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Battle of New Mexico - History

Battle of New Mexico - History


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In a series of battles American forces first led by General Kearny and then Colonel Doniphson captured New Mexico territory. American forces then were split, some heading for California and the balance to Mexico.

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Texas claimed New Mexico. President Polk directed the governor of Missouri to raise an army for the conquest of New Mexico. Colonel Stephen Watts Kearny was placed in command of the army which number 856 Missouri volunteers. when it set out. Colonel William Doniphsan was elected colonel of the regiment. Besides the Missouri volunteers Kearny had two companies of artillery and other units bringing his total forces to 1658. The American forces headed toward Sante Fe and trained as they went. On July 22 the American forces reached Bent's Fort. At that point Kearny attempted to convince the Mexican commander Armijo to give up without a fight. Armijo did not give an immediate answer, finally deciding to fight. On August 16th Armijo marched his troops to Apache Canyon. Armijo was not able to hold his forces together, and thus on the next day he withdrew. The next day Kearny marched through the pass and on to Sante Fe New Mexico’s capital. There he declared it American territory. Kearny then divided his force into three. The first group under his command headed to California to capture it. The second group would garrison Sante Fe and the third under Doniphson would put down local Indians and then head South into Mexico. Doniphson quickly signed treaties with local Indians, then headed South at end of November. In January there was an uprising against the American forces but it was decisively put down by Colonel Sterlin Price in a series of battle that culminated at Taos.


Doniphon then headed south. His force headed south along the Rio Grande through the heat. When they reached El Paso a force of Mexicans were waiting for them under the command of Captain Ponce de Leon. Leon demanded that Doniphon surrender or his forces would charge and annihilate the American force. Doniphons answer: “Charge and be damned”. The Mexican charged. 100 Mexican were killed, Doniphons forces lost 7 men wounded. Doniphans next step was Chihuahua City. There a large Mexican force awaited them. 1200 cavalry, 1500 infantry and 1000 ranchers who were commanded by Brigadier General Jose Antonio de Heredia. Doniphan viewed the Mexican defenses, and decided circle the defenses and try to attack from the rear. The Mexican thought that the Americans were going to bypass the city, and they decided to attack the American forces. The Americans answered with artillery fire, and a duel resulted. The American shot was more accurate and the Mexican fire died down. The American forces then attacked the Mexican fortification. 300 Mexicans were killed and another 300 were wounded against American losses of 1 killed and five wounded. The balance of the American forces fled.


After commencing construction of five classes of dreadnought battleships (, , , Wyoming, and New York), the US Navy concluded that future designs should utilize a set of common tactical and operational characteristics. This would allow these ships to operate together in combat and would simplify logistics. Designated the Standard-type, the next five classes made use of oil-fired boilers instead of coal, eliminated amidships turrets, and utilized an “all or nothing” armor scheme. Among these alterations, the change to oil was made with the goal of increasing the vessel’s range as the US Navy felt that this would be required in any future naval conflict with Japan. The new "all or nothing" armor arrangement called for key areas of the ship, such as magazines and engineering, to be heavily protected while less vital spaces were left unarmored. Also, Standard-type battleships were to have a minimum top speed of 21 knots and a tactical turn radius of 700 yards.

The concepts of the Standard-type were first employed in the Nevada- and Pennsylvania-classes. As a follow-on to the latter, the New Mexico-class originally was conceived as the US Navy's first class to mount 16" guns. Due to arguments over designs and rising costs, the Secretary of the Navy elected forgo using the new guns and directed that the new type replicate the Pennsylvania-class with only minor modifications. As a result, the three ships of the New Mexico-class, USS New Mexico (BB-40), USS Mississippi (BB-41), and USS Idaho (BB-42), each mounted a main armament consisting of twelve 14" guns placed in four triple turrets. These were supported by a secondary battery of fourteen 5" guns. In an experiment, New Mexico received a turbo-electric transmission as part of its power plant while the other two vessels used more traditional geared turbines.

Assigned to the New York Navy Yard, work on New Mexico began on October 14, 1915. Construction advanced over the next year and a half and on April 13, 1917, the new battleship slid into the water with Margaret Cabeza De Baca, daughter of the late Governor of New Mexico, Ezequiel Cabeza De Baca, serving as sponsor. Launched a week after the United States entered World War I, work moved forward over the next year to complete the vessel. Finished a year later, New Mexico entered commission on May 20, 1918, with Captain Ashley H. Robertson in command.


