Union forces halt Confederates at Battle of Glorieta Pass

Union forces halt Confederates at Battle of Glorieta Pass

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On March 28, 1862, Union forces stop the Confederate invasion of New Mexico Territory when they turn the Rebels back at Glorieta Pass.

This action was part of the broader movement by the Confederates to capture New Mexico and other parts of the West. This would secure territory that the Rebels thought was rightfully theirs but had been denied them by political compromises made before the Civil War. Furthermore, the cash-strapped Confederacy could use Western mines to fillits treasury. From San Antonio, the Rebels moved into southern New Mexico (which included Arizona at the time) and captured the towns of Mesilla, Díaz Ana and Tucson. General Henry H. Sibley, with 3,000 troops, now moved north against the Federal stronghold at Fort Craig on the Rio Grande.

READ MORE: 7 Important Civil War Battles

Sibley’s force collided with Union troops at Valverde near Fort Craig on February 21, but the Yankees were unable to stop the invasion. Sibley left parts of his army to occupy Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and the rest of the troops headed east of Santa Fe along the Pecos River. Their next target was the Union garrison at Fort Union, an outpost on the other side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. At Pigeon’s Ranch near Glorieta Pass, they encountered a Yankee force of 1,300 Colorado volunteers under Colonel John Slough. The battle began in late morning, and the Federal force was thrown back before taking cover among the adobe buildings of Pigeon’s Ranch. A Confederate attack late in the afternoon pushed the Union troops further down the pass, but nightfall halted the advance. Union troops snatched victory from the jaws of defeat when Major John Chivington led an attack on the Confederate supply train, burning 90 wagons and killing 800 animals.

With their supplies destroyed, the Confederates had to withdraw to Santa Fe. They lost 36 men killed, 70 wounded, and 25 captured. The Union army lost 38 killed, 64 wounded, and 20 captured. After a week in Santa Fe, the Rebels withdrew down the Rio Grande. By June, the Yankees controlled New Mexico again, and the Confederates did not return for the rest of the war.

Battle of Glorieta Pass

Black powder cannon demonstration during the Civil War Encampment living history event, March 2019.

NPS Photo/Gary Cascio 2019

CSA Brigadier General Henry Hopkins Sibley

Photo: Palace of the Governors Neg. 050541

Although many associate the Civil War with eastern battlefields like Antietam or the Wilderness, the fight over slavery in the United States extended much further west. In March of 1862, the war brought a battle to Glorieta Pass. Some refer to the battle as the Gettysburg of the West due to its overall significance to the war. The Confederates campaigned to take control of the West, which would have greatly improved their chances of success. However, in just three days of tough fighting, the Union Army ruined the Confederate plans and sent them retreating back southwards.

The Confederate Plans

Starting in Texas, the Confederate Army planned to move north into the New Mexico Territory. They hoped to make their way toward the Colorado gold mining camps and eventually travel west to the coast to take seaports at Los Angeles and San Diego. To take Colorado and continue the campaign, the Confederates needed to take Fort Union, a supply center for Federal forces across the territory and beyond.

As the Confederates continued north from Albuquerque, they divided their forces. Some made their way towards Santa Fe and others to the Galisteo area. Meanwhile, the rest of their troops raided the villages and countryside for much needed supplies.

A group of about 400 soldiers traveled east along the Santa Fe Trail in the direction of Glorieta Pass. Simultaneously, a Union force of 400 soldiers waited for them on the other side of the pass. These forces would start the Battle of Glorieta Pass.

Modern picture of the remaining building of Pigeon's Ranch with Glorieta Mesa in the background.

The battle erupts - March 26, 1862

The Battle of Glorieta Pass took place during the winter months of the year. At an elevation above 7,000 feet, hilly, rocky, and covered with forest, both sides dealt with cold, snow, altitude, and enclosed terrain.

The conflict began on March 26, 1862 when the Union forces encountered the Confederates coming up the Santa Fe Trail. The Union troops forced the Confederates back to their camp at Johnson’s Ranch, taking scores of prisoners. Expecting more fighting to come, both sides sent for reinforcements.

On March 27, 1862, each side waited for more reinforcements, which arrived that night. No fighting took place on this day.

Battle of Glorieta Pass - Pigeon's Ranch

The conflict resumes - March 28, 1862

The heart of the battle occurred within a two-mile stretch of the Santa Fe Trail. The most important force, however, bypassed this area. About 500 Union soldiers made their way up Glorieta Mesa in the morning. Their instructions were to work their way around and attack the Confederates from the rear. After several hours of marching across the mesa, they discovered the Confederate supply train at Johnson’s Ranch. Climbing down the steep mesa, they destroyed the camp, burned all Confederate wagons, and ran off or killed the horses and mules.

Meanwhile, the majority of both forces fought in a fierce battle at Glorieta Pass near Pigeon’s Ranch that lasted from late morning to near dark. The Confederates pushed the Union forces from the high ground and drove them east down the Santa Fe Trail. Even though they controlled the battlefield, the Confederates failed to break through, destroy the Union troops, or take any additional supplies from the Federals.

Painting depicting the burning of the Confederate wagon supply train near Apache Canyon.

Consequences of the battle

There were about 375 casualties over the three days of fighting. The Federals proved to be victorious because they were able to destroy all Confederate supplies. All other Confederate attempts to attack Fort Union proved fruitless and they slowly withdrew from the territory. The Union retained control the American Southwest for the rest of the Civil War.

The Battle of Glorieta Pass: A Shattered Dream (Teaching with Historic Places)

A peaceful ranch, once a stage stop on the Santa Fe Trail, rests in a circular valley clasped by steep mountains. Spanish conquistadors named these mountains Sangre de Cristo, "blood of Christ," but in 1862, it was the blood of warring brothers that bathed the land near Pigeon's Ranch.

This battle--the Battle of Glorieta Pass--represented the high water mark for a bold Confederate offensive into Union Territory on the western frontier. Here volunteers from Colorado clashed with tough Texans intent on conquering New Mexico. Victory here would be a necessary prelude to detaching the western states from the Union and expanding the Confederacy to the Pacific Ocean. Referred to as the "Gettysburg of the West" by many historians, this running battle along canyon and ridge from March 26-28, 1862 culminated in the retreat back to Texas of the invading Confederate forces. Glorieta Pass was another great turning point in the Civil War, the battle that shattered the western dreams of the Confederate States of America.

About This Lesson

This lesson plan is based on the National Register of Historic Places registration file, "Glorieta Battlefield" (with photographs),and other sources. James McBride, a New Mexico historian, and Judy Reed, an archeologist and cultural resources manager at Pecos National Historical Park wrote The Battle of Glorieta Pass: A Shattered Dream. Jean West, education consultant, and the Teaching with Historic Places staff edited the lesson. TwHP is sponsored, in part, by the Cultural Resources Training Initiative and Parks as Classrooms programs of the National Park Service. This lesson is one in a series that brings the important stories of historic places into classrooms across the country.

Where it fits into the curriculum

Topics: This lesson can be used in American history, social studies, and geography courses in units on westward expansion and the Civil War.

Time period: Mid 19th century

United States History Standards for Grades 5-12

The Battle of Glorieta Pass: A Shattered Dream relates to the following National Standards for History:

Era 4: Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)

Standard 1B- The student understands federal and state Indian policy and the strategies for survival forged by Native Americans.

Standard 2E- The student understands the settlement of the West.Era 5: Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)

Standard 2A- The student understands how the resources of the Union and Confederacy affected the course of the war.

Standard 2B- The student understands the social experience of the war on the battlefield and homefront.

Curriculum Standards for Social Studies

National Council for the Social Studies

The Battle of Glorieta Pass: A Shattered Dream relates to the following Social Studies Standards:

Standard B - The student explains how information and experiences may be interpreted by people from diverse cultural perspectives and frames of reference.

Standard E - The student articulates the implications of cultural diversity, as well as cohesion, within and across groups.

Theme II: Time, Continuity and Change

Standard A - The student demonstrates an understanding that different scholars may describes the same event or situation in different ways but must provide reasons or evidence for their views.

Standard B - The student identifies and uses key concepts such as chronology, causality, change, conflict, and complexity to explain, analyze, and show connections among patterns of historical change and continuity.

Standard C - The student identifies and describes selected historical periods and patterns of change within and across cultures, such as the rise of civilizations, the development of transportation systems, the growth and breakdown of colonial systems, and others.

Standard F - The student uses knowledge of facts and concepts drawn from history, along with methods of historical inquiry, to inform decision-making about and action-taking on public issues.

Theme III: People, Places and Environments

Standard A - The student elaborates mental maps of locales, regions, and the world that demonstrate understanding of relative location, direction, size, and shape.

Theme IV: Individual Development and Identity

Standard A. The student relates personal changes to social, cultural, and historical contexts.

Standard B - The student describes personal connections to places associated with community, nation, and world.

Standard C - The student describes the ways family, gender, ethnicity, nationality, and institutional affiliations contribute to personal identity.

Standard F - The student identifies and describes the influence of perception, attitudes, values, and beliefs on personal identity.

Standard G - The student identifies and interprets examples of stereotyping, conformity, and altruism.

Standard H - The student works independently and cooperatively to accomplish goals

Theme V: Individuals, Groups, and Institutions

Standard B - The student analyzes group and institutional influences on people, events, and elements of culture.

Theme IX: Global Connections

Standard B - The student analyze examples of conflict, cooperation, and interdependence among groups, societies, and nations.

Objectives for students

1) To examine and evaluate the importance of combat in the western (trans-Mississippi) theater during the Civil War.
2) To describe in general terms the movements of the two opposing armies that led to the clash of arms at the Battle of Glorieta Pass.
3) To analyze the motives, actions, and experiences of participants in the conflict from firsthand accounts.
4) To examine the local community for war memorials.

Materials for students

The materials listed below either can be used directly on the computer or can be printed out, photocopied, and distributed to students. The map and images appear twice: in a smaller, low-resolution version with associated questions and alone in a larger version.
1) one map showing the Southwest United States in 1862
2) three readings about the Battle of Glorieta Pass, including eyewitness accounts and copies of reports of the battle
3) one drawing of the area of the battles
4) one painting of the fight at Pigeon's Ranch
5) two photos of Pigeon's Ranch and the battlefield.

Visiting the site

The United States Congress designated the Glorieta Pass Battlefield as a National Battlefield and assigned its administration to Pecos National Historical Park. The battlefield is located off I-25 about 25 miles southeast of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Labor Day to Memorial Day and until 6 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Tours and access to the battlefield are ranger-guided and available by reservation only. For more information, contact Pecos National Historical Park, P.O. Box 418, Pecos, New Mexico 87552, or visit the park's web site.

Getting Started

Inquiry Question

(Roy Anderson, artist Courtesy of Pecos National Historical Park)

When and in what region of the country might the battle represented here have taken place?

Setting the Stage

Henry Hopkins Sibley dreamed of fulfilling his nation's destiny of spanning the American continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Sibley's nation was the Confederate States of America, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis shared Sibley's vision of southern Manifest Destiny. If Sibley could overcome the weak Union forces in their isolated forts, the Confederacy might conquer the vast New Mexico Territory (consisting of modern New Mexico and Arizona). Once New Mexico was conquered, the doors to Colorado Territory with its rich gold and silver mines would be opened. Sibley's dream culminated with the invasion and conquest of California.

President Davis authorized General Sibley to raise volunteers for the Confederate Army of New Mexico. He assumed command on December 14, 1861, and marched the Fourth, Fifth, and Seventh Texas Mounted Riflemen westward from San Antonio to Fort Bliss, outside of El Paso. On January 18, 1862, the Confederacy declared that the southern half of the United States' New Mexico Territory would become the Confederate Territory of Arizona. Sibley ordered his men to move north towards Albuquerque, launching a winter invasion up the Rio Grande valley.

