A battle often dubbed as “The Gettysburg of the West” was fought 150 years ago today in the New Mexico territory at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at Glorieta Pass. A lesser advanced-units skirmish occurred two days earlier at Apache Canyon.
Total combatants numbered about 1300 for the Federals and 1100 for the Confederates. The Battle was a tactical victory for the Confederates, though ultimately a strategic one for the Union Forces. The destruction of Southern supplies forced the campaign back to Texas. Glorieta Pass was the westernmost and decisive battle of the New Mexico Campaign.
The original goal of the Confederates was to capture and secure the military supplies and rich mineral resources of the west. In retrospect, the plan was a grandiose endeavor – complicated particularly by the inability of any sizable force to live off the land, given the sparse vegetation of the American southwest.
To read more about the battle and the primary leaders, I would recommend the following link from the Civil War Preservation Trust: http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/glorietapass/glorieta-pass-history-articles/glorietaalberts.html … Here then is a section from this writing, describing the plan and the unusual nature of Confederate Brigadier General Henry H. Sibley…
“In one stroke, Sibley would bring the entire Southwest, its gold and silver and the terminus of the transcontinental railroad under
Confederate control. Though farfetched, the scheme cost the Southern treasury little and retained the possibility of a sizable return. It was approved, and Davis commissioned Sibley a brigadier general, giving him authority to raise a mounted brigade in Texas for the campaign.
Sibley was poorly suited to the task. A heavy-drinking dragoon officer, his soldiers came to describe him as a ‘walking whiskey keg,’ or a dreamer prone to let the morrow take care of itself. Nonetheless, during the late summer and early autumn of 1861, he raised a brigade of three mounted regiments, the 4th, 5th and 7th Texas Mounted Volunteers, along with supporting artillery and supply units.”