The Mexican-American War (1846-1848) found Americans on new terrain. A republic founded on the principle of armed defense of freedom was now going to war on behalf of Manifest Destiny, seeking to conquer an unfamiliar nation and people. Through an examination of rank-and-file soldiers, Paul Foos sheds new light on the war and its effect on attitudes toward other races and nationalities that stood in the way of American expansionism.
Drawing on wartime diaries and letters not previously examined by scholars, Foos shows that the experience of soldiers in the war differed radically from the positive, patriotic image trumpeted by political and military leaders seeking recruits for a volunteer army. Promised access to land, economic opportunity, and political equality, the enlistees instead found themselves subjected to unusually harsh discipline and harrowing battle conditions. As a result, some soldiers adapted the rhetoric of Manifest Destiny to their own purposes, taking for themselves what had been promised, often by looting the Mexican countryside or committing racial and sexual atrocities. Others deserted the army to fight for the enemy or seek employment in the West. These acts, Foos argues, along with the government's tacit acceptance of them, translated into a more violent, damaging variety of Manifest Destiny.
|Publisher:||The University of North Carolina Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Paul Foos teaches history at Georgia State University in Atlanta.
Table of Contents
Introduction Chapter 1. The Regular Army and Antebellum Labor: Service and Servitude Chapter 2. Citizens' Militias in the United States Chapter 3. Volunteer Excitement among the Masses Chapter 4. Forced to Volunteer: The Politics of Compulsion Chapter 5. Discipline and Desertion in Mexico Chapter 6. Atrocity: The Wage of Manifest Destiny Chapter 7. Dreams of Conquest and the Limits of the White Man's Democracy Chapter 8. Free Soil and the Heritage of the Citizen-Soldier Notes Bibliography Acknowledgments Index
What People are Saying About This
A provocative study of the social, economic, and political motivations behind the Mexican-American War.Civil War Book Review
This book is well researched, and the author's arguments are frequently compelling. It helps fill an important niche.Hispanic American Historical Review
This is a useful book that will contribute to debates over early U.S. empire building, labor history, and military service. . . . Foos does a fine job of explaining why the U.S.-Mexico War matters and why it should not be forgotten.American Historical Review
Foos has a deep understanding of the society and politics of the U.S. Mexican War period. In his deconstruction of the volunteer ethic that pervaded the war he finds that the American soldiers rebelled against their regimentation and class subordination. Their undisciplined behavior in looting, raping, and committing atrocities arose from a complex of racial and class antagonisms. This book is a criticism of the 'glories' of the volunteerism during the war. The author's scholarship is wide-ranging, reflecting a sensitive understanding of primary sources.Richard Griswold del Castillo, San Diego State University
Just as Herman Melville made his riveting and conflicted portrait of a Mexican War veteran in The Confidence Man speak to the nation's full history and predicament, this compact, meticulously researched, and dramatic study fully recasts race, empire, and class in the antebellum United States through its soldiers' stories.David R. Roediger, University of Illinois
A provocative addition to the social history of the common soldier in the Mexican-American War.Historian
[A Short, Offhand Killing Affair: Soldiers and Social Conflict During the Mexican-American War] is the first of its kind to view the Mexican War from the point of view of soldier as victim.Post Library
[This book] deserves credit for raising new questions about a chapter in U.S. history in need of scholarly reappraisal. . . . [Foos] reminds us that the creation of an American empire carried a steep price for the victors as well as the vanquished.Journal of Southern History