Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 8, Number 2, May, 1998 Page: 66
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
graduating from West Point.72 With the support of family and friends, Henry C. McNeill
resigned his U. S. Army commission on May 12, 1861 and joined, near Fort Bliss,
General Henry Hopkins Sibley who was on his way to Richmond, Virginia, to try to
convince President Jefferson Davis of the viability of his plan to capture the Southwest for
the Confederacy. After receiving Davis' approval for the venture, McNeill was sent to
Austin to see the governor and then to San Antonio to start recruiting for the mission. A
letter from Thomas Neville Waul and William Beck Ochiltree, along with Angus' letter,
to Leroy Pope Walker, secretary of war in Davis' cabinet, urged a commission for McNeill.
After he had organized several companies, he was commissioned lieutenant colonel of the
Fifth Cavalry, also known as the Fifth Mounted Rifles, which was organized in Septem-
The object of the Sibley Brigade in 1861 was to capture the forts of New
Mexico, which were well supplied with food and munitions, while living off the land.
With any success they could eventually gain control of Arizona, Colorado, and California
with its gold and access to the Pacific. Problems quickly developed with finding supplies,
and the Union forces proved to be stronger than the Confederates expected as they moved
toward Fort Union. However, Henry C. McNeill "displayed the most undaunted cour-
age" as a field officer under Colonel Thomas Green at Valverde, and put his artillery
training to good use when he showed the Texans how to use some of the captured federal
guns.74 McNeill also was largely responsible for the capture of Socorro, New Mexico,
and some 200 New Mexico militiamen under Colonel Nicolas Pino. The capture of Socorro
came rather peacefully at 2:00 a. m. on April 25 when McNeill and his officers convinced
Pino that his militiamen were not dependable (a number had drifted away when the Fifth
Cavalry made its appearance) and that surrender would save "the lives of innocent fami-
lies" in the town. While the Confederates did acquire much-needed supplies, they then
had the problem of exchanging the captured militiamen, whom the Union forces were not
eager to have back after their behavior at Socorro.75 McNeill was also in command of the
forces at Canallo Herndo on March 26, 1862. While the Battle of Glorieta Pass was
inconclusive, the destruction of the supplies by the Union forces at Albuquerque and
Santa Fe effectively ended the Confederate campaign to conquer the Southwest. On April
72 Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Texas,
National Archives Microfilm Publication No. 323, Roll 34.
73 Donald S. Frazier, Blood and Treasure: Confederate Empire in the Southwest (College Station:
Texas A & M Press, 1995), pp. 47, 80; Simpson, "West Pointers in the Texas Confederate Army," pp. 78-
74 Frazier, Blood and Treasure, p. 176.
75 The War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 128 volumes
(Washington: United States War Department, 1880-1901), series 1, vol. 9, pp. 518-524, 604-607; series 2,
vol. 4, pp. 530-531.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 8, Number 2, May, 1998, periodical, May 1998; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151403/m1/18/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed September 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.