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Like most memories, the memories of the American Civil War in the West appear to be fading with time. However, the memories of the American Civil War in the West are in far fewer numbers than the memories of American Civil War in the East. Therefore, I have taken this opportunity to try to preserve and share a local memory of the American Civil War in the West.

 While recently visiting the El Pueblo History Museum in Pueblo, Co, I came across a research document that accompanies the howitzer cannon at the El Pueblo History Museum. In the research document, historian Dustin Clasby writes about the El Pueblo History Museum’s howitzer cannon in the following information:

Mountain Howitzer Cannon – El Pueblo History Museum

“The 12-pound mountain howitzer that sits in the international hall of the El Pueblo History Museum has a long and varied history. The cannon was forged in 1847 in Boston, MA, by Cyrus Alger Iron Company. Cyrus Alger was a big name in the manufacturing of arms for the United States military. He is best known for making shot and artillery during the War of 1812, but his cannons were also used in the Mexican-American War (1846-48) and the American Civil War (1861-65). Alger was the first to create a rifled barrel cannon in the United States.”[1]

“The particular artillery piece that sits in the museum is designated as a mountain howitzer because of its small size and weight, making it mobile enough to traverse rough terrain in the American West. The cannon is made of brass and weighs 220 pounds. It is capable of shooting a twelve-pound shot over 1000 yards with a half pound of black powder.” [2]

 “This howitzer was inspected for military use by James Wolfe Ripley. The ‘43’ on the front of the barrel is the inspection number and Ripley’s initials ‘J.W.R.’ are imprinted on the cannon. Ripley later became chief of ordnance of the Army and was instrumental in the modernization of the American artillery.” [3]

 “In 1861, the cannon was surrendered to the Confederate Army of Texas. It was then commissioned for use in the Army of New Mexico led by Henry Hopkins Sibley. The cannon may or may not have been used in the major engagements of the campaign. When the Confederates retreated back to Texas, supplies were destroyed at the Battle of Glorieta Pass. The retreating soldiers buried their remaining artillery and used the carriages to transport their wounded and supplies. The artillery was buried in Albuquerque, NM in 1862.”[4]

 “In 1892, Trevanion Teel, the artillery commander for the Confederates in the Army of New Mexico, led an expedition to recover eight buried cannons. In 1898, four of the cannons were donated to the state of Colorado. The Pueblo howitzer was kept in Denver, except for a short display at Fort Garland, until 1993 when it was officially given to the El Pueblo History Museum.”[5]

 As you can see from the photograph of the mountain howitzer cannon and the information provided within Clasby’s research documentation, the El Pueblo History Museum has in its possession a unique and interesting artifact from the great American Civil War. Upon closer inspection of the artifact’s history, revealed is a history that can be traced across the United States. Teachers can use the howitzer cannon as a tool to help carry on the memory of the great American Civil War and how the war affected the West.

 The El Pueblo History Museum also has a “History Mystery” educational activity, which is a fun way to learn about the museum’s howitzer cannon. The educational activity can be used with a variety of ages. For more information on the educational activity or to schedule a school field trip/large group, please contact the museum. Contact information for the museum can be found at the following web link:

Click for El Pueblo History Museum – History Colorado Website

 

In closure, I hope that by sharing this information, I have helped preserve the memory of the American Civil War in the West. I believe, when a person learns about something that they can relate to first, it then opens them up to the mental urge of wanting to learn about broader topics because they now see how the broader topics relate to them personally.

 


 

[1] Dustin Clasby, “The Howitzer Cannon at El Pueblo History Museum” (Research Documentation, El Pueblo History Museum, 2007)

[2] Clasby, 2007

[3] Clasby, 2007

[4] Clasby, 2007

[5] Clasby, 2007

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Unfortunately, most people who study the American Civil War and how it is remembered often overlook the Battle of Glorieta Pass. Even as I typed this last sentence, the program that I am using to type does not recognize the word Glorieta, but it does recognize the word Gettysburg. Sadly, most of the people who have heard about the Battle of Glorieta Pass only recognize it as being referred to as “the Gettysburg of the West.” This title that the battle has been coined into, is what mainly caught my attention to the subject. I decided to research the Battle of Glorieta Pass and eventually came across the National Park Service (NPS) website.

