During the turbulent years of the Civil War and Reconstruction, a squall of violence and lawlessness swept through the Nueces Strip and the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas. Cattle rustlers, regular troops, and Texas Rangers, as well as Civil War deserters and other characters of questionable reputation, clashed with Mexicans, Germans, and Indians over unionism, race, livestock, land, and national sovereignty, among other issues. In A Crooked River, Michael L. Collins presents a rousing narrative of these events that reflects perspectives of people on both sides of the Rio Grande.
Retracing a path first opened by historian Walter Prescott Webb, A Crooked River reveals parts of the tale that Webb never told. Collins brings a cross-cultural perspective to the role of the Texas Rangers in the continuing strife along the border during the late nineteenth century. He draws on many rare and obscure sources to chronicle the incidents of the period, bringing unprecedented depth and detail to such episodes as the “skinning wars,” the raids on El Remolino and Las Cuevas, and the attack on Nuecestown. Along the way, he dispels many entrenched legends of Texas history—in particular, the long-held belief that almost all of the era’s cattle thieves were Mexican.
A balanced and thorough reevaluation, A Crooked River adds a new dimension to the history of the racial and cultural conflict that defined the border region and that still echoes today.
“On the heels of his critically acclaimed Texas Devils, Michael Collins now brings us the history of the Texas Rangers and Regulars on the Lower Rio Grande during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Impressively researched and skillfully crafted, A Crooked River is certain to captivate any reader.”—Jerry Thompson, author of Tejano Tiger: Jose de los Santos Benavides and the Texas-Mexico Borderlands, 1823–1891
“With its graphic descriptions of one-on-one confrontations, military showdowns, and diplomatic negotiations, A Crooked River offers a thorough chronicling of incidents that occurred along the South Texas border during the Civil War and Reconstruction. By integrating the roles of Mexicans, Native Americans, and African Americans with those of Anglo-Americans, Michael L. Collins contributes to the body of historical writings that provide a more balanced picture of the region during this epoch.”—Arnoldo De León, editor of War along the Border: The Mexican Revolution and Tejano Communities and author of Racial Frontiers: Africans, Chinese, and Mexicans in Western America, 1848–1890