The troops encountered major obstacles that they had not foreseen, including cold weather and a barren and dry landscape. The Hispanic population of New Mexico viewed the Confederate forces as thieves who would steal their livestock, food, and money. Small, detached units had even more to fear from the Apache who killed a number of Texas volunteers. Most crucially, Sibley miscalculated the determination of the quickly assembled Union volunteers of the western territories to halt the Confederate advance. In Glorieta Pass, New Mexico, on March 28, 1862, the dream of a Confederate Western Empire gave way.

(Adapted from Donald S. Franzier, Blood and Treasure: Confederate Empire in the Southwest, Texas A&M University Press, 1995.)

The Santa Fe Trail was crucial to the Battle of Glorieta Pass. This commercial route from Independence, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico, received official sanction for legal use in 1821, when Mexico won its independence from Spain. It immediately became the principle trade and travel route between the United States and the northern province of Mexico, Chihuahua.

In 1862, Confederate general Henry Sibley planned to follow the Santa Fe Trail north from Texas, capture Fort Union in New Mexico Territory, and then march up the trail to invade Colorado. The First Colorado Volunteers traveled down the Santa Fe Trail to Fort Union, and then followed it west to Glorieta Pass, a gap in the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

Questions for Map 1
1. Study the territories and states as they existed in 1862. How does this map differ from a modern map of the United States?
2. Locate the Santa Fe Trail. Name the states or territories shown on this map through which the trail passed on the way to Santa Fe.
3. Why did the Confederacy want to win control of New Mexico Territory?
4. What Indian tribes may have had an interest in the outcome of the war between the Union and the Confederacy in this region?

Determining the Facts

Reading 1: The Gettysburg of the West

[Refer to Map 1 to locate places mentioned in the following account of the battle.]
The trans-Mississippi West, New Mexico Territory in particular, was far removed from many of the passions and issues that defined the Civil War for people east of the Mississippi River. For large areas of the West that were recently won from Mexico or still organized under territorial government--where people were still struggling to survive in hostile environments--arguments over secession and states rights may have seemed rarified. Nonetheless, men answered the call to join eastern armies, so the frontier armies were drastically reduced. Indian raids began to increase as some tribes seized the chance to regain lost territory while others turned to raiding for subsistence, their U.S. treaty allotments having been disrupted by the war. Yet, the Civil War was not strictly an eastern war, and in 1862 Confederate forces invaded New Mexico Territory.

Henry Sibley, who resigned his commission in the U.S. Army to join the Confederate Army, realized that the void created in the West could be an opportunity for the South. After raising a brigade of mounted Texas riflemen during the summer of 1861, Sibley led his 2,500 men to Fort Bliss and launched a winter invasion up the Rio Grande Valley.

Colonel Edward Canby, who had been appointed the Union Commander of the Department of New Mexico in June 1861, anticipated the invasion and had already begun to consolidate his 2,500 regular army troops. By early 1862, Canby had almost 4,000 soldiers he could put into the field.

Sibley's Brigade approached Canby's Union forces near Fort Craig in south-central New Mexico. Threatening to cut off the fort by controlling a nearby ford, Sibley drew Canby's soldiers out from the fort and engaged them in a closely contested battle at Valverde on February 21, 1862. The smaller Confederate force prevailed against Canby's troops, who retreated to the security of nearby Fort Craig. Sibley believed the U.S. forces had been defeated too soundly to present a rear-guard threat, so he advanced north. The Confederates occupied Albuquerque on March 2. Sibley then sent the Fifth Texas Regiment, commanded by Major Charles Pyron, to the unprotected territorial capital of Santa Fe. The few Union troops retreated to Fort Union, destroying ammunition and supplies.

The only thing that appeared to be standing between Sibley's Confederate Brigade and Colorado was Fort Union, the major army depot on the Santa Fe Trail. By seizing the supplies and weapons kept at Fort Union, the Confederates would be able to continue their march north through Raton Pass to Denver, the territorial capital of Colorado.

The First Colorado Volunteers, an infantry brigade of 950 miners, were quickly organized under the command of Colonel John P. Slough. They marched the 400 miles from Denver through the deep snow of Raton Pass to Fort Union in only 13 days, arriving at the fort on March 10. After a brief rest and re-supply, Slough defied orders to remain at Fort Union. Joined by some regular army troops and New Mexico volunteers, Slough's 1,350 soldiers departed Fort Union on March 22, and they followed the Santa Fe Trail westward to meet the enemy. By March 25, the Union advance troops, under the command of Major John M. Chivington, set up Camp Lewis at Kozlowski's Stage Stop east of Glorieta Pass, a gap in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Meanwhile, Pyron's Fifth Texas Regiment had left Santa Fe, following the Santa Fe Trail eastward, marching on Fort Union. After following a southward swing through Glorieta Pass, he intended to join with other Confederate troops. Pyron's Texans camped at Johnson's Ranch in Apache Canyon, just west of Glorieta Pass, unaware of the Union troops only nine miles away.

On the morning of March 26, 1862, a scouting party of Colorado Volunteers led by Chivington left Camp Lewis to locate the Texans. They discovered and captured a Confederate scouting party in Glorieta Pass, then ran into the main body of the Confederate force in Apache Canyon, about 16 miles east of Santa Fe. A two-hour scrimmage, known as the Battle of Apache Canyon, ensued. Although Chivington captured 70 Confederate soldiers, he fell back to Pigeon's Ranch. By evening, both sides called a truce to tend to their wounded.

The following day, when Union spies notified Colonel Slough that the Confederates had been reinforced, Slough decided to divide his forces. Slough's 900 soldiers would proceed west along the Santa Fe Trail and block Glorieta Pass, while Chivington and Lieutenant Colonel Manuel Chavez of the New Mexico Volunteers would take 450 men over Glorieta Mesa to attack the Confederate right flank or rearguard. Colonel Scurry decided to leave his supply train at Johnson's Ranch and march his 900 men eastward along the Santa Fe Trail the next morning to force the battle where he wanted it.

On the morning of March 28, Slough's men broke ranks near Pigeon's Ranch to fill their canteens at Glorieta Creek. Scurry's quickly advancing Confederates came upon the Union troops and opened fire on them. The Union soldiers quickly formed a defensive line along Windmill Hill, but an hour later, fell back to Pigeon's Ranch.

Scurry's Confederate soldiers faced the Union artillery at Pigeon's Ranch and Artillery Hill for three hours, and finally outflanked the Union right. From Sharpshooter's Ridge they could fire down on the Union troops, so Slough ordered another retreat, setting up a third battle line a short distance east of Pigeon's Ranch. The Texans charged the line shortly before sunset. Slough ordered his soldiers back to Camp Lewis leaving the Confederates in possession of the field. Both sides were exhausted after six hours of fighting, each having sustained more than 30 killed and 80 wounded or missing.

Believing he had won the battle, Scurry soon received devastating news. After a 16-mile march through the mountains, the Union force led by Major Chivington had come upon the Confederate supply train at Johnson's Ranch. They had driven off the few guards, slaughtered 30 horses and mules, spiked an artillery piece, taken 17 prisoners, and burned 80 wagons containing ammunition, food, clothing, and forage. Scurry was forced to ask for a cease-fire.

Lacking vital supplies, Scurry could no longer continue his march on Fort Union so he retreated to Santa Fe. Two weeks later, General Sibley ordered his army to retreat from Santa Fe and relinquished control of Albuquerque. There was no further Confederate attempt to invade the western territories. The Battle of Glorieta Pass had decided conclusively that the West would remain with the Union.

Questions for Reading 1
1. Identify the issues that concerned residents of the western territories at the time of the Civil War. How were they different from or similar to issues that interested easterners and why?
2. What developments convinced General Sibley that a Confederate campaign through the far West could be successful?
3. Approximately how many soldiers were involved in the fights at Valverde and Glorieta Pass? Compare these numbers with those of battles farther east, which occurred at nearly the same time, in the Shenandoah Valley at the Battle of Kernstown or at Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing.)
4. What role did geography play in determining that Glorieta Pass would be the site of a battle? How did Scurry and Slough adapt their battle plans to the geography of the area?
5. Why was the destruction of the Confederate supply train at Johnson's Ranch an insurmountable problem for the Confederate invasion? What additional hardships would it have created during the long retreat from New Mexico?

Reading 1 was adapted from Richard Greenwood, "Glorieta Battlefield" (Santa Fe County, NM) National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1978 and U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Four series, 128 vols. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901).

Determining the Facts

Reading 2: Combatants' Accounts

Alfred B. Peticolas, a young lawyer, enlisted in the Fourth Texas Mounted Volunteers in Victoria, Texas in May 1861. Sergeant Peticolas recorded the call Colonel Scurry's troops answered to march to the support of Major Pyron at Apache Canyon the evening of Wednesday, March 26, 1862.

Laid over today and waited for the 3rd Regt. Towards evening it came in and two or three hours after, an express from Major Pyron came in informing us that he had been attacked by a large body of Pike's Peak men during the day that he had gotten the best of the engagement and had fallen back to wood and water, which he would hold till we came up to him. The order was immediately given, and in an hour after we received the express, we were all under way. This, however, made it about 8 o'clock when we started, and we were told that the distance we had to go was 12 miles, but before it was walked we found it to be at least 15. Pyron had two men killed and 3 wounded.The forces were about 350 on our side, 3 or 4 companies of the 2nd Regt, and from 600 to 1000 of the enemy. We started off at a brisk gait and made the first six miles of our journey in a very little time, but footsore and weary we did not travel from that point so fast as we had been doing, but there was no murmuring at our suffering, and on the want of comfort on this our forced march, but every man marched bravely along and did not complain at the length of the road, the coldness of the weather, or the necessity that compelled the march.

We passed over a very steep pass in the mountains not far from a ranch buried in a circular valley in the bosom of the mountains, and as the ascent and descent was extremely difficult, we were nearly two hours crossing, and while the command was waiting for the artillery and ammunition wagons to cross over, they made large fires at the foot of the pass and warmed chilled hands and feet. About ½ past 3 we reached a ranch down the canion [sic] and were directed to get wood wherever we could and make fires. Now we had not blankets, and Jones proposed to me to go and try and get into a house to sleep, which I succeeded in doing. He and I slept together on the floor with no bedding, and only a few articles of women's wearing apparel which we found scattered round the house.¹

Ovando J. Hollister was living in the mining district of South Clear Creek, Colorado, in the summer of 1861, and enlisted in Captain Sam H. Cook's company of mounted volunteers. He served with the First Colorado Volunteers from the time of its organization through its campaign in New Mexico and return to Denver. Hollister sustained injuries during the campaign that rendered him an invalid unfit for military duty in January 1863. He described the forced winter march by the Colorado Volunteers from Denver to Fort Union to meet the advancing Confederate forces.

The teams, relieved of their loads, took aboard a full complement of passengers, leaving, however, between three and four hundred to foot it. Away into the wee hours of morning did we tramp, tramp, tramp, --the gay song, the gibe, the story, the boisterous cheer, all died a natural death. Nothing broke the stillness of night but the steady tramp of the men and the rattle of the wagons. We were now to prove the sincerity of those patriotic oaths so often sworn, and right nobly was it done. At length the animals began to drop and die in harness, from overwork and underfeed, which forced us to stop. But for this, we would doubtless have made Union without a halt. Col. Slough rode in the coach. That never stops between Red River and Union. Why should we?Thirty miles would not more than measure this night's march, in which the men proved their willingness to put forth every exertion on demand. But feeling as they did, that there was no call for it but the Colonel's caprice, their 'curses were not loud but deep.' During the halt, they hovered over the willow brush fires or shivered under their scanty blankets, nursing their indignation by the most outrageous abuse of everything and everybody. A soldier would grumble in heaven. As it is all the solace they have for their numerous privations and vexations, and is very harmless, let them growl.
At the first sign of daylight "Assembly" sounded as shrilly as if waking to renewed exertion the iron sinews of a steam engine, instead of a weary mass of human energy scarcely composed to rest. But it was none the less inexorable, and satisfying nature with a crust of hard bread, we were on the road again. ²

Questions for Reading 2
1. Who gives a better description of the land through which he marched, Hollister or Peticolas? Why?
2. How did their patriotic oaths, made when the volunteers enlisted, help Hollister's companions to continue their 30-mile night march towards Fort Union? Why did Colonel Slough's actions cause them to complain?
3. Peticolas' companions made a forced march of 15 miles. Why did they not complain?
4. In what ways were both soldiers' experiences similar? In what ways were they different?

