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Engineering Security: The Corps of Engineers and Third System Defense Policy, 1815-1861
     

Engineering Security: The Corps of Engineers and Third System Defense Policy, 1815-1861

by Mark A. Smith
 

Thorough examination of the antebellum fortifications that formed the backbone of U.S. military defense during the National Period.

The system of coastal defenses built by the federal government after the War of 1812 was more than a series of forts standing guard over a watery frontier. It was an integrated and comprehensive plan of national defense

Overview


Thorough examination of the antebellum fortifications that formed the backbone of U.S. military defense during the National Period.

The system of coastal defenses built by the federal government after the War of 1812 was more than a series of forts standing guard over a watery frontier. It was an integrated and comprehensive plan of national defense developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and it represented the nation's first peacetime defense policy. Known as the "Third System" since it replaced two earlier attempts, it included coastal fortifications, but also denoted the values of the society that created it. The governing defense policy was one that combined permanent fortifications to defend seaports, a national militia system, and a small regular army. The Third System remained the defense paradigm in the United States from 1816 to 1861, when the onset of the Civil War changed that paradigm. In addition to providing the country with military security, the system also provided the context for the ongoing debates in Congress over national defense through the annual congressional debates on military funding.

In charting the philosophy, construction, and maintenance of the forts of the Third System, a history of antebellum American national defense policy emerges, and permits an investigation of the political, economic, social, and military development of the U.S. between the War of 1812 and the Civil War.


Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"By demonstrating the inadequacy of its coastal defenses, the War of 1812 led to the establishment of a Board of Engineers charged with studying US defense policy. This, the first thorough study of the policies developed by that board, supersedes Jamie W. Moore's The Fortifications Board, 1816-1828 (1981) and John R. Weaver II's A Legacy in Brick and Stone: American Coastal Defense Forts of the Third System, 1816-1867 (2001). The author's thoroughly researched analysis deftly places the Corps of Engineers and the system it devised in the political and military context of the 1820s-50s, demonstrating the consistent support political leaders gave to the defense strategy it embodied. Smith (Fort Valley State Univ.) rejects criticisms that the forts were ineffective, pointing out that such assessments rest on the damage inflicted upon Southern forts by the Union Navy during the Civil War, using rifled ordnance that was not developed until the eve of that conflict. Construction of the forts that formed the backbone of the system advanced professionalism in both engineering and the Army officer corps, and it significantly influenced the economic development of the locales in which the forts were built. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries."
CHOICE

"Solid and single-minded, this study argues that historians have been unfair to the builders of these fortifications. It maintains that Congress, and the engineers it hired, knew exactly what they were doing, . . . that despite the fact that Civil War historians have damned the forts for their obsolescence, Smith still drives home his point: America’s giant seaboard forts achieved their limited strategic goals."

—Todd Shallat, author of Structures in the Stream: Water, Science and the U.S. Corps of Engineers

"Mark A. Smith's book, Engineering Security, is remarkable in its explorationof the transformational power of the Third System's implementation in military, economic, and political terms. In Engineering Security, Smith has impressively traced the development of U.S. defense policy throught the early to mid-1800s, as well as the rise of the engineers to the pinnacle of the military power structure."--On Point, The Journal of Army History

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780817316655
Publisher:
University of Alabama Press
Publication date:
10/04/2009
Edition description:
1st Edition
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Mark A. Smith is Assistant Professor of History at Fort Valley State University in Georgia. His articles have appeared in The Journal of the Georgia Association of Historians, The Georgia Historical Quarterly, and The Florida Historical Quarterly.

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