Investigation Report

Location: Val Verde Battlefield, NM
Date: 26 February, 2005
Personnel Participating: Team 2 and Cody Polston
Weather Conditions: Cloudy, recent rain
Humidity: 88%
Geomagnetic Storm Activity: Unsettled
Temperature: 40%
Number of Photos taken:
Number with possible targets:
Average EM Readings: 6 m.g.
Average M fields Readings: 1 n.t.
Average E Field Readings: 1 v.p.m.
Cold Spots detected: None
Hot Spots Detected: None
Olfactory Phenomena: None
Visual Phenomena: Faint red lights
Type of Investigation: Ghost Hunt

All information and photos Copyright 2005 by Cody Polston, Bob Carter and SGHA. All Rights Reserved.

Location Description and History

In the summer of 1861 Lt. Col. John R. Baylor led a small band of Texans in occupying the Mesilla Valley in southern New Mexico when it was joined by a much larger 3,000-man Confederate Army. In command of the Confederate Army of New Mexico was Brig. Gen. Henry H. Sibley, a twenty-two year veteran of the antebellum army, who had been stationed in New Mexico prior to the war. Sibley's objective was to capture Colorado and eventually California, thus making the Confederacy a transcontinental nation more likely to win diplomatic recognition in Europe.

In early 1862 Sibley moved against Fort Craig, a Federal bastion in south-central New Mexico. By February 16th the Texan army had pushed to within a mile of the post. At the fort, a Union force of 1,250 Regulars and 1,350 hastily recruited New Mexico volunteers and militia, commanded by Col. Edward Canby, awaited the Rebel advance. Realizing that Fort Craig was too well fortified to be taken by assault, Sibley offered battle on the open plain south of the fort. When Canby refused, Sibley decided to bypass the fort by retreating downriver some seven miles to the village of Paraje, where the Rebels crossed over to the east bank of the Rio Grande.

Sibley miscalculated that it would take his army one day to reach the Valverde Ford, some six miles upriver from Fort Craig, where the Rebel army could then be able recross the river. Slowed by deep sand and rough terrain, the Texans were forced to make a dry camp on the evening of February 20.

Realizing that the Valverde Ford was Sibley's objective, Canby sent a battery of artillery and two regiments of volunteers across the river to impede the Texan advance. Although Canby ordered his army into battle position and sent out skirmishers, the Union force was driven off by the Rebel artillery and small arms fire. The Union's first attempt at a guided bomb, a mule with explosives strapped to it, was also unsuccessful.

At daybreak on Friday, February 21, 1862, Sibley sent Maj. Charles L. Pyron with 180 men to reconnoiter a road to Valverde. He was followed by Maj. Henry R. Raguet with five companies. They rode north along the eastern extremities of Black Mesa before turning west along the north edge of the escarpment, following it to the river. There they reached a small cottonwood grove near the ford when Pyron discovered a force of Federal cavalry in his front. As the Texans took cover in the sandy bottom, a fierce firefight erupted. In response, Canby hurried Col. Benjamin S. Roberts with regular and volunteer cavalry to the scene. Hearing the same gunfire, Major Raguet, joined by Col. William R. Scurry and the remainder of the Rebel Fourth Regiment, also raced for the river.

This is a sketch of the battle as drawn by Sgt Peticolas (5th Sgt; Co C, 4th Texas Mounted Volunteers) shortly after the Battle of Valverde (2/21/1862). TABLE MT. As shown on the sketch is Black Mesa. Image is oriented such that south is at the top of the sketch The sketch depicts the Confederate and Union battlelines on the left and right, respectively, and shows the military situation early in the battle.

By ten o'clock, Capt. Trevanion T. Teel's artillery had also reached Valverde. Several times the Texans advanced toward the river, only to be driven off by a heavy Union artillery bombardment. About this time Union forces moved to envelop the Rebel right by crossing the Rio Grande upriver from Valverde. Such a move forced Scurry to divide his command and lengthen the Confederate line. On the Union's left flank, Capt. Alexander McRae started to pound the Rebel position on the east bank with his artillery.