¹ Don E. Alberts, ed., Rebels on the Rio Grande: The Civil War Journals of A. B. Peticolas (Albuquerque: Merit Press, 1993).
²Ovando J. Hollister,
History of the First Regiment of Colorado Volunteers (Denver: Thomas Gibson & Co., 1863).

Determining the Facts

Reading 3: Reports of the Battle of Glorieta Pass

Colonel John P. Slough, a Denver attorney turned soldier, was commanding officer of the First Colorado Infantry. He dispatched his battle report to Colonel Edward S. Canby the day after the fight at Pigeon's Ranch.

Kozlowski's Ranch, March 29, 1862COLONEL: Learning from our spies that the enemy, about 1000 strong, were in the Apache Canon [sic] and at Johnson's Ranch beyond, I concluded to reconnoiter in force, with a view of ascertaining the position of the enemy and of harassing them as much as possible hence left this place with my command, nearly 1,300 strong, at 8 o'clock yesterday morning. To facilitate the reconnaissance I sent Maj. J.M. Chivington. with about 430 officers and picked men, with instructions to push forward to Johnson's. With the remainder of the command I entered the canon, and had attained but a short distance when our pickets announced that the enemy was near and had taken position in a thick grove of trees, with their line extending from mesa to mesa across the canon, and their battery, consisting of four pieces, placed in position. I at once detailed a considerable force of flankers, placed the batteries in position, and placed the cavalry--nearly all dismounted--and the remainder of the infantry in position to support the batteries.

Before the arrangement of my forces was completed the enemy opened fire upon us. The action began about 10 o'clock and continued until after 4 p.m. The character of the country was such as to make the engagement of the bushwhacking kind. Hearing of the success of Major Chivington's command, and the object of our movement being successful, we fell back in order to our camp. Our loss in killed is probably 20. in wounded probably 50. in missing probably over 100. In addition we took some 25 prisoners and rendered unfit for service three pieces of their artillery. We took and destroyed their train of about 60 wagons, with their contents, consisting of ammunition, subsistence, forage, clothing, officers' baggage, etc. During the engagements the enemy made three attempts to take our batteries and were repelled in each with severe loss.
The strength of the enemy, as received from spies and prisoners, in the canon was altogether some 1,200 or 1,300, some 200 of whom were at or near Johnson's Ranch, and were engaged by Major Chivington's command. The officers and men behaved nobly. My thanks are due to my staff officers for the courage and ability with which they assisted me in conducting the engagement. As soon as all the details are ascertained I will send an official report of the engagement.¹

After the retreat of his army to Santa Fe from the battlefield at Glorieta Pass, Colonel Scurry reported what he considered a Confederate victory to General Sibley.

Santa Fe, N. Mex., March 30, 1862GENERAL: I arrived here this morning with my command and have taken quarters for the present in this city. I will in a short time give you an official account of the battle of Glorieta, which occurred on day before yesterday, in the Canon [sic] Glorieta, about 22 miles from this city, . when another victory was added to the long list of Confederate triumphs.
The action commenced at about 11 o'clock and ended at 5:30, and, although every inch of the ground was well contested, we steadily drove them back until they were in full retreat our men pursuing until from sheer exhaustion we were compelled to stop.

Our loss was 33 killed and I believe, 35 wounded. . Major Pyron had his horse shot under him, and my own cheek was twice brushed by a Minie ball, each time drawing blood, and my clothes torn in two places. I mentioned this simply to show how hot was the fire of the enemy when all of the field officers upon the ground were either killed or touched.

Our train was burned by a party who succeeded in passing undiscovered around the mountains to our rear. . The loss of the enemy was very severe, being over 75 killed and a large number wounded.

The loss of my supplies so crippled me that after burying my dead I was unable to follow up the victory. My men for two days went unfed and blanketless unmurmuringly. I was compelled to come here for something to eat. At last accounts the Federalists were still retiring towards Fort Union. The men at the train blew up the limber-box and spiked the 6-pounder I had left at the train, so that it was rendered useless, and the cart-burners left it.

. From three sources, all believed to be reliable, Canby left Craig on the 24th. Yours in haste, W.R. SCURRY
P.S. I do not know if I write intelligently. I have not slept for three nights, and can scarcely hold my eyes open. W.R.S.²

Questions for Reading 3
1. Of the two reports filed by Slough and Scurry following the battle, which provides the most complete information? Which is more clearly written? Which one is written under more difficult conditions? In your opinion, which is the more valuable report to a historian and why?
2. Based on the reports alone, from the description of the fighting and casualties listed, was either side a victor at Glorieta Pass? Explain your answer.
3. How did each commander recognize the efforts of the men who fought under him in these battle reports?
4. Slough and Scurry filed these reports to their superior officers. What incidents from the battle might each have included to impress a supervisor? Do you think either of the officers' evaluations of the outcome of the battle was written to impress a supervisor? Why?
5. How do these reports of a battle differ from the personal accounts of soldiers like Peticolas and Hollister?

¹U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Vol. 9 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1883) 533-34.
²U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Vol. 9 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1883) 541-42.

Visual Evidence

Drawing 1: The battles of Apache Canyon and Glorieta Pass.

(National Park Service)

Map Key:
Battle of Apache Canyon--March 26, 1862:
A. Upper Battlefield--2:30 to 3:00pm
Union troops under Chivington encounter Confederate vanguard under Pyron. Confederates retreat. Union forces pursue the Confederates.
B. Lower Battlefield--3:30 to 4:30pm
Chivington continues flanking strategy. Fierce fighting erupts. Pyron's forces retreat to Johnson's Ranch. Chivington withdraws to Kozlowski's Stage Stop.
Battle of Glorieta Pass (Pigeon's Ranch Action)--March 28, 1862:
1. 8:00am--Union forces advance toward Confederates in Apache Canyon.
2. Confederates advance through Glorieta Pass.
3. Opening Action--10:00am to 11:00am
Confederates under Scurry, Union under Slough engage.
4. Main Battle--Noon to 4:00pm
Slough establishes strong defense. Scurry attacks. Slough pulls back to third position.
5. Third Position--4:00 to 5:00pm
Union holding action repulses Confederate's final charge. Slough pulls troops back to Kozlowski's Stage Stop.
Battle of Glorieta Pass (Canoncito Action)--March 28, 1862:
I. Chivington's flanking movement.
II. Chivington reaches the edge of the mesa overlooking Johnson's Ranch.
III. Union troops attack up canyon. Union forces burn wagons and supplies.
IV. Remaining Confederates escape towards Santa Fe.

Kozlowski's Ranch, Pigeon's Ranch, and Johnson's Ranch all served as stage stops on the Santa Fe Trail.

Questions for Drawing 1
1. List and describe in general terms the three actions depicted on Drawing 1.
2. Locate Kozlowski's Ranch, Pigeon's Ranch, and Johnson's Ranch. What role did each of these stage stops play in the battles? Why do you think they were utilized by the armies?
3. Both the Union and Confederate soldiers involved in this battle had marched long distances to get to Glorieta Pass. What physical effect might the distances involved in this battle have had on the soldiers?

Visual Evidence

Painting 1: Fight at Pigeon's Ranch.

(Roy Anderson, artist Courtesy of Pecos National Historical Park)

Questions for Painting 1
1. Look at the painting briefly and describe your first impression.
2. Look carefully at the painting. Describe the actions of the soldiers in the foreground of the picture. Describe the actions of the soldiers in the background of the picture.
3. How are the soldiers in the foreground using the terrain to their advantage? How are the soldiers in the background using the buildings to their advantage?
4. Compare Painting 1 with the description of the fight at Pigeon's Ranch in Readings 1 and 3. What information does the painting provide that the readings do not? What information do the readings provide that the painting lacks?

Visual Evidence

Photo 1: Pigeon's Ranch, 1880.

(Photo by Ben Wittide Courtesy Museum of New Mexico, Neg. No. 15783)

The first known photographs of the battlefield sites in Apache Canyon and Glorieta Pass were taken in 1880. This 1880 photo shows Pigeon's Ranch much the same as it probably appeared on March 28, 1862. The Santa Fe Trail runs in between ranch structures. Initial contact between the Texans and Pike's Peak miners occurred half a mile up the trail towards Glorieta Pass and west of the ranch, in the area shown in the upper right hand corner of the picture. Colonel Slough pulled his forces back to form a second defensive line of battle anchored at the center around the ranch buildings.

Questions for Photo 1
1. What are your immediate impressions of the terrain surrounding the ranch?
2. Why might the ranch have been a good defensive position with the Union cannon located on the trail?
3. Compare Photo 1 with Painting 1. What information does the photograph provide that the painting lacks? What information does the painting provide that the photograph lacks?

Visual Evidence

Photo 2: Glorieta Pass battlefield from Sharpshooters Ridge.

(Photo by Charles Bennett Courtesy Museum of New Mexico, Neg. No. 148655)

This photograph was taken in 1990 from Sharpshooter's Ridge, just north of Pigeon's Ranch. It was the location of the Union right flank during the last day's battle. Much of the land in and around the battlefield remains intact because of its isolation from cities and the nature of the terrain.

Questions for Photo 2
1. Why was Sharpshooter's Ridge a strategic position for the Colorado Volunteers serving in the Union army?
2. Do you think it is important to preserve the battlefield from any future development and change? Why or why not?

Putting It All Together

The following activities engage students in a number of ways that let them explore the impact of the Civil War on the people who lived through it. Students will also have an opportunity to examine the past military experience of people in their community, state, or region and be able to compare it with the events at Glorieta Pass, New Mexico.

Activity 1: Impact of the Confederate Invasion
Have the class examine Peticolas' diary entry in Reading 2 and discuss the following questions:
1. What evidence does he include about a local residence?
2. Why do you think there were no people at the house?
3. When the people who lived at the house returned to their home after the battle how do you think they might have felt when they discovered that soldiers had broken into their home and slept there using the woman's clothes like a blanket?
4. How do you think the residents might have felt if they returned to their ranch to find bodies of dead or wounded soldiers or fresh graves?
5. Do you think that individuals holding either strong Union or Confederate views would react differently than those who held to the frontier tradition of helping out those in need? Why or why not?

Activity 2: War Memorials in the Local Community
Explain to students that the National Park Service and other state and local organizations preserve the history of many of the country's Civil War battlefields. Monuments, military artifacts, historical markers, park interpreters, and cemeteries all help to tell the story of what happened. Ask students to research whether there was a Civil War or other historical battle that took place in their community, region, or state, locate it on a map, and determine if there are any markers, memorials, or parks commemorating the location. Have students report the information they learn in class presentations and debate the value of commemorating events from our past and preserving the places where these events occurred. For any of the battles students identified that are not commemorated by memorials or interpretive markers, have students write letters to local community officials to encourage them to commemorate this location. In the letters, the students could also suggest the appropriate text and/or design the commemorative markers.

The Battle of Glorieta Pass: A Shattered Dream--

By looking at The Battle of Glorieta Pass: A Shattered Dream, students will learn about the battle which ended the Confederacy's dream of expanding westward. Those interested in learning more will find that the Internet offers a variety of interesting materials.

Pecos National Historical Park
The Pecos National Historical Park is a unit of the National Park System which preserves 12,000 years of history from pre-Columbian pueblos to a 20th century ranch, as well as the site of the Battle of Glorieta Pass.

