Three Ranches and Battle of Glorieta Pass

By Richard Flint and Shirley Cushing Flint

The Kozlowski, Pigeon and Johnson Ranches are strung along the Santa Fe Trail between modern Rowe and Cañoncito, New Mexico in western San Miguel County and eastern Santa Fe County. Today Interstate 25 parallels the trail in this section. Heading south from Las Vegas on I-25 about forty miles, the exit for Pecos National Historical Park of the National Park Service (NPS) will take you to Kozlowski's. Just over three miles north on State Road 63 are the remains of the stage stop. At one time it served as the headquarters of the Forked Lightning Ranch, once owned by the actress Greer Garson. The extant building incorporates some of the original adobe walls of Kozlowski's Ranch and Stage Station, which in turn was built from pirated materials from the much older pueblo and mission church of Pecos.

Martin Kozlowski, born in 1827 in Warsaw, Poland was a refugee from the wars with Germany in 1848, when he moved to England and married. Some confusion exists regarding his first name, but it is known that by 1853 he and possibly his wife were in America where he enlisted in the 1st Dragoons. For five years he served in New Mexico and mustered out in 1858. The 1st Dragoons were stationed at Fort Union from 1851-1856 and Kozlowski was probably among those serving their time there. One can imagine that while on patrol he saw quite a bit of the country and perhaps felt some kinship with the landscape of the upper Pecos River Valley. With the Sangre de Cristo Mountains towering over this well-watered valley, the landscape was idyllic. It was here that he settled down on 600 acres alongside a plentiful spring and the much-traveled Santa Fe Trail. He began a business of catering to travelers on the trail and later expanded to encompass a stage station for the Barlow and Sanderson line. His place was known for a good meal prepared by his wife, often of fresh trout from the Pecos River. Later he operated the first store in Rowe, New Mexico.

More than twenty years later Adolph Bandelier, an anthropologist studying the Pecos Pueblo and Mission church, visited with Mrs. Kozlowski at their ranch. She recalled seeing the Pueblo houses still in perfect condition and the church with its roof, even though the Pecos Indians had already resettled at Jemez Pueblo twenty years before she came there. She told Bandelier that her husband had torn "parts of it down to build stables and houses."

Continuing north to the village of Pecos and then west on State Road 50, still following much of the Santa Fe Trail nearly to Glorieta, New Mexico, one comes upon a small portion of the remains of Pigeon's Ranch. Alexander Vallé, a French-American born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1817, followed the Santa Fe Trail westward until settling upon this narrow spot on the trail. He apparently was awarded title to a land grant by the 35th Congress in 1857 or 1858, indicating that he was a recipient of a Mexican land grant, possibly from Governor Manuel Armijo. Armijo in the 1840s granted many tracts of land to foreigners who promised to settle the eastern side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and act as a buffer between the settlements along the Rio Grande Santa Fe corridor and the Plains Indians. Perhaps Vallé was one such recipient.

At the eastern end of Glorieta Pass in a narrow defile with room only for an arroyo, the trail, and his establishment, Vallé built a twenty-three-room complex. The description of the principal structure was that it: "formed a kind of Asiatic caravansary, where guests could lodge by themselves and eat their own meals. Beyond was a double corral for enclosing and protecting loaded wagons, and to it was attached sheds with stalls for draft horses and mules. Back of these, running up well into a ravine, was a strong adobe wall that surrounded a yard in which teams could also be kept and fed." The photographer, Ben Wittick, climbed the cliffs behind the ranch in the 1880s and took a photo of a still very much intact establishment.

Vallé's hostelry was the largest and most convenient on the trail from Las Vegas to Santa Fe, housing 30-40 people and several hundred animals. Like Kozlowski's Ranch, it too became a stage station for the Barlow and Sanderson line. Although in its early days it was known as Rancho de la Glorieta, it soon came to be called Pigeon's Ranch. Vallé may have obtained this sobriquet from the way in which he stuck out his elbows while dancing at local fandangos, although that story has been questioned. One historian has stated that he was in fact Alexander Pigeon and that he adopted the surname of Vallé in deference to his Hispanic neighbors.

