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


by Samuel J. Watson

Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2012. Pp. xx, 460. Illus., maps, appends., notes, biblio, index. $39.95. ISBN: 0700618848

Jackson’s Sword is the first of what is to be a two volume work on the Army officer corps from the War of 1812 until that with Mexico. 

Prof. Watson (USMA), who has written rather extensively on the Army in the early Republic, concentrates on Andrew Jackson’s often highly irregular tenure of the “Division of the South” to examine an officer corps that was not yet fully professional.  He covers the rather haphazard nature of officer recruiting, training and service, and the often delicate civil-military relations, especially given Republican sensitivities to standing armies.  Military activities are not neglected either, and we also get a look at many officers who will later attain some degree of fame.  Watson fits all of these into what were evolving cultural, social, and political institutions. 

In terms of operations, Watson covers numerous small wars, including filibustering expeditions into Mexico, punitive campaigns against Native Americans and fugitive slaves, Jackson’s “Quasi-War” with Spain, military operations on the plains, and the onset of the Seminole wars, and, of course, against the backgorund of the War of 1812.  Despite the dates in the title, Watson follows the trends and developments of this period into the 1830s as a more professional army evolved. 

A volume in the University Press of Kansas series “Modern War Studies,” Jackson’s Sword is a rich work, taking a deep look into events mostly long-forgotten, and essential reading for anyone interested in the evolution of the American armed forces and the history of the early Republic.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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