Fort Union National Monument
Fort Union National Monument is a unit of the National Park System. Fort Union National Monument: An Administrative History explains the role of the fort before, during, and after the Civil War and is illustrated with historic photographs.

The Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War
The Virginia Center for Digital History Valley of the Shadow project is an archive of thousands of primary source documents, including letters, newspapers, diaries, photographs, maps, church records, census records, military records, and reports pertaining to two communities, Augusta County, Virginia and Franklin County, Pennsylvania.

Library of Congress
The Library of Congress created a selected Civil War photographic history in their "American Memory" collection. Included on the site is a photographic time line of the Civil War covering major events for each year of the war.

The March To Santa Fe

Sibley and his Confederate forces, although meeting with some Union skirmishes along the way, made it to Albuquerque in March and then to Santa Fe a few days later.

However, they were moving so slowly they were not able to take the Union by surprise or capture their needed supplies. This slow movement also allowed the Union forces to receive backup from Colorado. The Union, with new manpower and seeing the weak Confederate forces, chose to strike. The two sides met at the Battle of Glorieta Pass.

The historical marker for the site of Glorieta Pass, the battlefield where the outcome of the New Mexico campaign was decided.

The Confederates were able to win something of a small victory. Ultimately, however, they were overcome by their lack of resources. The Union destroyed their incoming wagon train which was carrying their supplies and ammunition.

Sibley and his men had to retreat to Albuquerque to await a new load of much-needed supplies. The Union followed, meeting them in battle once again, on April 1. A sandstorm occurred, causing a diversion and allowing the Confederacy to flee, heading back to Melilla and then San Antonio.

During the retreat, hundreds of Confederate soldiers were left behind.

Santa Fe Spring Travel: History on the Santa Fe Trail – Battle of Glorieta Pass

Glorieta Pass by Schlacht von Courtesy of National Park Service

Battle of Glorieta Pass is an important event in the history of the New Mexico Territory in the American Civil War. The story of the Battle of Glorieta Pass needs to begin earlier than the days it was actually fought (March 26–28, 1862) as it became the decisive battle of the New Mexico Campaign during the American Civil War and as such has been dubbed the “Gettysburg of the West”. Originally intended by the Confederate forces to be a fatal blow to break the Union possession of the West along the base of the Rocky Mountains. The battle rightly named occurred in Glorieta Pass located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains -15 minutes southeast of Pueblo Bonito b&b inn- Santa Fe.

The lower portion of the New Mexico Territory had been largely neglected by both the federal government and the territorial government in Santa Fe even prior to the start of the civil war. As a result, Confederate sympathy was strong, in hopes of receiving better treatment by a new government. Following secession moves by residents, Confederate forces seized Mesilla and captured the federal troops there. In early 1862 the Confederacy established the Confederate Arizona Territory (southern halves of both modern Arizona and New Mexico). The territorial capital was Mesilla,45 miles from El Paso and near today’s modern city of Las Cruces. The strategic goals of the Confederates were to gain access to the gold and silver mines of California and the Colorado Territory as well as the seaports in Southern California, and thus evade the Union naval blockade.

Commanders of the New Mexico Civil War Campaign were Confederate Brig. Gen. Henry Hopkins Sibley and Union Col. Edward Canby. Sibley attempted to capture Fort Craig, completely outmaneuvering Canby at the Battle of Valverde (near Dixon NM) in February and driving him back into his fort, but Canby never surrendered. Sibley decided to bypassed the fort and advanced north into the Rio Grande Valley to occupy Santa Fe on March 10. Meanwhile, Canby remained at Fort Craig, hoping to cut Sibley’s logistical support from Texas while awaiting reinforcements. Sibley made his headquarters at the abandoned Union storehouse at Albuquerque.

In March Sibley sent a Confederate force of 200-300 Texans on an advance expedition over the Glorieta Pass. This pass was strategically located on the Santa Fe Trail (the major trade

Pecos Day Trip on the Old Santa Fe Trail

route of the day) at the southern tip of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains – southeast of Santa Fe. Control of this pass would allow Confederates to advance onto the High Plains and make an assault on Fort Union- a Union stronghold on the route northward over Raton Pass. Ft Union was pivotal as it was the distribution center located on the Santa Fe Trail and supplied over 38 Western Forts (artillery, food, medical, etc) as well providing protection for civilian travel and trade from the Apaches. Occupation of this Fort was to be a major element in the success of the Confederate Campaign. Sibley sent six companies to block the eastern end of Glorieta Pass, thus planning to cripple any Union defensive position in the Sangre de Cristos

On March 26, 1862 a skirmish began between advancing elements from Union and Confederate armies, with the main battle occurring on March 28. Confederate troops pushed Union forces back through the pass however they had to retreat when the confederate supply train (hidden in Canoncito at Apache Canyon) were destroyed by Union forces, killing or driving off most of the horses and mules. This devastating blow forced Sibley to withdraw entirely from the territory and back into Confederate Arizona and then Texas. Glorieta Pass thus represented the climax of the campaign and the end of the civil war in the Western US.

Historic Battle of Glorieta marker. Pecos National Monument

The Battle of Glorieta Pass and Canyoncito in Apache Canyon are easily visited by guests of Pueblo Bonito b&b inn- Santa Fe. Memorial and Historic markers border the road commemorating blood shed by Union army joined with Colorado and Utah volunteers as well as Confederate Americans. An easy 20 minute drive toward Pecos National Monument from our doorstep will highlight this important piece of American Civil War History. Couple your travels with a visit to Pecos National Monument to learn of the ancient ways of the Pecos Pueblo people, the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and the ruins of the Pecos Indians.

Battle of Glorieta Pass

The Battle of Glorieta Pass, fought from March 26 to 28, 1862 in northern New Mexico Territory, was the decisive battle of the New Mexico Campaign during the American Civil War. Dubbed the &ldquoGettysburg of the West&rdquo (a term that &ldquoserves the novelist better than the historian&rdquo [6] ) by some authors, it was intended as the killer blow by Confederate forces to break the Union possession of the West along the base of the Rocky Mountains. It was fought at Sangre de Cristo Mountains in what is now New Mexico, and was an important event in the history of the New Mexico Territory in the American Civil War.

There was a skirmish on March 26 between advance forces from each army, with the main battle occurring on March 28. Although the Confederates were able to push the Union force back through the pass, they had to retreat when their supply train was destroyed and most of their horses and mules killed or driven off. Eventually, the Confederates had to withdraw entirely from the territory back into Confederate Arizona and then Texas. Glorieta Pass thus represented the peak of the campaign.

New Mexico Campaign

The Confederacy had organized the Confederate Arizona Territory in 1862, a claim that included the southern halves of modern Arizona and New Mexico, after secession moves by residents. The territory had its capital at [7] [8]

The commanders of the New Mexico Campaign were the Confederate Brigadier General Henry Hopkins Sibley, and the Union Colonel Edward Canby. Sibley, whose mission was to capture Fort Craig, outmaneuvered Canby at the Battle of Valverde in February and drove Canby back to his fort, but failed to force Canby&rsquos surrender. Instead, Sibley bypassed the fort, and advanced up along the Rio Grande Valley to seize Santa Fe on March 10. Canby remained at Fort Craig to cut Sibley&rsquos logistical support from Texas and to await further reinforcements before resuming the offensive. Sibley set up his headquarters at the abandoned Union storehouse at Albuquerque.

In March, Sibley sent a Confederate force of 200 to 300 Texans under the command of Major Charles L. Pyron on an advance expedition over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains southeast of Santa Fe. [9] Control of the pass would allow the Confederates to advance onto the [10]

Opposing forces

Prior to the battle, Union forces performed a forced march from Denver, over [15]

Apache Canyon

Pyron&rsquos force of 300 camped at Apache Canyon, at one end of Glorieta Pass, leaving a picket post of fifty men at the summit of the pass. Chivington led 418 soldiers to the Pass and on the morning of March 26 moved out to attack. After noon, Chivington&rsquos men captured the picket post and then found the main force behind them. Chivington advanced on them, but their artillery fire threw him back. He regrouped, split his force to the two sides of the pass, caught the Confederates in a crossfire, and soon forced them to retire. Pyron retired about a mile and a half (not quite two and a half kilometers) to a narrow section of the pass and formed a defensive line before Chivington&rsquos men appeared. The Union forces flanked Pyron&rsquos men again and punished them with enfilade fire. Pyron ordered another retreat, but the withdrawal of the artillery caused the Confederates to become disorganized and start fighting in separate clusters of men. Chivington ordered a mounted Colorado company to make a frontal charge against the artillery this charge succeeded in capturing several Confederates and scattering the rest. Not knowing if Confederate reinforcements were nearby, Chivington then retired and went into camp at [16] [17]

No fighting occurred the next day as reinforcements arrived for both sides. Scurry&rsquos troops arrived at 3 am on March 27, swelling the Confederate force to about 1,100 men and five cannons as senior officer present, Scurry took command of the entire Confederate force. Thinking that Slough would attack again and expecting Green to arrive in the Union rear at any time, Scurry chose to remain in place for the day, digging rifle pits. [18] Slough arrived early in the morning of March 28 with about 900 more men, bringing the Union strength to 1,300.

Glorieta Pass

Glorieta Pass battlefield. This photograph was taken in 1990 from Sharpshooter&rsquos Ridge, just north of Pigeon&rsquos Ranch. It was the location of the Union right flank during the last day&rsquos battle.

Both Scurry and Slough decided to attack on March 28 and set out early to do so. Expecting the Confederates to remain in Apache Canyon, Slough sent Maj. Chivington with two infantry battalions, under Lewis and Wynkoop, out in a circling movement with orders to go hide out at Glorieta Pass and hit the Texans in the flank once Slough&rsquos main force had engaged their front. [19] Chivington did as ordered and his men waited above the Pass for Slough and the enemy to arrive. But instead of remaining at Apache Canyon as Slough had expected, Scurry advanced down the Canyon more rapidly than Slough had anticipated. Scurry expected the Union force was retreating back to Fort Union he intended to attack them until Green arrived. One cannon and a small detail was left at Johnson&rsquos Ranch, the rest of the Confederate force, with more than a thousand men, marched eastwards along the Santa Fe trail. [20]

Johnson&rsquos Ranch

Meanwhile, the leader of the New Mexican volunteers, Lt. Col. Manuel Chaves of the 2nd New Mexico Infantry, informed Chivington that his scouts had detected the Confederate supply train nearby at Johnson&rsquos Ranch. After watching them for an hour, Chivington&rsquos force descended the slope and attacked, routing or capturing the small baggage-guard with few casualties on either side. [27] They then looted and set afire eighty supply wagons and spiked the cannon, and either killed or drove off five hundred horses and mules before returning to Kozlowski&rsquos Ranch. [28] With no supplies with which to sustain his advance, Scurry had no choice but to retreat to Santa Fe, the first step on the long road back to San Antonio, Texas. The Federals thereby stopped further Confederate incursions into the Southwest. Glorieta Pass was the turning point of the war in the New Mexico Territory.

