A People and its Soldiers: The American Citizen as Soldier, 1775–1861

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Military service was the vehicle by which American soldiers from the War of Independence through the Civil War demonstrated and defined their beliefs about the nature of American republicanism and how they, as citizens and soldiers, were participants in the republican experiment. This military ethos of republicanism, an ideology that was both derivative and representative of the larger body of American political beliefs and culture, illustrates American soldiers’ faith in an inseparable connection between bearing arms on behalf of the United States and holding citizenship in it. Patterns of thought and behavior within the ethos were not exclusively military traits, but were characteristic of the larger patterns within American political culture.

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    Cunliffe, Soldiers and Civilians, 65, 68; See Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, enl. ed. (Cambridge, 1967); Gordon S. Wood, The Creation of the American Republic, 1776–1787, (Chapel Hill, 1969); idem., The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York, 1992); and Michal Jan Rozbicki, Culture and Liberty in the Age of the American Revolution (Charlottesville, 2011).

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  • 5

    Cunliffe, Soldiers and Civilians, 65, 68; Jeremy Black, War and the Cultural Turn (Malden, 2012), 10, 15.

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    Joyce Appleby, “Republicanism in Old and New Contexts,” William and Mary Quarterly 43 (1986): 21–23; Daniel T. Rodgers, “Republicanism: The Career of a Concept,” Journal of American History 79 (1992): 38; Black, War and the Cultural Turn, 42, describes it as “Culture: Malleable, Nebulous, but Useful,” in a particularly apt section heading. For the breadth and depth of Americans’ views see “Republicanism in the History and Historiography of the United States,” American Quarterly 37 (1985); Andy Doolen, “Early American Civics: Rehistoricizing the Power of Republicanism,” American Literary History 19 (2007): 120–40. Michael Kammen, People of Paradox: An Inquiry Concerning the Origins of American Civilization (Ithaca, 1972) considers the often contradictory nature of American culture and civilization.

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  • 8

    Appleby, “Republicanism and Ideology,” American Quarterly 37 (Autumn 1985): 461; Robert Shalhope, “Republicanism and Early American Historiography,” William and Mary Quarterly 39 (1982): 356; Jean Baker, “From Belief into Culture: Republicanism in the Antebellum North,” American Quarterly 37 (1985): 536, 542, 549. See Rodgers, “Republicanism: The Career of a Concept,” 11–38, for an analysis of the arc of republicanism. The history of republicanism is far too extensive to list in any definitive sense or treat fully in a footnote. That notwithstanding, there are a number of salient works in the field: Bailyn, Ideological Origins of the American Revolution; Isaac Kramnick, Bolingbroke and His Circle: The Politics of Nostalgia in the Age of Walpole (Cambridge, 1968); Wood, Creation of the American Republic; Robert Shalhope, “Toward a Republican Synthesis: The Emergence of an Understanding of Republicanism in American Historiography,” William and Mary Quarterly 29 (1972): 49–80; J.G.A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (Princeton, 1975); Lance Banning, The Jeffersonian Persuasion: Evolution of a Party Ideology (Ithaca, 1978); Drew R. McCoy, The Elusive Republic: Political Economy in Jeffersonian America (Chapel Hill, 1980); James T. Kloppenberg, “The Virtues of Liberalism: Christianity, Republicanism, and Ethics in American Political Discourse,” Journal of American History 74 (1987): 9–33; Pocock, “Between Gog and Magog: The Republican Thesis and the Ideologia Americana,” Journal of the History of Ideas 48 (1987): 325–46; Major L. Wilson, “Republicanism and the Idea of Party in the Jacksonian Period,” Journal of the Early Republic 8 (1988): 419–32; Isaac Kramnick, Republicanism and Bourgeois Radicalism: Political Ideology in Late-18 th Century England and America (Ithaca, 1990); Wood, Radicalism of the American Revolution; Appleby, Liberalism and Republicanism in the Historical Imagination (Cambridge, 1992); Paul A. Rahe, Republics Ancient and Modern: Classical Republicanism and the American Revolution (Chapel Hill, 1992); Marc W. Kruman, “The Second American Party System and the Transformation of Revolutionary Republicanism,” Journal of the Early Republic 12 (1992): 509–37; Wilson, “The ‘Country’ versus the ‘Court’: A Republican Consensus and Party Debate in the Bank War,” Journal of the Early Republic 15 (1995): 619–47.

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  • 9

    Baker, “From Belief into Culture,” 535, 538–39, 549–50; James Oakes, “From Republicanism to Liberalism: Ideological Change and the Crisis of the Old South, American Quarterly 37 (1985): 551–71; John Hope Franklin, The Militant South, 1800–1861 (Cambridge, 1956).

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  • 10

    Kohn, “The American Soldier: Myths in Need of History,” 53, 54.

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    Ibid; Andrew J. Goodpaster, “West Point, the Army, and Society: American Institutions in Constellation,” in Soldiers and Civilians: The U. S. Army and the American People, 4–6.

