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The Interwar Military
Lesson 15
The West and the Indian Wars
National Guard and Other Reforms
The Spanish American War
The Mexican Revolution
National Defense Act of 1916
• After the Civil War, the large volunteer Army
quickly demobilized and the US Army once
again became a small regular organization
• In March 1865 Congress established the
Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and
Abandoned Lands (better known as the
Freedmen’s Bureau) as an agency within the
Department of War to facilitate the transition
of the South from a slave to a free society
– The administrators and field agents were
commissioned officers from the Army
• The primary purpose of
the Freedmen’s Bureau
was to protect and help
former slaves
• At first President
Johnson pursued a
relatively mild policy
toward the former
Confederate states but
Congress ultimately
exerted its will and
placed the South under
military control
Civil War corps commander Major
General Oliver Howard was the first
head of the Freedmen’s Bureau. He
later helped found Howard
• The South was divided into military districts each
commanded by a major general who wielded
considerable power
– The Third Reconstruction Act of July 1867 declared,
“No district commander… shall be bound in his action
by any opinion of any civil officer of the United States”
– District commanders dealt with horse stealing,
moonshining, rioting, civil court proceedings,
regulating commercial law, public education, fraud,
removing public officials, registering voters, holding
elections, and the approving of new state
constitutions by registered voters
• Occupation duty absorbed
somewhat more than one-third of
the Army’s strength in 1867
• An important army function was
to support Federal marshals in an
effort to suppress the Ku Klux
• As the Southern states were
restored to the Union under the
reconstruction governments,
military rule came to an end and
civil authorities assumed full
control of state offices
– This process was largely
completed in 1870 and
formally ended in 1877
The West and the Indian Wars
• After the Civil War, William Sherman assumed
command of the Missouri district, which
stretched from the Rocky Mountains to the
• He declared all Indians not on reservations “are
hostile and will remain so until killed off”
• Sherman would continue his Civil War strategy
of total war and targeting the civilian population
and infrastructure in his Indian campaigns
The West and the Indian Wars
• The Army in the West was scattered throughout
hundreds of small forts, posts, outposts, and
stations, often with little more than a company of
cavalry or infantry in each post
– Isolation, shared hardship, and danger bred a strong
sense of camaraderie and the frontier Army
developed its own customs, rituals, and sense of
honor separate from the civilian world or even from
the very different military society “back East”
– Life was monotonous, living conditions were austere,
promotion was slow, and the enemy was elusive and
The West and the Indian Wars
• “Were I or the department
commanders to send guards to
every point where they are
clamored for, we would need
alone on the plains a hundred
thousand men, mostly of
cavalry. Each spot of every
road, and each little settlement
along five thousand miles of
frontier, wants its regiment of
cavalry or infantry to protect it
against the combined power of
all the Indians, because of the
bare possibility of their being
attacked by the combined force
of all the Indians.”
– William Sherman
The Transcontinental
Railroad, completed in 1869,
created additional
confrontations between
Indians and a westward
expanding America
The West and the Indian Wars
• After Phil Sheridan became commander of the
Department of the Missouri, he developed a plan
to hit the Indians in their permanent winter
– The plan would be logistically difficult for the Army but
offered opportunities for decisive results
– If the Indians’ shelter, food, and livestock could be
destroyed or captured, not only the warriors but their
women and children would be at the mercy of the
Army and the elements, and there was little left but
– These tactics were aimed at the total destruction of
the Indian culture
The West and the Indian Wars
• Like Sherman, Sheridan
had practiced total war in
the Civil War (in
Sheridan’s case, in the
Shenandoah Valley)
• Sherman concurred with
Sheridan’s strategy
commenting, “it would be
wise to invite all the
sportsmen of England
and America... for a
Grand Buffalo Hunt, and
make one grand sweep
of them all.”
Sheridan is associated with the
expression, “The only good
Indian is a dead Indian."