One of Chaves&rsquo scouts was Anastasio Duran. Duran was stationed with the Union Army at Fort Union. He was a resident of Chaperito, New Mexico. Duran was considered a &ldquo[29]

Parts of the battlefield are preserved in Controversy

Many New Mexicans disputed the view that Chivington was the hero of Johnson&rsquos Ranch. Some Santa Feans credited a Bureau of Indian Affairs official, James L. Collins, with suggesting the roundabout attack on the supply train. The truth is that Chivington had been sent out in the hope of making a flank attack, and the discovery of the supply train was a lucky accident. But Chivington was accused of almost letting the opportunity slip. The New Mexico Territorial Legislature adopted a resolution on January 23, 1864, that did not mention Chivington but asked President Lincoln to promote William H. Lewis and Asa B. Carey, both Regular Army officers, for &ldquodistinguished service&rdquo in the battle. On March 8, the Rio Abajo Press of Albuquerque editorialized against &ldquoCol. Chivington&rsquos strutting about in plumage stolen from Captain William H. Lewis&rdquo. (It did not mention Carey.) The editorial claimed that &ldquoSome one of the party&rdquo suggested the attack, that Chivington agreed after &ldquotwo hours persuasion&rdquo, and that Lewis led the attack while Chivington was &ldquoviewing the scene from afar&rdquo. [30]

A rather more serious allegation made against Chivington was that if he had hurried to reinforce Slough as soon as he heard the gunfire coming from Pigeon&rsquos Ranch, his 400 men might have swung the battle in favor of the Federals &ndash especially if he had led them against Scurry&rsquos flank, as ordered. [31]

Effects of the Federal victory

In the end, the Battle of Glorieta Pass proved remarkably important. First, despite the fact that the Confederates took the field, they were forced to retreat back to Santa Fe due to the destruction of their supplies and eventually abandon New Mexico Territory. [32] Second, the battle at Glorieta foiled Sibley&rsquos plan to obtain his key objective: the capture of the major Federal base at Fort Union. The fall of Fort Union would have broken Federal resistance in New Mexico, and compelled Union forces to retire north of Raton Pass and back into Colorado Territory. [33]

In the end, the dreams of a Confederate stronghold in the Southwest were impractical New Mexico did not provide enough food or sustenance for any prolonged Confederate occupation. [34] Furthermore, the approach of the Federal &ldquoCalifornia Column&rdquo eastward through the New Mexico Territory during the summer of 1862 would have seriously jeopardized Confederate control of the region.

Battlefield preservation

In 1993, the Congressionally appointed Civil War Sites Advisory Commission issued its &ldquoReport on the Nation&rsquos Civil War Battlefields.&rdquo [35] The Commission was tasked with identifying the nation&rsquos historically significant Civil War sites, determining their importance, and providing recommendations for their preservation to Congress.

Of the roughly 10,500 actions of the U.S. Civil War, [36] 384 (3.7%) were identified by the Commission as principal battles and rated according to their significance and threat of loss. The Battle of Glorieta Pass received the highest rating from the Commission, Priority I (Class A). Class A battlefields are principal strategic operations having a direct impact on the course of the war. With this rating the Commission placed Glorieta Pass on the same level with battles such as Gettysburg and Antietam. The Priority I rating identified Glorieta Pass as being not only one of the most important, but also one of the most highly endangered battlefields in the country. Only 10 other battlefields received the Priority I (Class A) rating. The Commission recommended that Congress focus its preservation efforts on Priority I, nationally significant battlefields. [37]

Since 1993 portions of the Glorieta Pass Battlefield have become a unit of the National Park Service. The Glorieta Pass unit (Pigeon&rsquos Ranch) comprises roughly 20% of the total battlefield. The remaining 80% is in private ownership. Glorieta Pass Battlefield is managed by [38]

The Glorieta Pass Battlefield is also designated as a National Historic Landmark &ndash a site possessing exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. Fewer than 2,500 historic places in the nation bear this distinction. [39]

Depictions in popular culture

The battle is described in the historical novel Glorieta Pass by P. G. Nagle.

The Battle of Glorieta

Kozlowski's Ranch was an important spot along the Santa Fe trail. It was here that Union forces under Maj. Chivington prepared to move down the trail to stop the Confederate forces advancing into the New Mexico territory. After the battle, hospital tents were set up to tend to the wounded.

Henry Sibley Library of Congress

Two weeks before the great Battle of Shiloh, Union and Confederate troops in the far-off New Mexico Territory fought the key battle of the Civil War’s westernmost campaign. At stake was control of the vast, sparsely populated but mineral rich region that is today’s Southwest and Intermountain West. The invasion of New Mexico by Confederate Texans was probably the South’s only attempt to conquer and occupy Union territory. It was also one of very few, if not the only, logistically driven campaigns of the war, thanks to New Mexico’s harsh conditions: its remoteness, bare subsistence agriculture, few roads and lack of navigable rivers. Obviously, any Confederate commander planning to invade would have to take these factors into account.

Brig. Gen. Henry H. Sibley, a former regular army officer serving in New Mexico, resigned his commission and traveled to the Confederate capital to present such a plan to Jefferson Davis. Sibley proposed to lead a mounted force to New Mexico, live off the land, defeat the Federal forces encountered and secure the military supplies and natural resources of the territory (encompassing modern New Mexico and Arizona, as well as part of Nevada) for the Confederacy. He would then march north, capture the rich mines of the Colorado Territory and proceed west through Salt Lake City and across the Sierras to occupy the California seaports of Los Angeles and San Diego. In one stroke, Sibley would bring the entire Southwest, its gold and silver and the terminus of the transcontinental railroad under Confederate control. Though farfetched, the scheme cost the Southern treasury little and retained the possibility of a sizable return. It was approved, and Davis commissioned Sibley a brigadier general, giving him authority to raise a mounted brigade in Texas for the campaign.

Sibley was poorly suited to the task. A heavy-drinking dragoon officer, his soldiers came to describe him as a “walking whiskey keg,” or a dreamer prone to let the morrow take care of itself. Nonetheless, during the late summer and early autumn of 1861, he raised a brigade of three mounted regiments, the 4th, 5th and 7th Texas Mounted Volunteers, along with supporting artillery and supply units.

These troops were among the best volunteers answering the Southern call to arms and soon matured into excellent soldiers. Field officers were almost all experienced as Indian fighters or Mexican War veterans. Col. James Reily commanded the 4th Texas, but was absent on diplomatic duties in Mexico during the New Mexico Campaign, and Lt. Col. William R. Scurry led the regiment in his stead. Prominent state politician and hero Tom Green was colonel of the 5th Texas, while Col. William Steele commanded the 7th Texas.

In late October Sibley marched west from San Antonio, Texas, along the Overland Stage Road to abandoned Federal Fort Bliss, near present-day El Paso, arriving just before Christmas 1861. Soon the straggling Confederate column stretched farther into southern New Mexico along the Rio Grande.

The invaders had been preceded that summer by Col. John R. Baylor and a handful of troops from the 2nd Texas Mounted Rifles and associated artillery units. After capturing the territory’s southernmost Federal post, Fort Fillmore, Baylor called for reinforcements to help secure his conquests from Union forces at Fort Craig. Sibley’s brigade was that reinforcement, though the general quickly supplanted Baylor as overall commander.

With approximately 2,500 mounted men, 15 pieces of artillery, and an extensive supply train, Sibley anticipated an easy conquest of New Mexico. His immediate goal was the capture of Fort Craig to the north, which would open the road to the Federal supply depot at Albuquerque and the territorial capital at Santa Fe, along with nearby Fort Marcy. The Texans would then advance into northeastern New Mexico and capture the Federal supply center at Fort Union. Capture of the military goods and food there was absolutely necessary for Sibley’s plan to invade Colorado and secure the wealth of its booming mining regions for the Confederacy. In early February 1862, Sibley left Col. Steele and half the 7th Texas at Fort Bliss and moved north.

In the interim, the Union commander of the Department of New Mexico, Col. Edward R. S. Canby, a calm and experienced Mexican War veteran, had called up militia and volunteer forces to augment the garrison at Fort Craig. He also requested that the governor of Colorado send to the defense of New Mexico “as large a force of Colorado volunteers as can possibly be spared.” By February, an independent company of Coloradoans arrived, bringing Canby’s strength to approximately 3,800 men, some 1,200 of them seasoned regulars. Further north, an entire regiment of rugged miners and frontiersmen, the 1st Colorado Volunteers, moved south to help hold New Mexico for the Union.

Upon reaching Fort Craig, Sibley realized the position was too strong to be taken by direct assault and decided to bypass the post, threaten its supply lines north to Albuquerque and Fort Union, and force the enemy into a major battle to keep those lines open.

Lt. Col. William R. Scurry

That plan worked. The Battle of Valverde, fought in the Rio Grande bottomlands north of Fort Craig on February 21, was the largest and westernmost battle of the Civil War campaign in New Mexico. The fortunes of war swayed repeatedly, but by evening the Texans had captured one of the two Union artillery batteries and driven Canby back to Fort Craig. It was an impressive tactical success for the Confederates, but it was a Pyrrhic victory. The Union forces were damaged, but not destroyed, and Fort Craig stood across the Rebels’ supply line.

The Texans faced a serious dilemma. They could try to retreat back to the scanty supplies left behind in southern New Mexico, although a still-strong enemy force now lay across their line of retreat, or they could continue northward, leaving that force in their rear and hoping to capture Federal supplies at Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Fort Union. Encouraged by his key lieutenants, and carrying only five days’ rations for men and animals, Sibley decided to press on.

The Confederate advance party entered Albuquerque on March 2, only to find that Union forces had removed or destroyed almost all the military supplies there. Nevertheless, they raised the Confederate flag over the town plaza while a small band played “Dixie.” Sibley established his headquarters and a hospital near the burned and abandoned Federal depot, sent soldiers scouring the vicinity for supplies and hastened an advance party of the 2nd and 5th Texas to occupy Santa Fe and hopefully secure additional supplies.

The Confederate presence disturbed many residents of the capital. Mother Magdalen Hayden of the Loretto Academy wrote:

However, Santa Fe was almost devoid of useful supplies, with nearby Fort Marcy abandoned and the territorial government removed to the protection of Fort Union.

Still, through purchase or confiscation, the Texans managed to accumulate about 40 days’ worth of supplies, which Sibley considered adequate to continue his advance to Fort Union. His vanguard, commanded by Maj. Charles L. Pyron of the 2nd Texas and augmented by an irregular unit known as the “Brigands” or “Company of Santa Fe Gamblers,” was already in the capital and on the Santa Fe Trail, the military highway to Fort Union. Sibley had already sent the bulk of his brigade, a field column commanded by Lt. Col. Scurry of the 4th Texas, to the east side of the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque in preparation for the advance. On March 12, soldiers of this column, approximately 1,000 men of the 4th and 7th Texas regiments, with accompanying artillery and wagon train, began moving toward the Santa Fe Trail, some twelve miles east of the capital. Sibley remained in Albuquerque with more than half of the 5th Texas and a company of the 4th Texas guarding the supplies.

Soon Pyron heard persistent rumors from civilian travelers along the Santa Fe Trail that a Union force was advancing toward him. An aggressive commander, he left the town early on the morning of March 25 and marched to meet his oncoming enemies in the mountains southeast of Santa Fe, where the constricted canyons along the Santa Fe Trail might neutralize the Federals’ anticipated numerical advantage. By nightfall, Pyron camped near Johnson’s Ranch, a way station near the present-day village of Canoncito. Though inaccurate, his information was based in fact, and the enemy was near.

Maj. John Chivington

While the Confederates moved slowly northward after the Battle of Valverde, encountering harsh, snowy winter weather along with much resulting sickness, the Federals had not been idle. In addition to the independent company of Colorado volunteers that had already seen action at Valverde, a newly raised full regiment of reinforcements was on the march. The soldiers of the 1st Colorado Volunteers were mostly rugged miners and frontiersmen from the mining districts around Denver City. They were accustomed to loose discipline, firearms and hard work. Their company grade officers had similar backgrounds and generally related easily to their men. Denver attorney John P. Slough, inexperienced in military matters but flexible and well read, was appointed colonel of the regiment, with Lt. Col. Samuel F. Tappan as his second-in-command. The remaining field officer was Maj. John M. Chivington. Often referred to as the “Fighting Parson,” he had been a missionary and was an administrator for the Methodist Church in Colorado when he was chosen to round out the regiment’s roster of field officers. His gregarious nature was popular with both enlisted men and officers.

In late February 1862, the new Union regiment, over 900 strong and with its Company F mounted and equipped as cavalry, left Denver City to reinforce Fort Union, 300 miles to the south. Experiencing the same nasty, late-winter weather that had also assailed the Texans in the mountains east of Albuquerque, the exhausted volunteers reached the Federal post on March 11. For a week and a half, their only major occupation was to be issued uniforms and arms for the upcoming fight they expected.

