In New Mexico, Union Troops Have Been Cancelled

By Steve Haner

In Santa Fe, New Mexico, when the wave of historical monuments destruction hit three years ago, it was a memorial to Civil War Union soldiers that was toppled by a mob.

There were Union soldiers out in what was then a sparsely populated territory? Yes, the Civil War reached that far. Santa Fe was briefly occupied by Confederate troops from Texas in 1862, for about a month. A couple of battles (skirmishes by eastern standards) were fought on its territory, the final one just 25 miles from town at Glorietta Pass.

The forces loyal to the Union, including the famous Christopher “Kit” Carson as a leading officer, were commemorated with the standard obelisk in Santa Fe’s beautiful Plaza, near the restored Spanish colonial-era Palace of the Governors. The obelisk was broken and what remains is the ugly box covering the pedestal you see above, an empty stand missing a plaque and a sign providing “context” put up by the city’s Culture, History, Art, Reconciliation and Truth (CHART) Commission.

Why was a Union monument vandalized? Because the soldiers were also praised for participating in battles against “savage” local indigenous populations. At the same time, memorials in town to the aforementioned Carson were also removed, along with a statue of the Spanish colonial governor who reconquered the territory after a successful 1680 Indian revolt. That statue was removed from the grounds of the Cathedral of St. Francis.

As you learn at the museum in his former residence in Taos, Carson both befriended and fought with the various tribes of the west through his career. His first wife was Arapaho and his second from the Cheyenne tribe. The new biography Blood and Thunder is now on my reading list.

The parallels and differences between New Mexico and Virginia are fascinating. Santa Fe became the territorial capital in 1610, and the state’s excellent historical museum acknowledges that was three years after the founding of Jamestown (thank you). But Santa Fe has remained the capital and many original structures were preserved, whereas Jamestown disappeared and had to be excavated – the parts not under water.

In New Mexico, the unpleasant history is about the displacement and exploitation of the various tribes. Virginia has a similar history of mistreatment of its tribes, but the use of enslaved African laborers and their continued disenfranchisement and suppression until recent decades has overshadowed that story.

Another striking difference is how modern New Mexico now celebrates that tribal history. Indian art, music and artifacts are everywhere, and one loses count of the number of tribe-affiliated casinos dotting the landscape. Only tribal artisans can sell on the sidewalk beside the Palace of the Governors. Within the museums, the stories of the tribes, the Spanish and then the wave of American immigrants – the good and the bad – are reported dispassionately.  It is history.

Click to expand and you can read the list of extinct tribes.

At the visitor’s desk at the new (1966) New Mexico Capitol Building a few blocks from the old Plaza, we were advised to check out a memorial remembering the various North American indigenous tribes that no longer exist. Plenty of Virginia and North Carolina tribal names are included. Other statues on the property portray the original New Mexicans.

(Side note: That is a fantastic capitol building, round, with both House and Senate chambers set up like semi-circular theaters. The artwork in its hallways rivals any art museum in the world and is certainly the best collection in Santa Fe. They are mainly modern pieces, a stark contrast to the collection of older paintings in our capitol.)

Long before the first Spanish conquistador rode up the Rio Grande into the area, those tribes on the memorial were warring on each other, taking slaves or merely raiding for food or animals. People were driven off the most attractive farmland, and the hilltop or cliffside pueblos were built because those places were defensible. Some of those tribes disappeared before the Europeans arrived, and the diseases spread by European arrival probably did most of the next wave of destruction.

You can find that history in the museums, too. There was no push to remove that memorial to the disappeared tribes because they practiced slavery or engaged in war for economic gain. Nor should there be. But the others removed in Santa Fe remain removed. Some people would have no standards at all except for their double standards.

Our Governor Glenn Youngkin deserves praise for his efforts to find a new home for the Moses Ezekiel statue being removed from Arlington Cemetery. It should stay put but won’t. The most logical new home would be Appomattox, where the reconciliation began, but New Market will do because Ezekiel soldiered there. The people continuing to whine about this outcome for political gain are very disappointing.

