Continued unrest in the 1850s set the stage for two additional elements in Nicaragua history: frequent United States military interventions in Nicaragua and a propensity for Nicaragua politicians to call on the United States to settle domestic disputes. In 1855 a group of armed United States filibusters headed by William Walker, a soldier of fortune from Tennessee who had previously invaded Mexico, sailed to Nicaragua intent on taking over. Internal conflict facilitated Walker's entry into Nicaragua. In 1853 conservative General Fruto Chamorro had taken over the government and exiled his leading liberal opponents. Aided by the liberal government in neighboring Honduras, an exile army entered Nicaragua on May 5, 1854. The subsequent conflict proved prolonged and bloody; Chamorro declared that his forces would execute all armed rebels who fell into their hands, and the liberal leader, General Máximo Jérez, proclaimed that all government supporters were traitors to the nation.
The liberals enjoyed initial success in the fighting, but the tide turned in 1854 when Guatemala's conservative government invaded Honduras, forcing that nation to end its support of the liberals in Nicaragua. Chamorro's death from natural causes in March 1855 brought little respite to the beleaguered liberals, who began to look abroad for support. Through an agent, they offered Walker funds and generous land grants if he would bring a force of United States adventurers to their aid. Walker leaped at the chance--he quickly recruited a force of fifty-six followers and landed with them in Nicaragua on May 4, 1855.
Walker's initial band was soon reinforced by other recruits from the United States. Strengthened by this augmented force, Walker seized Granada, center of conservative power. The stunned conservative government surrendered, and the United States quickly recognized a new puppet liberal government with Patricio Rivas as president. Real power, however, remained with Walker, who had assumed command of the Nicaraguan army.