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  • 12

    Wayne E. Lee, “Mind and Matter—Cultural Analysis in American Military History: A Look at the State of the Field,” The Journal of American History 93 (2007): 1116–42; Rozbicki, Culture and Liberty, 7; Edward M. Coffman, The Old Army: A Portrait of the American Army in Peacetime, 1784–1898 (New York, 1986), vii-viii; Skelton, An American Profession of Arms; Richard H. Kohn, “The Social History of the American Soldier: A Review and Prospectus for Research,” American Historical Review 86 (1981): 553–67; Kohn, “The American Soldier: Myths in Need of History,” in Soldiers and Civilians: The U. S. Army and the American People, ed. Ryan, Garry D. and Timothy K. Nenninger (Washington, 1987), 53, 54; Don Higginbotham, “The Early American Way of War: Reconnaissance and Appraisal,” William and Mary Quarterly 44 (1987): 230–273; Maurice Matloff, “The Nature and Scope of Military History,” in New Dimensions in Military History: An Anthology, ed. Russell F. Weigley (San Rafael, 1975), 388, 389–90. Examples of these broadened approaches include, but are not limited to Gerald F. Linderman, Embattled Courage: The Experience of Combat in the American Civil War (New York, 1987); John Shy, “The Cultural Approach to the History of War,” The Journal of Military History 57 (1993): 13–26; Reid Mitchell, The Vacant Chair: The Northern Soldier Leaves Home (New York, 1993); Rita Roberts, “Patriotism and Political Criticism: The Evolution of Political Consciousness in the Mind of a Black Revolutionary Soldier,” 18 th -Century Studies 27 (1994): 569–88; Samuel J. Watson, “Religion and Combat Motivation in the Confederate Armies,” The Journal of Military History 58 (1994): 29–55; Holly A. Mayer, Belonging to the Army: Camp Followers and Community during the American Revolution (Columbia, 1996); Joseph Allan Frank, With Ballot and Bayonet: The Political Socialization of American Civil War Soldiers (Athens, 1998); Kurt Daniel Kortenhof, “Republican Ideology and Wartime Reality: Thomas Mifflin’s Struggle as the First Quartermaster General of the Continental Army, 1775–1778,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 122 (1998): 179–210; Michael A. McDonnell, “Popular Mobilization and Political Culture in Revolutionary Virginia: The Failure of the Minutemen and the Revolution from Below,” The Journal of American History 85 (1998): 946–981; Mark A. Weitz, “Drill, Training, and the Combat Performance of the Civil War Soldier: Dispelling the Myth of the Poor Soldier, Great Fighter.” The Journal of Military History 62 (1998): 263–289; John Resch, Suffering Soldiers: Revolutionary War Veterans, Moral Sentiment, and Political Culture in the Early Republic (Amherst, 1999); Joseph Allan Frank and Barbara Duteau, “Measuring the Political Articulateness of United States Civil War Soldiers: The Wisconsin Militia,” The Journal of Military History 64 (2000): 53–77; Edward M. Coffman, “The Duality of the American Military Tradition: A Commentary,” The Journal of Military History 64 (2000): 967–80; J.C.A. Stagg, “Soldiers in Peace and War: Comparative Perspectives on the Recruitment of the United States Army, 1802–1815,” The William and Mary Quarterly 57 (2000): 79–120; Charles E. Brooks, “The Social and Cultural Dynamics of Soldiering in Hood’s Texas Brigade,” The Journal of Southern History 67 (2001): 535–72; Richard F. Miller, “Brahmin Janissaries: John A. Andrew Mobilizes Massachusetts’ Upper Class for the Civil War,” The New England Quarterly 75 (2002): 204–34; Purcell, Sealed with Blood; Gregory T. Knouff, The Soldiers’ Revolution: Pennsylvanians in Arms and the Forging of American Identity (University Park, 2003); Mary Ellen Rowe, Bulwark of the Republic: The American Militia in [the] Antebellum West (Westport, 2003); Christopher P. Magra, “‘Soldiers … Bred to the Sea’: Maritime Marblehead, Massachusetts, and the Origins and Progress of the American Revolution,” The New England Quarterly 77 (2004): 531–62; Harry S. Laver, Citizens More than Soldiers: The Kentucky Militia and Society in the Early Republic (Lincoln, 2007); Marc Milner, “In Search of the American Way of War: The Need for a Wider National and International Context,” Journal of American History 93 (2007): 1151–53; John Resch and Walter Sargent, eds., War and Society in the American Revolution, (DeKalb, 2007); Mark S. Schantz, Awaiting the Heavenly Country: The Civil War and America’s Culture of Death (Ithaca, 2008); George C. Rable, God’s Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War (Chapel Hill, 2010); Wayne E. Lee, Barbarians and Brothers: Anglo-American Warfare, 1500–1865 (New York, 2011); Nate Probasco, “The Role of Commoners and Print in Elizabethan England’s Acceptance of Firearms,” The Journal of Military History 76, no. 2 (2012): 357; Joshua M. Smith, “The Yankee Soldier’s Might: The District of Maine and the Reputation of the Massachusetts Militia, 1800–1812,” The New England Quarterly 84 (2011): 234–64.

