Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Battle of Glorieta Pass, New Mexico, March 26-28, 1862
The Battle of Glorieta Pass, fought from March 26 to 28, 1862 in northern New Mexico Territory, was the decisive battle of the New Mexico Campaign during the Civil WarIt was fought at Glorieta Pass in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in what is now New Mexico. 
Glorieta Pass, New Mexico
There was a skirmish on March 26 between advance forces from each army, with the main battle occurring on March 28. Although the Confederates were able to push the Union force back through the pass, they had to retreat when their supply train was destroyed and most of their horses and mules killed or driven off. Eventually, the Confederates had to withdraw entirely from the territory back into Confderate Arizona and then then Texas. Glorieta Pass represented the peak of the campaign.

The Confederacy had organized the  Confederate Arizona Territory in 1862, a claim that included the southern halves of modern Arizona and New Mexico, after secession moves by residents. The strategic aim was to capture the gold and silver mines in California and Colorado Territory, and the ports in Southern California.

The commanders of the New Mexico Campaign were the Confederate General Henry Hopkins Sibley and the Union Colonel Edward Canby. Sibley, whose mission was to capture Fort Craig, outmaneuvered Canby in February and drove Canby back to his fort, but failed to force Canby's surrender. Instead, Sibley bypassed the fort, and advanced up along the Rio Grande Valley to seize Santa Fe on March 10. Canby remained at Fort Craig to cut Sibley's logistical support from Texas and to await further reinforcements before resuming the offensive. Sibley set up his headquarters at the abandoned Union storehouse at Albuquerqe.

In March, Sibley sent a Confederate force of 200 to 300 Texans under the command of Major Charles Pyron on an advance expedition over th Glorieta Pass, a strategic location on the Santa Fe Trail.   Control of the pass would allow the Confederates to advance onto the plains and to make an assault on Fort Union.

The Union forces were led by Colonel John P. Slough of the 1st Colorado Infantry, with units under the command of Major John M. Chivington. Prior to the battle, Union forces performed a forced march from Denver to Fort Union, and then to Glorieta Pass, covering the distance of 400 miles in 14 days. Combat commenced shortly after their arrival at the battlefield, leaving them little time to recuperate.

Both Scurry and Slough decided to attack on March 28 and set out early to do so. Meanwhile, the leader of the New Mexican volunteers, Lt. Col. Manuel Chaves of the 2nd New Mexico Infantry, informed Chivington that his scouts had detected the Confederate supply train nearby at Johnson's Ranch. After watching them for an hour, Chivington's force descended the slope and attacked, routing or capturing the small baggage-guard with few casualties on either side.  They then looted and set afire eighty supply wagons and spiked the cannon, and either killed or drove off five hundred horses and mules.  

With no supplies with which to sustain his advance, Scurry had no choice but to retreat to Santa Fe, the first step on the long road back to Texas. The Federals thereby stopped further Confederate incursions into the Southwest. Glorieta Pass was the turning point of the war in the New Mexico Territory.

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