FORT UNION
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CHAPTER FIVE:
FORT UNION AND THE ARMY IN NEW MEXICO DURING THE CIVIL WAR (continued)

     When Colonel Paul discovered that Colonel Slough, commander of the Colorado regiment, had been appointed to the rank of colonel first and outranked him, Paul was incensed and immediately complained to army headquarters. "Upon the arrival of Colonel Slough," he wrote, "I had the mortification to discover that his commission was senior to mine, and thus I am deprived of a command which I had taken so much pains to organize and with which I expected to reap laurels." He pointed out that Slough had been in the service for six months. Paul had graduated from West Point in 1834, been in the service since, and "has frequently been tried in battle." He begged to be promoted to the rank of brigadier general of volunteers. [186] There was no time for that to happen before the Texans arrived. Colonel Paul, loyal soldier that he was, accepted the situation and assigned a column of regular troops (including the two recently-organized batteries, three companies of cavalry, and three companies of infantry) to "act in conjunction" with the Colorado Volunteers, all under command of Colonel Slough. [187] Paul remained in command of the eastern district and Fort Union while Slough commanded the troops in the field.

John P. Slough
John P. Slough, courtesy State Historical Society of Colorado.

     Colonel Paul had conceived a plan to take the bulk of the troops ("1,200 Americans and four guns") at Fort Union on March 24 and bypass the Confederates in the Rio Grande valley by marching to Anton Chico in an attempt to join up with Canby's troops from Fort Craig on March 26 or 27. Paul would bring provisions for the combined force, which could then seek and destroy the Texans. [188] Canby initially approved that arrangement but later changed his mind, declaring that "Fort Union must be held and our communication with the East kept open." He advised Paul, "do not move from Fort Union to meet me until I advise you of the route and point of junction." [189]

     Colonel Paul and Colonel Slough disagreed about how best to meet the Confederate threat. Paul, following Canby's latest instructions, wanted to retain the troops at Fort Union to defend the post until additional orders were received from Canby. Slough, on the other hand, wanted to take most of the troops and move toward Santa Fe, noting that "instructions from Colonel Canby are not only to protect Fort Union, but also to harass the enemy." They would engage the Texans in the field or drive them from Santa Fe if possible, with Fort Union to furnish supplies and serve as the point to fall back on if necessary. This intervening action would not expose the fort to the Texans immediately, and it might defeat or disable the Confederate troops. If the Texans were not turned back, much of the fight might at least be taken out of them before they reached the post. Colonel Slough had his way because his appointment as colonel predated that of Paul. [190] As noted above, this may have been critical because the fieldwork could (as later demonstrated) be taken by artillery placed on the mesa behind the old post.

     Colonel Paul protested to Slough that the latter's plans were "in violation of Colonel Canby's instructions, and, if unsuccessful, must result in the entire loss of the Territory." "With due deference to your superior judgment," Paul declared, "I must insist that your plans . . . must inevitably result in disaster to us all." He concluded with strong words: "I protest against this movement of yours . . . in direct disobedience of the orders of Colonel Canby." [191] In order to absolve himself of any blame for what might happen, Paul explained the circumstances to the adjutant general of the army in order "to throw the responsibility of any disaster which may occur on the right shoulders." [192]

     At the same time, Governor Connelly, who had been advocating an offensive against the Texans, supported Colonel Slough's decision. Connelly thought Slough's column could "curtail the limits of the enemy, and mayhap lead to the expulsion of the enemy from the capital." The governor predicted that "this slight difference of opinion and movement will lead to no unfavorable result." Connelly also hoped Canby would march from Fort Craig to join in the offensive. [193] Canby was not moving, however, and the defense of the territory fell primarily on the troops at Fort Union. The Colorado Volunteers, sometimes called the "Pike's Peakers," were ready to fight and confident of victory.

