Salt Warriors
Insurgency on the Rio Grande
Texas History - Mexican American Studies - Borderlands Studies
6 x 9, 384 pp.
21 b&w illus., 2 maps.
Pub Date: 01/22/2008
Canseco-Keck History Series
  cloth
Price:        $24.95

978-1-60344-016-5
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2009 Honorable Mention for the Clotilde P. Garcia Tejano Book Prize, presented by the Tejano Genealogy Society of Austin
 
2008 Southwest Book Award, presented by the Border Regional Library Association

 

Salt Warriors

Insurgency on the Rio Grande

By Paul Cool

The El Paso Salt War of 1877 has gone down in history as the spontaneous “action of a mindless rabble,” but as author Paul Cool deftly demonstrates, the episode was actually an insurgency, “the product of a deliberate, community-based decision squarely in the tradition of the American nation’s original fight for self-government.”

The Paseños (local Mexican Americans) had held common ownership of the immense salt lakes at the base of the Guadalupe Mountains since the time of Spanish rule. They believed their title was confirmed in the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. However, to the American businessmen who saw in the white expanse a cash crop that could make them rich in the years following the American Civil War, ownership appeared up for grabs. After years of struggle among Anglo politicians and speculators eager to seize the lakes, an Austin banker staked a legal claim in 1877, and his son-in-law, Charles Howard, started to enforce it. Cool chronicles the ensuing popular uprising that disrupted established governmental authority in El Paso for twelve weeks.

Unique features of this pioneering book include the author’s employment of previously untapped sources and the first thorough and systematic use of familiar ones, notably the government report El Paso Troubles in Texas, to create this detailed study of the war. First-person accounts from reports and newspaper items create a landmark day-by-day account of the San Elizario battle, including the location of the Texas Ranger positions.

This fast-paced account not only corrects the record of this historical episode but will also resonate in the context of today’s racial and ethnic tensions along the U.S.-Mexico border.

PAUL COOL, a former social security administrator and  Army Reserve officer who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, has an avid interest in the borderlands frontier.

What Readers Are Saying:

". . . back in 1877 a struggle commenced that left bodies scattered all over West Texas and southern New Mexico. The El Paso County Historical Society has issued a few articles about the conflict, and almost fifty years ago C.L. Sonnichsen wrote The El Paso Salt War (1961), but now we have a welcome fresh view, Paul Cool's carefully researched and beautifully written. . . Every El Pasoan worth his salt, if you will permit me the pun, ought to own this book."

"Paul Cool's terrific new book gives this fascinating episode thorough and long-overdue attention. . ."

“Back in 1877 a struggle commenced that left bodies scattered all over West Texas and southern New Mexico. The El Paso County Historical Society has issued a few articles about the conflict, and almost fifty years ago C.L. Sonnichsen wrote The El Paso Salt War (1961), but now we have a welcomed fresh view, Paul Cool’s carefully researched and beautifully written. . . . Every El Pasoan worth his salt, if you will permit me the pun, ought to own this book.” --Journal: Wild West History Association

“The Salt Wars . . . lasted roughly from 1873 until 1878 and led to the deaths of hundreds. The conflict saw assassination, corruption, political maneuvering, the exile of hundreds of American citizens, ruthless vigilante justice and what nearly became an international incident leading to a second war with Mexico. . . . Summarizing the particulars in a few sentences is impossible. Nevertheless, Paul Cool, a Social Security administrator, has admirably unraveled the constantly changing details, and done so in a fashion any professional academic historian could admire. . . . Well-documented and chronologically well-organized, the narrative keeps who’s who and what’s what foremost in the reader’s mind. Given the amount of name similarity, inaccurate or incomplete documents and other points of complexity, this is no small accomplishment.” --Houston Chronicle

“It is necessary reading for those interested in an important, but often neglected episode in the history of the state.” --Mexia Daily News

“…highly researched history of the war over salt in 1877…Thanks to the solid research of Paul Cool, we now have a much broader understanding of the questions surrounding the Salt War...Through Cool’s writing, the development of the Salt War’s history is expertly expressed in easily read prose. The book contains all the elements that would attract a Hollywood producer.” --Chuck Parsons

“No previous work on the Salt War has been based on such a quarry of primary sources, explicated the political power plays (involving both Tejanos and Anglos) in the conflict with such clarity, interpreted the insurgency of those relying on the salt lakes so incisively, and skillfully chronicled the aftermath that the episode had on the common people of the El Paso Valley. The book is destined to become the definitive treatment of the subject.” --Arnoldo De León, Angelo State University

“…an exceptionally well researched piece of scholarship that goes way beyond what has previously been written. It is obvious from the first page that Cool has made great efforts to uncover every piece of evidence that might in any way shed any new facts on this dramatic but bloody event.” --Jerry Thompson, Texas A&M International University

"The author elegantly navigates the shaky alliances, the deep enmities, the hubris of some and the courage of others in the struggle over control and use of the salt lakes near El Paso. The Salt War ranks with the Lincoln County War in its drama and complexity, and in its evidence of a troubled American past with issues that reverberate into the 21st century. This is an authoritative and important work by a gifted scholar." --Paula Mitchell Marks, St. Edward's University

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