History

Socorro has stood the test of time. Learn more about our grand city by reading the brief history of Socorro followed by a link to several historical articles which are sure to take you back in time.

HISTORY OF SOCORRO
Socorro (literally to give aid, to give succor) was indeed a source of help to the first expedition of Spanish families traveling north from Mexico in 1598, led by Don Juan de Oñate y Salazar. Socorro’s first inhabitants, Piro-speaking people of the Teypana Pueblo, welcomed the scouting party of Oñate and his men. They showed no fear of the strangers, according to Oñate’s official log, and with hand signs told the group what lay ahead.

When the Teypana inhabitants unexpectedly gave the group a large gift of corn, Oñate renamed the pueblo Socorro.

Nothing remains of Teypana today, but on the east edge of Socorro County, the ruins of the vast Gran Quivira Pueblo stand as tribute to the great trade culture of the Pueblo Indians. One of three pueblos of the Salinas Missions National Monument, the ruins of Gran Quivira show the excellent masonry of their architecture.

Oñate’s expedition began a century of trade along El Camino Real (the Royal Road). From its early days of caravans bringing missionaries and supplies, the road over its 223-year history connected the New Mexico Territory to Mexico and Spain.

Little parajes (resting places) sprang up along the Rio Grande from Paraje de Fra Cristobal, at the northern end of Jornada del Muerto, to Casa Colorado in the northern end of today’s Socorro County. A bit of the oldest trail in North America can still be traversed along a dirt road section east of Escondida. El Camino Real is beginning to receive the recognition it deserves in history. A visitors center detailing the road’s history opened in the fall of 2005 at the south end of Socorro County, overlooking a section of the historic El Camino Real.

San Miguel Mission, in the City of Socorro, was one of four missions built among the Piro Pueblos during the 1600s. Spanish families surrounded the mission, farming and ranching on land given them in Spanish land grants. During the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, the Teypanas left with the Spaniards, establishing a new community further south. Socorro was not re-founded as a community again until late 1816.

In 1854, Fort Craig was built at the north end of Jornada del Muerto, to guard against Apache and Navajo raids and to protect El Camino Real. With the outbreak of the Civil War, the fort remained a Union Army Post.

On February 21, 1862, Confederate troops under General H.H. Sibley engaged the Union Army troops under Colonel R.S. Canby. Confederates won the Battle of Valverde, fought upstream from the fort at the Valverde Crossing. Fort Craig later was home to the Buffalo Soldiers, regiments of Black soldiers who served after the Civil War.

Today, the Fort is open from dawn to dusk, seven days a week. Maintained by the Bureau of Land Management, the site has interpretive signs and a campsite. The Battle of Valverde is re-enacted each year, on a weekend near its February anniversary date. Activities are centered in the City of Socorro and include re-enactments of the battle, the “liberation” of the town of Socorro and other events.

The arrival of the railroad in the 1880s brought miners, merchants, and cattlemen to Socorro County. In the west, Magdalena became the center of mining activities and the “End of the Trail” for cattle drives from farther west. The town of Socorro sported a grain mill, a brewery and smelters to process the ores. California mission style homes and buildings took their place among the adobes in the booming towns. In 1889, the area’s first university opened: the New Mexico School of Mines, now known as New Mexico Tech. NM Tech has garnered an international reputation in the sciences and is consistently rated as a top college nationally. The Tech campus is also home to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s VLA and VLBA, and several associated entities.

The beginning of World War II saw an increase in activity in Socorro County’s southeast quarter. With the increase in temporary workers traveling through, San Antonio’s Frank Chavez answered a need by opening a small restaurant in his store, and created the first green chile hamburger at the Owl Bar and Cafe. The workers wouldn’t say what they were doing but did tell residents to watch for something big on the morning of July 16, 1945. Many Socorroans remember the light of the first atomic blast at White Sands Missile Range. Trinity Site is now a monument, open twice a year.

Socorro residents maintain an independent attitude, reminiscent of its “Wild West” past. In the ’50s, a few citizens trumpeted the idea that Socorro had somehow escaped all legal transfers from Spain to Mexico to the U.S. and started a secession campaign. License plates reading “Free State of Socorro” can still be seen.

Submitted by Gwen Roath, a former reporter, editor and now-publisher of Steppin’ Out, a bi-monthly guide to regional arts and events. She is also the editor of the on-line magazine SONewMex.com.