     The Texans were not nearly as well organized as most of the officers at Fort Union believed. [194] Sibley's brigade was spread out from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, where only about 250 to 300 Texans, under command of Major Charles L. Pyron, Second Regiment of Texas Mounted Rifles, held the territorial capital. Sibley was reportedly ill; some said he was often drunk. He was not providing much leadership for his brigade, leaving that to other officers. [195] He had some of his troops at Albuquerque to deal with Canby if he moved out of Fort Craig. Others were watching the routes east of the Rio Grande, in case Canby tried to slip around and join the troops at Fort Union. The Confederates were still searching for supplies to sustain their drive toward Fort Union and were not yet prepared to undertake further offensive action. They were, despite their striking successes, still in dire straits. They needed to capture the supplies at Fort Union soon, or they would be unable to sustain themselves in New Mexico. The Texans, who had not yet been defeated in New Mexico, remained confident of victory, exhibited high morale, and were ready to fight hard when required.

John M. Chivington
John M. Chivington, courtesy State Historical Society of Colorado.

     The showdown came on the Santa Fe Trail at Apache Canyon and Glorieta Pass, March 26 and 28, 1862. [196] Colonel Slough left Fort Union with 1,342 volunteers and regulars, including Ritter's and Claflin's batteries, on March 22. Colonel Paul remained in command of the post with 257 serviceable troops. Slough's command encamped the first night on the Sapello, the second at Las Vegas, and gathered at Bernal Springs (approximately 45 miles from Fort Union) on March 24 and 25. Major John M. Chivington (a Methodist Episcopal preacher turned soldier), First Regiment of Colorado Volunteers, was sent ahead with 418 men "toward Santa Fe, with a view of capturing or defeating a force of the enemy reported to be stationed there." Chivington's command marched toward Glorieta Pass, halting about midnight of March 25 at Martin Kozlowski's Ranch (near the abandoned Pecos Pueblo). [197]

     On the same day Confederate Major Pyron at Santa Fe, having been informed that troops were advancing from Fort Union, marched most of his command from the city with two six-pounder guns to meet the federal troops. They camped that night at Anthony P. Johnson's Ranch (present Canoncito) at the western entrance to Apache Canyon, the western approach to Glorieta Pass. Pyron sent four scouts ahead to keep a watch for the troops from Fort Union. With sufficient warning from those pickets, Pyron hoped to be able to place his command in a position to defeat his adversary. Chivington, after establishing camp, sent 20 scouts ahead at 2:00 a.m. to try to capture Pyron's pickets, who were reportedly about five miles away at Pigeon's Ranch (owned and operated by Alexander Valle) at the eastern entrance to Glorieta Pass. They were successful early in the morning of March 26 and brought all four Confederate scouts to Chivington's camp. [198]

     Chivington led his command over Glorieta Pass that same day. He apparently did not learn from the captured pickets where the Texans were located, but he had deprived Pyron of a warning of his presence in the area. Pyron, meanwhile, left Johnson's Ranch about noon to lead his command over the same route. Both forces were probably surprised to meet each other in Apache Canyon about mid-afternoon. Pyron soon had his six-pounders set up and firing at the Union troops. Chivington had no artillery but enjoyed superior numbers and a position above the Texans. He deployed some of his men up each side of the canyon, above the elevated range of the artillery, from where they fired down on the Confederates. The rough terrain and trees helped to render the artillery ineffective.

     In the three-hour battle at Apache Canyon, the Confederates retreated from the field. As they fell back they destroyed a small bridge, hoping it would stop the Union pursuit. A company of 103 mounted Colorado Volunteers was ordered to jump their horses across the sixteen-foot chasm, and all but one made it. [199] After capturing 71 prisoners, Chivington decided to stop the pursuit because the sun was setting and he feared that Confederate reinforcements might be near. He reported his own losses in the engagement as 5 killed and 14 wounded and the Confederate losses as 32 killed, 43 wounded, and 71 prisoners. After agreeing to a truce until the following morning to bury the dead and treat the wounded, Pyron returned to Johnson's Ranch and Chivington set up camp at Pigeon's Ranch. The engagement at Apache Canyon was the first defeat of the Texans since they had invaded New Mexico.

map
Confederate Invasion of New Mexico, 1862. Source: Robert M. Utley, Fort Union National Monument, 28.
(click on image for an enlargement)

     One of the Texan volunteers, Private George M. Brown, who was among the prisoners taken at Apache Canyon, later explained the impact this reversal had on the rebels. He was with Pyron's troops at Santa Fe, planning to "march on and take Fort Union, which, we thought, was ours already." Of the engagement on March 26, he wrote: "Out we marched with the two cannons, expecting an easy victory; but what a mistake. . . . They were regular demons, upon whom iron and lead had no effect, in the shape of Pike's Peakers, from the Denver City gold mines. The Texans thought the Colorado volunteers "seemed to have a charmed life." Nothing turned them back. After seeing some of his comrades killed and maimed, Brown declared, "Such a sight I never want to see again." [200] He was taken to Fort Union and later paroled to return to Texas.