Col. John Slough Library of Congress

The 1st Colorado volunteers and the regulars garrisoning Fort Union were anxious to find and fight the Rebels. Though the Department of New Mexico’s overall commander, Col. Canby, had warned against leaving that vital post undefended in the face of the oncoming Confederates, Col. Slough, senior in date of rank to the fort’s commander, Col. Gabriel Paul, decided that defense of Fort Union was best accomplished by advancing a field column westward toward Santa Fe, where the Rebels were reported to be. He would then, in compliance with Canby’s orders, “act independently against the enemy” and harass, obstruct the movements of and perhaps cut off the supplies of his foe through what was essentially a reconnaissance in force. On March 22, the Union field column moved south on the Santa Fe Trail, the only useful road to the capital, leaving a handful of defenders at Fort Union.

Slough had approximately 1,340 men under his command, with three companies of regular army infantry and a squadron of regular cavalry strengthening and lending experience to the raw 1st Colorado. Moreover, Capt. John F. Ritter commanded a four-piece “heavy” battery of six-pounder guns and 12-pounder field howitzers, while Lt. Ira W. Claflin led a “light” battery of four 12-pounder mountain howitzers. A 100-wagon supply and support train accompanied the field column.

The Santa Fe Trail between Fort Union and Santa Fe was a military road, rebuilt and maintained by the army and intended to facilitate travel of military units between those two points. The Federal column thus made good time, reaching Bernal Springs, some 45 miles out of Fort Union on the afternoon of March 24. Here the road turned abruptly to the west and northwest toward Glorieta Pass. Here also Slough organized an advance party of 418 volunteer and regular infantry and cavalry, under command of Maj. Chivington, to advance toward Santa Fe and discover the whereabouts of the Confederates.

Chivington’s vanguard reached Kozlowski’s Ranch, a major way station on the Santa Fe Trail late on March 25. Simultaneously, Maj. Pyron’s Texan vanguard was making camp at Johnson’s Ranch, near the western entrance to Apache Canyon and Glorieta Pass, while Scurry’s main body of Confederates was near the village of Galisteo, 12 miles to the south. Since the Federal party that night slept near the eastern entrance to that same canyon and pass, if either force or both continued to advance, a clash was inevitable.

View of a portion of Kozlowski's Ranch near the Santa Fe Trail. Rob Shenk

After a very cold night, clear dawn brought the shivering soldiers around their fires for a quick breakfast. During the night, both Pyron and Chivington had sent small parties to search for their enemies. The Texans were captured by the Federal party, giving Chivington good information on his foe’s location. Despite the lack of reconnaissance, Pyron decided to continue slowly east in search of the Union force without attempting to join or contact the main Confederate column camped 12 miles to the south. He had approximately 420 men with whom to oppose Chivington – his own 2nd Texas Mounted Rifles battalion, a four-company battalion of the 5th Texas Mounted Volunteers, three small companies of locally recruited “irregulars,” including the Brigands, as well as the artillery support of two six-pounder guns.

Chivington was also anxious to locate his foe. With approximately 404 men of his advance party, he left Kozlowski’s Ranch at about 8:00 a.m., about the same time the Rebels started. His force included 170 Colorado infantrymen and 234 cavalry troopers from the regular squadron and from Co. F, 1st Colorado, that regiment’s mounted unit. After marching five miles, the Union vanguard passed Pigeon’s Ranch, another major way station on the Santa Fe Trail, then crested Glorieta Pass and descended into the eastern reaches of Apache Canyon. At the same time, Pyron had halted less than two miles ahead, on an open, flat shelf north of Galisteo Creek. Many of the Texans who had not slept during the cold night immediately fell asleep, while their commander sent a small party of Brigands, with his two cannons, ahead to try again to locate the Federals.

View of Apache Canyon, where much of the early fighting during the Battle of Glorieta Pass occurred. Rob Shenk

They were themselves “located.” Around a sharp bend in the road came Chivington’s advance party, which immediately captured several Brigands and spread out across the Santa Fe Trail to confront the remainder, who may indeed also have been asleep. Two rounds from the accompanying artillery passed over the Federals’ heads. The cannons and Brigands retreated in haste back to their main force, now rudely awakened. In pursuit came the Union infantry and cavalry, which, at about 2:30 p.m., halted in and across the road as a Confederate battle line quickly appeared on the open shelf where the Texans had slumbered. Chivington’s infantry outflanked the Rebel line, but his cavalry failed to charge the wavering enemy, and Pyron was able to withdraw to another defensive position a mile or so immediately west of Apache Creek, an insignificant dry gully spanned by a short, wooden bridge. With his two artillery pieces near the Santa Fe Trail, and his dismounted troopers across the valley floor and up the mountainsides north and south of Galisteo Creek, the Confederate commander awaited an attack by his enemy.

This time Maj. Chivington’s tactic worked perfectly. Sending regular and volunteer soldiers around both flanks of the Texan line, he waited for those units to get into position, then sent the 1st Colorado’s Co. F galloping down the Santa Fe Trail, jumping the destroyed bridge across Apache Creek and through the center of the Rebel line. The artillery limbered up and retreated west to Pyron’s camp at Johnson’s Ranch, followed by those Texans who could run or ride. In the aftermath, the Federals captured 71 Texans, the greatest Confederate loss of the New Mexico campaign. The fighting lasted only until about 4:00 p.m., with equal losses on both sides – four or five killed and 20 wounded. At dusk, Chivington withdrew to Pigeon’s Ranch while the main Federal column approached Kozlowski’s Ranch.

During the night of March 26–27, both vanguard commanders sent word of their fight back to their main columns. Both Lt. Col. Scurry and Col. Slough hurried to concentrate their forces for renewed battle the next day. No attack came, so the Texans fortified their Johnson’s Ranch camp with earthen embankments while the Federals continued their concentration at Kozlowski’s Ranch.

On the morning of March 28, Scurry left one cannon and a handful of men to guard his supplies and field hospital, hoping that with the bulk of his force he could defeat his enemy and continue on to Fort Union and its vital supplies. He had about 1,300 troops available, including nine of the 10 companies of the 4th Texas, marching as infantry since the Battle of Valverde, elements of the 5th and 7th Texas and a company-sized force formed from a portion of Pyron’s 2nd Texas battalion and other “irregular” units. Two 12-pounder field howitzers and a six-pounder gun provided artillery support for the Confederate column.

Slough’s federal force was almost identical in number. All ten 1st Colorado companies were available, along with a regular infantry battalion and cavalry squadron. In addition, both Ritter’s heavy battery of field howitzers and guns and Claflin’s light battery of mountain howitzers strengthened the Federal force. Perhaps unwisely, the Union supply train accompanied the troops.

Confederate Lt. Col. William Scurry leads his Confederate forces in an assault on Pigeon's Ranch. Wayne Justus,

Shortly before 9:00 a.m. Slough broke camp and marched west along the Santa Fe Trail, intending to “obstruct the movement of and cut off the supplies of” the Confederate force threatening Fort Union. His tactical plan was, however, more complex. He directed Chivington to take a 500-man party of regular and volunteer infantry across Glorieta Mesa, south of the Santa Fe Trail, and march west to a point above Johnson’s Ranch, where he anticipated the Texan camp. Meanwhile Slough would lead the remaining 800 soldiers along the road, confronting the Rebels in their camp while Chivington descended on the Texan flank in a coordinated attack. It was a standard Napoleonic plan dependent on Scurry’s force being still encamped at Johnson’s Ranch. It wasn’t.

Instead, as Chivington’s flanking party left the road and the main column paused to further organize at Pigeon’s Ranch, the advance pickets of each force encountered one another along the Santa Fe Trail, bringing on, about 11:00 a.m., the key battle of the Civil War in New Mexico. The Confederate foot soldiers, followed by dismounted horsemen and artillery, quickly deployed and unlimbered in and across the road and pushed back a small Union artillery and cavalry force sent ahead of the main force. Slough and his second-in-command Lt. Col. Tappan responded by strengthening the center of a new Union defensive line with their eight cannons and sending cavalry, as well as the available 1st Colorado companies, to support the artillery and form a reasonably strong line parallel to that being extended south of the road by the Confederates. The opponents opened a furious fire in these positions for some three hours. The Texans, outnumbering the Federals by about 1,300 to 800, gradually outflanked the Union line.

Realizing the strength of his foe, Col. Slough dispatched a messenger to find Chivington’s flanking party. He also withdrew from the positions west of Pigeon’s Ranch and formed a new defensive line north and south of the road through the ranch buildings and corrals, with artillery forming the center of this new, strong line. Scurry also used this time to reorganize his force, planning a coordinated, three-pronged assault on the new Federal line. By 2:00 p.m. he attacked the southern and northern flanking parties failed to break the Union lines, however, and Scurry himself led two ferocious assaults down the center, both blown apart by the concentrated Federal artillery and infantry fire. Finally, almost two hours later, Maj. Pyron, leading the Confederate left flanking party succeeded, and a third charge against the enemy center also succeeded, causing Slough to abandon the positions around Pigeon’s Ranch and fall back down the Santa Fe Trail to a final defensive line across that road. The Rebels followed, but darkness and exhaustion brought an end to the Battle of Glorieta, along with terrible news for the Texans.

While fighting raged around Pigeon’s Ranch, Maj. Chivington’s flanking party, knowing nothing of that conflict, descended on the Confederate camp, spiked the cannon left in its defense, captured and paroled any Texan soldiers present, then burned the 80 wagons containing everything the Confederates needed to continue the fight in New Mexico. Chivington’s men returned to their companions late in the night, having won their part of the Battle of Glorieta and the Civil War in the Far West.

The Confederates retreated to Santa Fe to recover their strength and replace their supplies, and plan another advance on Fort Union. They were unsuccessful and soon began an extended and epic withdrawal from the frontier territory they had thought would be easy to conquer and occupy.

The Battle of Glorieta could then be seen as a clear Union tactical and strategic victory. Although the fighting around Pigeon’s Ranch was a draw, the Texans having gained two miles of Santa Fe Trail while taking almost identical casualties as their foe (some 48 killed and 60 wounded), the destruction of the Rebels’ supply train was an obvious and conclusive Union success.

Colonel Slough’s strategic goal had been met he had stopped the Confederate advance on Fort Union. The Rebels soon retreated back to Texas, never to return, and the Battle of Glorieta truly represented the high-water mark of the Confederate invasion of Federal territory in the Far West, and, in that context, although much smaller than the more famous eastern battle fought a year later, it can easily be seen as the Gettysburg of the West.

Tight Supplies in a Hostile Region

Sibley and his men soon felt the pinch of tight supplies and the indifference or outright hostility of New Mexico residents in the areas they had captured. Still, Fort Craig was an island of blue surrounded by southerners and cut off from any immediate aid. All that stood between Sibley and his triumphant march to California were the troops at Fort Union, 60 miles east of Santa Fe. Fort Union had become the gathering point for all the Union troops flushed out during Sibley’s northern ride up the river, but Sibley, who had been stationed at Fort Union before the war, felt that he knew the fort’s weaknesses and would have an easy victory once he reached it.

Unknown to Sibley, Federal supporters had begun making moves to reinforce Fort Union. Colorado’s acting governor, Lewis L. Weld, ordered seven companies of the Union’s 1st Colorado Volunteer Infantry Regiment stationed at Denver and three companies from the Indian country southeast of the city to march through heavy snow and relieve the fort. Thrashing through waist-deep snowdrifts, the troops covered the last 92 miles in 36 hours, a grueling pace that caused many horses and mules to drop dead in harness. The reinforcements, led by Colonel John P. Slough, arrived at Fort Union on March 11. One of the Colorado companies was mounted the remainder of the 950 men had walked over 400 miles in 13 days.

