The Frontier Army in the Settlement of the West

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9780806131733: The Frontier Army in the Settlement of the West
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Books, art, and movies most often portray the frontier army in continuous conflict with Native Americans. In truth, the army spent only a small part of its frontier duty fighting Indians; as the main arm of the federal government in less-settled regions of the nation, the army performed a host of duties. The Frontier Army in the Settlement of the West examines the army’s nonmartial contributions to western development. Dispelling timeworn stereotypes, Michael L. Tate shows that the army conducted explorations, compiled scientific and artistic records, built roads, aided overland travelers, and improved river transportation. Army posts offered nuclei for towns, and soldiers delivered federal mails, undertook agricultural experiments, and assembled weather records for forecasting.

The "multipurpose" army also provided telegraph service, extended relief to destitute civilians, and protected early national parks.

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About the Author:

Michael L. Tate is Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, and author of The Frontier Army in the Settlement of the West and Indians and Emigrants: Encounters on the Overland Trail.

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Tate, an established historian of the West, provides a valuable overview of the army's role in U.S. expansion beyond the Mississippi, a role that included much more than protecting whites from Indians. The army surveyed and explored, directly and as part of other expeditions, and provided extensive logistic support to westward movement before as well as after the Civil War. It was crucial in developing the national infrastructure of roads, railroads, river navigation, water supplies, and everything else on which civilization depends. Finally, officers and enlisted men alike frequently were also settlers, craftsmen, and entrepreneurs, both during and after their military service. Sometimes entrepreneurship was not disinterested; General Custer had investments in the mining companies that were trying to open the Lakotah territories in the Black Hills to settlement. The volume's frame of reference suggests that Tate intends it for a scholarly audience, but its admirable synthesis of existing research makes it vital to any serious student of the history of the American West. Roland Green

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