Army of Manifest Destiny
The American Soldier in the Mexican War, 1846-1848
Publication Year: 1994
James McCaffrey examines America's first foreign war, the Mexican War, through the day-to-day experiences of the American soldier in battle, in camp, and on the march. With remarkable sympathy, humor, and grace, the author fills in the historical gaps of one war while rising issues now found to be strikingly relevant to this nation's modern military concerns.
Published by: NYU Press
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The impetus for this study began on a movie set outside of Natchez, Mississippi, in May 1985, when I and other history enthusiasts spent a week camping and working as extras during the filming of the television miniseries "North and South,." The particular scenes in which we worked were those portraying...
Abbreviations in Notes
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1. "War Exists by the Act of Mexico Herself'
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Seventy years after Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence the United States went to war with Mexico-our first foreign war. This war did not begin suddenly; there was no Pearl Harbor. Rather, events from many years previous had sown the seeds for this conflict...
2. To the Colors
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With the existence of a state of war between the Republic of Mexico and the United States, the most pressing problem became how to raise the strength of the army to a level necessary to ensure victory. Well before the commencement of actual hostilities, authorities in the War...
3. Off to War
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The enthusiasm with which young Americans hurried to join the army made it easy for the government to attain its manpower quotas. But before these thousands of eager recruits could actually face the enemy the army had to make sure that it trained its soldiers and provided them with the proper types and amounts of equipment, such as weapons, ammunition, food, medical supplies, tents...
4. "Nearly All Who Take Sick Die"*
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The enthusiasm with which young Americans hurried to join the army made it easy for the government to attain its manpower quotas. But before these thousands of eager recruits could actually face the enemy the army had to make sure that it trained its soldiers and provided them with the proper types and amounts of equipment, such as weapons, ammunition, food, medical supplies, tents, and blankets...
5. "Reptiles in the Path of Progressive Democracy"*
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In the summer of 1845, John L. O'Sullivan, editor of the Democratic Review, coined a term with which the Mexican War would forever be linked. He wrote that it was America's "manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions." Although the phrase "manifest destiny" was new, the idea behind it was not...
6. "All the Varieties of a Soldier's Life"*
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One of the major adjustments facing the volunteers as they got to Mexico was the humdrum of everyday military life. Even considering the living standards of the 1840s, most of these men left more comfortable surroundings than they were likely to find in the tent camps and garrisons in Mexico...
7. "Keeping Down Unruly Spirits"*
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Sometimes the ways by which American soldiers in Mexico sought to relieve the boredom of camp life resulted in infractions of military regulations. Even though most of the soldiers were not bad men, some had been misfits in civilian society and continued to be troublemakers and lawbreakers in the army...
8. The Volunteers Take the Field
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The natural inclination when thinking of war-any war-is to recall glorious scenes of the battlefield, and these are exactly the scenes to which the volunteers looked forward so eagerly. Yet the battles of the Mexican War, as in most wars, occupied only a very small percentage of a soldier's time...
9. The Army of the West
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Government leaders in Washington selected Col. Stephen Watts Kearny to lead a force to New Mexico. A significant trade existed between the United States and Santa Fe, and it was important that it be protected. When that area was secure, Kearny was to push on to California to assist the few Americans there...
10. To the Halls of the Montezumas
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America's leaders had hoped that the war with Mexico would be short. They were even optimistic that, after the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, the Mexican government would see the folly of continued resistance and sue for peace. Yet when Mexican authorities continued to fight even after losing Monterrey, the president and his advisers decided that the time had come to strike...
11. Peace at Last
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Just as the British capture of Washington, D.C., in 1814 did not bring that war to a close, neither did the U.S. occupation of Mexico City effect an end to hostilities in 1847. At almost the same time that U.S. soldiers were triumphantly fighting their way past the city gates, Brig. Gen. Joaquin Rea and four thousand troops were beginning a twentyeight- day siege of American forces...
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The American soldiers who fought in Mexico were like American soldiers in other wars in many ways. And in many ways they differed. The soldiers of the 1840s went off to war with a feeling of personal and national invincibility that was not often expressed in earlier conflicts but that American soldiers embraced avidly for the next hundred years...
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Page Count: 293
Publication Year: 1994