‘Western Gettysburg’
Colorado City had role in pivotal battle

       The 1862 Battle of Glorieta Pass - so obscure that a West Point museum display still pigeonholes it among the Indian Wars - was in reality a seminal Civil War confrontation that shattered the Confederacy's dreams of controlling Colorado and its stores of gold.
       Not only that, Colorado City played a key role, being used as a recruiting point for Company A of the 1,200-man 1st Colorado Volunteers - the main force of the Union army that would fight at Glorieta, Westside historian Dave Hughes told close to 100 listeners at the Old Colorado City History Center April 8.
       “There wasn't an Indian within 100 miles of there,” he said of the engagement in northern New Mexico. “It was a Blue-Gray battle.”
       Hughes, who plans a book on what he calls the “Gettysburg of the West,” said that although he has convinced a West Point museum official the exhibit should be changed, the official told him the innacuracy would only be corrected if Hughes provided $7,000 to pay for it.
       That is not the only controversy Hughes is stirring up with his research. He said that one of the heroes of Glorieta was Major John Chivington - reviled by many historians for leading Colorado's 1864 Sand Creek Massacre at an Indian camp (although a military court found him innocent). According to Hughes, it was a “so-called massacre,” with the chief evidence against Chivington coming from jealous junior officers.
       As for Glorieta, Hughes said the Confederacy planned a “Western empire to California.” The prospect was not as fanciful as it may sound, considering that President James Buchanan (1857-1861) had allowed his Secessionist Secretary of War John B. Floyd to give the commands of forts and depots in Texas and New Mexico to Union officers sympathetic to the South.
       Hughes added that the Confederacy often tried to help its cause in those times by fomenting Indian uprisings. He compared this strategy to the way anti-American elements in Iraq today finance the insurgency fighters.
       Another unsung hero in stopping the Confederacy was William Gilpin, who was appointed territorial governor by President Abraham Lincoln in the first month of his presidency and given orders to “save Colorado for the Union,” according to Hughes.
       The Battle of Glorieta Pass, in which Union troops routed the Confederates and sent them fleeing back to Texas, occurred over several days in March 1862. That summer, Colorado City had its brief span as territorial capitol.
       Hughes drew a connection between those events. Gilpin had issued promissory notes to raise the volunteer army, but the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury refused to honor them. Lincoln then replaced Gilpin with a Denver landowner named John Evans, and the capitol moved back north.
       “Denver stole the capitol,” Hughes told the History Center audience, “and state government has gone downhill ever since.”
       Hughes concluded his talk with an appeal for help in putting up a statue in Bancroft Park honoring the 1st Colorado soldiers for their heroism at Glorieta. The statue would go on a concrete slab next to the old cabin in Bancroft Park. Hughes, who first wrote about Glorieta in his 1978 history of Old Colorado City, said afterward that he ensured the slab was installed several years ago after a group honoring the 1st Colorado dissolved and donated its funds to OCCHS.

Westside Pioneer article