The West and the Indian Wars
• After the Civil War,
Congress authorized the
formation of two regiments
of black cavalry (the 9th and
10th U.S. Cavalry) and four
regiments of black infantry
(the 38th, 39th, 40th and
41st Infantry Regiments)
• These black soldiers were
commanded by white
officers and served
Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th
throughout the West
Cavalry crossing the Gila
• The Indians called them
River, Arizona Territory,
“Buffalo Soldiers”
ca. 1878
The West and the Indian Wars
• Sherman and Sheridan’s
strategies for defeating
the Indians by destroying
their infrastructure was
cruel but effective
• The last significant battle
took place at Wounded
Knee, South Dakota in
George Custer’s command
was annihilated at the
Battle of Little Bighorn in
National Guard
• In the second half of the 19th Century the organized
militia under state control was frequently called out to
suppress strikes
• In response, Congress introduced legislation to improve
and to provide better arms for the organized militia
• In 1879, in support of this effort, the National Guard
Association came into being in St. Louis
• Between 1881 and 1892 every state revised its military
code to provide for an organized militia
– Most states, following the lead of New York, called
their militia the National Guard.
• John A. Logan’s Volunteer Soldier of America, published
posthumously in 1887, provided the intellectual support
for advocacy for the militia
National Guard
• By 1898 the National Guard had become the
principal reserve standing behind the Regular
Army but remaining a state military force.
• In response to the militia’s poor showing in the
Spanish-American War, the Dick Act of 1903 led
to the creation of the National Guard Bureau as
the federal instrument responsible for the
administration of the National Guard
– Established standards for organization,
training, pay, and Federal funding
Emory Upton
• While Logan and others were
advocating for a strong militia, Emory
Upton was arguing for a strong
professional army
• Upton was a West Point graduate and
Civil War veteran
• He went on a mission to study the
armies of Asia and Europe, which left
him especially impressed by the
German military system
• Wrote The Armies of Asia and Europe
(1878) and The Military Policy of the
United States (1904)
Emory Upton
• Upton presented a case for a strong regular military
force and subsequently provided the Regular Army with
intellectual ammunition for shooting down the arguments
of militia advocates
• Borrowing John C. Calhoun’s idea of an “expansible
army,” Upton felt a wartime army should consist entirely
of regular formations, which meant that all volunteers
should serve under regular officers.
• Upton ignored the strong role of the militia in American
military tradition and wanted the United States to
abandon its traditional dual military system and replace it
with a thoroughly professional army on the German
Spanish-American War
• The US had large
business interests in
Puerto Rico and Cuba,
the last remnant’s of
Spain’s American empire
• In 1898 the US battleship
Maine exploded and sank
in Havana harbor
• US leaders suspected
sabotage and declared
war on Spain
Spanish-American War
• The US easily defeated
Spain and took
possession of Puerto
Rico and Cuba
• In the Pacific, the US
took possession of the
Philippines and Guam
• After the SpanishAmerican War the US
emerged as a major
imperial and colonial
Commodore Dewey destroyed
the Spanish fleet in a single
day at the Battle of Manila.
Elihu Root
• Elihu Root served as Secretary of War under President
William McKinley (1899 to 1904) and succeeded in
increasing the size of the army and in partially
reorganizing and reforming the War Department general
• Root was a former corporation lawyer, and he tended to
see the Army’s problems as similar to those faced by
business executives.
– “The men who have combined various corporations
… in what we call trusts have reduced the cost of
production and have increased their efficiency by
doing the very same thing we propose you shall do
now, and it does seem a pity that the Government of
the United States should be the only great industrial
establishment that cannot profit by the lessons which
the world of industry and of commerce has learned to
such good effect.”