FOR MORE SOCORRO COUNTY HISTORY…

The El Camino Historic Trail Center has a great section on their website featuring local history articles. Learn about El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, Mission Churches of Socorro County, Socorro County Ghost Towns, the Pedro Armedaris Land Grant, the Jornada del Muerto, Las Posadas y Las Pastorelas, historic overland trails, La Leyenda de la Llorona, Lemitar y La Sagrada Familia Mission Church, Polvadera y Chamisal, Legend of the “Lady in Blue”, and much, much more by clicking on EL CAMINO HISTORIC TRAIL CENTER for access to these interesting historical articles.


The Battle of Valverde, New Mexico: February 21, 1862

General Edward R.S. Canby commanded U.S. forces at the battle of Valverde. Library of Congress.

B ill Davidson was cooking up his meager breakfast on the morning of February 21, 1862 when he heard the distinctive pop! pop! pop! of rifle fire, echoing over the sand hills. It was coming from a few miles north of the Confederate camp, up near a ford across the Rio Grande: a place that locals called Valverde. Davidson and his fellow soldiers in Company A of the Confederate 5th Texas Mounted Volunteers leapt up from their firesides and made for their horses. They had been ordered to remain with the wagon train across the river from Fort Craig, the Union’s largest military installation in central New Mexico Territory. But the one hundred men of Company A were eager for a fight, intent upon doing all they could to help win the far West for the Confederacy.

At the beginning of the Civil War, the vast region from the Pacific to the 100th meridian that marked the eastern edge of the Great Plains was up for grabs. Most mining towns across the West were filled with both northerners and southerners, migrants who had come to the diggings to make their fortunes in gold. The loyalties of Hispanos in the Southwest and Mormons in Utah were unclear both communities had reasons to resist the federal government. It was not unreasonable, then, for Confederate general Henry Hopkins Sibley to believe that he could bring the 4th, 5th, and 7th Texas (3,000 men in total) into New Mexico, recruit miners and Hispanos into his brigade, and conquer the territory.

Sibley was a career military man, and had served at frontier garrisons across the West in the years before the war. In April 1861 he resigned his post and joined the Confederacy, intent on leading an invasion of the West to gain access to its gold mines and its Pacific ports. Fighting the war would be expensive, and gold sent to Confederate banks and cotton shipped out from California would help pay for it. The West was also important to the Confederates’ vision of the future: this region would be the center of their expanding empire of slavery. In New Mexico, Sibley envisioned, his Texans would move from fort to fort, sacking them and taking their food and weapon supplies to support their campaign. The Sibley Brigade would then set out for California, Utah, and other vital points in the West.

The Sibley Brigade left San Antonio in late October 1861 and in two months marched almost six hundred miles to Fort Bliss on the far western edge of the Confederacy and the border between Texas and Mexico. After only a few weeks’ rest, in early February 1862 they advanced north into New Mexico and began their march on Fort Craig.

Moving to meet them was a Union army of more than 4,000 men commanded by Colonel E.R.S. Canby, another career U.S. Army officer. Canby’s army was one of the most diverse fighting forces of the Civil War, illustrating that as early as 1862, almost a year before the Emancipation Proclamation, a wide variety of communities were already invested in the effort to sustain the Union. Several companies of gold miners recruited in the Colorado Territory’s mines had come to join U.S. Army regulars who had been serving in New Mexico since the early 1850s. At Fort Craig, these Anglo soldiers encamped with the 1st New Mexico, a regiment made up of Hispano volunteers and officers, and commanded by the famous frontiersman Kit Carson. Defying Sibley’s expectations, Hispanos had enlisted in the Union Army to defend their homes and families against the Confederate invasion. Hispano militias, mustered in only days before the fight at Valverde, arrived at Fort Craig in early February.

Sibley’s troops amassed south of the fort on February 15, as snow whipped around them. Bill Davidson actually thought the battle might begin there. But Sibley decided to withdraw after evaluating the strength of the fort and Canby’s troops. If the Texans could cross the Rio Grande and then march north to the ford at Valverde, Sibley reasoned, the Confederates would stand between Fort Craig and Albuquerque, cutting off the Union supply line and forcing Canby to surrender.

