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A Re-Enactment of the Civil War Battle of Glorieta Pass
American Civil War in the West
March 17, 2010
While the most of the battles, including the major battles, of the American Civil War were fought in the eastern part of the nation, the West played a role as well.
By the time of the Civil War the entire area encompassed by the present 48 contiguous states sandwiched between Canada and Mexico was all a part of the United States.
While only a few states on both sides lay west of the Mississippi River with the remainder of the land in the west still being in territory status. Alaska and Hawaii, the last two states to be admitted to the Union (in 1959 and 1960 respectively), had not been formally acquired by the United States at the time of the outbreak of the Civil war.
Highway Historical Marker at Glorieta Pass Battle Site in New Mexico
Both Sides Fought for Control of the Southwest
However, while the population in much of the West was sparse and, outside of Texas, slave holding in this area was both uncommon and usually illegal, the western part of the continent was still a prize that both sides sought.
Both wanted access to the Pacific Ocean and both also wanted the mineral riches of the area as well.
Initially, the Confederacy made headway in the present day Southwest. This area, New Mexico and Arizona, was close to Texas and, while generally ambivalent about the politics of the war, was usually willing to align with whichever side sent troops to protect them from Indian raids.
Thus, for a while New Mexico and Arizona (which was a part of New Mexico at the time) were under Confederate control and Colorado and Southern California (which tended to be sympathetic with the South and succession) appeared to be within reach of Confederate control.
Confederate Troops Prepare their Canon
Firing on Union Troops
Battle of Glorieta Pass New Mexico
A key battle in this contest for the west was fought north of Santa Fe, New Mexico at Glorieta Pass on March 28, 1862.
Having been victorious in the Battle of Valverde in New Mexico a month before, the Confederate Army took up a position at the mouth of Apache Canyon in the mountains east of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The Confederate plan was to fortify that area and block the Santa Fe Trail which was a key route to California.
Skirmishes between the two armies began on March 26th and continued through March 28th the day in which the major battle, which began in late morning and lasted until about 4:30, was fought.
The fighting was fierce and the Confederate States of America (CSA) forces succeeded in pushing the Union forces back. However, in one of those little things that often change the course of a battle and of history, a Union patrol led by Major Chivington discovered the Confederate's lightly guarded 80 wagon supply train hidden in a canyon. Chivington's force attacked and destroyed the supply train leaving the Confederate forces without access to supplies.
While the Confederate forces won the battle, the loss of supplies forced them to retreat back toward Texas thereby leaving the fruits of their victory - access to the Santa Fe Trail - to the Union forces.
Union Troops Attack on Horseback
Re-Fighting The Battle for the Fun of It
This past weekend my wife and I visited Arizona's Picacho Peak State
Park where we saw a re-enactment of the Battle of Glorieta Pass along
and of the much smaller Battle (actually skirmish) of Picacho Peak. We
missed the re-enactment of the Battle Valverde which was also
re-enacted that day.
This was not the first time that we have attended this re-enactment as we have attended this more or less annual event on two or three other occasions. As in the past, the entire experience of watching the battles as well as wandering through the Union and Confederate camps.
Most of the re-enactors, who are all volunteers who literally live and breathe the Civil War era, arrive on Friday evening and spend the weekend living in Civil War era army tents and prepare and eat food using period recipes and period cooking and eating utensils.
The few concessions they make to modern
life are arriving by car rather than on foot or horseback and obtain
food from area grocery stores rather than stealing and butchering
horses from the opposing army.
They also use gunpowder only in their rifles and cannon, which makes it safer for the crowd (and the soldiers on the other side whom they are shooting at).
All in all, it was a great day to learn and have fun.
Confederate Troops Marching to Battle
Confederates Lining Up for Battle
The Opposing Union Forces
The Smoke Clears after an Exchange of Fire
Smoke Ring from a Union Canon
Confederate Dead on the Field
A Wounded Union Soldier Laying Among his Dead Comrades
Battle Over and Those Still Standing Help the Dead to Rise
Picacho Peak State Park
Picacho Peak State Park - location of annual Civil War Re-enactments.
Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport location in relation to Picacho Peak State Park
Tucson International Airport, Tucson, AZ in relation to Picacho Peak State Park.
Dates for 2011 Re-Enactment
The Weekend of March 12th and 13th has been set for the 2011 annual Civil War Re-enactment of the Civil War battles of Glorieta Pass and Picacho Peak.
Members of various Civil War Re-enactment groups will be camped out in Civil War living conditions and participating in the re-enactments of these battles during that weekend.
This is a good time to spend a day or an afternoon stepping into the past and seeing military life as it was 150 years ago in Arizona.
Location of site of Historical Marker noting site of the Glorieta Pass Battlefield.
Picacho Peak State Pk in AZ which is site of Civil War Battle of Picacho Peak and site of annual re-enactment of Civil War Battle of Glorieta Pass NM
Links for more information
- Pecos National Historical Park (U.S. National Park Service)
Pecos National Historical Park which adjoins Glorieta Pass Battlefield and from where tours of the battlefield start.
- Glorieta Battlefield Coalition - Battlefield Tour
Web Page for Glorieta Battlefield