Following the American Civil War, the Union turns its attention to the Apaches.
Crusty Lieutenant Colonel Kirby Yorke (John Wayne) is in charge of an outpost on the Rio Grande and responsible for training new recruits – one of which is his son (Claude Jarman Jr), who he hasn’t seen in 15 years.
Yorke whips the boy into Apache-fighting shape but not before his mother, Kathleen (Maureen O’Hara) – the Colonel’s estranged Southern wife whose mansion he burned sown during the Civil War – shows up to take him out of there. The decision to stay or leave is left up to young Trooper Yorke, who decides to stay and fight.
Meanwhile, Kirby and Kathleen – though separated for years – fall back in love and decide to give it another try.
Yorke faces his toughest battle when his unorthodox plan to outwit the Apaches leads to a possible court-martial and he must fight to redeem his honour and save the love and lives of his broken family.
The last instalment of John Ford’s “Cavalry Trilogy” – Fort Apache (1948) and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) were the other two – Rio Grande is a minor work, albeit a key one, which Ford allegedly undertook to secure financing for his personal project, The Quiet Man (1952).
Lt. Col. Kirby Yorke
Mrs Kathleen Yorke
Trooper Travis Tyree
Trooper Jefferson ‘Jeff’ Yorke
Claude Jarman Jr.
Trooper Daniel ‘Sandy’ Boone
Harry Carey Jr.
Lt. Gen. Philip Sheridan
J. Carrol Naish
Sgt. Maj. Timothy Quincannon
Capt. St. Jacques