By eleven o'clock the Rebels retreated from the bosque and the east bank of the river, taking refuge behind a low ridge of sandhills that paralleled the east bank of the river. By midday the tide of battle was clearly swinging in favor of the Union Army

At one o'clock, as additional units, both Union and Confederate, raced for Valverde, General Sibley had become so ill, exhausted, and drunk that he had retired to an ambulance in the Confederate rear and the Confederate army was turned over to Col. Thomas Green. On the Confederate's right flank, Capt. Willis L. Lang, with a company armed only with lances, launched a courageous attack against a company of Colorado Volunteers. The Coloradoans held their fire until the Lancers were within a few yards of the Federal line and then fired a deadly volley into the charging Rebels. In the suicidal attack, the Lancers, Company B of the Fifth Regiment, suffered a greater loss of life than any other company in the Army of New Mexico. Captain Lang was so severely wounded that he later committed suicide. Lt. Demetrius M. Bass, Lang's second in command, was wounded several times and died several days later.

Shortly after three in the afternoon, Colonel Canby arrived on the battlefield and decided to advance his right and center while using his left as a pivot, concentrating on the Confederate's left flank. Meanwhile, Green, concealed by the sandhills, advanced on the Union center as Colonel Raguet moved against a Federal battery firing on the Confederate's left flank. Raguet's cavalry advanced to within 100 yards of the Union guns before being driven off. Green's advance on the right, however, proved to be the decisive maneuver of the battle. Although McRae's battery poured a deadly fire of grapeshot into the charging Texans, the Rebels fell upon the Union artillery with a hand-to-hand savagery rarely seen in the annals of American military history. Within eight minutes the Texans had overrun the Union guns. McRae and half of his men died at their guns. Eighty percent of the men killed and wounded in the Federal ranks fell at or near McRae's battery.

With the Union line in disarray other Union troops fled for the Rio Grande, many dropping their weapons in their haste. A large number of the Federals were killed while attempting to cross the river. As the Union forces retreated to the safety of Fort Craig, Colonel Canby sent a white flag into the Rebel lines. Rebel commanders at first thought Canby was offering to surrender, but he asked only for a cessation of hostilities to remove the Federal dead and wounded. Union casualties at Valverde amounted to 222 men killed and wounded, while the Confederates lost 183. On the day following the battle, the Rebel dead were wrapped in blankets and buried in trenches. Federal dead were interred at Fort Craig.

The Blue Whistler was a Civil War era cannon that made a distinctive whistle when fired and thus its name. It saw duty, on the Union side, at the battle and was one of the guns captured by the Rebels.

From the Messilla Times of March 27,1862, paragraphs relative of the Battle of Valverde.

The long expected engagement in New Mexico, came off at Valverde, on the east bank of the Rio Grande, four miles above Fort Craig on Friday, February 21. The battle commenced at eight o'clock in the morning and lasted until sunset. The action was commenced by a portion of Col. Baylor's regiment, 200 strong, under command of Major Pyron, who were ordered to flank the enemy. Upon reaching the river valley, they discovered the enemy on the left. Major Pyron's command charged to a good position, where they were covered by timber and a wide slough. They held this position for nearly an hour, under a heavy fire of small-arms, shell, grape, and round shot, before they were reinforced.

They were then reinforced by the first regiment under Lieut. Col. Scurry, and then Capt. Teel's battery came into action, and afterwards the 2nd regiment came into position. The enemy first attempted to turn our flank, when Major Lockridge came to their assistance, and nobley did he do it. Then they made several attempts all along our lines, but without effect. Then again they made a concentrated attack upon our left, with such vigor as to compel our forces to fall back from their first position to another.
While in this position, and late in the evening, the enemy crossed the river with their battery, which proved fatal to them. The Confederate reserve (Col. Steele's command), some 450 men, now joined in the action. A charge was made at the battery of the enemy, and along their whole line, and the battery was taken at revolver and shotgun, after a desperate struggle, when the enemy fled with great slaughter. The enemy suffered the most while retreating across the river, when the slaughter was truly terrible.

This charge was made for eight hundred yards, under a most galling fire. The enemy fought desperately, and their dead lay in heaps about the guns of the battery. The battle was fiercely contested, and one of the severest of the present war, as desperate as any on record for the amount of men engaged. The roar of small-arms, of shell, canister, grape and round shot, is described as having been terrific, and individual instances of great bravery and gallantry, numberless, while our whole army fought like veterans and patriots.

