Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Remembers The Battle of Glorieta Pass (March 26-29 1862) - Nov. 20th, 2003
Posted on 11/20/2003 12:00:45 AM PST by SAMWolf
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A Shattered Dream
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.
(Roy Anderson, artist; Courtesy of Pecos National Historical Park)
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.
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.
Major John M. Chivington and First Colorado Volunteers on the edge of Glorieta Mesa overlooking Confederate supply wagons at Johnson's Ranch (courtesy Peter de La Fuente, Wyeth Hurd Gallery, Santa Fe)
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.
Maj. John M. Chivington, First Colorado Volunteers, led Union flanking maneuver during Battle of Glorieta Pass (courtesy Denver Public Library, Western History Collection).
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.
3rd Cavalry Supply Wagons relocate to support the Regiment near Glorieta Pass, New Mexico Territory, March 1862
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.
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.
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.
(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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Howdy troops and veterans!
THANK YOU for serving the USA!
Today's classic warship, USS Florida (BB-30)
Florida class battleship
displacement. 21,825 t.
speed. 21 k.
armament. 10 12", 16 5", 2 21" tt.
The USS Florida (BB-30) was launched 12 May 1910 by New York Navy Yard, sponsored by Miss E. D. Fleming, daughter of a former Florida governor; and commissioned 15 September 1911, Captain H. S. Knapp in command.
After extensive training in the Caribbean and Maine coastal waters, Florida arrived in Hampton Roads, Va., 29 March 1912 to join the Atlantic Fleet as flagship of Division 1. Regularly scheduled exercises, maneuvers, fleet training and target practice, and midshipmen training cruises took the new battleship to many east coast ports and into Caribbean waters. Early in 1914 tension heightened between the United States and factions in Mexico and Florida arrived off Vera Cruz on 16 February remaining there during the ensuing occupation. She steamed to New York in July to resume regular Fleet operations and in October was transferred to Division 2.
Following United States entry into World War I, Florida completed exercises in the Chesapeake Bay and proceeded with Battleship Division 9 to join the British Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands, on 7 December 1917. She participated in the Grand Fleet's maneuvers and evolutions, and performed convoy duty with the 6th Battle Squadron through the remainder of the war. She rendezvoused with the Grand Fleet on 20 November 1918 when it met to escort the German High Seas Fleet into the Firth of Forth.
Florida joined the escort for George Washington, President Woodrow Wilson embarked, as she proceeded into Brest, France on 12 and 13 December 1918. She participated in the grand Victory Naval Review in the North River, New York City, in late December and then returned to Norfolk 4 January 1919 to resume peace time operations. During May she cruised to the Azores and took weather observations for the first aerial crossing of the Atlantic achieved that month by seaplanes.
Florida's operations during the remaining years of her career were highlighted by participation in the tercentenary celebrations in August 1920 of the Pilgrim's landing at Provincetown, Mass., a diplomatic voyage to South American and Caribbean ports with Secretary of State R. Lansing embarked, service as flagship for Commander, Control Force, U.S. Fleet, amphibious operations with Marines in the Caribbean, and midshipman training cruises. She was decommissioned at Philadelphia 16 February 1931 and scrapped under the terms of the London Naval Treaty of 1930.
Thanks CT and Sam for the great articles. Most people forget, or never knew, there were battles in the West.
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