150 years ago today–March 28, 1862–there were big doings in my front yard. The weather was not as gorgious as it is today, but it was not bad weather in which to have a battle between a Union army and a Confederate army. What? A Civil War battle in New Mexico?
Yes. It was the second day of the Battle of Glorietta Pass six miles up the pass from my home and the Union army that had forced-marched down from Colorado via Ft. Union was engaged with the Confederate army commanded by General Henry H. Sibley (in a drunked stuper in his personal traveling ambulance). Sibley had marched out of El Paso and up the Rio Grande to take mostly abandoned Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
Sibley was on his way to Ft. Union to seize supplies; invade Colorado and take the gold fields and then invade California to obtain a Pacific (unblockaded) port for the Confederacy. 150 years ago today it all ended in my front yard when a small Union force under Major Chivington (a mad Denver preacher) cut across Glorietta Mesa and arrived on the rock outcrop across the canyon from my front door.
Spread out below was the Confederate wagon park. Chivington’s men lowered themselves down the canyon wall and burned about 180 wagons. They captured about ten Confederate guards and only one man was killed when a powder wagon blew up. Essentially the battle and the invasion were over. For months the Confederates straggled down the Rio Grand back to Texas without supplies, wagons or mules and horses. It was a grim retreat.
At noon today a group of Civil War enactors will shoot muskets and cannon off and there will be presentations at Pigeon’s Ranch at the center of the battlefield. At 6:00 today I’ll go to the beautiful little adobe church in our village of Canoncito at Apache Canyon for Mass. I’m not Catholic, but this is a function of my mostly Hispanic community. Many of the families have been in New Mexico for 200 to 400 years.
My property is an in-holding in the Pecos National Historic Park Canoncito Unit. What I can’t understand is why so many Civil War battles were fought in National Parks.