Las Vegas Affair

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Battle of Las Vegas
Part of the Taos Revolt, Mexican-American War
US Army LasVegas.jpg
United States Cavalry in Las Vegas, 1846.
Date July 6, 1847
Location Las Vegas, New Mexico
Result United States victory
Belligerents
United States United States Mexico Mexico
Commanders and leaders
United States Edmondson unknown
Strength
30 cavalry
33 infantry
1 artillery piece
unknown
Casualties and losses
~3 wounded 10 killed

The Las Vegas Affair or the Battle of Las Vegas was a battle of the Taos Revolt, fought in July 1847. It was initiated by American troops against New Mexican insurgents at the presidio town of Las Vegas during the Mexican-American War.

Background[edit]

During Doniphan's Expedition into New Mexico and Old Mexico himself. The American forces under Colonel Alexander Doniphan were marching north in northern New Mexico at the end of their campaign and months after the Siege of Pueblo de Taos. New Mexican insurgents and their native allies were still on the path of rebellion. On June 26, 1847, the horses belonging to American Captain Horine's company of cavalry were stolen by the New Mexican forces who fled into the nearby mountains. Two days later on June 28, a lieutenant named Brown and two privates with one Mexican guide, were dispatched by a Major Edmondson to begin pursuit of the New Mexicans and bring back the horses. After a while and with no return of Lieutenant Brown and his three men, The American force began to suspect that their comrades had been masssacred. So was the case when on July 5, Major Edmondson received information from a New Mexican woman, the information was that three American soldiers were killed and burnt by the New Mexican militia near Las Vegas. Immediately after receiving the information, Edmondson posted a picket to guard the camp, with orders to not allow anyone to enter the camp, without first seeing him. On the same afternoon, Private William Cox, of Captain Hollaway's infantry, were hunting in the mountains when they discovered three suspicious New Mexicans. The three Mexicans were captured and taken back to camp. They were interrogated and one of whom reported the deaths of Lieutenant Brown and his men. After hearing this, Edmondson ordered a force of twenty-nine cavalry, thirty-three infantry, and one 12-pounder mountain howitzer, to prepare for a march to Las Vegas. The Americans expected to reach the town before daylight the next morning. The Americans arrived later than they expected but either way Las Vegas was observed and appeared to be garrisoned by hundreds of New Mexican militiamen.

Battle[edit]

Edmondson divided his men into two forces, one was under the command of Captain Hollaway and the other under Captain Horine. They were now ordered to make a charge simultaneously on the right and left flanks in an effort to gain possession of the presidio. The Americans hastily prepared for a charge and then advanced. The New Mexicans had noticed the approaching United States Army and took up strategic positions along the presidio walls. At first the Mexicans fired into the charging Americans who held their fire in order to not slow the charge. Eventually the Americans closed in on the town and began to swarm the buildings, clearing them out of New Mexicans in a close quarters action. After only fifteen minutes of fighting, the New Mexicans began a retreat into the surrounding terrain of Las Vegas. The mountain howitzer was apparently never used by American forces. A total of about fifty New Mexicans were captured during the battle. Ten others were killed and according to United States Army reports, others were wounded. No Americans were killed in the battle, a few had slight wounds though. The bodies of the two American privates and their guide were discovered to have been burned as suspected, Lieutenant Brown was left among a pile of rocks unburied. The clothes, swords, muskets, knives and many other trinkets were found to have been dispersed amongst Las Vegas' population. After fighting had ceased as the Americans prepared to take their prisoners back to their camp, they burned some homes and some other buildings, where the fighting had taken place. Sufficient homes and food were left for the remaining civilian population. A nearby home, outside of Las Vegas and belonging to a New Mexican insurgent, was also burned when the Americans left for camp.

Aftermath[edit]

The New Mexican prisoners, by order of Colonel Edward Price, were taken to Santa Fe where they were tried before a court-martial. Ultimately six of the New Mexicans were sentenced to death by hanging. Execution of sentencing took place on August 3, 1847. The fate of the other forty or so New Mexican prisoners is not known but were likely released after the end of the war. Three days later, the Battle of Cienega Creek would begin, ending the Taos revolt for good.

References[edit]

  • Sources: R. E. Twitchell. Old Santa Fé (Santa Fé: R. E. Twitchell, 1925), p. 146
  • John T. Hughes. Doniphan's Expedition (Cincinnati: J. A. & U. P. James, 1848), pp. 403.

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