Western Trips

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Battle Of Glorieta Pass/ New Mexico

In March of 1862 there was a little known Civil War battle that took place at Glorieta Pass in New Mexico, just southeast of Santa Fe. When driving to Santa Fe you may want to stop by and visit this remarkable area. The drive to Santa Fe regardless of the direction you're coming from is spectacular in itself and visiting this key Civil War battle site is historically enriching.

The Confederates Enter New Mexico Territory

The Confederate Army under the command of General Henry Sibley made inroads into New Mexico during 1862. His troops were composed of Texas volunteers along with Texas Rangers who entered New Mexico Territory from Fort Bliss in El Paso Texas. Initially were pretty successful and held the then small settlement of Albuquerque for many days. The Union forts established in New Mexico prior to the Civil War were built to deal with the Indian population. They weren't necessarily effective against an invading force of Texans. Because of this, Sibley's forces were successful in the southern part of the territory.

The aim of the Confederate Army was to gain a foothold in northern New Mexico (they had occupied Santa Fe) and then advance along the eastern side of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range and then head northward onto the high plains. To make it in that direction they had to go through Glorieta Pass. This was in conjunction with Confederate action in the southern part of Arizona. The overall goal of the Confederacy was to establish a link to San Diego and establish a much needed port there.

The Tide of War Changed at Glorieta Pass

The Battle of Glorieta Pass was a step toward Sibley's goal of attacking Fort Union to the north. The Union troops were basically Colorado volunteers under the leadership of Major John Chivington of Colorado along with New Mexico Volunteer Infantry, and the battle itself proved to be decisive for the Union side which were the victors. The battle signified the end of the Confederate initiative into New Mexico and eventually all of the New Mexico Territory. Because of this key Union victory, Major Chivington's popularity in Colorado soared and he not only advocated quick statehood for Colorado but also became the leading contender for the state's first Congressional seat.

An interesting side note for the traveler is that to this day the stairwells of the Colorado State Capitol Building have cannonballs from the battle of Glorieta Pass as ornaments.

Glorieta Pass is about 25 miles southeast of Santa Fe, NM just off of Interstate-25.


These web sites offer additional information regarding the battle and more information about Major John Chivington, leader of the Colorado Union volunteers: