El Camino Real Historic Trail Site 
Updated 22 May 2013 B
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HISTORIC FORTS DAY -- April 20, 2013
HISTORIC FORTS DAY is an annual event held at El Camino Real International Heritage Center, normally held on the Saturday following the anniversary of the Battle of Valverde - February 21.  For 2013, it was held on April 20, coinciding with the anniversary of the Confederate retreat from New Mexico.  On April 17, the retreating Confederate Army, consisting largely of Mounted Texas Volunteers, had camped near the confluence of the Rio Puerco with the Rio Grande (north of Socorro).  It was from here they decided to make their famous trek through the mountains to avoid passing near Fort Craig.  It was a grueling experience as about 1,600 men, few with the aid of horses, walked from Rio Puerco to El Paso, Texas with little food, all the while hauling their artillery through the mountains by hand.  They eventually arrived in San Antonio, Texas, making it one of the longest retreats in military history.
HISTORIC FORTS DAY commemorated this historic event with presentations on the retreat and Fort Craig, Confederate reenactors, artillery demonstrations, guided tours of nearby Fort Craig, and guided tours to the townsite of San Marcial and the Valverde battlefield.
Click photos to enlarge. Photos by docents Jerry Sintz and Paul Harden
Public Presentations
Reenactors Phil Gregory and Phil Dodd describe the retreat. They retraced a portion of the route from near Rio Puerco to Magdalena in 2012, including hauling their mountain Howitzer along the Rio Salado and La Jencia gulches -- giving them a very personal and first hand account of what the Texans experienced. It was not pleasant.
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Bureau of Land Management archaeologist Sarah Stibbins gave a very informative talk on the history of Fort Craig as the "Guardian of the Trail," the role the fort played during the Civil War in New Mexico, and some of the ongoing archaeological work and future restorations planned for the historic frontier fort.
Skirmish at Sheep Canyon
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Artillery Demonstrations
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Confederate Battery
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There were demonstrations during the day of the Confederate Battery and their mountain Howitzer
Preparing the canon for fire; cleaning the barrel, loading the charge and preparing the primer charge
Just south of the Center is the deep Sheep Canyon - site of a Feb. 1862 skirmish between the advancing Confederate army and some scouts from Fort Craig.
The Confederate camp at Sheep Canyon. Most of the soldiers were Texas Volunteers who wore civilian clothes, rather than the Confederate uniform, when they entered New Mexico in 1862.
The reenactment of the skirmish in Sheep Canyon and firing the canon with an impressive echo. The canon was hauled by hand back to camp to demonstrate the hardship of a mountain warfare engagement.
Hauling the canon up the steep arroyo walls and back to camp.
Reenactors demonstrated forming a line of skirmish and tactics used in Territorial New Mexico
Firing the canon
Special Guided Tour
Photos by docent Jerry Sintz
There were two guided auto tours of area historical sites in the afternoon, one led by Paul Harden, the other by Peggy Hardman.
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The tour group investigating a few remnants of the 1929 San Marcial flood.
Guide Paul Harden takes a few folks on a walk along
a visible section of El Camino Real trail near Fort Craig.
Check out our home page early next year for information on 2014 Historic Forts Day.
If you or your reenactment group would like to participate in next year's Historic Forts Day, please contact us.
Our special guided auto tours of San Marcial, Valverde battle sight, El Camino Real and Fort Craig are held periodically throughout the year - announced on our home page.