Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Civil War in the Southwest - 3

As General Sibley's command moved north through New Mexico, the Union force at Fort Craig under E.R.S. Canby was a significant obstacle, and one that could not be bluffed into surrender or evacuation. A siege was out of the question and the light artillery pieces of the Confederates made pounding it into submission unreasonable. A stab at maneuver on February 21, 1862 resulted in a battle north of Fort Craig along the banks of the Rio Grande at Valverde ford. The Confederates won a tactical victory but failed to force Canby to give up Fort Craig.

Bloody Valverde: A Civil War Battle on the Rio Grande, February 21, 1862 by John Taylor is the best treatment of this battle to date. The analysis is sound and the combat is detailed in short time increments at the company and battalion level. In addition to being numerous and well-chosen, the maps in Taylor's books are unusual in that, instead of the standard lines or NATO symbology representing formations, he places actual military figures (men, horses, guns) on the map that are representative of a certain number of men (ex. one soldier figure equals 30 infantrymen). On the negative side, the miniatures look is a bit cartoonish but, on the other hand, they do allow the reader to instantly visualize the relative size of opposing formations, the kind of information lines or NATO symbols do not typically show.

Gamers and other military enthusiasts will be happy to know that Taylor also provides an in-depth analysis of numbers and losses. Impressively, his order-of-battle actually lists the strength of each company for both armies. Obviously it is much easier to do this for the small battles, but it remains disappointingly rare to find even regimental strengths in battle study OBs.

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