Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 135

BOOK REVIEWS captures the martial spirit that animated so many Americans from the Revolution to the Civil War. To make his argument, Herrera exploits thousands of unpublished letters and manuscripts gleaned from dozens of archives around the country. Preferring contemporary letters and accounts to later memoirs and reminiscences, he captures the “unrehearsed and unembellished” thoughts of several generations of American soldiers. From these he deduces a common multigenerational ideology that provided “order and gave greater meaning” to their soldiering. Unlike scholars who take a more sociological approach, such as Samuel Watson and Robert Wettemann, Herrera adopts an almost pointillist method. He carefully marshals his evidence point by point, alternating color and contrast to paint a portrait of early American soldiers. The author builds his “military ethos of republicanism” through five overlapped topics: virtue, legitimacy, self-governance, national mission, and fame and honor. I found the chapter on self-governance, entitled “Free Men in Uniform: Soldierly Self-Governance,” the most stimulating and central to his argument. Here, he describes how the individualism of liberalism somewhat fitfully reconciles itself to the hierarchical and communal demands of military service. American soldiers did this chiefly through an insistence on voluntarism and negotiations over the terms and conditions of military service. For example, the near-universal militia system gradually evolved into a more voluntary and self-governing collection of militia units, where many had the characteristics and exclusivity of social or political clubs. Similarly, the volunteer soldiers enlisted as “a contractual agreement freely entered into by the soldiers and the government.” American soldiers took these contracts seriously and expected their leaders to do so as well. Yet, Herrera links self-governance to the communal responsibility of citizenship. He observes that to these men, “bearing arms was the right and the responsibility of the virtuous citizen.” Thus, the other chapters on virtue, legitimacy, national mission, and honor combine to shape the self-governing individual into a soldier willing to risk death. This martial spirit sustained these men through ferocious battles in the Mexican and Civil Wars. Indeed, the common “military ethos of republicanism” or “shared civic-martial culture” contributed to the long and bloody ordeal of the war for the Union. MILITARY REVIEW  November-December 2015 While regular soldiers from colonial times onward have lamented the preoccupation with individual rights and often have complained about the indiscipline of volunteers and the militia, American military leaders adapted to the style of leadership needed to inspire the American citizen-soldier. Schofield’s “Definition of Discipline,” originating from the general’s experience in the Civil War, is still memorized by West Point’s plebes today. Our modern professional army remains imbued with many of the same values that inspired the largely volunteer soldiers two hundred years ago. Today’s citizen-soldiers still fight for “liberty and the republic.” Donald B. Co