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A Short, Offhand, Killing Affair: Soldiers and Social by Paul Foos

By Paul Foos

The Mexican-American conflict (1846-1848) discovered american citizens on new terrain. A republic based at the precept of armed safeguard of freedom was once now going to conflict on behalf of take place future, trying to overcome an strange kingdom and folks. via an exam of rank-and-file infantrymen, Paul Foos sheds new mild at the warfare and its impression on attitudes towards different races and nationalities that stood within the manner of yankee expansionism. Drawing on wartime diaries and letters no longer formerly tested via students, Foos exhibits that the adventure of squaddies within the battle differed noticeably from the confident, patriotic photograph trumpeted by means of political and army leaders looking recruits for a volunteer military. Promised entry to land, monetary chance, and political equality, the enlistees in its place stumbled on themselves subjected to strangely harsh self-discipline and harrowing conflict stipulations. hence, a few squaddies tailored the rhetoric of take place future to their very own reasons, taking for themselves what have been promised, frequently by means of looting the Mexican geographical region or committing racial and sexual atrocities. Others abandoned the military to struggle for the enemy or search employment within the West. those acts, Foos argues, besides the government's tacit reputation of them, translated right into a extra violent, destructive number of occur future.

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Extra resources for A Short, Offhand, Killing Affair: Soldiers and Social Conflict during the Mexican-American War

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S. Military Academy provided one of the best scientific educations available and operated to a great extent as a meritocracy. Army officers during peacetime were often isolated from the larger society, but where they did interact with civilians they were welcomed into the homes and society of the wealthy. An officer’s education was a perfectly acceptable entrée as a gentleman despite his relatively meager salary. 22 Upon leaving the service, army officers tended toward careers as civil engineers, merchants, or farmers.

23 But at the local, or company, level the social and political function of the militia had a strong appeal and the voluntarist impulse was alive and well, manifesting itself in political clubs and volunteer fire companies. 24 Fire companies became even more popular than militias in the 1830s and 1840s as egalitarian expressions of small-group democracy, combining solidarity and an exemplary heroism. Like the militias, fire companies were often socioeconomically mixed, encompassing merchants, industrialists, tradesmen, and artisans.

It was common practice to compel soldiers to attend religious service in the army, the chaplain invariably being a Protestant. The blatant unconstitutionality of this practice was slyly evaded in the article of war that ‘‘earnestly recommended’’ rather than compelled officers and enlisted men to attend divine service. 42 One soldier observed a connection between religious persecution and desertion in the months just before the war, when General Taylor’s ‘‘Army of Occupation’’ was posted on the Rio Grande across from Matamoros.

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