Part of our in-depth series exploring the forts of Comancheria
25 August 1864; Alamogordo, New Mexico: Capt. Francis McCabe, 1st New Mexico Cavalry, left Fort Sumner with 43 men of Company L and 6 Navajo guides to scout for Apache raiders. At Fort Stanton he met up with Lt. Henry W. Gilbert and 8 men of the same regiment. Gilbert had tracked the raiders to the Sierra Oscura and led same regiment. Gilbert had tracked the raiders to the Sierra Oscura and led McCabe and the men west through the Malpais Lava Beds to find the Apaches' rancheria. But it was not there.
The party moved south to the San Andres Mountains and east across the White Sands to the Sacramento Mountains, where they picked up the trail of about 14 Apaches. McCabe took his broken-down horses and barefoot men north to a camp near Tularosa while Gilbert and 20 men took the best mounts and followed the trail. It led east through the mountains to the Sacramento River, southeast of present-day Alamogordo.
On 25 August, near Almagre Springs, Gilbert dismounted his cavalry to lead the horses up a steep slope. Nearly at the top, the soldiers discovered they had walked into an ambush. One of the first bullets killed Gilbert, and five other troopers were wounded in the volley of arrows and musketry. The soldiers fell back, abandoning most of their horses.
In addition to Gilbert, two of the five wounded men, Pvt. Sandoval and the guide Sanchez, died before they reached camp. One Apache was killed.
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