Robert Wooster, "The United States Army and the Making of America: From Confederation to Empire, 1775-1903" (UP of Kansas, 2021)

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The story of how the American military—and more particularly the regular army—has played a vital role in the late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century United States that extended beyond the battlefield is the focus of Robert Wooster’s The United States Army and the Making of America: From Confederation to Empire, 1775–1903 (University Press of Kansas, 2021). As Wooster shows, Americans repeatedly used the army not only to secure their expanding empire and fight their enemies, but to shape their nation and their vision of who they were, often in ways not directly associated with shooting wars or combat. That the regular army served as nation-builders is ironic, given the officer corps’ obsession with a warrior ethic and the deep-seated disdain for a standing army that includes Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, the writings of Henry David Thoreau, and debates regarding congressional appropriations. Whether the issue concerned Indian policy, the appropriate division of power between state and federal authorities, technology, transportation, communications, or business innovations, the public demanded that the military remain small even as it expected those forces to promote civilian development.

Douglas Bell is a historian who focuses on American military history, American foreign policy, German history, and European Studies

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