It was a good plan… but the Federals beat the Confederates to Valverde. The rifle fire Davidson heard as the sun rose on February 21 came from Union troops, contesting the Texans’ crossing. When Company A arrived on the battlefield a few hours later, the soldiers marched in behind a series of sand hills, remnants of the Rio Grande’s banks left behind as the waterway shifted course during massive springtime floods. They were natural breastworks, and Davidson was glad to have them as Union shells hit them with heavy thuds, spraying sand everywhere.

The battle raged on throughout the day, as Union troops crossed the river and Canby sent companies of soldiers across the rolling plain to approach the Confederate position. The Texans went to meet them. It was the final charge of the day, however, that determined the outcome of the battle. Canby had shifted some of Kit Carson’s men to the right side of his line, opening up a gap in the middle, behind his cannons. Colonel Tom Green, who had taken over for Sibley when Sibley chose to stay behind in camp and nurse a bottle of whiskey, saw the hole appear and ordered his men to charge. The Confederates captured the Union guns and turned them on the fleeing Federals men and horses died in the waters of the Rio Grande, spiraling off in the current.

For Bill Davidson and his fellow Texans in the Sibley Brigade, Valverde was momentous: it was the first Confederate victory in a Union territory during the American Civil War. But it fell short of its goal. It did not launch the Confederate takeover of the West. Because they had fought at the ford and had not taken Fort Craig, the Brigade was not able take the fort’s supplies to sustain them on their march northward, as Sibley had planned. Union troops destroyed what food and fodder they could in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, denying the Confederates those rich caches.

By late March 1862, the Texans were desperate for food and supplies. In order to continue their campaign for the West, they would need to take Fort Union, a massive installation on the Santa Fe Trail heading north to Colorado. This necessity led them into another series of battles with Union soldiers on March 26-28, which culminated in the total destruction of their wagon train. Without supplies and animals, the Confederates could not move forward. And so they retreated, marching more than 1,000 miles back to San Antonio over the next four months.

As they marched southward, Bill Davidson and Company A once again passed by Valverde, the cottonwoods lining the riverbanks now lush in the late spring sunshine. Despite their ultimate failure, the Texans would later point to Valverde as evidence of their martial prowess. But Valverde revealed the ways that logistics can be more important than violent clashes with the enemy in warfare. Moving 3,000 men over more than 1,000 miles of high desert proved more challenging than Henry Sibley had anticipated, and his inability to sustain his army in this environment proved to be his army’s undoing.


Battle of Carrizal (1916)

The Battle of Carrizal was fought between the Buffalo soldiers of the 10th Cavalry of the United States Army and Mexican army troops on June 21st, 1916. The battle nearly resulted in war between Mexico and the U.S., but with US-German relations souring because of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson was inclined to negotiate, and the two nations were able to avoid declarations of war.

In March 1916, 500 Mexicans led by Pancho Villa raided the border town of Columbus, New Mexico. The town was defended by over 300 members of the U.S. 13th Cavalry. Villa’s men burned parts of the town and looted ammunition and horses before they were chased back into Mexico by the 13th Cavalry. Approximately 80 Mexicans and 18 Americans died. The attack on Columbus provoked a harsh, swift response from the United States government. General John J. Pershing was placed in command of a military expedition to find and capture or kill Pancho Villa and to stop cross-border raids on American towns. This expedition of 4,800 men was officially called the Mexican Expedition, but was also colloquially called the Pancho Villa Expedition or the Punitive Expedition.

United States troops fought several skirmishes with Villa’s men as they marched southward from El Paso in pursuit. An American army roaming the countryside in Mexico during that nation’s Mexican Revolution created considerable tension between the two nations. The new Mexican government of Venustiano Carranza sought to limit the Americans’ movements within Mexico, and General Pershing wanted to move freely to complete his mission.

In June, Pershing received intelligence that Villa was at Carrizal, in the state of Chihuahua. He selected Captains Charles T. Boyd and Lewis S. Morey to lead approximately 100 soldiers from Troops C and K of the 10th Cavalry to investigate. They encountered 400 Mexican Army troops, or Carrancistas, instead of Pancho Villa’s men. The Mexican soldiers told the Americans to turn back northward. Captain Boyd refused and ordered his men south through the town anyway, which caused shots to be fired. Both sides suffered large losses. Captain Boyd and 10 soldiers were killed and another 24 were taken prisoner. Twenty-four Mexican soldiers were killed, including their commanding officer General Felix Gomez, and 43 were wounded.