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43 responses to “In New Mexico, Union Troops Have Been Cancelled”

  1. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Kit Carson is reason enough to topple it. He’s not exactly the same person as lovingly depicted in the 1950s TV shows; the source of nearly all misconceptions of American history.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      I didn’t sense any sugar coating in what I saw. I look forward to the book. He was among other things an active Mason and the Mason’s own and run the museum in his house. They were running a History Channel show about him as the intro.

      Thank you for illustrating my point by joining and applauding the Cancellers.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        So, leading a genocide against the Navajo is worthy of a sandstone obelisk?

        The sandstone obelisk honoring controversial 19th century frontiersman and soldier Kit Carson was partially toppled Thursday night, the second such monument to fall in downtown Santa Fe since 2020.

        The city’s Soldiers’ Monument on the Santa Fe Plaza was felled by protesters on Indigenous Peoples Day nearly three years ago — a testament, some said, to fulminating ethnic tensions in the state’s capital city and elsewhere in New Mexico.

        The 20-foot monument to Carson, inscribed with the words “He Led the Way,” had been surrounded by a plywood box since 2020 — a defense against the fate of the Soldiers’ Monument on the Plaza and others around the country. But sometime Thursday night, authorities said the top of the monument in front of the U.S. District Courthouse was taken down, apparently by someone driving an older white GMC pickup.

        At about 9:30 p.m., a New Mexican reporter observed the truck inches from the wooden barrier, with pieces of the monument nearby and a cable attached to the vehicle leading toward the downed obelisk.

        As the Encyclopedia of Colorado states: Carson was also a man of contradictions and an agent of genocide. Although he married two Indigenous women and spoke several Indigenous languages, he fought, killed, and starved thousands of Apache and Navajo people during his military campaigns. He was an illiterate person who, in addition to Indigenous languages, mastered Spanish and French; and he was a man of unassuming appearance, short in stature with a quiet voice, who earned a reputation as a ruthless adversary.

      2. Matt Adams Avatar

        You’re not talking to individuals that know history. Those who want everything cancelled derive their education from Wikipedia and Professors whom couldn’t pass a fact check.

      3. James Kiser Avatar
        James Kiser

        Discussing anything with Nancy is a waste of your time.

  2. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    “The show is set in the Wild West in the late 19th century.[5] Carson and El Toro, his Mexican partner, travel around the American West helping people.[6]”

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      The Daniel Boone shows were the same level of history. All the more reason to teach the truth rather than cancel it.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        The memorials are not the truth!

      2. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        I dunno, I once saw the actor, Ed Ames**, who played Daniel’s buddy, Mingo, throw a hatchet on Johnny Carson’s show… it was damned accurate.

        ** passed in May this year, age 95.

  3. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    Mr. Haner, there is indeed a Confederate monument in New Mexico. In the middle of nowhere marking a Confederate victory at Val Verde. The Texas UDC put this up in 1936.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      For my next trip maybe. Carson was commanding the Union right wing and his militia reportedly performed well. Canby panicked. The battle was mostly a draw but Canby retreated. Like many Union officers, he got better over time. And I’m Steve, BTW.

      1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead

        Yeah, I know you go by Steve. Just a nod of respect. I have learned a great deal about what goes on in Virginia thanks to you and Mr. Dick. Hard to believe the Civil War reached so far to the west.

  4. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Referenced earlier. How things sometimes went awry in the Ol’ West…

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Funny. My Dad had a sergeant in the AF who was some level chief of some tribe or other, I can’t remember, but my brother and I were in awe of him. He and his wife would come to our house and babysit so the parents could go out.

  5. All statues will come down eventually because none of the individuals memorialized meet the standards of the woke mob.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Nope. Thousands of statues that memorialize people for good reasons AND tell the truth will stay up as they should.

      1. Stephen Haner Avatar
        Stephen Haner

        Please be sure to let us know when you decide what are “good reasons” and what is “truth”, oh wise one. Wow, what arrogance!

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          Well, apparently being on the wrong side of a conflict is reason enough even if you were the winner at the time.

          And this too shall pass.

        2. LarrytheG Avatar

          Not hard to know the truth about some folks who are memorialized. After all, there is ample documented history about them. We do know and I can show you hundreds of statues and memorials that will never come down because we ALSO KNOW from the same HISTORY. I don’t decide by the way… it’s way more than one person. The “deniers” keep playing games claiming “history” as if folks don’t know the history themselves. They DO!