At the western end of Glorieta Pass Anthony P. Johnson established his ranch in what today is called Cañoncito at Apache Canyon. Johnson, also from St. Louis, came west along the Santa Fe Trail in the late 1840s. He was employed as a teamster at Fort Union and quite possibly knew Kozlowski. He also bought his land in 1858 and built his ranch from the local materials of adobe and rock. Johnson had a family but it is not known if he married a local woman or whether he brought a wife with him from St. Louis. However, by 1869 he sold the ranch, and in 1879 he was found murdered.

These three ranches became forever linked with a decisive Civil War battle. Although New Mexico was far removed from the innumerable battles taking place east of the Mississippi, it too saw engagements between the North and South. Officers such as Major Henry Sibley, commander of Fort Union in the spring of 1861, resigned from the US Army and returned a few months later leading Texas volunteers. Because Fort Union held supplies and ordnance desperately needed by the Confederacy, it was a logical target in the summer of 1861.

As Confederate troops marched into the territory from Texas and overwhelmed garrison after garrison along their route to Santa Fe, volunteers from New Mexico, Colorado and California filled the ranks of the army, as most of the regular troops were deployed in the eastern theater. It was primarily due to their efforts that the Confederate troops were defeated just east of Santa Fe at Glorieta Pass in March 1862, and driven all the way back to Texas. This action saved Fort Union, its supplies, and the vital link to the east via the Santa Fe Trail, from Confederate control. Without Fort Union the Confederacy had little chance of winning the West. Some refer to the Battle at Glorieta Pass as the Gettysburg of the West because of being a similar pivotal turning point for the aspirations of the Confederate leaders to create a confederacy from coast to coast.

Kozlowski's Ranch (sometimes called Gray's Ranch by the soldiers) played an important logistical role in the events of this engagement. On March 25, 1862 Colorado attorney Colonel John P. Slough of the 1st Regiment of the Colorado Volunteers and commander of all the troops at Fort Union, had advanced as far as Bernal Springs south of Las Vegas with about 1300 men. Major John M. Chivington was sent ahead with about one third the advancing column to Kozlowski's Ranch around midnight. It was here that Union forces encamped, making use of the plentiful spring water, through the remainder of the engagement. A few days after the Battle of Glorieta Pass most of the Union soldiers left Kozlowski's Ranch for Fort Union. However, the wounded men remained for two months in a temporary field hospital set up in Kozlowski's tavern, until they could be safely moved to Fort Union. Kozlowski seemed well pleased with his guests as he later said: "When they camped on my place, and while they made my tavern their hospital for over two months after their battles in the canyon, they never robbed me of anything, not even a chicken."

Just west of Pigeon's Ranch was the scene of most of the heavy fighting. After Chivington set up camp at Kozlowski's on March 25th, Lieutenant Nelson was sent out in the night to capture, if possible, any Confederate scouts, which he did at Pigeon's Ranch. The following day, March 26th Chivington arrived at Pigeon's Ranch, captured more scouts, and proceeded through the pass at Apache Canyon. Here the Union and Confederate forces clashed at the Battle of Apache Canyon. After the skirmish, Chivington retired to Pigeon's with the wounded and prisoners, setting up a hospital. Dead Union soldiers were buried east of the ranch. With insufficient water at Pigeon's all the men capable of travel returned to Kozlowski's. March 27th was a day in which both forces regrouped, tended the wounded and buried their dead. The major battle for the pass took place on March 28th just west of Pigeon's. In the course of the day's fighting the Confederates were able to push the Union soldiers out of Pigeon's Ranch, and so in effect won their objective. Here the Texans stayed for two days and nights, tending their wounded and burying their dead. Sometime later Vallé would file a claim with the U.S. government for damages done to his property at the time.