The day was fiercely contested throughout, and until the latter part of the day, the enemy had gained some advantages. Firing had ceased upon both sides, for over an hour, when the Federal General, deeming our forces routed, crossed the river in force and with his battery, to complete his victory, when the gallant charge was made which crowned our arms with success. In the terrible retreat of the enemy across the Rio Grande, many sank Dead and wounded beneath its turbid and bloody waters, to rise no more forever. The current was strong, and the channel narrow, consequently to be wounded was but to meet death.

The loss of the enemy has not been accurately ascertained, but their killed and wounded, must have been over five hundred. It was impossible to ascertain how many of the Federals perished in the river.

Col. Kit Carson's regiment of New Mexico Volunteers were covering the retreat, when a shell was thrown into their ranks, killing and wounding some twent, when they became panic stricken and fled to the mountains.
The regulars fought with great bravery, and before the action both officers and men were sanguine of success.
The retreat across the river exhibited a perfect Leesburg rout, but the regulars of the enemy, formed upon the opposite bank, under a galling fire, and retreated to the fort in the perfect order of a dress parade. The victory, though achieved gloriously over double our numbers, was dearly won, we we have to mourn the loss of 46 heroes, and have 115 wounded.

Photographs from the Battle Reenactment (not the actual battlefield)

Click on the thumbnail to view the larger image

Reported Phenomena

We have heard one story from a local ranch hand who claims that he had a headless Confederate infantryman shot at him one night just before dusk. Other than this one account, we decided to have a look at the battlefield due to the frequency of hauntings at other Civil War battlefields.

The Investigation

The battlefield itself lies in wilderness and is mostly unmarked. The first problem was locating where the events of 1861 occurred. Adding to this problem is the river itself which has changed it's course several times over the years.

With the assistance of a local historian and archeologist, we were able to locate the location where McRae's battery was over run. This was our objective since it was where the greatest loss of life occurred.

At 4:00pm we set out to perform a reconnaissance of the area marked on our map and to locate the old riverbed. Cody was able to locate the old riverbed and the site where McRae's guns were captured. During this time several unusual phenomena were observed. The sounds of footsteps seemed to move around the area and were unexplainable, despite several attempts to explain them. Voices could also be heard in the distance that were to muttered to understand. They seemed to move in conjunction with the investigator and seemed unusual for a wilderness area such as the battlefield. Several strange pictures were taken during this initial trip which would be cut short due to storms approaching from the southwest.

View from the railroad tracks

The Old Riverbed

Unusual shadow

Approximate location of McRae's Battery

Second odd shadow

Greenish tint to this one

The Battlefield

Greenish mist to the left

Greenish mist shifts to the right

View from the top of the mesa

We returned to the battlefield at 11:00pm. The storm had passed but the site was very wet. We decided to continue with the ghost hunt regardless.

We arrived on the north side of the site and began to take EM measurements and photographs. As we began moving south, we started getting a few readings that varied between 3 and 6 nanotesla on the Trifield meter. Photographs taken when these readings were present show an unusual "black mist" that obscures some of the investigators in the photo. The highest reading we obtained in this area register at 9 nanotesla.

After we were unable to relocate any other abnormal EM fields, we moved south again. This time the group heard what could of been footsteps which seemed to be originating from the location we just left. However, it was difficult to tell if what we were hearing footsteps or drops of rain falling off of trees around us.

It was also during this time that two of the investigators noticed faint red lights that appeared in the distance salt cedars. The lights were in their peripheral vision and disappeared when you tried to focus on one of them. The lights were described as appearing like "someone smoking a cigarette".

Due to the apparent activity in this particular location, electronic voice phenomena samples (EVP) was done here. Afterwards the team began the muddy trek back to the cars.

   

Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP)

Question
Possible Answer
Frequency
Sample
Who are you?
Lewis ?
655.55 HZ
Who is your Commanding Officer?
Sounds like "Captain McRae"
932.23 HZ
How many of you are there?
Sounds like "many"
662.85 HZ
What year is it?
Hard to make out but "six" is audible (1861?)
12.785 HZ

 

Initial Conclusions

Although the natural EM fields were unsettled, they could not explain the unusually high readings that we recorded on the Trifield meter. The EVP samples are interesting as the answers correlate to events and people relevant to the site's history.

The site also seemed more "active" when the storm was approaching. Could the negative ions in the air have an effect on the phenomena at the location?


 

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