Historic Era

Southwest Archaeology

Military History New Mexico
Strategic Locations, Routes, Range Wars, Revolutions

Presidios   Forts    Battles    Treaties    Routes and Locations   Background


El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro

El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (the Royal Road to the Interior Lands)—the 1,200-mile Spanish colonial trail connecting Mexico and New Mexico. This road served as New Mexico’s lifeline with Mexico for 223 years and was recognized in 2000 as a National Historic Trail.


January 7, 1598 — Juan de Oñate and 130 men women and children leave northern Mexico and blaze the trail that would become El Camino Real.

Inscription Rock

Juan de Oñate carved this message on Inscription Rock in northwestern New Mexico. It translates to, "Passed by here the adelantado Juan de Onate to the discovery of the sea of the south on the 16 April the year 1605." (Photo by Ralph H. Anderson, Museum of New Mexico Negative No. 129403)


Cooke's Wagon Road


In 1846, while leading the Mormon Battalion to California during the Mexican War, Lt. Col. Philip St. George Cooke blazed the first wagon road from New Mexico to the West Coast. The potential of the route for railroad construction was one of the reasons for the Gadsden Purchase in 1854. Cooke entered Arizona through Guadalupe Pass.


August 1, 1861 — Confederate Army Lt. Col. John R. Baylor and a force of Texas Mounted Volunteers proclaim all of New Mexico south of the 34th parallel as the Territory of Arizona, with La Mesilla near Las Cruces as their capital.

Colfax County War

For twenty years after the 1869 sale of the Maxwell Land Grant, homesteaders, ranchers, and miners fought the new owners for control of this enormous region. The resulting murders and general breakdown of law and order led to the removal from office, in 1878, of Territorial Governor Samuel B. Axtell.


Lincoln County War


February 18, 1878 — John H. Tunstall is murdered near Tinnie while driving horses to Lincoln. His death inflamed his young cowhands, including Billy the Kid, who sought revenge in the Lincoln County War.

Lincoln, N.M.,

An overhead view of Lincoln, N.M., taken sometime around 1886-88, just about a decade after the infamous Lincoln County War. (Photo by J.R. Riddle, Museum of New Mexico Negative No. 76100)



March 9, 1916

March 9, 1916 — Mexican revolutionary leader Francisco "Pancho" Villa leads an attack on the small community of Columbus on the Mexican border, burning much of the town and killing civilians and soldiers. After the attack, the Mexican insurgents retreat back into Mexico.

From Columbus, General John "Black Jack" Pershing pursued Villa into Mexico. His expedition of 10,000 men made the first military use of mechanized equipment and airplanes.

Columbus, N.M.   Pancho Villa

 A view of Columbus, N.M., shortly after Pancho Villa's raid.
(Charles Poe Family Collection, Aisle #16-Album, N.M. State Records Center & Archives)

Pancho Villa Raid Monument Pershing and Aide
This plaque memorializes Pancho Villa's raid on Columbus, N.M., and the
ensuing military action the U.S. government took against him. (Archival photo)







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