However, unbeknownst to the Confederates troops, though they were winning the battle, they actually were losing the war. The men under Major Chivington and Captain William H. Lewis, 5th Infantry, were led by Colonel Manuel Chaves, 2nd New Mexico Volunteers, up and over Rowe Mesa to a spot overlooking Johnson's Ranch and the Confederate supply train. Johnson had fled into the mountains with his family when the Confederates approached, leaving his ranch and stage station vacant. In a charge down the mesa, the Union force overwhelmed the Confederates protecting the supplies. Union soldiers put a torch to the supply wagons and killed the horses and mules. As soon as they completed their work they were led back over the mesa in a more direct line to Kozlowski's by Padre Ortiz. The discouraged and all but defeated Confederate soldiers retired to Santa Fe and decided that without supplies or the taking of Fort Union, their mission was doomed to failure. Thus, within two weeks the Texans abandoned the field and returned to San Antonio. Johnson returned to his ranch and also filed a damage claim with the U.S. government.

Today efforts continue to be made to preserve these three National Historic Landmarks. The railroad encroaches on the southern edges of Apache Canyon and Pigeon's Ranch and I-25 crosses the Glorieta Pass site and Apache Canyon very nearly on Johnson's Ranch. Johnson's Ranch is the most impacted by lack of concern. In the 1950s the owner leveled most of the buildings that were located just east of the church in Cañoncito. Some of the logs of the present corrals were vigas from the station, but for all intents and purposes Johnson's Ranch is gone.

Pigeon's Ranch, designated as the Glorieta Unit, is now part of Pecos National Historic Park. As late as 1906 the ranch, although dilapidated, it was still a private home. In the 1980s there was major destruction of Pigeon's Ranch due to a heavy snow. The Glorieta Battlefield Preservation Society raised money for immediate preservation and undertook efforts for a more permanent status. In 1999 the National Park Service was able to purchase approximately 55% of the battlefield area and is considering an interpretative trail on the site. The Park Service and the State of New Mexico continue to work out issues regarding the State Highway running near the remains of Pigeon's Ranch and its impact on the structure. Kozlowski's Ranch has retained the most integrity of the three. It's various owners generally kept the buildings in good repair. NPS acquired ownership of it in 1991. As part of the Historic Park, it is awaiting funding to begin restoration.

In 1987 a burial site containing thirty-one skeletons was unearthed near Pigeon's Ranch. Douglas Owsley conducted skeletal analysis and it has been generally agreed that these were Confederate soldiers buried after the Battle of Glorieta Pass. However, the site location seems to better match descriptions of where Union dead were buried. In any case the remains were laid to rest in 1993 at the Santa Fe National Cemetery.

The long history of these ranches, from the days of the Santa Fe Trail, through Civil War battles, to the present-day Interstate lives on, due to both continuing public and private efforts to commemorate, salvage, and restore these sites.

Sources Used:

Alberts, Don E. The Battle of Glorieta: Union Victory in the West. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1998.

Edrington, Thomas S. and John Taylor. The Battle of Glorieta Pass: A Gettysburg in the West, March 26-28, 1862. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998.

Lange, Charles H. and Carroll L. Riley, eds. The Southwestern Journals of Adolph F. Bandelier, 1880-1882. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1966.

Oliva, Leo E. Fort Union and the Frontier Army in the Southwest. Southwest Cultural Resources Center, professional papers No. 41. Santa Fe: Division of History, National Park Service, 1993.

Simmons, Marc. Following the Santa Fe Trail: A Guide for Modern Travelers. Santa Fe: Ancient City Press, 1986.

Whitford, William C. The Battle of Glorieta Pass, March 26, 27, 28, 1862: The Colorado Volunteers in the Civil War. Glorieta, New Mexico: The Rio Grande Press, Inc., 1989.

Related Materials:

Battle of Glorieta Pass

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