Following Zebulon Pike’s expeditions in the early nineteenth century, U.S. expansionists focused their gaze on the Southwest. Explorers, traders, settlers, boundary adjudicators, railway surveyors, and the U.S. Army crossed into and through New Mexico, transforming it into a battleground for competing influences determined to control the region.
Previous histories have treated the Santa Fe trade, the American occupation under Colonel Stephen W. Kearny, the antebellum Indian Wars, debates over slavery, the Pacific Railway, and the Confederate invasion during the Civil War as separate events in New Mexico. In Coast-to-Coast Empire, William S. Kiser demonstrates instead that these developments were interconnected parts of a process by which the United States effected the political, economic, and ideological transformation of the region.
New Mexico was an early proving ground for Manifest Destiny, the belief that U.S. possession of the entire North American continent was inevitable. Kiser shows that the federal government’s military commitment to the territory stemmed from its importance to U.S. expansion. Americans wanted California, but in order to retain possession of it and realize its full economic and geopolitical potential, they needed New Mexico as a connecting thoroughfare in their nation-building project. The use of armed force to realize this claim fundamentally altered New Mexico and the Southwest. Soldiers marched into the territory at the onset of the Mexican-American War and occupied it continuously through the 1890s, leaving an indelible imprint on the region’s social, cultural, political, judicial, and economic systems.
By focusing on the activities of a standing army in a civilian setting, Kiser reshapes the history of the Southwest, underlining the role of the military not just in obtaining territory but in retaining it.
“Coast-to-Coast Empire is an indispensable history of American expansion chronicling the impact of the borderlands and the West on the sectional crisis and Civil War.”—Samuel J. Watson, author of Peace Keepers and Conquerors: The Army Officer Corps on the American Frontier, 1821–1846
“To mainstream U.S. historians, New Mexico was a distant, unremarkable backwater of America in the nineteenth century, but this powerful book turns that conventional wisdom on its head. Centering New Mexico in U.S. history, Kiser convincingly argues that New Mexico stood at the crossroads of Manifest Destiny and was the real geopolitical prize in the contest between Southern slavery and Northern freedom before and during the Civil War.”—Durwood Ball, author of Army Regulars on the Western Frontier
“Kiser’s provocative study is sure to reignite debates over such perennial issues as U.S. expansion into Mexican provinces, U.S. troops colliding with American Indian tribes in New Mexico, and the intrusion of slavery in the territories.”—Joseph G. Dawson III, author of Doniphan’s Epic March: The First Missouri Volunteers in the Mexican War
“Kiser brings order and clarity to the complexities of American Manifest Destiny and New Mexico’s key role in the political and economic evolution of the Southwest Borderlands. Well conceived and compellingly argued, Coast-to-Coast Empire enables new understanding of the formative years between Mexican independence and the end of the U.S. Civil War.”—Andrew E. Masich, author of Civil War in the Southwest Borderlands, 1861–1867
“William Kiser’s Coast-to-Coast Empire probes nineteenth-century nation-building in the New Mexico Borderlands. The primary focus is the Southwest’s strategic value to the imperial agenda of the United States from 1821 to 1868. Kiser’s approach makes it possible to foreground the significant and too-often-overlooked link between America’s mid-nineteenth-century expansion across the Southwest and the sectional crisis unraveling the Republic…Coast-to-Coast Empire makes an important contribution to current historical inquiry…Kiser’s book is incisive, deeply researched, engagingly written, and carefully argued.”--- New Mexico Historical Review