This Guilty Land
On October 16th, 1859, John Brown brought his Kansas brand of abolitionism east to Harper's Ferry, Virginia, where he tried to start a slave rebellion. Ten people were killed. Brown was captured, tried, and sentenced to hang. As he was led to the gallows, he handed a guard a slip of paper. "I am now quite certain," it read, "that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but by blood."
The whole country was now beginning to experience the fear that had gripped Kansas for so long.
In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President, pledged to halt slavery's further spread in the West. One by one, the southern slave states left the Union. And on April 12th, 1861, rebel guns fired on Fort Sumter. The Civil War that had already begun in the West now exploded in the East.
In Colorado, Union volunteers were recruited to protect the rich mining districts from the Confederates. One of the first to step forward was a big, bearish Methodist minister named John M. Chivington. He was six and a half feet tall, weighed 250 pounds, and sometimes delivered sermons with a revolver resting on the pulpit. Offered a chaplain's commission, Chivington refused. He wanted to fight for the Union, he said, not just pray for it.
Meanwhile, in January of 1862, a confident rebel army of 3,500 soldiers had marched west out of Texas into New Mexico, where it defeated Union forces at Valverde, seized Albuquerque, plundered Santa Fe, and moved north toward Colorado. Their plan was to capture Denver and the Rocky Mountain gold fields, then sweep all the way west to take California and its mother lode of mineral wealth. Their motto was "On to San Francisco, " but they hadn't counted on Chivington.
this army of Texans thinking they can live off the land and they move
through New Mexico territory winning their battles, and they get up there
to northern New Mexico and they have no idea that there's another army
coming at them."
Chivington was now a major with the 1st Colorado Volunteers, hard-drinking miners, eager for a fight. They had marched 40 miles a day through ice and snow and freezing winds to stop the Texans. They met in a place called Apache Canyon. Chivington sent some of his men scurrying up the canyon sides. "They were up on the walls on both sides of us," one Confederate remembered, "shooting us down like sheep." Then Chivington himself led the charge.
Major Chivington with a pistol in each hand... chawed his lips with only less energy than he gave his orders.... Of commanding presence, dressed in full regimentals, he was a conspicuous mark for the Texan sharpshooters.... But as if possessed of a charmed life, he galloped unhurt through the storm of bullets.
The two armies met two days later at Glorietta Pass, and for five bloody hours they slammed away at each other amidst the boulders. But while the battle raged on, Chivington and some of his men slipped sixteen miles behind the Confederate lines, to a cliff that overlooked the Texans' supply wagons.
There, they lowered themselves by ropes, drove off the guards, burned 85 wagons filled with provisions, and bayoneted 500 horses and mules. The Confederates, who had seemed so close to victory, now faced starvation and thirst, as well as a hostile enemy.
they had to turn around and retreat, get out of there. And they panicked.
There they were, hundreds of miles from their bases... in San Antonio
in Texas. Nothing but deserts and mountains between them and their homes."
Columns got lost. Boots wore out. Men had to stagger through searing sand in bare feet. Soldiers abandoned their weapons, collapsed from exhaustion, dehydration, sunstroke. Thirty-five hundred men had marched out of Texas to conquer the Southwest. Fifteen hundred of them never returned.
The dream of a Confederate West was dead. Glorieta Pass would become known as "the Gettsyburg of the West." And John Chivington -- the "fighting Parson"; -- was a Union hero.
City, Kansas, Oct. 8th, 1862 -- Our camp meeting in this place was a glorious
success. Reverend Chivington... who with his command has accomplished
such wonders of late in New Mexico, was present and preached from the
stand in his regimentals. His persuasive eloquence, and clear, ringing
stentorian voice swayed the multitude like a Western tornado, as it bends
its massive oaks. The work of God is still going on.
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