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Reading 1
Reading 2



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Determining the Facts

Reading 3: The Confederates

After the Mexican War, the Santa Fe Trail was transformed from an international trade route to a national road, carrying freight and supplies to trading posts and army forts in the newly acquired territory. In 1855 trade along the trail was valued at $5 million. For Fort Union, the new supply depot located near the junction of the Mountain and Cimarron branches, the trail was a lifeline. The crossing of Raton Pass, still difficult even after the improvements made by Kearny's army, continued to limit use of the Mountain Branch. With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1860, however, Confederate raiders and the threat of attack by Southern Plains Indians virtually halted traffic over the Cimarron Cutoff. The Mountain Branch again became "the" Santa Fe Trail.

In the summer of 1861, Confederate forces invaded southern New Mexico from Texas, which had seceded in February. This invasion was to be the first step in a grand design to detach the Southwest from the Union and extend the Confederacy to the Pacific. If successful, the plan would yield large quantities of military and other supplies, provide new recruits for the Confederate armies, and take control of the rich gold fields of California, Nevada, and Colorado. Lt. Col. John Robert Baylor moved up the Rio Grande with about 300 men to seize military posts near the Mexican border. He then named himself governor of a newly-proclaimed Confederate Territory of Arizona, which included the southern parts of the present-day states of New Mexico and Arizona.

The following winter, a larger Confederate force led by Brig. Gen. Henry H. Sibley left Texas with the aim of taking over the whole of New Mexico and continuing north into Colorado. Sibley had served in New Mexico as a Union officer and knew the area well. Sibley's 2,500 Texans defeated Union forces at the Battle of Valverde and occupied Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Only a small garrison at Fort Union, with its $300,000 in stores, stood between the victorious Confederate forces and the Colorado goldfields.

William Gilpin, staunchly pro-Union governor of the newly formed Colorado Territory, hurriedly raised a regiment of volunteers, including many tough Pike's Peak miners. Raton Pass again played a crucial role. Crossing the pass in the snow, the Colorado volunteers rushed to join the garrison at Fort Union, covering the 100 miles in two days. On March 22, the Federal army of about 1,300 men under the command of Col. John Slough, set out to meet the Confederates advancing from Santa Fe.

The battle opened on March 26, 1862, with a clash between small Confederate and Union units in Apache Canyon. The Union forces drove the Confederates back, but suspended the battle as darkness fell. They retreated to their camp at Koslowski's Ranch at the east end of the pass.

Both sides received reinforcements on March 27, and the Battle of Glorieta Pass was fought the next day. The fighting in the pass was intense, but indecisive. Maj. John Chivington took 400 Colorado volunteers up through the mountains in a maneuver to go around Col. Edward Canby's forces and box them in. After a 16-mile march, Chivington reached the top of Glorieta Mesa and discovered the Confederate base camp directly below him. His men crawled, slid, and leapt down the bluff and burned the 70-80 wagons full of ammunition, food, clothing, and forage; slaughtered hundreds of horses and mules; disabled a cannon; and withdrew with 17 prisoners to their camp at Koslowski's Ranch. Although Lt. Col. W. R. Scurry, the Confederate commander, believed he had won the battle, the loss of his supplies forced him to turn back, leaving the field to the Union. His army retreated down the Rio Grande and returned to Texas.

Glorieta Pass was a small skirmish in terms of both numbers involved and losses (140 Federal, 190 Confederate). Yet the issues were large, and the battle decisive in resolving them. The Confederates might well have taken Fort Union and Denver had they not been stopped at Glorieta. As one Texan put it, "if it had not been for those devils from Pike's Peak, this country would have been ours."1 This small battle marked the end of Confederate plans for New Mexico and the territories farther west. In April, volunteers from California pushed the remaining Confederates out of present-day Arizona at the Battle of Pichaco Peak. In the eastern part of the United States, the fighting went on for three more years, but in the Southwest the war was over.

The Santa Fe Trail continued to be an important trade route until the railroad finally reached Santa Fe in 1880. Like the trail, the railroad and the later highways ran through Raton and Glorieta passes, still the best way to get through the mountains.

Questions for Reading 3

1. Why did Confederate armies invade New Mexico?

2. How did Union forces take advantage of the terrain in Glorieta Pass during the battle?

3. Why did the Confederate commander abandon the field even through he thought he had won the battle?

4. What effect did the Confederate loss at Glorieta Pass have?

5. How many men were involved in the battle? How many casualties did both sides sustain? Do you think figures like this are the best way to measure the importance of a battle? Why or why not?

Reading 3 was adapted from Richard Greenwood, "Glorieta Battlefield" (Santa Fe County, New Mexico) National Historic Landmark Nomination Form, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1978; and Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod, "Santa Fe and Chihuahua Trail," and Alan Axelrod, Patrick H. Butler, III, and Charles Phillips, "Civil War," Encyclopedia of the American West (New York: Simon and Schuster Macmillan, 1996).

1 Quoted in William Waldrip, "New Mexico During the Civil War," New Mexico Historical Review, Vol. 28, 3, 4 (July-Oct., 1953), 256-257; cited in Richard Greenwood, "Glorieta Battlefield" (Santa Fe County, New Mexico) National Historic Landmark Nomination Form (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1978) 8/2.


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