Las Vegas affair
|Battle of Las Vegas|
|Part of the Taos Revolt, Mexican–American War|
United States Cavalry in Las Vegas, 1847.
|Commanders and leaders|
1 artillery piece
|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.
During the expedition of American Colonel Alexander Doniphan into New Mexico and Mexico, the American forces 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 in rebellion. On June 26 1847, the horses belonging to American Captain Horine's company of cavalry were stolen by New Mexicans, who fled into the nearby mountains. Two days later on June 28, a lieutenant named Brown and two privates, with a Mexican guide, were dispatched by a Major Edmondson to pursue 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 killed. This was confirmed on July 5, when Major Edmondson received information from a New Mexican woman that three American soldiers had been 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 not to allow anyone to enter without first seeing him. On the same afternoon, Private William Cox, of Captain Hollaway's infantry, were hunting in the mountains when they[who?] discovered three suspicious New Mexicans, who were captured and taken back to camp. They were interrogated and one of them reported the deaths of Lieutenant Brown and his men. After hearing this, Edmondson ordered a force of 29 cavalry, 33 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, but arrived later than they expected. observation of Las Vegas appeared to show it as garrisoned by hundreds of New Mexican militiamen.
Edmondson divided his men into two forces, one 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, although a few had slight wounds. 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 and 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.
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 sentence took place on August 3, 1847. The fate of the other forty or so New Mexican prisoners is not known but it is likely they were released after the end of the war. Three days later, the Battle of Cienega Creek ended the Taos revolt for good.
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- 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.
- A Continent Divided: The U.S.-Mexico War, Center for Greater Southwestern Studies, the University of Texas at Arlington