General Pershing was furious at this result and asked for permission to attack the Carrancista garrison at Chihuahua. President Wilson, fearing that such an attack would provoke a full-scale war with Mexico, refused. The Battle of Carrizal marked the effective end of the Mexican Expedition, which failed in both its missions. Pancho Villa survived, and small raids on American soil occurred while the expedition was in Mexico.


Valverde, Battle of

In the summer of 1861 Lt. Col. John R. Baylor led a small band of Texans in occupying the Mesilla Valley in southern New Mexico. By December 1861 a much larger 3,000-man Texan Army began to arrive at Franklin (El Paso) and move north to join Baylor. In command of the Confederate Army of New Mexico was Brig. Gen. Henry H. Sibley, a twenty-two year veteran of the antebellum army, who had been stationed in New Mexico prior to the war. Sibley's objective, although never clearly defined, appears to have been Colorado and eventually California, thus making the Confederacy a transcontinental nation more likely to win diplomatic recognition in Europe. In early 1862 Sibley moved against Fort Craig, a Federal bastion in south-central New Mexico. By February 16 the Texan army had pushed to within a mile of the post. At the fort a Union force of 1,250 Regulars and 1,350 hastily recruited New Mexico volunteers and militia awaited the Rebel advance. All were commanded by Col. Edward Richard Sprigg Canby. Realizing that Fort Craig was too well fortified to be taken by assault, Sibley offered battle on the open plain south of the fort. When Canby refused, Sibley decided to bypass the fort by retreating downriver some seven miles to the village of Paraje, where the Rebels crossed to the east bank of the Rio Grande. Sibley miscalculated that it would take his army one day to reach the Valverde Ford, some six miles upriver from Fort Craig, where the Rebel army could then recross the river. Slowed by deep sand, the Texans were forced to make a dry camp on the evening of February 20. Realizing that the Valverde Ford was Sibley's objective, Canby sent a battery of artillery and two regiments of volunteers across the river to impede the Texan advance. Although Canby ordered his army into battle position and sent out skirmishers, the Union force was driven off by the Rebel artillery.

At daybreak on Friday, February 21, 1862, Sibley sent Maj. Charles L. Pyron with 180 men to reconnoiter a road to Valverde. Pyron was followed by Maj. Henry R. Raguet with five companies. Pyron rode north along the eastern extremities of Black Mesa before turning west along the north edge of the escarpment to the river. Reaching a small cottonwood grove near the ford, the Rebels commenced watering their horses when Pyron discovered a force of Federal cavalry in his front. As the Texans took cover in the sandy bottomland, a fierce firefight erupted. In response, Canby hurried Col. Benjamin S. Roberts with regular and volunteer cavalry to the scene. Hearing the same gunfire, Major Raguet, joined by Col. William R. Scurry and the remainder of the Rebel Fourth Regiment, also raced for the river. By ten o'clock, a section of Capt. Trevanion T. Teel's artillery had also reached Valverde. Several times the Texans advanced toward the river, only to be driven off by a heavy Union artillery bombardment. About this time Union forces moved to envelop the Rebel right by crossing the Rio Grande upriver from Valverde. Such a move forced Scurry to divide his command and lengthen the Confederate line. For two hours Capt. Alexander McRae, a North Carolinian who had remained loyal to the Union, continued to pound the Rebel position on the east bank with his artillery. By eleven o'clock it was evident to Colonel Scurry that the Rebels would have to withdraw. Retreating from the bosque and the east bank of the river in confusion, the Texans were able to take refuge behind a low ridge of sandhills that paralleled the east bank of the river. By midday the tide of battle was clearly swinging in favor of the Federals.

