Visiting the Glorieta Pass Battlefield at Pecos National Historical Park
On March 28th, 1862, an ambitious plan to expand the Confederacy into the Southwest ended with the defeat of invading Rebel forces at the Battle of Glorieta Pass, on the Santa Fe Trail between Santa Fe and Las Vegas, New Mexico Territory. Colonel John P. Slough commanded a U.S. force consisting largely of the 1st Colorado Infantry, plus some New Mexico volunteers and U.S. Regulars against Texas Confederates under the command of Lieutenant Colonel William R. Scurry. Slough split his command and sent a column under the 1st Colorado’s Major John M. Chivington around to the south of the Santa Fe trail in an attempt to get behind the Confederate force. Slough and his Union troops fought the Rebels at and near a ranch and stagecoach stop on the trail just east of Glorieta Pass called Pigeon’s Ranch. After several hours of fighting, Slough ordered a withdrawal east to the Union encampment at Koslowski’s Ranch. Meanwhile. Chivington’s command, which had been winding its way around Glorieta Pass, discovered the parked and lightly guarded Confederate supply train at Johnson’s Ranch, west of the pass. Chivington’s command destroyed the supply train. With their supplies gone, what had looked like a Confederate victory had turned into a defeat, forcing the Rebels to end the campaign and withdraw from New Mexico Territory. Details of the Battle of Glorieta Pass are in this post.
Visiting the Glorieta Pass Battlefield
The Glorieta Pass Battlefield site is a unit of Pecos National Historical Park. The Park was established as Pecos National Monument in 1965, expanded in 1990, and renamed as Pecos National Historical Park. The park is about 25 miles southeast of Santa Fe, off I-25. If approaching from Santa FE on I-25, take Exit 299, then take Mexico Highway 50 east to New Mexico 63. Turn right (south) and for two miles to the park entrance. If traveling from Las Vegas, New Mexico on I-25, take Exit 307 and follow Highway 63 for two miles to the park entrance.
While some of the battlefield site remains privately owned, the area around Pigeon’s Ranch was added to Pecos in 1993. The site is detached from the main body of the park. There are two ways to visit the battlefield. One way is to take a Ranger led hike. There are two of these; one is about a mile in length and the other is about 2 1/4 miles long. They both depart from the Visitor Center, which is about a seven and a half mile drive to the trailhead (with the Ranger leading the way). Another way to visit the battlefield is to hike on your own. The trailhead parking lot is behind a locked gate, so you will need to stop at the Visitor Center first and get an access code to open the gate.
The trail winds through hilly and forested terrain, with many arroyos that provided cover for the two armies. (The battlefield is more heavily forested today than in was in 1862). There are 14 interpretive trail stops detailing what went on at key sites; purchasing an inexpensive trail guide at the Visitor Center is recommended. The hike itself is rather scenic, with views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Glorieta Pass itself, a historic route though the mountains used by travelers for eons. This battlefield hike, a combination of Civil War and Old West history, is different from a typical battlefield visit.
There is one building remaining on the Pigeon’s Ranch site that was present during the fighting, a 48 foot long adobe structure that can be seen from the trail above it. A better view can be had on Highway 50. The building sits only a few feet off the road.
While little remains of Pigeon’s Ranch, the former Kozlowski’s Ranch (the Union headquarters and campsite during the battle) still exists. The site (renamed the Forked Lighting Ranch by a previous owner) was purchased by Texas oilman and rancher Buddy Fogleson in 1939. Fogleson later married actress Greer Garson. After Fogelson died, Garson sold the ranch to The Conservation Fund, which donated it to the National Park Service. There are guided tours of the property available, leaving from the Visitor’s Center.
There is much more history at Pecos. The reason the park was established in the first place was to preserve the Pecos Pueblo site, home of Pueblo dwelling Native Americans from the mid 14th to mid 19th centuries. Ruins of the pueblo and churches built by the Spanish who attempted to colonize the area and convert the Native Americans to Christianity are seen here. The Visitor Center has exhibits and artifacts from hundreds of years of the pueblo people’s history, as well as the area’s history in the Civil War.
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