     When Brigadier General Canby, still at Fort Craig, received word that Colonel Slough had led the troops from Fort Union and that an engagement had been fought at Apache Canyon, he was not pleased. He said Slough's advance was "premature, and is at variance with my instructions." "It may," he predicted, "involve serious consequences." Therefore, Canby determined to take most of the troops at Fort Craig and move north to join in the conflict, leaving Colonel Carson and 11 companies of New Mexico volunteers to defend Craig. Canby realized that the Confederates could be caught between two Union forces and forced to fight on two fronts at the same time. Then, as soon as possible, he would unite with the troops from Fort Union. "When united," he concluded, "the force under my command will be sufficient to expel the enemy from the country north of this post." [201] Perhaps Canby was fearful of what would happen to Slough's command, or perhaps he was fearful that Slough might get credit for a victory while he was sitting tight at Fort Craig. Whatever the case, Canby was too late to affect what happened east of Santa Fe.

map
Battle of Glorieta Pass, 1862. Source: Warren A. Beck and Ynez D. Haase, Historical Atlas of New Mexico, 37.

     On March 27 Chivington moved his command back to Kozlowski's Ranch, and he and Pyron were both joined by reinforcements. Colonel Slough moved the remainder of his force to Kozlowski's Ranch, and Confederate Lieutenant Colonel William R. Scurry [202] brought more Texans from his camp at Galisteo to Johnson's Ranch. Scurry spent the day at Johnson's Ranch, expecting an attack at any moment. [203] Private Gardner claimed that Colonel Slough had sent a message to the Confederates at Johnson's Ranch on the morning of March 27, announcing "that the Armistice was up, and we would attack them soon, but we didn't intend to attack them that day at all." [204] On March 28 Scurry, determined to wait no longer, led about 700 men with three pieces of artillery over Glorieta Pass to attack the enemy. On the same day Slough, in a daring two-column offensive, had sent Major Chivington with 430 men on a back road over Glorieta Mesa to the heights overlooking Apache Canyon and Johnson's Ranch. Chivington's force, guided by Lieutenant Colonel Manuel Chavez of the New Mexico Volunteers, was to harass the Confederates from the rear while Slough and the remaining 900 Union troops moved over the Santa Fe Trail.

William R. Scurry
William R. Scurry, courtesy State Historical Society of Colorado.

     Slough, to give Chivington time to travel the longer distance, moved to Pigeon's Ranch and waited there, unaware that the Confederates had advanced to a position in Glorieta Canon about a mile west of Pigeon's Ranch. When that was discovered about 10:30 a.m., the Union troops were rushed forward to form a battle line. They were met by the fire of Confederate artillery. Both sides utilized artillery; the Confederates had three pieces and the Union troops had eight. The Texans enjoyed an element of surprise and forced Slough's troops to retreat several times during the day. Slough abandoned the field soon after 5:00 p.m. and retreated to Kozlowski's Ranch. Captain Enos, quartermaster, was credited with saving the Union supply and ammunition train during the retreat. [205] Confederates were too exhausted to pursue, but must have felt they had achieved an important victory.

     It is impossible to determine accurately the losses of either side because of the conflicting reports. Colonel Slough estimated Union losses at 28 killed, 40 wounded, and 15 prisoners, and Confederate casualties of at least 100 killed, 150 wounded, and several prisoners. Colonel Scurry reported 36 killed and 60 wounded in his command and stated that Union killed must have exceeded 100.