By one o'clock, as additional units, both Union and Confederate, raced for Valverde, General Sibley had become so ill, exhausted, and drunk that he had retired to an ambulance in the Confederate rear, and the Rebel army was turned over to Col. Thomas Green. On the Rebel right, Capt. Willis L. Lang with a company armed only with lances, launched a gallant and courageous attack against a company of Colorado Volunteers that had been hastily recruited and hurried south from Denver. The Coloradoans held their fire until the Lancers were within a few yards of the Federal line and then fired a deadly volley into the charging Rebels. In the suicidal attack, the Lancers, Company B of the Fifth Regiment, suffered a greater loss of life than any other company in the Army of New Mexico. Captain Lang was so severely wounded that he later committed suicide. Lt. Demetrius M. Bass, Lang's second in command, was wounded several times and died several days later. Shortly after three in the afternoon, Colonel Canby arrived on the battlefield and decided to advance his right and center while using his left as a pivot, thus forcing the Rebel left. To reinforce his army Canby ordered Colonel Christopher (Kit) Carson's regiment of volunteers across the river. At the same time Colonel Green decided on an all-out attack on the Federal artillery. Concealed by the sandhills, Green advanced on the Union center as Colonel Raguet moved against a Federal battery firing on the Rebel left flank. Raguet's cavalry advanced to within 100 yards of the Union guns before being driven off. Green's advance on the right, however, proved to be the decisive maneuver of the battle. Although McRae's battery poured a deadly fire of grapeshot into the charging Texans, the Rebels fell upon the Union artillery with a hand-to-hand savagery rarely seen in the annals of American military history. Within eight minutes the Texans had overrun the Union guns. McRae and half of his men died at their guns. In fact, eighty percent of the men killed and wounded in the Federal ranks fell at or near McRae's battery.

Canby blamed the loss of McRae's battery on the New Mexico Volunteers, who he argued had refused to obey orders in counterattacking the lost guns. With the Union line in disarray and snow falling lightly, other Union troops fled for the Rio Grande, many dropping their weapons in their haste. A number of the Federals were killed while attempting to cross the river. As the Union forces retreated to the safety of Fort Craig, Colonel Canby sent a white flag into the Rebel lines. Rebel commanders at first thought Canby was offering to surrender, but he asked only for a cessation of hostilities to remove the Federal dead and wounded. Union casualties at Valverde amounted to 222 men killed and wounded, while the Confederates lost 183. On the day following the battle, the Rebel dead were wrapped in blankets and buried in trenches. Federal dead were interred at Fort Craig. Although the Rebel Army of New Mexico had won the field at Valverde, the largest Civil War battle in the Rocky Mountain West, they had failed to take Fort Craig. After occupying Albuquerque and the territorial capital of Santa Fe, Rebel forces again won the field in the battle of Glorieta on March 28, 1862, but were forced to retreat when Colorado Volunteers destroyed their supply train in Apache Canyon. In April Sibley ordered a retreat to the Mesilla Valley. By summer the Confederate Army of New Mexico was in full retreat back to San Antonio. The Sibley campaign had proved to be a disaster.

Don E. Alberts, ed., Rebels on the Rio Grande: The Civil War Journal of A. B. Peticolas (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1984). Martin Hardwick Hall, Sibley's New Mexico Campaign (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1960). Jerry D. Thompson, Henry Hopkins Sibley: Confederate General of the West (Natchitoches, Louisiana: Northwestern State University Press, 1987). Jerry Thompson, ed., Westward the Texans: The Civil War Journal of Private William Randolph Howell (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1990). The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.


Battle of New Mexico - History

The "Gettysburg of the West"

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 "Gettysburg of the West" (a term that "serves the novelist better than the historian") 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 Glorieta Pass in the 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.

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 Mesilla, outside modern Las Cruces. The strategic aim was to capture the gold and silver mines in California and Colorado Territory and the ports in Southern California.

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's 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's 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 Glorieta Pass, a strategic location on the Santa Fe Trail at the southern tip of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains southeast of Santa Fe. Control of the pass would allow the Confederates to advance onto the High Plains and to make an assault on Fort Union, the Union stronghold along the invasion route northward over Raton Pass. Sibley also intended for six companies under the command of Colonel Tom Green to block the eastern end of Glorieta Pass, turning any Union defensive position in the Sangre de Cristos.

New Mexico Campaign

Battle: Opposing forces

The Confederates were led by Charles L. Pyron and William Read Scurry. During the battle on March 26, Pyron had his battalion of the 2nd Texas Mounted Rifles, four companies of the 5th Texas Mounted Rifles under Maj. John Shropshire, and two cannons. Scurry's force included nine companies of the 4th Texas Mounted Rifles under Maj. Henry Raguet, five companies of the 7th Texas Mounted Rifles under Maj. Powhatan Jordan, and three additional cannons.

The Union forces were led by Col. John P. Slough of the 1st Colorado Infantry, with units under the command of Maj. John M. Chivington. In the action on March 26, Chivington had three infantry and one mounted companies of the 1st Colorado and a detachment of the 1st and 3rd U.S. Cavalry regiments. During the main battle on the 28th, Slough commanded in person nine companies of the 1st Colorado, a detachment from the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd U.S. Cavalry regiments, and two artillery batteries. Chivington commanded five companies of the 5th U.S. Infantry, one company from the 1st Colorado, James Hobart Ford's Independent Company from the 2nd Colorado, and some New Mexico militia.