The Battle of Glorieta Pass

Southwest United States 1862 – Click on Image for Larger View

Once on the NPS website, I found a summary of the Battle of Glorieta Pass. Within the summary, the description of the battle states the following, “Glorieta Pass was a strategic location, situated at the southern tip of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, southeast of Santa Fe, and on the Santa Fe Trail. In March 1862, a Confederate force of 200-300 Texans under the command of Maj. Charles L. Pyron encamped at Johnson’s Ranch, at one end of the pass. Union Maj. John M. Chivington led more than 400 soldiers to the Pass and on the morning of March 26 moved out to attack. After noon, Chivington’s men captured some Rebel advance troops and then found the main force behind them. Chivington advanced on them, but their artillery fire threw him back. He regrouped, split his force to the two sides of the pass, caught the Rebels in a crossfire, and soon forced them to retire. Pyron and his men retired about a mile and a half to a narrow section of the pass and formed a defensive line before Chivington’s men appeared. The Yankees flanked Pyron’s men again and punished them with enfilade fire. The Confederates fled again and the Union cavalry charged, capturing the rearguard. Chivington then retired and went into camp at Kozlowski’s Ranch. No fighting occurred the next day as reinforcements arrived for both sides. Lt. Col. William R. Scurry’s troops swelled the Rebel ranks to about 1,100 while Union Col. John P. Slough arrived with about 900 men. Both Slough and Scurry decided to attack and set out early on the 28th to do so. As Scurry advanced down the canyon, he saw the Union forces approaching, so he established a battle line, including his dismounted cavalry. Slough hit them before 11:00 am. The Confederates held their ground and then attacked and counterattacked throughout the afternoon. The fighting then ended as Slough retired first to Pigeon’s Ranch and then to Kozlowski’s Ranch. Scurry soon left the field also, thinking he had won the battle. Chivington’s men, how-ever, had destroyed all Scurry’s supplies and animals at Johnson’s Ranch, forcing him to retreat to Santa Fe, the first step on the long road back to San Antonio, Texas. The Federals had won and, thereby, stopped Confederate incursions into the Southwest. Glorieta Pass was the turning point of the war in the New Mexico Territory.”[1]

The Battles of Glorieta Pass and Apache Canyon – Click on Image for Larger View

In addition to the summary, I was delighted to find that the NPS website also has a section titled “Teaching with Historic Places Lesson Plans.” Within this section is a lesson plan titled, “The Battle of Glorieta Pass: A Shattered Dream.” I believe that this lesson plan has the potential of being an excellent tool for teachers to use in educating students about the importance of this battle. The reason that the Battle of Glorieta Pass has been termed “the Gettysburg of the West” is for the fact that it was this battle that prevented the Confederate Army from advancing further west with the hopes of attaining the Confederacy’s much needed economic resources (gold, silver, access to seaports,etc.)[2]

In closure, I hope that teachers not only in the West, but that all American Civil War teachers study and in turn teach about the Battle of Glorieta Pass. This battle is highly important to the studying of the American Civil War because it was a major loss for the Confederacy. As a result of this loss, the Confederacy was denied advancement to the West and the economic resources that they needed to finance the Battle of Gettysburg and other battles that were yet to happen in the great American Civil War.

 

[1] National Parks Service, “Battle Summary: Glorieta Pass”

http://www.nps.gov/hps/abpp/battles/nm002.htm (accessed June 28, 2012)

[2] National Parks Service, “The Battle of Glorieta Pass: A Shattered Dream”

http://www.nps.gov/nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/91glorieta/91glorieta.htm (accessed June 28, 2012)

In reviewing the book, The Public Art of Civil War Commemoration by Thomas J. Brown, I became very intrigued with the preservation of Confederate culture in the form of monuments. This led my curiosity to look for more images of Confederate monuments that I would consider being grand in scale. I performed a simple Google search on “Huge Confederate Monument” and it resulted in me finding an image of Stone Mountain, Georgia. From here I decided to perform a search on “Stone Mountain, Georgia” and found the website for Stone Mountain Park.

Stone Mountain – Georgia

Once on the Stone Mountain Park website, I was shocked to find out that this Confederate monument was not just the largest bas-relief in the World that I had come to know, but had now become a twisted version of Disneyland meets the Ku Klux Klan. The website states, “Serious fun. Endless adventure. It’s all waiting for you at Georgia’s #1 attraction. Just 15 minutes from downtown Atlanta and home to the world’s largest piece of exposed granite, this natural wonderland offers 3,200 acres of excitement for every member of the family. A mountain of memories awaits you.* I was shocked because I had just recently read that “Thirty-five-year-old William Simmons, an organizer and insurance salesman for a fraternal society, linked this initiative to the local excitement over director D. W. Griffiths’ enormously influential film Birth of a Nation (1915), in which the rise of the Ku Klux Klan enabled ex-Confederates to regain control of the South and effect a sectional reconciliation cemented by white supremacism. On Thanksgiving night in 1915, Simmons led sixteen men, including the owner of Stone Mountain, to the crest of the monolith to reestablish the Ku Klux Klan by the light of a burning cross. Stone Mountain thereby became sacred ground to the Klan at the same time that Borglum’s project benefited from the national veneration of Lee.”** And now here I was browsing at a website that was promoting this KKK holy land as a theme park to the masses.

