Book Review: Regular Army O!: Soldiering on the Western Frontier, 1865–1891


by Douglas C. McChristian

Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2017. Pp. xx, 764. Illus., appends., maps, notes, biblio., index. $45.00. ISBN: 0806156953

Life in the Frontier Army

Much has been written about the Regular Army on the frontier in the decades following the Civil War, so another book on the subject might not seem worth a read. Nevertheless, this work by former National Parks historian McChristian makes a major contribution. Rather than a rehash of Indian fights, which were in fact quite rare, McChristian concentrates on the experiences of the officers and particularly the enlisted men.

McChristian opens with a chapter exploring why enlisted, and then follows them from the Recruiting Depots into the West, through their training, into their regiments, and on to the end of their careers, and for some even beyond, making excellent use of over 300 first-hand accounts by veterans of the frontier Army. Along the way we get a look at life in garrison and outpost, mostly a matter of endlessly boring routine, diversions, food, drill, whores, living conditions, health, deserters, and, of course, contacts with various Native Americans and local settlers, the latter often less friendly than the former.

Naturally McChristian gives us a look at life in the field, including routine patrolling and long term campaigning, as well as the occasional hard march and desperate fight, but these do not dominate the book.

A work similar to those of Bell Wiley on Civil War soldiers, despite an unfortunate lack of maps, Regular Army O! will prove rewarding reading for anyone interested in soldiers and soldiering, and essential for those interested in the Indian fighting Army.

Note: Regular Army O! is also available as an e-pub.


Reviewer: A.A. Nofi   

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