Prior to the battle, Union forces performed a forced march from Denver, over Raton Pass, to Fort Union, and then to Glorieta Pass, covering the distance of 400 miles in 14 days. Combat commenced shortly after their arrival at the battlefield, leaving them little time to recuperate.

Apache Canyon

Pyron's 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 Kozlowski&rsquos Ranch to await Slough with the main body. His small victory was a morale booster for Slough's army.

No fighting occurred the next day as reinforcements arrived for both sides. Scurry's 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. Slough arrived early in the morning of March 28 with about 900 more men, bringing the Union strength to 1,300.

Glorieta Pass

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's main force had engaged their front. 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's Ranch, the rest of the Confederate force, with more than a thousand men, marched eastwards along the Santa Fe trail.

When Slough found the Texans so far forward, he launched an attack, hitting the Texans around 11:00 am about a half mile from Pigeon's Ranch. A provisional battalion of four companies from the 1st Colorado under Lt. Col. Samuel Tappan, supported by both batteries, deployed across the trail. The Confederates dismounted and deployed in a line across the canyon but the terrain caused some companies to become intermingled. Tappan was initially successful in holding his ground for a half hour, but the Confederates' numerical superiority enabled them to outflank the Union line by noon. The Federals were thrown back in confusion before taking position around the adobe ranch buildings. Slough reformed his men a few hundred yards closer to Pigeon's Ranch, with four companies under Tappan and an artillery battery on a hill to the left, the other battery supported by two companies in the center across the road, and the other two companies on the ridge to the right.

Scurry then launched a three pronged attack on the Union line: Pyron and Raguet were ordered to attack the Union right, Shropshire the Union left, with the remainder of the Confederate force under himself attacking the Union center, supported by the artillery. The attack on the Union left was routed, with Shropshire killed, the attack in the center stalled, while the artillery was forced to withdraw after one cannon was disabled and a limber destroyed. The attack along the line then stalled, with the Confederates fighting by squads "with a desperation unequaled by any engagement of the war." At around 3:00 pm, the Confederates managed to outflank the Union right, but Raguet was mortally wounded. From the ridge (known after the battle as "Sharpshooters Ridge"), the Confederates started to pick off the artillerymen and infantry below them, while Scurry started to press the Union center again. This made the Union position untenable, forcing Slough to order a retreat Tappan organized the companies on the left flank into a rear guard. Slough then reformed his line a half mile east of Pigeon's Ranch, where both sides skirmished until dusk. Slough retreated back to Kozlowski's Ranch, leaving Scurry in possession of the field.

Johnson's 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's Ranch. After watching them for an hour, Chivington's force descended the slope and attacked, routing or capturing the small baggage-guard with few casualties on either side. 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's Ranch. 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' 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 "Comanchero" by U.S. Army officers and was renowned for his hunting skills. He was intimately familiar with the terrain. Duran was the lead scout that led Union forces to attack Confederate forces behind Confederate lines at the Battle of Glorieta Pass.

Parts of the battlefield are preserved in the Pecos National Historical Park.

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. Second, the battle at Glorieta foiled Sibley's 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.

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. Furthermore, the approach of the Federal "California Column" eastward through the New Mexico Territory during the summer of 1862 would have seriously jeopardized Confederate control of the region.


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.


Battle of Ciudad Juárez

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Battle of Ciudad Juárez, (7 April–10 May 1911), defining battle that marked the end of the first phase of the Mexican Revolution (1910–20). Seeking to end the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz, rebel forces, led by Pancho Villa and Pascual Orozco, attacked Federal forces at Ciudad Juárez (located just across the modern border from El Paso, Texas) in the first major battle of the Mexican Revolution. The untrained rebel force emerged victorious, ending Díaz’s rule and bringing Francisco Madero to power.

By the end of 1910, opposition to the dictatorship of Díaz had resulted in a guerrilla campaign against his Federal soldiers. The attacks, led by Francisco "Pancho" Villa, Pascual Orozco, and Emiliano Zapata, convinced exiled opposition leader Francisco Madero to return to Mexico. On 7 April, Madero, Villa, and Orozco launched an attack, with a force of 2,500 untrained men, at the strategically important Ciudad Juárez, which lay on Mexico’s border with the United States. The city was defended by 700 Federal soldiers commanded by General Juan Navarro.