Elihu Root
• Root recognized the inefficient division of authority
between the Commanding General and the Secretary of
– The Commanding General exercised discipline and control of the
troops in the field while the Secretary of War, through the military
bureau chiefs, had responsibility for administration and fiscal
• Root recommended replacing the Commanding General
with a Chief of Staff who would be the responsible
adviser and executive agent of the President through the
Secretary of War
– Reinforced civilian control of the military
– Reduced the independence of the bureau chiefs
Elihu Root
• To correct the long range war
planning deficiency made
obvious by the Spanish-American
War, Root proposed creating a
new General Staff
– Now there would be a group of
selected officers who devoted
their full energies to preparing
war plans rather than the
previous practice of relying on
ad hoc groups thrown together
for a crisis
• Root’s proposals were adopted
by Congress in 1903
Educational Reforms
• As commanding general William Sherman
established the School of Application for Infantry
and Cavalry at Fort Leavenworth, KS in 1881
– Predecessor for the Command and General Staff
• The Naval War College was established in 1884
and the Army War College in 1901
• The service school system was expanded
– Signal School 1905
– Field Artillery School 1911
– School of Musketry 1911
Albert Thayer Mahan
• US naval officer who lived from 1840 to
• Wrote The Influence of Sea Power
Upon History, 1660-1783 (1890) and
The Influence of Sea Power upon the
French Revolution and Empire, 17931812 (1892)
• Considered “sea power” to include the
overlapping concepts of command of
the sea through naval superiority and
that combination of maritime
commerce, overseas possessions, and
privileged access to foreign markets
that produces national “wealth and
Albert Thayer Mahan
• Advocated
– “that overbearing power on the sea which drives the
enemy’s flag from it, or allows it to appear only as a
– “(1) Production; (2) Shipping: (3) Colonies and
Markets– in a word, sea power”
• Thought the Navy should be used offensively
and that its principle object should be
destruction of the enemy’s fleet
– Destroying the enemy’s battle fleet would in turn
cause his merchant fleet to find the sea untenable
– To be effective, the fleet should not be divided and
should be autonomous
Albert Thayer Mahan
• Saw the Navy’s economic strangulation of
France by blockade as the key to Britain’s defeat
of Napoleon
– “It was not by attempting great military operations on
land, but by controlling the sea, and through the sea
the world outside Europe,” that the British “ensured
the triumph of their country.”
• Critics argue that Mahan confused a necessary
or important cause with the sufficient cause
– The British Navy was important, but the Army and
diplomacy also played key roles
Albert Thayer Mahan
• Considered the navy to be a better
instrument of national policy than the army
– This was especially true for the United States
which had “neither the tradition nor the design
to act aggressively beyond the seas,” but at
the same time had “very important
transmarine interests which need protection”
• Increasingly became an imperialist in
order to gain control of the resources the
US needed to best use its naval power
Mahan and Imperialism
• “As far as my own views went, I might say I was
up to 1885 traditionally an anti-imperialist; but by
1890 the study of the influence of sea power and
its kindred expansive activities upon the destiny
of nations had converted me.” (Mahan, 1901)
• Mahan saw the construction of the Panama
Canal as both a tremendous opportunity for the
US to expand its interests but also that those
expanded interests would collide with the
interests of other nations
– The US must therefore build a Navy and acquire the
necessary supporting bases to safeguard its interests
Panama Canal
• President Theodore
Roosevelt saw an
opportunity to exploit the
separatist tendencies of
Panama and supported its
rebellion against
Colombia in 1903
• Between 1904 and 1914,
the US built the Panama
Canal which links the
Atlantic and Pacific
Oceans without having to
transit Cape Horn
Gatun locks under
construction in 1910
• Even when the Canal was just in the
planning stages, Mahan warned that its
opening would immediately place the West
Coast in jeopardy and that “it should be an
inviolable resolution of our national policy,
that no foreign state should henceforth
acquire a cooling position within three
thousand miles of San Francisco, --- a
distance which includes the Hawaiian and
Galapogos islands and the coast of
Central America”
• In 1893 a group of businessmen and
planters overthrew Queen Liliuokalani and
invited the US to annex Hawaii
• Hawaii became a US possession in 1898
Latin America
• In 1823 President James Monroe issued the
Monroe Doctrine that warned European states
against imperialist designs in the western
– Any European attempt to reassert control over former
colonies or to establish new ones would be
considered as a threat against the US and an act of
• The Monroe Doctrine served as a justification for
US intervention in hemispheric affairs
Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe
• In 1904 the government of the
Dominican Republic went
• President Roosevelt feared that
Germany and other nations
might intervene forcibly to
collect their debts
• Roosevelt asserted that “in the
Western Hemisphere the
adherence of the United States
to the Monroe Doctrine may
force the United States,
however reluctantly, in flagrant
cases of such wrongdoing or
impotence, to the exercise of an
international police power....”