On March 22, Slough left the fort, heading west with 1,342 men and two four-gun batteries. They moved along the Old Santa Fe Trail, leaving only a small detachment behind at the fort. Canby, unaware of Slough’s arrival, had ordered Colonel Gabriel R. Paul to hold the fort until Canby joined him and to not engage in any major battles. Slough either did not receive, or else ignored, the order. Meanwhile, a Confederate force comprised of six companies of Baylor’s troops, four companies of the 5th Regiment, three locally recruited scout companies, and a battery of two 6-pounders headed east under the command of Major Charles L. Pyron.


Union Edit

Union forces in the Department of New Mexico were led by Colonel Edward Canby, who headquartered at Fort Craig. Under his immediate command at the fort were five regiments of New Mexico volunteer infantry, [6] a company of the 2nd Colorado Infantry, two provisional artillery units, eleven companies of the 5th, 7th, and 10th U.S. Infantry, [7] six companies of the 2nd and 3rd U.S. Cavalry, and two regiments New Mexico militia. At Fort Union, under the command of Colonel Gabriel Paul, were the 1st Colorado Infantry, a company of the 2nd Colorado Infantry, a battalion of the 5th U.S. Infantry Regiment, a detachment from the 1st and 3rd U.S. Cavalry, a company of the 4th New Mexico Infantry, and two provisional artillery batteries. [ citation needed ]

Confederate Edit

The Confederate Army of New Mexico was led by Brigadier General Henry Hopkins Sibley. His units included the 4th Texas Mounted Rifles and 5th Texas Mounted Rifles (both of which had batteries of mountain howitzers), five companies of the 7th Texas Mounted Rifles, six companies of the 2nd Texas Mounted Rifles with an attached artillery battery, and several companies of Arizona Confederate mounted volunteers. Following his arrival in New Mexico in January, Sibley organized his artillery into a battalion under the command of Captain Trevanion Teel, whom he promoted to major. [8] Five additional companies of the 7th Texas arrived near the end of February and served as the garrison of Fort Thorn at Mesilla. [ citation needed ]

For years, residents in the southern part of the New Mexico Territory had been complaining that the territorial government in Santa Fe was too far away to properly address their concerns. The withdrawal of the Regular army at the beginning of the war confirmed to the residents that they were being abandoned. Secession conventions in Mesilla and Tucson voted to join the territory to the Confederacy in March 1861, and formed militia companies to defend themselves. [9] [10] In July 1861, Lieutenant Colonel John Baylor led a battalion of Texas mounted rifles into the southern portion of the New Mexico Territory, entering Mesilla and repulsing the attack of the Union garrison of Fort Fillmore at the First Battle of Mesilla. The victorious Baylor established the Confederate Territory of Arizona south of the 34th parallel. [ citation needed ]

The 1862 campaign was a continuation of this strategy formulated by Sibley in a plan presented to Confederate president Jefferson Davis. Sibley's strategy called for an invasion along the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, seizing the Colorado Territory (then at the height of the Colorado Gold Rush) and Fort Laramie (the most important United States Army garrison along the Oregon Trail), before turning westward to attack the mineral-rich Nevada and California. He planned to take minimal supplies along with him, intending to live off the land and to capture the stockpiles of supplies at Union forts and depots along the Santa Fe Trail. Once these territories had been secured, Sibley intended to take the northern Mexican states of Chihuahua, Sonora, and Lower California, either through purchase or by invasion. [11]

Sibley's advance Edit

On December 20, 1861, General Sibley, in command of the Army of New Mexico, issued a proclamation taking possession of New Mexico in the name of the Confederate States. [12] He called on the citizens to abandon their allegiance to the Union and to join the Confederacy, warning that those "who co-operate with the enemy will be treated accordingly, and must be prepared to share their fate." [13] In February 1862, Sibley advanced northward from Fort Thorn up the valley of the Rio Grande, toward the territorial capital of Santa Fe and the Union storehouses at Fort Union. Along the way, Sibley detached 54 men to occupy Tucson. The Confederate advance followed the west bank of the river via Fort Craig, which was garrisoned by a 3,800-man Union force under Canby. Knowing he could not leave such a large Union force behind him as he advanced, Sibley attempted to lure the Union forces out into battle on favorable terms.

On February 19, Sibley camped at the sandhills east of the fort with the intention of cutting the Union lines of communications with Santa Fe. On February 20, the Union forces advanced from the fort but were hit with heavy Confederate artillery and were forced to retreat. The next day the Confederates marched to Valverde Ford, six miles (9.7 km) north of the fort, in an attempt to outflank the Union forces. Canby attacked, but the Union forces were driven back by the Confederates under Colonel Thomas Green, who took command after Sibley was indisposed (and possibly drunk). [14] Canby's forces retreated to Fort Craig but refused to surrender.

Since he had only enough rations for three days, Sibley could not attempt a siege nor retreat back to Mesilla. Instead, he chose to disengage from the fort and continued slowly northward towards Santa Fe, on the other side of the border in New Mexico Territory, hoping to reach the supplies located there and also to cut Fort Craig's lines of supplies and communications. Due to the loss of horses at Valverde, the 4th Texas had to be dismounted, with the remaining horses, already in a weakened state, distributed among the other units. They also had lost much of their transportation in the battle at Valverde, causing them to carry the wounded. All this caused the column to travel slower than it could have. Canby meanwhile attempted to trap Sibley's army between his own force and Fort Union. He disbanded his militia and most of the volunteer units, and sent most of his mounted units northward to act as partisans and to "obstruct [Sibley's] movements if he should advance, and cut off his supplies, by removing from his route the cattle, grain, and other supplies in private hands that would aid him in sustaining his force." [15]

Starting on February 23, the Confederate forces reached Albuquerque on March 2 and Santa Fe on March 13, but due to their slow advance they failed to capture most of the Union supplies located at these cities. The slow advance also allowed reinforcements from Colorado under the command of Colonel John Slough to reach Fort Union, until this time under Paul's command. Since he had been commissioned colonel before Paul was commissioned the same rank, Slough claimed seniority and took command of the fort. Canby had already ordered Paul to "not move from Fort Union to meet me until I advise you of the route and point of junction." [16] After learning of the change in command, Canby told Slough to "advise me of your plans and movements, that I may cooperate." He also instructed Slough to "harass the enemy by partisan operations. Obstruct his movements and cut off his supplies." [17] Slough interpreted this as an authorization to advance, which he did with 1,342 men from the fort's garrison.

The Union and Confederate forces met at the Battle of Glorieta Pass on March 28. The Confederates were able to push the Union force through the pass, but had to retreat following the destruction of their wagon train, which contained nearly all of their supplies and ammunition. Sibley pulled his army back to Albuquerque to await reinforcements from Texas. Slough, receiving orders from Canby to return immediately to Fort Union, also retreated, fearing a court martial if he disobeyed this order. Once he arrived at the fort, he resigned his commission and returned to Colorado, leaving Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Tappan in command of the regiment and Paul once again in command of the fort. [18]

Sibley's retreat Edit

Canby initially ordered the Union force to retreat back to Fort Union, but after discovering the weakness of the Confederates he ordered a concentration of Union forces small garrisons were left at Forts Craig and Union, and the main forces were to rendezvous near Albuquerque. With limited supplies and ammunition and outnumbered, Sibley chose to retreat to Texas, leaving Albuquerque on April 12 after a small fight a few days earlier. On April 14, Canby encountered the Confederates at Peralta, where the armies skirmished until 2:00 p.m. when a sandstorm permitted the Confederates to withdraw to the west bank.

Cut off from retreat down the east bank by Union forces, Sibley's army was forced to retreat down the west bank or through the mountains to the west in search of food and water, during which hundreds of Confederates straggled and fell behind. During the retreat, looting, destruction and confiscation of food, and forage by the desperate Confederate soldiers drove New Mexican citizens to resistance along the line of march down the west bank of the Rio Grande. After reaching Mesilla the retreat continued to Franklin and then to San Antonio.

A rearguard of four companies of the 7th Texas Mounted Rifles and several companies of Arizona Confederates (consolidated under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Philemon Herbert as the 1st Arizona Mounted Rifles Battalion) was left at Fort Thorn, commanded by Colonel William Steele. [19]

With the advance of the California Column closing in from the west, and General Edward Canby's Army approaching from the north, guerillas from the Mesilla area rose against the confiscations of the 7th Texas Mounted Rifles and 1st Arizona Mounted Rifles left to garrison the Mesilla Valley. The Second Battle of Mesilla was a skirmish fought in the desert near Mesilla on July 1, 1862 between Confederate Arizona rebels and pro Union New Mexican militia. [20] The engagement ended with a Union victory and with the threat of the more numerous Union forces closing in, prompted the rebels to withdraw from Mesilla, retreating into Texas in early July.

Following the Confederate retreat, units from the Union California Column under the command of Colonel James Carleton occupied several forts in western Texas. Canby was promoted to brigadier general and reassigned to the eastern theater. He was succeeded as commander of the department by Carleton, who was also promoted to brigadier general. The best men from the New Mexico volunteers were formed into the 1st New Mexico Cavalry with Kit Carson in command the regiment spent the rest of the war fighting Indian tribes in the territory. [ citation needed ]

Although the Confederates continued to consider Arizona part of the Confederacy and made several plans for another invasion, they were never able to put these plans into execution. Sibley's brigade would be called by many the "Arizona Brigade" and continued to serve in various areas in Texas and Louisiana during the remainder of the war. Sibley would eventually be demoted to directing supply trains in 1863. [ citation needed ]

Approximately 678 acres (2.74 km 2 ) of the Glorieta Pass Battlefield is today protected within the Pecos National Historical Park, and the National Park Service allows access on the park's Civil War sites only to permit-holders and guided tours. [21] There are numerous interpretive signs and exhibits around the park and along nearby roads including Interstate 25, which parallels the Santa Fe National Historic Trail through Glorieta Pass.

The Valverde battlefield was commemorated by a historical marker along a nearby highway in the corridor known as the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, now a National Historic Trail. [22]

The Battle of Peralta (loosely depicted in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) was commemorated by a state historical marker [23] at the north end of the village, now surrounded by suburban development from metropolitan Albuquerque.

The Battle of Albuquerque was memorialized on the city's Old Town Plaza including plaques and cannons. [24]

The First and Second Battle of Mesilla have an interpretive sign on the Plaza in historic Mesilla, [25] which was the capital of the Confederate Arizona territory during the Civil War, but is now part of metropolitan Las Cruces in far southern New Mexico.

New Mexico Battleground Marks Western Limit of Confederate Thrust : History: Glorieta Pass was as far as Dixie went toward conquering the riches of the territories. The site will be part of a national historical park.

The Battle of Glorieta Pass is still being fought nearly 130 years after the bloody Civil War encounter. Historians can’t agree as to who won.

One outcome is clear: The National Park Service is a winner. President Bush has authorized a $400,000 appropriation to buy the battleground on Pigeon’s Ranch, which is privately owned, a year after he signed a bill creating the Glorieta Unit of the Pecos National Historical Park in northern New Mexico.

Linda Stoll, superintendent of the park, says that should be enough to buy 10 acres of the battlefield from the nonprofit Conservation Fund, plus the adjacent parcels.

But who won at Glorieta on March 28, 1862, in the so-called Gettysburg of the West?

The battle was significant because it was as far as Confederate troops got in their plan to conquer the gold and silver fields of Colorado, Nevada and California and to seize the ports of Los Angeles and San Diego.

Their advance halted that cold day in a little valley less than 20 miles east of Santa Fe among rolling hills bisected by the Santa Fe Trail, now New Mexico Highway 50. At the time, the land was owned by rancher Alexander Valle, a Frenchman nicknamed “Pigeon.” Valle’s adobe still stands beside the road.

Marc Simmons of Cerrillos, author of 25 books on New Mexico history, says the Union forces retreated that day, leaving the battlefield to the Confederates.

