Jackson's Sword: The Army Officer Corps on the American Frontier, 1810-1821

Overview

Jackson's Sword is the initial volume in a monumental two-volume work that provides a sweeping panoramic view of the U.S. Army and its officer corps from the War of 1812 to the War with Mexico, the first such study in more than forty years. Watson's chronicle shows how the officer corps played a crucial role in stabilizing the frontiers of a rapidly expanding nation, while gradually moving away from military adventurism toward a professionalism subordinate to civilian authority....

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Overview

Jackson's Sword is the initial volume in a monumental two-volume work that provides a sweeping panoramic view of the U.S. Army and its officer corps from the War of 1812 to the War with Mexico, the first such study in more than forty years. Watson's chronicle shows how the officer corps played a crucial role in stabilizing the frontiers of a rapidly expanding nation, while gradually moving away from military adventurism toward a professionalism subordinate to civilian authority.

Jackson's Sword explores problems of institutional instability, multiple loyalties, and insubordination as it demonstrates how the officer corps often undermined-and sometimes supplanted-civilian authority with regard to war-making and diplomacy on the frontier. Watson shows that army officers were often motivated by regionalism and sectionalism, as well as antagonism toward Indians, Spaniards, and Britons. The resulting belligerence incited them to invade Spanish Florida and Texas without authorization and to pursue military solutions to complex intercultural and international dilemmas.

Watson focuses on the years when Andrew Jackson led the Division of the South—often contrary to orders from his civilian superiors—examining his decade-long quasi-war with Spaniards and Indians along the northern border of Florida. Watson explores differences between army attitudes toward the Texas and Florida borders to explain why Spain ceded Florida but not Texas to the United States. He then examines the army's shift to the western frontier of white settlement by focusing on expeditions to advance U.S. power up the Missouri River and drive British influence from the Louisiana Purchase.

More than merely recounting campaigns and operations, Watson explores civil-military relations, officer socialization, commissioning, resignations, and assignments, and sets these in the context of social, political, economic, technological, military, and cultural changes during the early republic and the Age of Jackson. He portrays officers as identifying with frontiersmen and southern farmers and lacking respect for civilian authority and constitutional processes—but having little sympathy for civilian adventurers-and delves deeply into primary sources that reveal what they thought, wrote, and did on the frontier.

As Watson shows, the army's work in the borderlands underscored divisions within as well as between nations. Jackson's Sword captures an era on the eve of military professionalism to shed new light on the military's role in the early republic.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Watson, an associate professor of history at the U.S. Military Academy, provides a masterly scholarly analysis of the pivotal role the U.S. military played in cementing the security of the fledging nation. Andrew Jackson and comrades-in-arms like Edmund Gaines embraced America's manifest destiny, expanding the country's reach into the Spanish territories of Florida and Texas and into the chaotic Gulf Coast and New Orleans. As commander of the Southern forces, Jackson, the "Tennessee tornado," employed no-holds-barred tactics, launching the first brutal Indian removals, or as Watson labels it, "ethnic cleansing" of the Florida tribes. The army backed white settlers' incursions into Indian lands, destroyed communities of escaped slaves, and held their own against smugglers and pirates. The reluctance of politicians in Washington to interfere with the popular Jackson, combined with primitive communications technology, gave Jackson and his officers unequaled authority to act as an independent entity. Only as the country finally dispensed with its external enemies did the federal government move to professionalize the army and end the dominance that Old Hickory exerted, Watson concludes in his measured and detailed study. 43 photos, 2 maps. (Dec.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700618842
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 11/8/2012
  • Series: Modern War Studies Series
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 813,820
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Samuel J. Watson is an associate professor of history at the U.S. Military Academy and editor of The International Library of Essays in Military History: Warfare in the USA, 1783-1861.

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Table of Contents

Preface vii

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction. The Soldier and the Nineteenth-Century American State: Insulation, Autonomy, and Agency 1

1 Confidence, Belligerence, and Insubordination: Army Operations along the Texan and Maritime Frontiers of Louisiana, 1810-1814 35

2 The Army Asserts American Hegemony on the Florida Frontier: From the Creek War to the Destruction of the Negro Fort, 1813-1816 63

3 The Tensions of Aggression and Accountability: Military Expansionism in the Gulf Borderlands, 1815-1817 96

4 Concluding the Quasi-War with Spain: Civil-Military Tensions, the Occupation of Amelia Island, and the "First Seminole War," 1817-1818 123

5 Jackson and Gaines Get Their Way: Civil-Military Friction over the Invasion of Florida, Indian Relations, and Filibustering against Texas, 1817-1821 155

6 Assessing National Military Expansion on the Western Frontier to 1825: Political and Diplomatic Ebb and Flow in Army Operations on the Plains 189

7 The Growth of Professional Accountability during the 1820s and 1830s: Contexts, Policies, and Causation-Domestic and International 225

Conclusion. The Soldier and the Jacksonian State: The Military Academy, Army Missions, and Political Acceptance in an Age of Democratization 255

Appendices 287

Notes 303

Selected Bibliography 397

Index 437

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