The Battle of Glorieta Pass
Today marks the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Glorieta’s Pass and the high water mark for the Confederates’ daring offensive into the Union’s western territory. Glorieta Pass is strategically located along the Sante Fe Trail and the southern edge of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (southeast of Santa Fe)—explaining why some historians have dubbed the battle the “Gettysburg of the West.”
In March of 1862, Confederate Major Charles L. Pyron led a force of 200-300 Texans to nearby Johnson’s Ranch. On March 26th, Union Major John M. Chivington attacked with a force of 400 Coloradans. While Chivington successfully captured some of the rebel troops, he found the bulk of the southern force behind him. Chivington tried to advance but Confederate artillery repulsed him. Chivington regrouped, dividing his force in two so he could capture the southerners in the crossfire. Pyron’s troops retired and formed a defensive line along a narrow section of the mountain pass, but the northerners successfully flanked them, forcing them to flee again. Chivington’s cavalry charged after the retreating rebels and captured the rearguard. The Yankees then retired to nearby Kozlowski’s Ranch.
All was quiet on the 27th as both sides awaited reinforcements. Lieutenant Colonel William Scurry’s troops arrived, expanding the Confederate force to approximately 1100 while Colonel John P. Slough swelled the Union ranks to 1300.
Both sides decided launched an attack on the morning of March 28th. Scurry led his southerners down the canyon where he spotted the approaching Yankees. The two armies clashed around 11am and the southerners successfully held their ground, launching repeated counter attacks throughout the afternoon. Slough retired first, thereby ending the fighting. Scurry—thinking the Confederates were victorious—also retired. However, Chivington’s men had destroyed all of the rebels’ supplies and animals, forcing the southerners to retreat first to Santa Fe and then back to San Antonio, Texas. Ultimately, the Union had won, successfully stopping Confederate incursions into the Southwest territory.
Alberts, Don. The Battle of Glorieta: Union Victory in the West. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1996.
Edrington, Thomas. The Battle of Glorieta Pass: A Gettysburg in the West, March 26–28, 1862. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998.
Frazier, Donald S. Blood and Treasure: The Confederate Empire in the Southwest. College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press, 1995.
Whitlock, Flint. Distant Bugles, Distant Drums: The Union Response to the Confederate Invasion of New Mexico. Boulder Colorado: University Press of Colorado, 2006.
Image Credit: National Park Service