Beyond the Rio Gila

Written by Scott G. Hibbard
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

Tired of being beaten by his father, 17-year-old Moses Cole leaves his farm in the fall of 1844 and walks 18 days to Carlisle, Pennsylvania and joins the First Dragoons. After traveling west to Kansas, the Dragoons arrive at Fort Leavenworth. Moses befriends young Abner Black, who has the ability to put together clever sentences when he speaks. When war breaks out with Mexico, the Dragoons head for New Mexico in 1846 to join the Army of the West, commanded by General Kearney. Their orders are to march across the desert to fight the Mexicans settled in California.

A Mormon battalion also arrives in New Mexico in 1846. They are untrained and without uniforms. Captain Cook is reluctantly assigned by General Kearny to lead these men to California.

This tale of two battalions of men as they cross the deserts of New Mexico into southern California provides an exciting story of survival. In this well-researched novel of a little-known episode of the Mexican War, the historical characters blend in easily with the fictional soldiers. The extensive research tends to slow the pacing at times, but I still found this character-driven novel an easy read.