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Peacekeepers and Conquerors: The Army Officer Corps on the American Frontier, 1821-1846, by Samuel J. Watson

Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2013. Pp. xviii, 636. Illus., maps, appends., notes, biblio., index. $49.95. ISBN: 0700619151.

The Professionalization of the Army Officer Corps

Prof. Watson (USMA) follows up his Jackson's Sword: The Army Officer Corps on the American Frontier, 1810-1821by examining the increasing professionalization of the U.S. Army officer corps in a surprisingly peaceful era that is generally neglected by historians.  From the early 1820s to the eve of the Mexican War, the army, and particularly its senior officers, were more often called upon to police white settlers or undertake diplomatic missions then to engage in hostile action.  In contrast to later periods, there were few “campaigns or deployments” against Native Americans in the period.  In fact, the army actually spent more time protecting Indians from white settlers, on exploration expeditions, or dealing with nullificationists, unruly citizens, filibusters (American, Canadian, or Texan), and border definition and security.  The Army was also charged with “Indian Removal,” an episode for which it takes the blame for society’s ills, but which was performed far better than is generally assumed.  Many missions involved contact with state and local officials (e.g., Nullification, Dorr’s Rebellion), or even British or Mexican officials and officers, such as the Aroostook War.  Watson has done an excellent job in throwing light on this period, giving us a look at many notable officers nor largely forgotten, and of the shaping of the army in which many men who would win fame in Mexico and the Civil War first saw military service.

A volume in the excellent UPK series “Modern War Studies,” the highly readable Peacekeepers and Conquerors will appeal to those professional or armchair students of the “Old Army,” the Mexican-American War, and the Civil War, or to anyone interested in military professionalism.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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