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  • 13

    Rozbicki, Culture and Liberty, 7, 86.

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    Anderson, A People’s Army, viii. See also James Titus, The Old Dominion at War: Society, Politics, and Warfare in Late Colonial Virginia (Columbia, 1991) for a study of provincial Virginia soldiers in the Seven Years’ War and John Shy, Toward Lexington: The Role of the British Army in the Coming of the American Revolution (Princeton, 1965), Douglas Edward Leach, Arms for Empire: A Military History of the British Colonies, 1607–1763 (New York, 1973), Leach, Roots of Conflict: British Armed Forces and Colonial Americans, 1677–1783 (Chapel Hill, 1986), and Sylvia R. Frey, The British Soldier in America: A Social History of Military Life in the Revolutionary Period (Austin, 1981) for an understanding of the British army in North America.

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  • 19

    Anderson, A People’s Army, 168.

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    Lawrence Delbert Cress, Citizens in Arms: The Army and the Militia in American Society to the War of 1812 (Chapel Hill, 1982), xi. See also John Todd White, “Standing Armies in Time of War: Republican Theory and Military Practice during the American Revolution” (Ph.D. Diss., George Washington University, 1978). William H. Gaines surveyed the organization and recruiting efforts for the new armies in “The Forgotten Army: Recruiting for a National Emergency (1799–1800),” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 56 (1948): 267–79.

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  • 25

     See Robert Gough, “Officering the American Army, 1798” 43 (1986): 460–71, for a quantitative examination of the men thought suitable for appointment as the army’s senior generals. For a discussion of West Point and treasonous alumni see James Tyrus Seidule, “‘Treason is Treason’: Civil War Memory at West Point, 1861–1902,” The Journal of Military History 76 (2012): 427–52; Theodore J. Crackel, Mr. Jefferson’s Army: Political and Social Reform of the Military Establishment, 1801–1809 (New York, 1987); Crackel, “Jefferson, Politics, and the Army: An Examination of the Military Peace Establishment Act of 1802,” Journal of the Early Republic 2 (1982): 21–38. See also Watson “Developing ‘Republican Machines’: West Point and the Struggle to Render the Officer Corps Safe for America” in Thomas Jefferson’s Military Academy: Founding West Point, ed. Robert M. S. McDonald (Charlottesville, 2004), 154–81, which suggests limits to the Academy’s early success; Watson, Jackson’s Sword: The Army Officer Corps on the American Frontier, 1810–1821 (Lawrence, 2012.).

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  • 34

    William B. Skelton, “The Army in the Age of the Common Man, 1815–1845,” in Against All Enemies: Interpretations of American Military History from Colonial Times to the Present (New York, 1986), 106; Marilyn Anne Kindred, “The Army Officer Corps and the Arts: Artistic Patronage and Practice in America, 1820–85” (Ph.D. Diss., University of Kansas, 1981); Wettemann, “A Part or Apart? The Alleged Isolation of Antebellum U.S. Army Officers,” American Nineteenth-Century History 7 (2006): 193–217. See also Paul Francis Prucha, Broadax and Bayonet: The Role of the United States Army in the Development of the Northwest, 1815–1860 (Madison, 1953) and Prucha, The Sword of the Republic: The United States Army on the Frontier, 1783–1846 (New York, 1969) for surveys of the army on the frontier. Watson Peacekeepers and Conquerors: The Army Officer Corps on the American Frontier, 1821–1846 (Lawrence, 2013) argues that frontier-army officers were not isolated from civil society.

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  • 36

    Jack C. Lane, “Ideology and the American Military Experience: A Reexamination of Early American Attitudes toward the Military,” in Soldiers and Civilians: The U. S. Army and the American People, ed. Garry D. Ryan and Timothy K. Nenninger (Washington, 1987), 17; Purcell, Sealed with Blood, 3.

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  • 37

    Ricardo A. Herrera, “Self-Governance and the American Citizen as Soldier, 1775–1861,” The Journal of Military History 65 (2001): 21–52; Skelton, American Profession of Arms, xv; Rodgers, “Republicanism: The Career of a Concept,” 11–38; Rozbicki, Culture and Liberty, 8; Purcell, Sealed with Blood, 16.

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  • 38

    Charles Royster, “Founding a Nation in Blood,” 45. Franklin, in The Militant South, sees a distinctive antebellum southern character which developed in response to social, political, and economic changes. He does not, however, satisfactorily address the shared ideological bedrock upon which American intellectuals and others based their beliefs and conduct. Cunliffe’s Soldiers and Civilians disputes Franklin’s arguments for a distinctively militant south.

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