New Perspectives on the Mexican-American War
by Peter Guardino
Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press, 2017. Pp. viii, 502.
Illus., maps, notes, index. $39.95. ISBN: 0674972341
Despite treading on well covered ground, Prof. Guardino (Indiana) manages to offer the reader a more nuanced account of the 1846-1848 war between the two republics. While not neglecting the politics, marches, and battles, he addresses subjects not usually considered in earlier works on the conflict.
Firstly, Guardino views the war as much as possible from the perspective of the people who lived it, including soldiers, civilians, politicians, generals, Native Americans, Mexicans, Texans, African-Americans, Alabamians, volunteers and regulars, and so forth. He covers such oft neglected topics as the experiences of deserters from both armies, brutal guerrilla fighting, anti-Catholicism, racism, rape, the sectionalist split over slavery, atrocities, and more.
Secondly, Guardino chips away at the notion that the U.S. won because of superior political institutions or the greater patriotism of its people or the superior courage and skill of its troops, but rather as a result of its far greater wealth and economic power. He makes an excellent case that no matter how brave, skilled, or numerous Mexican troops were, their country could not arm and sustain them to the degree that the U.S. could maintain its forces in the field. In most engagements, Mexican troops had to fight with older muskets and cannon, some even relics of the Napoleonic wars.
Guardino does fail to address some topics. He should have paid some attention to the training of troops, and particularly that of their officers, and also to the internal politics of the opposing armies. Both of these would have helped strengthen his case about the superior resources the United States was able to bring to the war.
The Dead March breaks much new ground in the history of the Mexican-American War and is an important contribution to the literature of the conflict.
Note: The Dead March is also available in several e-editions