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The Colorado Territory was formally created in 1861 shortly before the attack on Fort Sumter that sparked the American Civil War. Although sentiments were somewhat divided in the early days of the war, Colorado was largely a pro-Union territory, one in which slavery was illegal. A Confederate flag was raised over Denver, nearly sparking a riot, but it was quickly pulled down. Early attempts to enlist Confederate volunteers were also thwarted.

When President Abraham Lincoln called for volunteer soldiers to supplement the Regular Army, Colorado residents responded, with nearly 4,000 men eventually enlisting in the volunteer Union forces authorized by the United States War Department. Hundreds more served in militia companies, authorized by the territorial governor, most of which were formed to fight Indians rather than Confederates.

Contents

Union regiments

The territory's first governor, William Gilpin, organized the 1st Colorado Volunteers in August 1861. Nicknamed "Gilpin's Pet Lambs" because of the governor's involvement in their organization, the regiment and its first commander, John P. Slough, marched to northern New Mexico Territory in February-March 1862. There they fought in the battles of Apache Canyon, Glorieta Pass and Peralta. Slough resigned in April 1862 and was replaced by Major John M. Chivington.

A second regiment, the 2nd Colorado Infantry, was organized in February 1862, with four existing companies of independent militia joining the volunteer service and forming the nucleus of the new regiment, which primarily fought Indians during its existence, although battalions from the regiment fought at the Battle of Honey Springs in present-day Oklahoma. Much of the regiment was later reformed into the 2nd Colorado Cavalry. (The 1st Colorado Cavalry had been organized in November 1862.) In January 1864, the 2nd Colorado Cavalry was ordered to the Missouri border counties to relieve Kansas troops defending against pro-Confederate bushwhackers. Beginning in late April 1864, the regiment fought several skirmishes with bushwhackers throughout the summer months, as well as a raid on regular Confederate cavalry at the Battle of Camden Point, while John Evans, the new governor of Colorado Territory, pleaded for their return to Colorado. Just as the 2nd Colorado prepared to return for Indian-fighting duty in Colorado, Confederate General Sterling Price raided Missouri. The 2nd Colorado was attached to the Union force raised to repel the invasion, and took part in the battles of the Little Blue River, Westport, Marais des Cygnes, and Mine Creek in October 1864. When Price withdrew, the 2nd Colorado was part of the pursuit, meeting him for the last time near Fayetteville, Arkansas, in November 1864. The unit's contribution to the American Civil War now lives on through an Oklahoma-based reenacting group known as the Second Colorado Living History Association And Volunteer Infantry.

The 3rd Colorado Cavalry Regiment, a hundred days regiment, was involved in a series of bloody attacks on local Indians, perpetrating the notorious Sand Creek Massacre against a village of peaceful Cheyennes.

References

External links

Further reading

  • Adams, Blanche V., "The Second Colorado Cavalry in the Civil War," Colorado Magazine, VII, 3, May 1931.
  • Carey, Raymond G., "Colonel Chivington, Brigadier General Connor, and Sand Creek," Denver Posse of the Westerners 1960 Brand Book. Boulder: The Johnson Publishing Company, 1961; "The Bloodless Third' Regiment, Colorado Volunteer Cavalry," Colorado Magazine, Vol. 38 No. 4, October 1961.
  • Colton, Ray C., The Civil War in the Western Territories. Norman: The University of Oklahoma Press, 1959.
  • Hollister, Ovando J., History of the First Regiment of Colorado Volunteers, Denver: Thomas Gibson & Co., 1863. Reprint: Colorado Volunteers in New Mexico, 1862. Chicago: R. R. Donnelley & Sons Co., The Lakeside Press, 1962.
  • Nankivell, Major John H., History of the Military Organizations of the State of Colorado. Denver: The W.H. Kistler Stationery Co., 1935.
  • Smith, Duane A., The Birth of Colorado: A Civil War Perspective. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989.
  • U. S. War Department. The War of the Rebellion. A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Four series, 128 vols. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.
  • Whitford, William C., Colorado Volunteers in the Civil War. Denver: Colorado State Historical Society, 1909; Golden, Colorado: Pruett Press, 1963. Colorado in the New Mexico Campaign, 1906
  • Williams, Mrs. Ellen. Three Years and a Half in the Army; or, History of the Second Colorados. New York: Fowler & Wells Company, 1885.







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