Saguache Creek/Cochetopa Pass

Michael has a BA in History & American Studies and an MSc in American History from the University of Edinburgh. He comes from a proud military family and has spent most of his career as an educator in the Middle East and Asia. His passion is travel, and he seizes any opportunity to share his experiences in the most immersive way possible, whether at sea or on the land.

Part of our in-depth series exploring the forts of Comancheria

19 March 1855; Saguache, Colorado: The Utes and Jicarillas, now under the Ute chief Blanco, continued to harass residents of the San Luis Valley. Brig. Gen. John Garland, in charge of the Department of New Mexico, became fed up with the Indian depredations and called for five companies of territorial volunteers to assist the regulars in clearing out the Indians.

Col. Thomas T. Fauntleroy organized the invasion. The forces gathered at Taos and Cantonment Burgwin in late winter: 500 men of Companies B, D, and F of the 1st Dragoons, two companies of the 2nd Artillery serving as infantry, and five companies of New Mexico Volunteers under Ceran St. Vrain, commissioned as a lieutenant colonel for the expedition. Lucien Stewart commanded a company of Pueblo and Mexican scouts, and Kit Carson acted as chief guide.

The columns marched north to Fort Massachusetts, then trekked across the San Luis Valley in snow and freezing temperatures. They found the Ute and Jicarilla camp at the headwaters of Saguache Creek, on the trail to Cochetopa Pass. The Indians swarmed from their lodges and formed a line to oppose the scouts and volunteers, who had arrived before the regulars. But the Indians' brave front could not stand up to the determined volunteers.

Conspicuous in a red shirt, Chief Blanco rallied his men. One Apache charged to and fro, encouraging his warriors to attack. When he charged up to volunteer Don Manuel Chaves, Chaves shot him, and another volunteer, Antonio Tapia, immediately dragged him down and scalped him. The scouts also fought well. When the regulars arrived, with bugles sounding the charge, the Indians fled into the mountains. The columns returned to Fort Massachusetts.

Two soldiers were wounded and eight Indians were killed.

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