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A Re-Enactment of the Civil War Battle of Glorieta Pass

Updated on February 10, 2011

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

Truce Parley

Confederate Leaders Move Forward to Discuss a Truce
Confederate Leaders Move Forward to Discuss a Truce
Union Leaders coming out to Discuss a Truce
Union Leaders coming out to Discuss a Truce
Both sides decide to collect their dead and wounded and stop fighting for the day
Both sides decide to collect their dead and wounded and stop fighting for the day

Battle Over and Those Still Standing Help the Dead to Rise

Picacho Peak State Park

Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona:
Picacho Peak State Park, AZ 85241, USA

get directions

Picacho Peak State Park - location of annual Civil War Re-enactments.

Sky Harbor Airport, Phoenix AZ:
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), 3400 E Sky Harbor Blvd, Phoenix, AZ 85034, USA

get directions

Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport location in relation to Picacho Peak State Park

Tucson International Airport:
Tucson International Airport (TUS), 7250 S Tucson Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85706, USA

get directions

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.

Glorieta Pass New Mexico:
Glorieta Pass Historical Marker, Glorieta, NM 87505, USA

get directions

Location of site of Historical Marker noting site of the Glorieta Pass Battlefield.

Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona:
Picacho Peak State Park, AZ 85241, USA

get directions

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


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    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      8 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Nan Mynatt - Thanks for the compliment. The background, which from some angles hasn't changed since the Civil War helped. Also helping was the fact that the people involved in re-enactments work hard to make clothing using the same materials, tools and styles from that era. They also use the same or exact replicas of the guns used and use the same powder for firing (they do, however, depart from character by leaving out the bullets) so this obviously helps. Finally, the smoke from the cannon and rifles (which is the same type and quantity as in real Civil War battles) gives a nice realistic effect.

      All of the pictures published here are mine and were taken by me. The only problem was the cars and RVs that ended up in the background of some of the photos. Otherwise, if I had switched to black and white I could probably have passed them off as original photos from that era.

    • Nan Mynatt profile image

      Nan Mynatt 

      8 years ago from Illinois

      Where did you get these original pictures, they look read as they were taken today!

    • profile image

      Michael E. Horton 

      8 years ago

      Great Hub.

    • Paradise7 profile image


      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      Fascinating pics, and I've always wondered about the stories behind the re-enactments. Thanks for a great hub!

    • yellowstonegirl profile image


      8 years ago from Bozeman MT

      Very interesting!

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

      8 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      Awesome hub Chuck, I would of loved to see that reinactment. What an experiance. I wish you would write about Jeffereson buying New Orleans, La. What a great story that one is, no war just brains, Great history, love it

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great hub with a good collection of photographs. Keep writing. Enjoy.

    • entertianmentplus profile image


      8 years ago from United States

      Very enjoyable hub.

    • Deltachord profile image


      8 years ago from United States

      Great article about this battle and good pictures.

    • ahmadraza212 profile image


      8 years ago from Pakistan

      very nice dear, very interesting and wonderful war history

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Excellent piece of history with wonderful pictures. Thanks.

    • earnestshub profile image


      8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Fantastic pictures, great story for someone like me who has always managed to visit America just before or after these civil war re-enactments, I thank you!

    • artrush73 profile image


      8 years ago

      Very cool hub, thanks for sharing ;)


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