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New Mexico battle played key role during Civil War, expert says

Caleb James
August 18, 2017 10:22 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- In 1861, territorial New Mexico was the Wild West. Hundreds of miles east, a bloody war waged over slavery between Union and Confederate soldiers.

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Durwood Ball is the editor of the New Mexico Historical Review. An expert on New Mexico's frequently forgotten battle scars, Ball shared his knowledge with KOB as the nation weighs what to do with Confederate memorials.

"The Confederate States of America wanted a port on the Pacific Coast," Ball said Friday. "It's basically a strategic road to California."

Confederate generals had trade opportunities and gold in their sights, wrangling up Texas volunteers to invade New Mexico. A Colorado-based battalion came down the Rio Grande to fight off the southern forces. Ball said the Confederate States wanted to bolster their hemorrhaging economy and recruit more slave-states.

"The argument that the Civil War was not about slavery is just flat wrong," he said.

Texas troops bulldozed through New Mexico and occupied Socorro, Albuquerque and Santa Fe, all under the control of the Confederate army for months. Until the Battle of Glorieta Pass near Las Vegas, that is.

"There, Union troops -- basically Colorado volunteers -- defeated the Confederate troops," Ball said.

The Confederate general leading the invasion counted on New Mexicans who often owned their own slaves to support the southern cause and feed their troops, Ball said.

"What he didn't gauge very accurately was New Mexicans hated Texans," he said.

Many of the troops starved to death.

The Howitzer cannons in Old Town Albuquerque are indeed Confederate army cannons. This was artillery used by those Texas volunteers, but these cannons represent a lot more of the union victory in New Mexico.

Texas troops buried the guns so they wouldn't be captured. They are remnants of a deep connection to the war.

Ball said Southern New Mexico saw a resurgence of Confederate preservation in the early 20th century. Enclaves of Confederate sympathizers were heavily active, according to Silver City papers in 1915, as segregation began to heighten tensions throughout the country. Newspapers advertised Confederate meet-ups up until the 1980s in Albuquerque.

There is still an active chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a hereditary organization claiming members are related to Confederate soldiers. Calls to the local chapter leader were not returned.

Monuments to the confederate army dot New Mexico, including markers at the Battle of Glorieta Pass.

Credits

Caleb James

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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