Friends Become Foes

The tragic scenario was repeatedly played out in the American Civil War, particularly among West Point graduates. Two U.S. Army officers who spent years fighting side-by-side now found themselves on opposite sides as the South seceded from the Union.

Confederate General Henry Sibley and Union Colonel R. S. Canby were well acquainted prior to the Civil War. In addition to attending West Point together, they had fought in the Seminole and Mexican Wars, and patrolled the Utah and Wyoming territories before being transferred to the New Mexico territory. They had shared meals, including a Christmas dinner in the Canby home.

But in February of 1862, Sibley was leading a force of over two-thousand Texas volunteers against his former comrades. The Confederate general’s plan was outlandishly ambitious. He planned to conquer every Union fort along the trail to Santa Fe, resupplying his troops with captured food and materiel. Sibley’s primary objective was to take over the Colorado gold fields, thus providing the Confederacy a much-needed boost in treasure. After that, he planned to push west and capture California thus putting the entire Western region and the West Coast under Confederate control.

It was a grandiose plan, but Sibley had long been a think-outside-of-the box sort. In fact, as he led his Texans north, the Union Army was using thousands of tents created from Sibley’s design. Sibley also invented a camp stove that would be employed by the U.S. Army right up until World War II. The General’s Civil War designs, however, would not be so enduring.

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