KKK member in similar pose as Mickey in image below.

Mickey Mouse just needs needs to bleach his apparel.

 
I immediately began to wonder, if the people who had developed this theme park and the accompanying website had really believed that it was fun for the whole family? And if so, what families? White families, I would have to guess. Because I have a hard time believing that a black family would have the same wonderful experience, given the sites true history. This I feel, even with all of the additional attractions that have been added to Stone Mountain Park, such as the Summit Skyride, Sky Hike, Yogi Bear 4-D Adventure at the 4-D Theatre, Geyser Towers, and the self touted Atlanta tradition of the Lasershow Spectacular in Mountainvision.***
 
Oddly, the website didn’t seem to have any historic information about what the site actually is, an extravagant monument that was built to honor the memory of the Confederacy and their ideals. In a twist of irony, it did however claim to have the best Fourth of July fireworks display in all of Atlanta.****But then again, they did refrain from the use the term Independence Day. 
 
In closure, I believe that all of the above mentioned attractions that have been added over the years to Stone Mountain were actually added to distract from the sites true and disturbing history and that it is just another example of a Lost Cause fantasy.      
 
 

*Stone Mountain Park, “Things to Do”

http://www.stonemountainpark.com/attractions-shows/attractions.aspx (accessed June 21, 2012)

** Thomas J. Brown, The Public Art of Civil War Commemoration: A Brief History with Documents (Boston:Bedford /St. Martin’s, 2004) 102. 

***Stone Mountain Park, “Things to Do”

http://www.stonemountainpark.com/attractions-shows/attractions.aspx (accessed June 21, 2012)

****Stone Mountain Park, “Festivals and Events”

http://festivals.stonemountainpark.com/mini-section/default.aspx?id=37 (accessed June 21, 2012)

In observing the film, Gone with the Wind (1939), I found it very interesting in the way that blacks were depicted in the movie at that time. Even knowing that the roles of the actors were the roles of slaves during the Civil War Period, I still found it shocking to see how ignorant and dumb the blacks were portrayed in the movie. They appeared as to not have any real concern for themselves, their own family, or for the freedom from slavery. The only real concern of theirs that was shown in the film was the concern that they had in taking care of their owners and their owners’ well-being. The slaves were all mostly shown happy and as so ever loyal to the Confederacy.

Loyal and Happy Slaves – Gone with the Wind (1939)

One critic at the time, Lincoln Kirkstein from Film Magazine, wrote: “History has rarely been told with even an approximation of truth in Hollywood because the few men in control there have no interest in the real forces behind historical movements and the new forces that every new epoch sets in motion. Gone with the Wind deserves our attention because it is an overinflated example of the usual false movie approach to history.”* Kirksteins’ remarks make it apparent that the love/hate relationship between history andHollywood is anything but new in society. His remarks also solidify any notion one might have about the film being made as not to tell history as it happened, but to entertain and make the most profitable grandeur films in the process.

Even in the south, before filming had begun, controversy surrounding the historical integrity of the film was brought into question during the search for the actress who would play Scarlet. “Several chapters of the Daughters of the Confederacy threatened to boycott the film because an English actress landed the role. Indignation grew so intense that it spilled over onto the floor of the Daughters’ national convention. Peace finally came when the group’s president-general, Mrs. Walter LaMar, assured the ladies that as a world traveler she had met many British women and found them most delightful.”**

Construction of Hollywood Sign

Hollywood and the film industry, it seems, has always tried and most likely will continue to exploit history for the simple fact that there is money to be made. As historians, it is our duty to continue to watch films that are based on historical events and to critique them based on their relevancy to history and to the truth. For it is in this critiquing by historians, that films that are based on history will hold on to true historical integrity and be a truthful memory for future generations.  

* Bruce Chadwick, The Reel Civil War: Mythmaking in American Film, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf Publishing, 2001), 189.

** Chadwick, 188.