     The apparent Confederate victory at Glorieta Pass was deceptive. Chivington's command had delivered what proved to be the decisive blow to the Confederate invasion of New Mexico at Johnson's Ranch. There his troops captured and destroyed a piece of artillery that Scurry had left behind and burned the supply train of approximately 70 wagons containing food, ammunition, clothing, baggage, forage, medical supplies, and other items. Chivington later recalled that the "wagons and supplies were run together and set on fire and kept under guard until the ammunition had all exploded and the supplies had all been consumed, nothing remaining excepting the irons of the wagons." [206] At Johnson's Ranch, three Texans were killed, several were wounded, and 17 were captured. One Union soldier, Private Simon Ritter, Company A, First Colorado Volunteers, was injured when the Confederate ammunition exploded. Chivington's command was guided by Padre Polaco (the Reverend Alexander Grzelachowski) over a different route back to the camp near Kozlowski's Ranch, where they arrived about 10:00 p.m. [207]

     The impact of the destruction was felt by the Texans. Confederate Private Brown later informed his "dear wife," "our whole train of seventy wagons was burned by the enemy. In one of the wagons was that trunk of clothing you sent me. . . . It was burned up with the rest." [208] Confederate Private H. C. Wright recalled many years later, "it was a great shock to us to find that after we had won the battle we had lost the victory by our supplies having been destroyed." [209] Wright also remembered it was a "dreadful blow. We were left shorn of everything, with three or four hundred dead and wounded men on our hands and no means to care for them." [210] Chivington later claimed that his men bayoneted over one thousand mules which had pulled the Confederate supply train, an apparent exaggeration. [211] The uncertainty of how many mules, if any, were killed that day remains an interesting footnote to the history of the engagement at Glorieta Pass. [212]

Samuel D. Raymond
Samuel D. Raymond, bugler with First Colorado Volunteers at Glorieta, Photo Collection, Fort Union National Monument.

     Colonel Scurry, his entire supply train destroyed and his men extremely low on ammunition, was unable to follow up his success on the field at Glorieta Pass. [213] If they had captured the Union supply wagons and ammunition, which the quick action of Captain Enos prevented, Scurry might have had a second chance. [214] His men, however, suffered intensely from want of food, blankets, and medical supplies. It turned cold and snowed on them during the night after the battle. They had to retreat to Santa Fe for supplies. [215] It was the beginning of the end of Confederate occupation of New Mexico. [216] The engagement at Glorieta Pass and Johnson's Ranch was the turning point of the war in the Southwest, referred to by some historians as the "Gettysburg of the West." Brigadier General Sibley was forced to abandon his planned attack on Fort Union, and his brigade was driven from New Mexico during the late spring and early summer of 1862. The troops from Fort Union, led away from the post by Colonel Slough in violation of Canby's orders, had saved the territory for the Union. The post on Wolf Creek had truly lived up to its name.

     The soldiers left behind at Fort Union, some of whom continued to labor on the fieldwork and others were engaged in shipping supplies to troops in the field, must have been anxious for news of Colonel Slough's column. Their initial reaction, upon learning that the Confederates had driven the column from the field at Glorieta and Pigeon's Ranch, was undoubtedly one of apprehension that the fight might soon be at their doorstep. When they heard the news of Chivington's destructive blow at Johnson's Ranch, the anxiety and suspense were transformed into celebration and relief. It was unlikely that anyone who had worked on the fieldwork was disappointed that its walls were not tested in battle.

     A temporary hospital was established at Kozlowski's Ranch at the time of the battle at Glorieta Pass, under the direction of Surgeon Joseph C. Bailey. The wounded were treated there until they could be moved to Fort Union. During the time the troops were at Kozlowski's place some of his fences were used as fuel, amounting to about 25 cords of wood. Some doors, shutters, and other lumber was used for coffins, bunks, and benches for the sick and wounded. Dr. Bailey had authorized the appropriation of property for the benefit of the soldiers. Kozlowski later submitted a claim for compensation, asking for $300 for the loss of fences and $150 for the other materials used. Since the damage occurred under supervision of the medical department, Captain McFerran needed a statement from Dr. Bailey, whom he could not locate, or the surgeon general to certify that the payment should be made. McFerran observed that Kozlowski would probably be satisfied with $200 to $250 for the fences and $100 for the other lumber. [217] Kozlowski was most likely paid but the exact amount was not found.

