Weatherford Democrat

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June 12, 2009

NM civil war battlefield gets exposure

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The plan was to march up the Rio Grande and capture the city of Santa Fe and seize the thousands of rifles, dozens of cannons and other supplies at Fort Union for a campaign that would expand the Confederacy's borders all the way to California Coast.

But Union soldiers stood their ground at a pinch along the Santa Fe Trail known as Glorieta Pass, resulting in a battle that historians often refer to as "the Gettysburg of the West."

Public access to the Civil War battlefield has been limited, but the National Park Service is celebrating the opening of a new trail this weekend that will allow visitors to explore the area.

The Glorieta Battlefield Trail — more than 2 miles through the wooded and rocky hills southeast of Santa Fe — has been in the planning stages for several years. It's aimed at educating people about the decisive 1862 battle.

"In many ways the Civil War was a defining moment for this country but very few people know much about this campaign," said Jim Houghton, a Civil War buff and president of the Glorieta Battlefield Coalition. "Had it been successful, the outcome of the war could have been significantly changed."

Unlike states in the East, New Mexico isn't known for its Civil War battlefields, of which there are less than a handful. Still, preservation of such sites is a priority for the Park Service, said Christine Beekman, chief of interpretation and visitor services at Pecos National Historical Park, which oversees the Glorieta Battlefield.

The park acquired much of the land necessary for preserving the battlefield in 1990 but it wasn't until it acquired a key piece of property at Pigeon's Ranch — which was used during the battle as a hospital for both Union and Confederate troops — that planning for the trail began in earnest.

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