Socorro History

Socorro (literally to give aid, to give succor) was indeed a source of help to the first expedition of Spanish families traveling north from Mexico in 1598, led by Don Juan de Oñate y Salazar. Socorro’s first inhabitants, Piro-speaking people of the Teypana Pueblo, welcomed the scouting party of Oñate and his men. They showed no fear of the strangers, according to Oñate’s official log, and with hand signs told the group what lay ahead.

When the Teypana inhabitants unexpectedly gave the group a large gift of corn, Oñate renamed the pueblo Socorro.

Nothing remains of Teypana today, but on the east edge of Socorro County, the ruins of the vast Gran Quivira Pueblo stand as tribute to the great trade culture of the Pueblo Indians. One of three pueblos of the Salinas Missions National Monument, the ruins of Gran Quivira show the excellent masonry of their architecture.

Oñate’s expedition began a century of trade along the El Camino Real (the Royal Road). From its early days of caravans bringing missionaries and supplies, the road over its 223-year history connected the New Mexico Territory to Mexico and Spain.

Little parajes (resting places) sprang up along the Rio Grande from Paraje de Fra Cristobal, at the northern end of Jornada del Muerto, to Casa Colorado in the northern end of today’s Socorro County. A bit of the oldest trail in North America can still be traversed along a dirt road section east of Escondida. El Camino Real is beginning to receive the recognition it deserves in history. A visitors center detailing the road’s history opened in the fall of 2005 at the south end of Socorro County, overlooking a section of the historic El Camino Real.

San Miguel Mission, in the City of Socorro, was one of four missions built among the Piro Pueblos during the 1600s. Spanish families surrounded the mission, farming and ranching on land given them in Spanish land grants. During the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, the Teypanas left with the Spaniards, establishing a new community further south. Socorro was not re-founded as a community again until late 1816.

In 1854, Fort Craig was built at the north end of Jornada del Muerto, to guard against Apache and Navajo raids and to protect El Camino Real. With the outbreak of the Civil War, the fort remained a Union Army Post.

On February 21, 1862, Confederate troops under General H.H. Sibley engaged the Union Army troops under Colonel R.S. Canby. Confederates won the Battle of Valverde, fought upstream from the fort at the Valverde Crossing. Fort Craig later was home to the Buffalo Soldiers, regiments of Black soldiers who served after the Civil War.

Today, the Fort is open from dawn to dusk, seven days a week. Maintained by the Bureau of Land Management, the site has interpretive signs and a campsite. The Battle of Valverde is re-enacted each year, on a weekend near its February anniversary date. Activities are centered in the City of Socorro and include re-enactments of the battle, the “liberation” of the town of Socorro and other events.

The arrival of the railroad in the 1880s brought miners, merchants, and cattlemen to Socorro County. In the west, Magdalena became the center of mining activities and the “End of the Trail” for cattle drives from farther west. The town of Socorro sported a grain mill, a brewery and smelters to process the ores. California mission style homes and buildings took their place among the adobes in the booming towns. In 1889, the area’s first university opened: the New Mexico School of Mines, now known as New Mexico Tech. NM Tech has garnered an international reputation in the sciences and is consistently rated as a top college nationally. The Tech campus is also home to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s VLA and VLBA, and several associated entities.

The beginning of World War II saw an increase in activity in Socorro County’s southeast quarter. With the increase in temporary workers traveling through, San Antonio’s Frank Chavez answered a need by opening a small restaurant in his store, and created the first green chile hamburger at the Owl Bar and Cafe. The workers wouldn’t say what they were doing but did tell residents to watch for something big on the morning of July 16, 1945. Many Socorroans remember the light of the first atomic blast at White Sands Missile Range. Trinity Site is now a monument, open to the public once a year.

Socorro residents maintain an independent attitude, reminiscent of its “Wild West” past. In the ’50s, a few citizens trumpeted the idea that Socorro had somehow escaped all legal transfers from Spain to Mexico to the U.S. and started a secession campaign. License plates reading “Free State of Socorro” can still be seen.

Submitted by Gwen Roath, a former reporter, editor and publisher of Steppin’ Out, a bi-monthly guide to regional arts and events.


Watch the video: Battle of the Alamo. Mexican army invade Republic of Texas (May 2022).