A Union Soldier's Account of the Lancer Charge at Valverde


When the American Civil War broke out, 25-year-old Alonzo ('Lon') Ferdinand Ickis and his brother were 'chasing color' working the placer mines near Kent's Gulch in the Colorado Territory.

Little luck was to be had - and while Alonzo's brother Johnathon chose to return to Iowa - Alonzo headed for Canon City, Colorado where upon his arrival he discovered that more than twenty of his close friends had answered the October 7th, 1861 Canon City Times printed call for volunteers.

Following suit on October 27th, Alonzo Ickis joined up with Company B of the 2nd Colorado Volunteers under Captain C.D. Hendron. They drilled in Canon City while the stragglers continued to trickle in from the hills to join the ranks - and on December 23rd, Company B was mustered in at Fort Garland in the San Luis Valley with a total of 91 men fit for duty.

On January 3rd, 1862 they would begin the march towards Fort Marcy (Santa Fe), arriving on January 16th.

January 25 found the men in Albuquerque - and then - following the Rio Grande - arrived at Fort Craig on February 1st.

It was here only 3 weeks later that they would participate in the Battle of Valverde.

Alonzo Ferdinand Ickis managed to keep a very meticulous journal of his experiences while in service to the Union army all throughout New Mexico.

He leaves the reader with the following account regarding the February 21st battle at Valverde:

(I have added the hyphens to represent line breaks.)

"February 21, 1862

This morning our picquets [pickets] drove in 164 head of the enemies mules - the enemy has gone by and are going up the E[ast] side of the Rio - we are going up on the W[est] - they will have to pass on the E side of Table Mountain - we pass up on the west side of the Rio to the upper side of TM where the enemy will have to come for water - they have not had any water for 24 hours - Plant our battery on the west bank just above the upper end of T mountain - in a short time the enemy was seen coming to the river for water - our battery opened on them they retreated - then we were ordered over the Rio. We crossed - the water was cold but we soon got over. the enemy were reinforced and then the ball opened - our Co. was on the extreme left skirmishing - A&F of the 10th next on the right of us - 5th Infty on the right of the Comd. - the enemy knew by the dress and movements of our Co. that we were not regulars and they thought us mexicans - they then thought they had a soft snap - three Cos. of Mounted Lancier Rangers made a charge on our Co. which was but 71 strong in the field - the boys waited until they got within 40 yds of us when they took deliberate aim and it was fun to see the texans fall - they wavered for a few moments and then they came and fierce looking fellows they were with their long lances raised but when they got to us we were loaded again and then we gave them the buck and ball - after the second volley there were but few of them left and but one of them got away - the others were shot one bayoneted - G Simpson ran his bayonet through one and then shot the top of his head off.

After we cleaned out the lancers we drawn back to support one section of the battery which had gone over the river - the other section is on the right and supported by the 5th Infty and Carsons Reg. of greasers with one Co. of rifles - left section was supported by our Co. - A&F Cos 10th Infty and a few mexicans - Both sections were brought to bear upon the enemy as well as the ground would permit and away went the Shot Shell Grape and Canister soon silenced their battery which had been throwing round shot among us with but little effect and the ball kept rolling at this rate until 4 P.M. - At this time there were about 250 white men and 1000 greasers supporting the left section - 500 white men and 2000 greasers at the section on the right - at half past 4 P M the enemies having now been without water for 36 h. - 1500 of the enemy then made a charge on our section and the remainder of them charged the section on the right where our best guns were - the two twenty four pdrs. were there and well supported by the 5th Infty and Carsons Reg. but the mexicans who were with us were of Pinos regiment. The enemy were repulsed on the Ri. with a very heavy loss. But with us it was the reverse - at the first sight of such a very large body of Texans Pinos men ran leaving us white men only 250 to hold the section or let it go - and go it did - we stood our ground against 1500 of the enemy. Canby was by us cheering the men - our battery boys played the Canister into the enemy and at every shot you could see their ranks open and pieces of men flying in the air. But on they came and we put in the variations for the guns with our small arms but it was no go - there were too many of them and we could not retreat with our battery for the Rio but we did not leave it until the enemy was on and around it. There was to be seen cool bravery - when the battery was gone one of the battery boys sprang on a magazine which was near, cried "Victory or death" and then cooly fired his pistol into the ammunition - one long loud crash and all was over with that brave boy. the explosion must have killed several of the enemy were as thick as they could stand we were then ordered to retreat - we crossed the Rio under a shower of shot from the enemies shot guns and navy pistols - men were falling on all sides - after we crossed the Rio again formed and retreated in good order to the Ft. - Enemy did not cross the river - Saved the section of the battery which was on the right - the other consisting of 4 six pd guns 2 twelve pd. howitzer went up soap.

Our loss was 48 killed 350 wounded - Enemies loss supposed 400 killed 600 wounded - Dodds Co. lost 40 killed and wounded, & 8 prisoners in the charge of the Lancers - we lost two by wounds - P.H. Duphy [Duffy] had his leg shot off below the knee with grape - Frank Kenton shot in the arm - flesh wound


Many of these were serving in companies to which they did not properly belong but were attached to them for the time being for various reasonings. It is impossible to get a list of the wounded at present there are but very few mortal wounds, most of them pistol shots - Texans were all except the Lancers and a few Sharp Shooters armed with a double barreled shot gun and two navy pistols"

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Great find !

I really enjoyed reading Ickis' account of the Battle of Valverde.
I agree - I had to read it about 3 times in order to actually see the exact picture he was trying to paint - his writing style and format was rather crude - and transcribing it here was equally hard with the weird line breaks, broken sentences, etc!

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Featured Book Reviewer
Jan 7, 2013
Long Island, NY
An observation: Most of the men who fought beside him were Latinos, whom he dismisses as "greasers." Nearly every man who fought against him was white.

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