The mid-nineteenth century was a tumultuous yet formative time for the Mesilla Valley, home to present-day Las Cruces, New Mexico. With the coming of the U.S. Army to Mexican territory in 1846, the region became the site of a continent-shaping power struggle between two rival nations.
When Mexican governor Manuel Armijo unexpectedly fled Santa Fe, he left the New Mexico territory undefended, and it fell to forces under Brigadier General Stephen Watts Kearny in a bloodless occupation. In the ensuing two decades, the southern portion of New Mexico's Rio Grande Valley played a prominent role in the conflict that overtook the infant American territory.
In Turmoil on the Rio Grande, William S. Kiser has mined primary archives and secondary materials alike to tell the story of those rough-and-tumble years and to highlight the effect the region had in the developing U.S. empire of the West. Kiser carefully limns in the culture into which the U.S. soldiers inserted themselves before going on to describe the armed forces that arrived and the actions in which they were involved. From the thirty-minute Battle of Brazito—in which the greenhorn recruits of the 1st Regiment of Missouri Volunteers, led by Col. Alexander Doniphan, vanquished Mexican troops through superior technology—to the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, the international boundary disputes, and the Confederate victory at Fort Fillmore, Kiser deftly describes the actions that made the Mesilla Valley important in American history.
What Readers Are Saying:
"Kiser's discussion of the partisan politicization of the US commissioner position, a long and wasteful process that saw the appointing and firing of several individuals, is enlightening."--Civil War Bookshelf blog
"Turmoil on the Rio Grande is a notable foray into this historical genre. If William Kiser can research and write a scholarly study of this quality as an undergraduate and graduate student, one suspects he has a bright future in his chosen field."--Civil War Books
"The book is based on thorough research . . . The author knows his subject well. . . "--Journal of America's Military Past
“Turmoil on the Rio Grande superbly chronicles the history of the valley during the crucial and eventful years from the beginning of the war with Mexico to the end of the Civil War. Kiser has a brisk writing style that makes the book both enjoyable and exciting. Anyone interested in the Mesilla Valley, New Mexico Territory, or the American West will certainly want this book.”—Southwestern Historical Quarterly
" . . . an engaging and diligent account that greatly enhances the state's understanding of its southern portion. If the quality of his first work is any indication, other books by this young man will soon enhance the shelves of Western history."--Pasatiempo
“Mining an impressive array of primary and secondary sources, including archived collections and government documents, the author reveals the many ways in which the Mesilla Valley figured in the expansionist goals of the South. Kiser’s narrative . . . allows for a fresh interpretation of the region’s history. Turmoil on the Rio Grande offers readers a unique glimpse into the linkage between the sectional debates and the development of the American Southwest.”—Journal of Arizona History