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As the fledgling nation looked west to the land beyond the Appalachian Mountains, it turned to the army to advance and defend its national interests. Clashing with Spain, Britain, France, Mexico, the Confederacy, and Indians in this pursuit of expansion, the army's failures and successes alternately delayed and hastended western migration. Roads, river improvements, and railroads, often constructed or facilitated by the army, further solidified the nation's presence as it reached the Pacific Ocean and expanded north and south to the borders of Canada and Mexico. Western military experiences thus illustrate the dual role played by the United States Army in insuring national security and fostering national development.
Robert Wooster's study examines the fundamental importance of military affairs to social, economic, and political life throughout the borderlands and western frontiers. Integrating the work of other military historians as well as tapping into a broad array of primary materials, Wooster offers a multifaceted narrative that will shape our understanding of the frontier military experience, its relationship with broader concerns of national politics, and its connection to major themes and events in American history.
List of Illustrations
Ch. 1 Defeat and Victory in the Ohio Valley 1
Ch. 2 Sword of the Nation 20
Ch. 3 Sharpening the Nation's Sword 39
Ch. 4 Asserting National Sovereignty 57
Ch. 5 The Wars of Indian Removal 78
Ch. 6 Agent of Manifest Destiny 96
Ch. 7 Constabularies in Blue 118
Ch. 8 Frontier Regulars and the Collapse of the Union 143
Ch. 9 Civil Wars in the Borderlands 163
Ch. 10 The Regulars Return 188
Ch. 11 Testing the Peace Policy 216
Ch. 12 Conquest of a Continent 238
Epilogue: The Long Frontier 268
Posted December 2, 2009
The westward presence of the U. S. Army beginning after the Revolutionary War marked the frontier of the growing continental United States. This presence was usually indicated by forts. In many cases, forts would follow defeat of local Native Americans or in the Southwest, notably Texas, defeat of Spanish or Mexican resistance. As well as bases for maintaining the U.S. presence and possible military actions against following uprisings of Native Americans, the forts became centers for commerce and origins of civilian communities.
Following the progression of the frontier across the continent, Wooster elaborates on the Army presence much beyond the usual understanding as a military protector engaged in the pacification of Indians to the Army as integrally involved in settlement, growth, and knitting together widespread communities. The Texas A&M history professor and author of 10 books modifies the picture of the frontier Army--ordinarily regarded as cavalry--from that of riding to the rescue with trumpets blaring and flags flying to one of an organization involved in all dimensions of the development of an area.
Hiring civilians for work for maintaining or extending its presence and purposes was but one way the Army interacted with civilians. Native American and Anglo scouts used in the Indian Wars were a well-known, colorful example. But mundane work such as gathering wood or transporting provisions was also required. Army detachments also worked closely with companies laying railroad tracks and building roads necessary for national growth by bringing in greater numbers and diverse types of civilians and supporting related commercial enterprises. At times, the duties of the military and work of civilians became intermingled so as to be indistinguishable.
Wooster gives a scholarly, accessible study of this overlooked side of the U. S. Army in the nation's growth to the Pacific shores. One finds occasional nods to recent perspectives on the nature of the unstoppable growth of the United States during the 1800s. In the Preface, he remarks that "[m]odern scholars rightly shy away from using pejorative phrases like 'the advance of civilization' to describe the expansion of the United States...." Elsewhere, in introducing Manifest Destiny, the author recognizes that the practice of relocating Native American tribes so they could advance in the "peaceful arts of life...now seem[s] repugnant." Avoiding supporting one side or another in such questions, Wooster as a professional historian gives a solid historical account drawing broad patterns while involving significant individuals, local events, and portrayals of varied locations.