Cartoon portraying Roosevelt
as an international policeman
wielding his “big stick”
Early 20th Century US Interventions
in Latin America
• Cuba
• Dominican Republic
• Nicaragua
• Honduras
• Haiti
Mexican Revolution (1911-1920)
• After defeat in the
Mexican War, a liberal
reform movement tried to
reshape Mexico
• President Benito Juarez
began to limit the power
of the military and the
Roman Catholic Church
in Mexico and sought to
endow Mexicans with the
means of making a living
and enable them to
participate in political
Benito Juarez, leader of
La Reforma
Mexican Revolution (1911-1920)
• La Reforma challenged the
fundamentalism of Mexican
elites and a civil war broke
out in 1911
• Peasants, workers, and
middle class Mexicans
fought to overthrow the
dictator Porfirio Diaz
• The revolt became
increasingly radical and
devolved into guerrilla war
Porfirio Diaz (18301915)
Mexican Revolution (1911-1920)
• Charismatic rebels
such as Emiliano
Zapata and Pancho
Villa organized
massive armies to
fight against the
• Villa attacked and
killed US citizens
as a result of
America’s support
for the Mexican
General John Pershing led an
unsuccessful American expedition to
capture Villa. Pershing telegraphed
Washington, “Villa is everywhere, but
Villa is nowhere.”
Mexican Revolution (1911-1920)
• President Woodrow Wilson called up 75,000 National
Guardsmen to help police the border
• Although Villa was not captured, serious border incidents
were stopped
• Perhaps more importantly, the Army learned valuable
lessons about mobilization, training, and field operations
that would help it prepare for World War I
• Technological advances served to make warfare
more lethal
– Smokeless powder improved range and penetrating
– TNT increased the bursting power of artillery shells
– Improved steels resulted in lighter and more efficient
– Recoilless technology allowed repeated firings
without having to relay the artillery piece
– The Maxim machine gun was the first self-powered
and truly automatic model
– Clip-loading magazines greatly increased rates of rifle
National Defense Act of 1916
• The deployment of the National Guard during
the Mexico Revolt forced Congress to reach a
decision on the divisive issue of how to organize
the military for war
• The legislation reflected the growing sentiment
of foregoing the Uptonian idea of an expansible
Regular Army in favor of the more traditional
American concept of a citizen army as the
keystone of an adequate defense force
• Represented the most comprehensive military
legislation yet enacted by the Congress
National Defense Act of 1916
• Authorized an increase in the peacetime
strength of the Regular Army over a period of
five years to 175,000 men and a wartime
strength of close to 300,000
• Bolstered by federal funds and federal-stipulated
organization and standards of training, the
National Guard was to be increased more than
fourfold to a strength of over 400,000 and
obligated to respond to the call of the President
National Defense Act of 1916
• Established both an Officers’ and an Enlisted Reserve
Corps and a Volunteer Army to be raised only in time of
• Created a new Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC)
program to establish training centers for officers at
colleges and universities.
• Going beyond the heretofore-recognized province of
military legislation, the Act granted power to the
President to place orders for defense materials and to
force industry to comply.
– Directed the Secretary of War to conduct a survey of
all arms and munitions industries.
• World War I