     Colonel Slough's column returned to Fort Union on April 2, as directed by Canby. Slough, whom Canby charged with violating orders by marching his troops away from Fort Union, resigned his commission effective April 9. [218] Major Chivington was promoted to the rank of colonel to replace Slough. Colonel Paul, who had been so upset when he discovered Slough outranked him, now took command of operations. [219] Paul placed Captain Asa B. Carey, Thirteenth Infantry, in command of the post and led most of the troops at Fort Union back toward Santa Fe, hoping to join up with Canby's troops from Fort Craig at some point to continue pushing the Texans out of the territory. Governor Connelly was confident that this would happen soon. [220] When Canby's troops appeared at Albuquerque, the Confederates at Santa Fe were called there to join Sibley's force in an attempt to hold the city. Troops from Fort Union reoccupied Santa Fe, where they found the Confederates had left behind their wounded comrades. [221] Governor Connelly moved the seat of his government back to the capital on April 12. [222] Canby traveled east of the mountains around Albuquerque and joined up with Paul's troops from Fort Union at Tijeras, and the combined force pursued the fleeing Texans down the Rio Grande valley. There was a small skirmish at Peralta and the Texans continued to retreat. There was an exchange of some prisoners, [223] and Canby paroled and sent out of New Mexico the remaining Confederate prisoners ("about 500"). Those who were wounded were treated until they could travel. [224]

     One of those parolees, Private Brown, explained what had happened to Sibley's brigade in a letter to his wife. After the victory at Valverde, he wrote, "we felt like heroes." With renewed confidence, he recalled,

     ". . . we were marching up the country with the fixed determination of wrenching this country from the United States Government and we all thought it would soon be in our hands. But what a mistake. Having marched to within eighty miles of Fort Union, we were again met by the enemy from Fort Union, and after three battles with them, all of us who were not killed or taken prisoners were obliged to destroy everything they had, and flee to the mountains for their lives, and get out of the country, the Lord only knows how. We were among those taken prisoners." [225]

     Brown, while at Socorro, explained that "some of the prisoners were sent to the States; the rest of us have been started home this way." He revealed that they were paroled "by swearing never to take up arms against the United States again, which I was very glad to do." He was sorry to have lost, and reiterated, "had it not been for the devils from Pike's Peak, this country would have been ours." He also had his fill of war, warning "if brother John has not joined the volunteers yet, keep him away for God's sake." Without explaining why, Private Brown considered Sibley largely responsible for what had happened to the Texas volunteers in New Mexico. "I hope the day is not far distant," he asserted, "when Gen. Sibley will be hung." [226] He was not alone in that opinion. Private Wright declared that Sibley "proved himself incompetent" and "shirked his duty." [227]

     Captain Teel, who did not concede that the troops from Fort Union had beaten the rebels in battle, blamed Sibley's ineptitude for the Confederate failure in New Mexico Territory. "General Sibley," he later declared, "was not a good administrative officer. He did not husband his resources, and was too prone to let the morrow take care of itself." Sibley did not pay enough attention to his supply line and relied too much on the hope of capturing provisions as needed. Teel believed the Texans did not succeed primarily because of "the want of supplies." "Under such circumstances," he concluded, "failure was inevitable." Teel believed that, if Baylor had been in charge, "the result might have been different." [228] That may have been Teel's rationalization, but it was also credible.

     While the residue of Sibley's Brigade was retreating toward Fort Bliss, Colonel James H. Carleton, First California Volunteers, who had served at Fort Union during the early 1850s, led a column of some 1,500 California Volunteers into present Arizona. They forced the Confederate troops, who had occupied Arizona Territory under Baylor, to retreat back to Texas, as well. By mid-July 1862, even Fort Bliss was back in the hands of Union troops. As soon as Canby was assured that Carleton's California Column would be able to clear the Confederates from Arizona and southern New Mexico, he made plans to return the Colorado Volunteers to their home territory. [229] Canby wrote to his counterpart in the Department of Kansas, "I do not think that an invasion of this country by the Rio Grande will again be attempted, but it may be by the Canadian or the Arkansas, if our troops in the South should meet with any serious reverses." [230] The major threat Canby anticipated was the attempt "to cut off or destroy the supply trains coming to this country." [231] He turned his attention to the protection of the Santa Fe Trail and the New Mexican settlements from Indians. These were missions the troops at Fort Union and throughout the department had been engaged in for more than a decade, and now the volunteers joined in the ventures. [232] In addition, the troops at Fort Union, with the help of civilian employees, continued to receive and ship out prodigious quantities of provisions for the entire department.

Page Five




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