Tuesday, July 5, 2011

New Mexico: The Ghosts of Glorieta Pass

The Pigeon Ranch, once a stage stop on the Santa Fe Trail, can be found nestled in a circular valley surrounded by steep mountains. The Spanish conquistadors named these mountains Sangre de Cristo, Spanish for “blood of Christ.” 

In the spring of 1862, these mountains and valley were the site for a decisive Civil War battle. Blood was shed as Americans fought Americans near this Ranch.

Historians have called the Battle of Glorieta Pass the “The Gettysburg of the West.” This battle represented the high water mark for a bold Confederate offensive into Union Territory on the western frontier. 

Here determined volunteers from Colorado clashed with tough Texans intent upon conquering New Mexico Territory. Victory for the Confederacy would mean the prelude to detaching the western states from the Union and expanding the Confederacy all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

This running battle was fought in Apache Canyon, Glorieta Pass, and at the Pigeon Ranch. It lasted for three days, from March 26-28. It culminated in the retreat back to Texas of the invading Confederate forces. 

Glorieta Pass was a turning point in the Civil War because it shattered the Confederates’ dream of expanding to the west. Many died in this valley and along the ridges that overlook it. Today Civil War re-enactors often report seeing apparitions at Pigeon’s Ranch and in Apache Canyon.

One ghost legend connected to the Battle of Glorieta Pass is about a man named Johnny “Ranger” McCoy. He and two other Confederate soldiers were sent to kill three Union lookout sentries, at crucial points along the rugged terrain, which would assist a planned Confederate ambush the next day. 

The first two Confederates killed their sentries but Johnny, an abolitionist at heart, crossed enemy lines and alerted the Union sentry of the Confederate’s position and plans. The Union thwarted the ambush at dawn and demolished the Confederate forces.

Upon discovering McCoy’s betrayal, supposedly the Confederacy sent a posse out to hang him. But it was too late. They found him swinging from a rope dead. It is speculated that a Union patrol got there first and did their job for them. Other stories state he hung himself having seen all his fellow soldiers die because of his betrayal.

It is said Johnny appears once a year on the mountain where he was found. Some say he returns to beg forgiveness, others state he is seeking revenge. Over the years, mysterious disappearances and suicides have occurred in this area--some feel they are somehow connected to this haunting.

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