Cannonballs flew and bullets volleyed between the two armies 147 years ago as Union and Confederate troops marched over the land near Glorieta Pass.
Walking over the wooded area now on the newly created trail, it’s hard to believe that soldiers once trooped through there.
On Saturday and Sunday, Pecos National Historical Park will celebrate the opening of a new 2.25-mile-long trail through the Civil War battlefield of Glorieta Pass.
Christine Beekman, chief of the park’s Interpretation and Visitors Services, proudly walked the trail on a recent morning.
“This used to be open. The trees were used as fuel and there were fields and grazing all around here,” Beekman said as she swept her hand across the pine-studded ridge.
The trail, which snakes across land sandwiched between Interstate 25 and N.M. 50, has been Beekman’s brainchild since she started work at the park in 2003. Now, after two years of construction, the gravel path is lined with metal markers that recount the history of the battle.
Visitors to the battle site will check in at the Pecos National Historical Park Visitors’ Center to pay the $3 entrance fee and receive a combination for the gate to the trailhead. The trail is then an 8-mile drive from the Visitors’ Center.
The Battle of Glorieta, which has been dubbed the “Gettysburg of the West,” took place March 26 to March 28, 1862, explains the new trail guide for Glorieta Pass. Confederate troops from Texas were marching toward Colorado, where they planned to recruit soldiers, gather supplies and take over the mineral mines.
When the Confederate troops clashed with the Union troops, both sides had fewer than 1,500 soldiers. Three days of stop-and-start fighting pushed Union troops back. It wasn’t until the volunteer corps from New Mexico flanked the Confederates that the battle turned to favor the Union, the trail guide said.
The Union victory marked a decisive moment for the Union and effectively stopped the Confederacy’s movement westward.
According to Beekman, however, there is no better way to learn the history of the region and the battle than to actually walk in the footsteps of the soldiers.
“Visitors will finally be able to walk the hallowed ground where the soldiers walked on the third day of the battle,” Beekman said. She added, “In the national parks, we have the real deal.”
Two days of festivities are planned to celebrate the opening of the trail and Civil War history of the Pecos area.