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Mike’s Blog: THE GETTYSBURG OF THE WEST | THE BATTLE AT GLORIETA PASS – Part 2

THE CONFEDERATE FLAG FLIES OVER SANTA FE

Canby (Left); Sibley (Right) - sourced from The Library of Congress

Canby (Left); Sibley (Right) – sourced from The Library of Congress

Sibley reached Santa Fe on March 13, 1862 (having set out from Texas on February 23, but not before the Union had destroyed the town’s supplies).  The Confederate’s New Mexico campaign that was meant to rely on speed and captured provisions was finding itself bogged down and low on supplies.

Sibley and his forces were now caught between Canby in the south and fresh Union reinforcements to the north.

Taking the offensive, Sibley went out from Santa Fe to attack the Union forces in a fierce battle. Unfortunately for Old Dixie, the Confederates had left behind their remaining military provisions for safekeeping.

Alvin Jewett Johnson's map of Texas and a portion of NM at the height of the Civil War

Alvin Jewett Johnson’s map of Texas and a portion of NM at the height of the Civil War

Following a small skirmish on March 26, both sides waited for reinforcements to arrive and they joined in battle once again on the 28th.  Fierce fighting and aggressive maneuvering led the Confederate forces to advance further than expected.  The Confederates took the Union positions in heavy fighting.  Thankfully for the Yankees, a New Mexican scout by the name of Anastasio Duran led a small force of scouts behind Confederate lines. While the larger battle was taking place, Duran discovered the Confederate supply train. Returning to the Union lines with the news, US troops led by Duran, attacked the Rebel supply train.

It was this attack that turned the tide of battle. 

The supplies were captured with little resistance.  Eighty wagons, loaded with provisions and ammunition with which the Rebels still intended to fuel their campaign, were looted then sent ablaze.  The auxiliary artillery was spiked and over 500 of the Confederate horses and mules were either killed or driven off.  Alerted by the smoke of the burning wagon train, the Confederates were forced to return to Santa Fe. The loss of these supplies and material would prove devastating to the Confederates.  Sibley pulled the remaining troops back to Albuquerque, in the hopes of reinforcements arriving from Texas.

Image of Glorieta Pass taken in 1990 by a National Park Service employee

Image of Glorieta Pass taken in 1990 by a National Park Service employee

By mid-April the Union forces had begun to converge and Sibley decided to retreat.

Confederate control of the northern part of New Mexico had lasted a mere two months.  Union soldiers were dispatched throughout the New Mexico territory and the New Mexico Campaign and the Confederate attempt on the West came to an end. A simple accounting of the Battle of Glorieta Pass belies its importance in the American Civil War.  By closing the door to the West and halting the Confederate advance, The United States was able to concentrate on the war in the South and East, while the rich resources of the Western Territories helped bankroll the delayed, yet successful victory 3 years later.

Many civil war elements remain in Santa Fe today.  The New Mexico History Museum is a few minutes’ walk from the Inn and provides many resources to assist in understanding the campaign.  Glorieta Pass is only 40 minutes from the Inn along a scenic drive, and the battlefield includes an interpretative center as well as a bounty of historical information. 

 

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