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.