“Whoever holds the battlefield after the battle is the victor,” Simmons says.

“Yes, but ,” says historian Don Alberts, author of “Rebels on the Rio Grande.”

“The case could be made that the reason the Union guys went back to their camp is that’s where their camp was, where their food was. Certainly the Texans weren’t defeated at the main Pigeon’s Ranch battle, but it’s hardly a victory, either. Therefore it’s a drawn engagement as far as I’m concerned.”

Many believe the Battle of Glorieta Pass was decided 3 miles west of Pigeon’s Ranch, where a Union flank of about 300 men destroyed a Confederate supply convoy of 70 to 80 wagons.

“They lost everything they owned,” Alberts said.

The rebels pulled back to Texas shortly thereafter.

“You don’t retreat 1,000 miles after a great victory. They did well, but it wasn’t a great victory. It was a draw between two parties that were pretty closely matched,” Alberts said.

On each side 46 to 48 soldiers were killed and nearly 100 were wounded.

Wearing the gray that day were four Texas regiments under Maj. Gen. Henry Sibley.

In the blue were regular Army troops from the Ft. Union garrison and the 1st Colorado Volunteers under Col. John Slough, who hurried south to cut off the Texans’ thrust toward Ft. Union. The now-crumbling fort, 60 miles northeast of Glorieta, was the largest Union supply depot in the Southwest.

Wess Rodgers of Albuquerque counts himself a loyal Southerner, but he believes the Confederates were clearly defeated at Glorieta Pass and there is no way to say the flanking force was not part of the overall battle.

“Those Yanks fought like panthers, no doubt about it,” Rodgers said. “A couple of fellows have accused me of disloyalty. . . . It has come down to name-calling and sneers in public.

“I don’t think giving Glorieta to the Federals reflects badly at all on Johnny Reb. They were fighting a very well-trained foe, better armed and equipped and fed.”

Of the Pigeons’ Ranch battle itself, he said: “The federals were driven from the field on a dead, bloody run. That phase of the battle was very clearly a Confederate victory.”

Texas-born Thomas Edrington, a weapons evaluator at Sandia National Laboratories, N.M., says that even with the loss of the wagon train, the Confederates won at Glorieta.

Of the supply train fiasco, he said: “I suspect it was significant, but it was not a show-stopper.”

Sibley ordered the subsequent retreat not because of Glorieta, he said, but because Col. Edward Canby had moved his Union forces north from Fort Craig, N.M., to challenge the Confederates.

Alberts maintains that Sibley had to withdraw when he couldn’t resupply the troops.

“If they had found food and ammunition and clothing in Santa Fe, they would have continued the campaign, very likely, but New Mexico didn’t have those kinds of supplies,” he said.

Edrington, whose great-grandfather fought for the Confederacy, doubts that the South ever had the resources to conquer the West, as Sibley planned.

“To somehow imagine that with 2,500 troops all these things would fall into place, and that he could occupy the entire West, was a pipe dream,” Edrington said.

Glorieta, however, was a day of glory for the South, he said.

Chuck Counts, whose ancestors were Union soldiers in Indiana, says he, like Alberts, regards Glorieta as “a tactical draw.”

“I know at the end of the battle, the Confederates were pushing the federals,” Counts said in a telephone interview from Aurora, Colo. “But I know Col. Slough felt he had accomplished his orders, which were to slow the Confederates down and prevent them from getting to Ft. Union. So he was withdrawing his men, much to their chagrin. They wanted to continue the battle.”

Counts is a member of the modern 1st Colorado Volunteers, which annually participates in a Glorieta re-enactment. He said plans are under way for a 130th anniversary re-enactment next March 28.

It’s common, Alberts warned, for amateur historians with preconceptions to take details out of context or to read flowery field reports too literally.

“The legitimate use of history is not as propaganda, yet that’s its most popular use,” he said.

The plan to conquer the West reflected such wishful thinking, he said.

“It had rich potential but the potential wasn’t realizable,” Alberts said. “The Confederacy never again came here. This always remained Union territory.

“There was a chance--very slim--of this whole Southwest becoming the westward extension of the Confederacy to the Pacific, and with it rich mines, transcontinental rail routes and warm-water ports.”

Union forces halt Confederates at Battle of Glorieta Pass - HISTORY

The Battle of Glorieta Pass

By Richard Duree (Col. Richard Dodge, SASS 1750 Life)


There were those in the Confederate States of America who envisioned their new country extending, not only from Virginia to Texas, but through the Southwest into California, northward into Colorado, and even southward into Latin America. The concept was impossibly unrealistic, of course, but in the fervor of secession, it seemed that anything was possible.

To that end, the Confederacy claimed both Arizona and New Mexico Territories and began the ill-fated "New Mexico Campaign" by sending the 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 7th Texas Mounted Rifles under the command of Brigadier General Henry Sibley up the Rio Grande River from Fort Bliss, Texas to capture Santa Fe and Fort Union. Fort Union was an army installation without defensive walls and could have been easily captured with a large enough force. In fact, Sibley, as a Union officer before the Civil War, had commanded Fort Union and was intimately familiar with the fort and surrounding area.

A victory over the Union's forces there would have opened up access to the gold and silver mines of Colorado and strengthened the campaign to the west to California with its own gold fields and open seaports with access to foreign trade. The flow of wealth to the Confederacy could have changed the course of the war – and history.

Sibley, more noted for his consumption of liquor than for his tactical abilities, moved his men up the Rio Grande valley in miserable weather in February, 1862. He encountered Union forces under Union Colonel Edward Canby at Fort Craig, located south of present-day Socorro. In the ensuing Battle of Valverde, a skirmish in which Col. Kit Carson participated with his New Mexico Volunteers, Sibley’s troops were able to capture one of Canby's artillery pieces and killed several of his troops and Canby managed to destroy much of Sibley's supply train before withdrawing his forces back to defensive position within the fort, essentially giving the victory to Sibley, though both sides suffered considerable casualties in the battle.

Lacking the men and resources needed to further attack the fort, Sibley decided to bypass Canby's troops and continued north to Albuquerque. Forewarned of the Texan's arrival, the citizens of Albuquerque met Sibley with a less than enthusiastic reception indeed many had fled to Fort Union. Two days later, Sibley entered an abandoned Santa Fe and began to prepare for the attack on Fort Union.

The only reasonable route to Fort Union from Santa Fe was through Glorieta Pass, through which the Old Santa Fe Trail had carried supplies to Santa Fe for decades. Here, the forces of the Union and Confederacy were to meet in the "Gettysburg of the West" in a fearsome battle that would shatter the Confederacy's dreams of expansion and conquest in the West.

Fort Union's 800-man force had been reinforced by a 1,380-man volunteer force that had marched from Denver, covering 400 miles in two weeks, the last 100 in two days – an amazing feat. Not waiting to be attacked by Sibley's troops, Col. John Slough, commander of the volunteers, advanced to meet the Confederates and encountered them as he entered Glorieta Pass from the east.

On March 28, an advance Confederate force of 200 to 300 men under Major Charles Pyron encountered Slough's 410-man Union force. Slough's men were beaten back by Pyron's artillery, but he had ordered Major John Chivington (the same John Chivington of Sand Creek Massacre notoriety) to divide his volunteer force and catch the Confederates in enfilade fire from the heights around the battlefield. The maneuver forced a hasty Confederate retreat. Chivington then regrouped and pursued the retreating Confederates, succeeding in capturing their rear guard.

Impending darkness and general fatigue drove both forces into camp that night the following day remained quiet as both sides regrouped, tended to their wounded and awaited reinforcements.

The following day, Confederate Col. Scurry decided not to wait for the Union troops to attack and moved his men forward to confront them. The savage battle – the "Gettysburg of the West" – raged back and forth in a six-hour carnage of charge and counter charge, devastating artillery duels and heavy casualties on both sides. The battle ended in an apparent Confederate victory as Col. Slough's men were forced to retreat to defensive positions in their earlier encampment at Kozlowsky's Ranch.

The victory was moot, however. The Texans had moved too far forward too soon, leaving their already depleted supply wagons behind – a fateful tactical error. Slough had sent Chivington with a 400-man force, guided by Lt. Col. Manuel Chaves of the New Mexican Volunteers, who knew the lay of the land, to bypass the Confederate lines. From a high point at the west end of the pass, they were able to look down on Sibley's supply train guarded only by a small force. Charging down the steep slope, they easily overcame the guard, destroyed more than 60 wagons with their contents, killed all the mules, and captured 17 Confederate soldiers. Guided by the local Padre Ortiz, they returned to their camp by a different route, again avoiding the main Confederate force.

Confederate Col. Scurry soon realized that he was in an untenable position and could not continue without the destroyed supplies. Arranging a truce to bury his dead, he quickly withdrew from the field and began a desperate retreat back to Santa Fe.

Interestingly, an order received from Canby sent Slough's troops back to Fort Union, denying them the opportunity to pursue and further destroy or capture Sibley's men.

Indeed, it turned out that Canby had no wish to slaughter the Texans, as he easily could have done, or to capture them, as he could not feed them. He simply wanted them out of the territory and drove them on their way by marching almost parallel to them on the opposite side of the river as they returned southward, much to the dismay of his troops. They wanted revenge for their failure to stop the Texans at the Battle of Valverde on their way north.

As both troops neared Fort Craig, Sibley, not wishing for a battle any more than did Canby, slipped out of camp in the night and began a terrible hundred-mile detour to the west to skirt Fort Craig. Canby, content to let the desert do the dirty work for him, did not follow he knew the desert and wanted no part of it. He returned leisurely to the safety and comfort of Fort Craig, leaving the Texans to their fate.

The Texans’ retreat became one of the greatest marches of all time and a bitter lifelong memory for those who survived it. The ten-day march was begun with less than five day's meager rations through a rough, waterless hell of rocky hills and gullies, thick with brush and undergrowth that had to be painfully cut through with knives and axes.

Eventually the exhausted Texans reached the dry bed of the Palomas River, which led them back to the Rio Grande and water. By then, they were reduced to carrying only their arms and the tattered remnants of their clothing. A Union officer, who followed their path sometime afterward, reported finding a trail of cast off parts of gun carriages, harnesses, camp equipment – and more than a few bleached human skeletons.

The statistics are staggering: Of the original 3,700 man force, the Texans lost over 1,700 men in the campaign, of which almost 500 were killed in the Battles of Valverde and Glorieta Pass. Most of the remaining 1,200 casualties were suffered on this terrible hundred-mile march through the desert. Barely 2,000 men survived the ordeal.

Sibley reached Fort Bliss in May, a disillusioned man, with the remnants of his force scattered on the trail for fifty miles behind him. His report to Richmond was to the effect that the New Mexico Territory had nothing to offer of military value and lacked sufficient resources to support a military occupation. The report was dated May 4.

Two weeks later, Sibley convened the 2,000 survivors, thanked them for their service and sacrifice and disbanded them before retreating on to San Antonio and the end of the golden dream of the Confederacy.

Today, the Battles of Valverde and Glorieta Pass are re-enacted to commemorate the momentous events of those tragic days. The story is beautifully told on YouTube and one can watch the battles unfold and end with that tragic march back to Texas.

Kerby, Robert L. The Confederate Invasion of New Mexico and Arizona, 1861� Westernlore Press, 1958, 1995

Taylor, John Bloody Valverde: A Civil War Battle on the Rio Grande, February 21, 1862 University of New Mexico Press, 1995

Thompson, Jerry D. Civil War in the Southwest: Recollections of the Sibley Brigade TAMU Press, 2001

Thompson, Jerry D. Henry Hopkins Sibley: Confederate General of the West Northwestern State University Press, 1987

Whitlock, Flint Distant Bugles, Distant Drums: The Union Response to the Confederate Invasion of New Mexico University Press of Colorado, 2006

Watch the video: American Civil War: Battle of Glorieta Pass - The Gettysburg of the West (August 2022).