cavalry were rounding up able-bodied men both black and white, so the city’s firefighters were in hiding, which made the fires engulfing the city, set by hard-line Rebels, even more dangerous.
But watching intently from afar was Union Lt Col Augustus Bennett and his OUTRAGEOUS sideburns, which, when I showed my wife his picture just now, elicited such a GENUINE GROAN OF DISMAY that I don’t think I can shoot for them even if I said they were "pandemic sideburns."
Read 13 tweets
17 Feb
It is, apparently, an immutable law of History that traitors must have a villainous Pillow Guy who invites humiliation and scorn. This week in 1862, Rebel Gen. Gideon Pillow earned himself a place in the Disgraced Pillowmen Hall of Shame--and US Grant got a new nickname.
/THREAD ImageImage
The Battle of Fort Donelson was a brutal days-long affair, fought in a rare cold snap for that part of Tennessee (sound familiar?) As at Shiloh, Grant was caught off-guard; he was conferring with Admiral Foote on a ship downriver when the Rebels attacked his siege lines at dawn. Image
Pillow’s surprise assault worked, driving back Union troops whose hands were too numb to load their guns, and opening an escape route. If Pillow could defend his position and “hold the door open” while the rest of the Rebel army sneaked through behind him, they might get away. Image
Read 23 tweets
14 Feb
Since it’s Valentine’s Day, here's a Civil War love story about Rufus Dawes of Antietam and Gettysburg fame. In his memoirs, which are great, he tells of wooing his future wife, Mary, at the start of the war. And (cute nerd alert!) he framed their courtship in military terms ...
“Having ample time to plan campaigns,” Dawes writes, “and pursued by an increasing curiosity regarding a young lady then attending the seminary…I threw out skirmishers in that direction. I sent sundry illustrated papers with pictures of our camp.”

Threw out skirmishers = flirt.
“and received from the enemy a return fire of catalogues ... I was then a devout admirer of General McClellan and I received with disgust one of those missives directed to the ‘Army of the Potty Mac.’”

How’s THAT for a power move? She talked shit about Lil Mac WHILE FLIRTING.
Read 8 tweets
14 Feb
“Uncle CivilWarHumor, I'm weary and full of despair. My hope is all but extinguished.”
“Then relight it.”
“Hope isn’t a JOINT, uncle.”
“That’s your first problem.”
“There must be some tale you can tell to raise our spirits.”
“You’re in luck. It’s Gen. John Rawlins’ birthday …”
At sundown on April 16, 1861, a week after Fort Sumter, John Rawlins walked to the courthouse in Galena, Ill., for a town hall meeting. The place was packed -- from leading politicians in the front row to the grungiest store clerk in the back. The country was on a knife’s edge …
A staunch Democrat, Rawlins’ friends urged him not to attend the meeting; Fort Sumter was "fake news," they said, it was just a false-flag pretense for enlisting in Abe’s War to Free The [term redacted].

But Rawlins walked on, and pushed through the door.
Read 12 tweets
9 Feb
One of my frustrations is the shit Benjamin Butler gets from Civil War buffs who view the conflict through a strictly military lens; he was no general, sure, but he was one of the smartest dudes around. I lay awake at night imagining him taking up Lincoln’s VP offer in ‘64 …
… which makes it all the more fascinating that Butler, at an ailing Thaddeus Stevens’ request, was the lead prosecutor in Andrew Johnson’s impeachment trial--two men with vastly different visions of Reconstruction and America. C’mon, is this not a face that inspires CONFIDENCE?
Butler began with a 3-hour speech in a hot, stuffy Senate chamber (and you thought THIS shit was tough to watch) that drew heavily on History rather than Legalese. This would be a central criticism of Butler’s argument: Sure, Cicero raged, but he also dropped brutally cold logic.
Read 5 tweets
23 Jan
When you think of military innovations that changed History, you think of the longbow at Agincourt, the cannon at Constantinople, the tank at the Somme, the double-swinging log on the forest moon of Endor …

But #OTD in 1863, another new weapon emerged: Civil War humor.
After the disastrous, demoralizing Battle of Fredericksburg, Gen Ambrose Burnside knew he couldn’t go into winter quarters; pushed by DC, he had to either fight or resign. (I know which one I voted for.) So he led the Army of the Potomac on the disastrous, demoralizing Mud March.
Until then, the weather had been unseasonably mild in Northern Virginia. But in a classic example of Burnside Luck (and Northern Virginia weather) as soon as he gave the order to move, it began pouring “as if the world was coming to an end,” one soldier wrote. #UhOh #PoorBurnside
Read 11 tweets

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