War of a Thousand Deserts - DeLay, Brian - Yale University Press
Social Science

Series Information
The Lamar Series in Western History

War of a Thousand Deserts

Indian Raids and the U.S.-Mexican War

  • Brian DeLay
      REVIEWS             PREVIEW             CONTENTS             EXCERPTS      

Out of Print.

Received an honorable mention from the Texas State Historical Association.

Received Honorable Mention for the 2008 PROSE Award in the U.S. History and Biography/Authobiography category, sponsored by the Association of American Publishers.

Winner of the 2008 Summerfield G. Roberts Award, presented by the Sons of the Republic of Texas.

Finalist for the 2008 Francis Parkman Prize sponsored by the Society of American History.

Winner of the 2009 Robert M. Utley Award given by the Western History Association.

Winner of the 2009 W. Turrentine Jackson Award given by the Western History Association.

Finalist for the 2008 William P. Clements Prize for the best non-fiction book on Southwestern America, given by the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at the Southern Methodist University.

Winner of the 2008 James Broussard Best First Book Prize, given by the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic

Co-winner of the 2008 Norris and Carol Hundly Best Book Award, given by the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association

Winner of a 2009 Southwest Book Award sponsored by the Border Regional Library Association

Recipient of 2010 Bryce Wood Book Award, given by the Latin American Studies Association.

In the early 1830s, after decades of relative peace, northern Mexicans and the Indians whom they called “the barbarians” descended into a terrifying cycle of violence. For the next fifteen years, owing in part to changes unleashed by American expansion, Indian warriors launched devastating attacks across ten Mexican states. Raids and counter-raids claimed thousands of lives, ruined much of northern Mexico’s economy, depopulated its countryside, and left man-made “deserts” in place of thriving settlements. Just as important, this vast interethnic war informed and emboldened U.S. arguments in favor of seizing Mexican territory while leaving northern Mexicans too divided, exhausted, and distracted to resist the American invasion and subsequent occupation.


Exploring Mexican, American, and Indian sources ranging from diplomatic correspondence and congressional debates to captivity narratives and plains Indians’ pictorial calendars, War of a Thousand Deserts recovers the surprising and previously unrecognized ways in which economic, cultural, and political developments within native communities affected nineteenth-century nation-states. In the process this ambitious book offers a rich and often harrowing new narrative of the era when the United States seized half of Mexico’s national territory.


Brian DeLay is assistant professor of history, University of California, Berkeley.