Readings in American Military History

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9780131825161: Readings in American Military History

This book includes both narrative and analytical articles from many well-known military historians that discuss American military affairs from the colonial period to the present. Colonial Wars, Wars for Independence, World War I, World War II, Vietnam, The Cold War, The Civil War. For anyone interested in a survey of American Military affairs from the colonial period to the present.

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This reader is designed for courses in American military history or as collateral reading in American history survey courses. It includes selections in the field from the colonial period through September 11, 2001—America's second "day of infamy"—that date after which the nation's armed forces have come face to face with challenges to America's security without precedent in the annals of their rich and colorful record of service to the nation.

The editor has chosen 28 selections from the abundant field of military history in order to allow military history instructors to select subjects which best fit their approaches to the study of America's military past. Some are descriptive, some are analytical, and some are both. All provide the student with a close-up view of warfare, strategy, tactics, and command decisions that have shaped the country's rich and crucial military engagements on American and foreign soils and seas.

In reading the selections contained in this volume students will become acquainted with a sampling of the writings of some of America's best known military historians, such as Thomas Fleming, Jack Bauer, Stephen Sears, T. Harry Williams, and David McCullough. They will also come into contact with the outstanding work of lesser known figures in the field, such as John K. Mahon, Perry D. Jamieson, Xiaoming Zhang, Norman Friedman, and many, many others, whose work merits high praise and promises continued exemplary research and writing in the years to come.

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Events and developments in the military history of the United States have played a major role in the nation's evolution since its early days as a colonial extension of Great Britain. And ever since independence was attained in the late eighteenth century, military affairs have continued to be considerable, if not always dominant, factors in its existence as it evolved from a new and comparatively weak upstart among nations to its position in the twentieth century as the leading economic and military power in the world. From colonial wars against the French while fighting alongside the British during the Wars for Empire, to the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, to the Mexican-American War fueled by Manifest Destiny, to the fratricidal Civil War, to World Wars I and II, to Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf, and to the opening years of the twenty-first century when terrorists launched their suicidal attacks on American citizens in New York City and the Pentagon, and through all the years in between, military responses and developments have been a major part of the nation's vibrant, colorful, and sometimes violent history.

It is an easy and patently false cliché—however fashionable in certain quarters—to say that "wars never settle anything." A more accurate assertion would be to say, "wars often settle almost everything." This was surely the case in the colonists' bid for independence from Great Britain, in the Confederates' claim to the right to secede from the Union, in the drive by Hitler to bring all of Europe under his control, in the Japanese attempt to conquer the entire western Pacific for their co-prosperity sphere, in the unsuccessful attempt by North Korea to conquer South Korea, in the North Vietnamese long and successful crusade to dominate the entire peninsula despite South Vietnam's and America's failed efforts to thwart them, and in a hundred more scenarios that can be easily recalled. Wars may not always settle everything, but they do settle some things, and for that reason wars and preparation for wars must be studied and understood by the American people if they are to continue to enjoy their many benefits as a matter of course. Americans must be aware of how threats to the nation and its allies and friends from without at times permit no other than a military solution. War should always be the last solution, but sometimes it is the only solution.

It is, therefore, fortunate that the American people have throughout their history been blessed with historians and other people of letters who have recorded and interpreted the major military events in their history, although sometimes romantically, sometimes super-patriotically, and, sometimes with little depth or breadth. But whether presented as solid, verifiable truth as can best be ascertained or in a less professional manner, the people of this country have enjoyed at least a passing knowledge of the nation's military heritage. Obviously those who have been involved in warfare have had a ringside—if horrible—seat on history Again fortunately, in the last half century much solid military scholarship, going beyond the "drums and bugles" type of military history popular during the first century and a half of the nation's existence, has emerged from among the fads of history as politics, history as social or economic conflict, history as white or male domination, and so on to reassert its rightful and crucial place in the nation's store of valuable knowledge necessary for an informed citizenry.

In this reemergence, however, despite library shelves continuing to groan every year under the weight of new military history volumes ranging from the scholarly and insightful to the trite and ephemeral, those who teach American military history in the nation's colleges and universities have been aware of the lack of a suitable collateral reader to supplement their lectures, texts, and journal and monograph assignments, a reader designed to give their students greater depth and breadth in the subject. To that end, after collecting and reviewing literally hundreds of articles and monograph chapters, I have selected 28 to be reprinted here. They range from the writings of some of America's best-known military historians (with whom all students of military history should be familiar) to lesser known but outstanding scholars, who by their research and writing are making significant contributions to the field. To the best of my ability, I have selected readings that will induce the students to attain greater depth and breadth in this important subfield of American history. Some selections fall into the category of narrative; others are analytical; some combine both approaches to the subject at hand. By presenting a variety of approaches to military history, it is my hope that students will "see the elephant," appreciate the impact of civil affairs and technology on the art of war, and be able to understand how battles and wars are won or lost.

In the introduction to each essay I have indicated where it was originally published. My thanks to the authors of the selections, to those publications that allowed me to reprint their articles for fees that were not prohibitive, and to their representatives, who were consistently cooperative and helpful in leading me through the reprint legal jungle. My thanks also to the primary reviewers of this project, Dr. William Thomas Allison of Weber State University, Dr. Robert Wooster of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and Dr. James C. Bradford of Texas A&M University, for their criticisms and their suggestions as to how to strengthen this reader. Thanks, too, to the staff of Captain John Smith Library of Christopher Newport University, especially to Andrea Kross, Amy Boykin, Leslie Condra, and Susan Barber, who bore with me beyond the call of duty as I implored their help in finding materials I deemed important in the shortest possible time. Finally, my thanks to my wife, Nancy, who bore with me once again when my research and writing sometimes made deep dents in my attention span regarding other important matters.

December 9, 2002
James M. Morris

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