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By Paul Foos

The Mexican-American warfare (1846-1848) came upon americans on new terrain. A republic based at the precept of armed security of freedom was once now going to struggle on behalf of show up future, looking to overcome an unexpected kingdom and folks. via an exam of rank-and-file squaddies, Paul Foos sheds new mild at the conflict and its impression on attitudes towards different races and nationalities that stood within the approach of yank expansionism. Drawing on wartime diaries and letters now not formerly tested by means of students, Foos indicates that the event of squaddies within the warfare differed greatly from the optimistic, patriotic photograph trumpeted by way of political and army leaders looking recruits for a volunteer military. Promised entry to land, fiscal chance, and political equality, the enlistees in its place discovered themselves subjected to strangely harsh self-discipline and harrowing conflict stipulations. for that reason, a few infantrymen tailored the rhetoric of show up future to their very own reasons, taking for themselves what were promised, frequently by way of looting the Mexican nation-state 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 attractiveness of them, translated right into a extra violent, destructive number of show up future.

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

Sample text

One Richmond volunteer company presented its captain with a series of resolutions declaring the volunteers’ intention to behave as—and to be treated as—citizens. 3 A subtext of this message was that the virtue and manliness of the volun32 c i t i z e n s ’ m i l i t i as teers themselves made them good, bad, or indifferent soldiers, not blind obedience to the orders of a military martinet. Leading political figures felt compelled to praise the volunteers even if they opposed the Mexican War, and supporters of the president found it expedient to criticize his policies when he gave preference to regular over volunteer soldiers.

Working people rebelled against militia service when it became an instrument of compulsion, with rules and leadership imposed by state government. The opponents of universal militia service objected to appointed officers, and exemptions for the well-to-do, but military service was not necessarily objectionable to them when they could choose their own group affiliations and their own leaders —even if those leaders were from an elite economic or political background. In the 1820s and 1830s poor and middling folk in Philadelphia, New York, Albany, New Haven, and other cities showed blatant contempt for compulsory militia service.

The Enquirer also framed the enlistment question in the light of class politics, echoing the sentiments of the Catholic quoted earlier, that clerks and professionals were avoiding the call, while laborers and immigrants en46 volu n t e e r e xc i t e m e n t listed en masse. An editorialist contemplated the effects of a draft, which would truly create a citizens’ army, drawn from all ranks of society. 6 Cincinnati’s Catholic establishment reacted almost immediately to the declaration of war with public avowals of unqualified support, as did the national Catholic Church hierarchy.

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