American Military History
Written for academics and students of military history, American Military History is an important text that draws on primary sources to explore the many facets of America's military history. BRAD D. LOOKINGBILL is Professor of History at Columbia College of Missouri. He is the author of The American Military: A Narrative History (Wiley, 2014) and War Dance at Fort Marion: Plains Indian War Prisoners (2006), and is the editor of American Military History: A Documentary Reader (Wiley, 2011). He received the Eugene Asher Distinguished Teaching Award from the American Historical Association in 2010. Dr. Lookingbill served in the Army National Guard and Reserve.
American Military History
"To fight out a war, you must believe something and want something with all your might," declared Oliver Wendell Holmes, a wounded veteran of the American Civil War and later an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court. His words before a Memorial Day audience in 1884 expressed something elemental about American military history. The former Lieutenant Colonel spoke of those who were near and dear to him, "not because their lives have become historic," but because "their lives are the type of what every soldier has known and seen" in war. He called them "the army of the dead," who swept before the nation wearing "wounds like stars." He remembered his comrades with great reverence: "I speak of those whom I have seen." With a gesture to the audience, he mused: "But you all have known such; you, too, remember!" 1
No one should forget the millions of Americans, who have fought in wars large and small. They embody what endures at the heart of military affairs, that is, the will to fight for something greater than the self. For centuries, they provided for the common defense. The history of the American military offers a framework through which the people and the nation can be analyzed. At the dawn of a new millennium, acts of war still permit individuals to dedicate themselves to a cause in life as well as in death. Because so many have fought with all their might, I ask the readers of this textbook to consider the historical question: What did American warriors believe and want?
What they said has survived in scores of documents, which I sample in the following pages as broadly as possible. A number consider the role and the use of the armed forces in relation to the social, cultural, economic, political, and territorial development of the United States. Some feature commentary on strategic initiatives, combat operations, force structure, public policy, and home fronts. Others offer the firsthand testimony of extraordinary men and women in uniform. Most reveal the connections between combatants and the societies that spawned them. Thanks to an abundance of documentary materials, I present excerpts from diaries, memoirs, letters, speeches, songs, posters, memoranda, reports, manuals, laws, debates, petitions, reviews, and articles.
Attentive to diversity in the American military, I present not one point of view but many. The sampling of extracts makes for an eclectic mix, but not infinitely so. The result may be described as a reconnaissance of a historical field. The point is not to go left or right to engage the past. Rather, it is to dig deeper and to reach wider in the effort to grasp what happened and why. Whether part of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, National Guard, or Coast Guard, Americans from all walks of life served with honor and dignity. Even while facing the prospect of death, they remained focused on accomplishing their missions in theaters around the world. In the process, their experiences became entangled with thematic issues common to each historical era. To help readers recognize the most prevalent themes of the documents, my aims in this textbook are threefold.
My first aim is to trace America's ways of war. Beginning in 1607, the approaches to combat in North America appeared as varied and as ambiguous as each individual. In a sense, each was fighting his or her own battles. Over time, the use of the armed forces by the United States revealed patterns of design and purpose. Although war often created a momentum of its own, Americans mastered strategies for attrition as well as tactics for defense, concentration, maneuver, and assault. Combat included not only strategic and tactical aspects but also social and intellectual thrusts. In other words, operations involved fighting as well as thinking. What distinguished American warriors was not just the logistics of their military campaigns. It was also their passion for