A Fort About to Fall and a Bit of Mutiny

Friday, July 26, 1861

Still fearing an attack, Major Isaac Lynde ordered Fort Fillmore to be prepared for defense. Confederates under Lt. Col. John Baylor had marched from El Paso, Texas to Mesilla, New Mexico to clear out the Union troops occupying the forts within the newly established (though still unofficial) Confederate Territory of Arizona. Baylor had seized Fort Bliss and then marched his band of 250 Rebels across the border, occupied Mesilla and repelled an attack from Lynde’s Yankees, who outnumbered him two to one.

Lynde expected a counterattack. Though Fort Fillmore was nearly defenseless, being surrounded by hills and mountains, his first instinct was to hold it. Earthworks were dug around the fort and ropes were strung between posts to snag charging cavalry.

Having lost twenty horses in the previous day’s battle, some Confederates searched the area for more mounts, while the bulk of the small army prepared to assail the fort. The locals had hidden all the good horses and would only sell them to the Confederates at ridiculously high prices. Undaunted, the Rebels turned their attention to the herd of Union horses are Fort Fillmore.

Baylor was determined to take the fort by force. As his army moved into position, twenty-five of them, with the help of a pro-secessionist Union sergeant, sneaked into the herd while the Federal soldiers who were supposed to be on guard were engaged in an interesting game of poker. When all was ready, the Confederates surprised the Union troops, demanding them to lay down their guns. For some reason, the Federal guards erupted into laughter as the Rebels rounded up eighty-five horses and twenty-six mules. After the guards were taken as prisoners, the Rebels rode back to the main Confederate body and were allowed to pick out which horses they wanted as their own.

Convinced that he could no longer hold the fort and expecting a Confederate attack at dawn, Major Lynde decided to evacuate Fort Fillmore. To the north, 150 miles away, was Fort Stanton. Without the horses, it would be a dangerous retreat through the New Mexico desert in late July, but it was their only chance to avoid defeat and capture or worse. All through the night, the Union soldiers destroyed whatever they could, preparing to flee at dawn.1


Mutiny on the Kanawha

Union forces under General Jacob Cox had taken Charleston, western Virginia and decided, on this date, to pursue the Rebels under General Henry Wise as they slipped farther up the Kanawha River. While he was in town, he learned the news that the Union army had suffered a great defeat at the Battle of Bull Run and also that his former commander, General George McClellan, had been called to Washington. General Rosecrans was in command of the Federal troops in western Virginia, including the brigade under Cox.

As a further setback, the three-months term of enlistment of an Ohio regiment in his brigade had expired. The governor of Ohio recalled it back to his state. Cox’s brigade, which had consisted of five regiments, was now down to four. Through the July day, the four regiments pushed eleven miles up the river, to where they encamped for the night.

After the column had halted and the fires had cooked the supper, General Cox was “treated to a little surprise.” Three of his subordinates entered the general’s tent to discuss their their lack of confidence in his military abilities. They claimed that it was foolish to follow the Confederates deeper into the Kanawha Valley, which, past Charleston, became more like a gorge than a valley. If he planned to continue the advance, they refused to lead their regiments.

Dryly, Cox asked if they understood the nature of what they were telling him. One of the regimental leaders told him that they meant no disrespect, but the general’s military experience was equal to their own and that he should make no movements without consulting with them first.

The decisions of the brigade were Cox’s to make. If he did not wish to call a council of war, he didn’t have to do it. Though what they were saying was mutinous, he would overlook it if they simply apologized and agreed to follow his orders. Without waiting for an answer, he dismissed them and issued marching orders for the next morning.

Before he slept, one of the three returned to apologize and promised to bring the other two into line. After the war, Cox wrote that “these very men afterward became devoted followers, and some of them life-long friends. It was part of their military education as well as mine.”2

  1. Blood & Treasure; Confederate Empire in the Southwest by Donald S. Frazier, Texas A&M University Press, 1995. Also The Civil War in the Western Territores by Ray C. Colton. []
  2. Military Reminiscences of the Civil War, Volume 1 by Jacob Dolson Cox. []
Creative Commons License
A Fort About to Fall and a Bit of Mutiny by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


View all posts by