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          James – As you probably well know, the abuses of Colonialism are in play. It was done globally, and what we had in the US was a variant offshoot of slavery in many other places in the world in that the Colonizers of the US were booted but we took over and continued slavery as an independent country whereas many of the colonizers continued to maintain their presence in their other colonized lands and enslavement a means to exploit resources.

          So the descendants of those ancestors who were enslaved by the Colonizers who still live
          today (in the US and other colonized countries now free and independent) don’t see the statues that memorialize the Colonizers as worthy and, in fact, disrespectful of them and their heritage.

          And yes, even Native Americans would enslave but it was more like captured enemy than trying to take over an entire tribe or tribal nation and make all of them slaves for the rest of their lives like we saw practiced with black folks in this country.

          The present-day living descendants of enslaved ancestors find memorials to the ancestors enslavers to be disrespectful and insult.

          Amazing to me that some don’t see or understand this and how this motivates to tearing down such memorials. If somebody enslaved your father and they built a memorial to him in the town square, how would you feel?

          Not all memorials are of that kind despite claims that ALL will come down. They won’t.

          Some memorials to others are considered legitimate because of their humanitarianism – their devotion and service to others regardless of race and some are memorials to those that fought enslavement and fought for justice for others. Who wants to tear them down and why?

          This whole thing is one where folks want to look at the issue in a way that basically says “everyone did it back then so why the big deal”.

          THe big deal is people who live today who are descendants of those who were enslaved having to walk or be in public places where there are memorials to those that enslaved their ancestors.

          I’m quite sure you wouldn’t like it and I know I would not.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Ha Ha! none!

            it’s simple James.

            Would you want a memorial to the guy that enslaved your ancestors in a public space?

            Who can blame any person for not wanting that and wanting it removed?

            And if they wait 50-100 years and it’s not removed, who can blame them if someone removes it?

            Come on James. Be fair!

          2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead

            Geezus Mr. Larry! It’s George Washington. No GW no USA. What are your thoughts on the Lenin statue in NYC?

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            GW is probably a bridge too far… I don’t know about the Lenin statue. Probably on private property, maybe like this:

          4. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead

            I don’t believe you Mr. Larry. They are coming for the essential figures of the Revolutionary era and you will not be there to defend them.

          5. LarrytheG Avatar

            which ones?

    2. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      All things end Jim. Sometimes even when you’re just getting started.

  6. Other statues on the property portray the original New Mexicans.

    How do we know they were the original inhabitants of the area?

    1. Matt Adams Avatar

      They slaughtered and enslaved the people before them fair and square…

  7. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Nice descriptions. On my cross-country road trip many years ago, I made a point of seeing state capitols. The New Mexico capitol was the most distinctive. I heard, or read, that it was modeled on the kiva. In Hopi and other Pueblo nations, a kiva is a large circular room, underground, that is used for spiritual purposes.

    1. William Chambliss Avatar
      William Chambliss

      I had a conference in Santa Fe back in the late 90s. It was a fascinating place. We had a side trip to visit a Hopi kiva and a whitewater trip down the Rio Grande. Hope to get back someday and Steve, sounds like you have enjoyed your trip there, too.

  8. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    “Ransom Stoddard: You’re not going to use the story, Mr. Scott?

    Maxwell Scott: No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
    (and erect a monument just to make sure)

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      I had exactly that thought in the Carson home museum!

    2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Great line from one of my favorite movies.

      1. It is a great one.

  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    I have a friend, a transplant from Va to New Mexico where he and wife bought a ranch never to return to Virginia!

    He lives in a place called Mora which is near Las Vegas NM, yes, there is a Las Vegas NM.

    At any rate, after he settled in and got more involved in the affairs of his county and the politics, he said that it became readily apparent if you were not a multi-generational descendant of the Mexican ancestors who ousted the Spaniards…. that you were “come-here” whose status would not vary and somewhat of a notch down in political legitimacy.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Yes, the state is 49% Hispanic, 36% Anglo, 11% Native American. Gov. Luhan is part of an old political family. FFNM and FFV might be another parallel, except FFNM came from Mexico and FFV from England.

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