Conference Program

85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History

 Landscapes of War and Peace

April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky

Title: U.S. Military Government and Aid to the Civil Power: Seeking Security and Stability, 1787-1902
Abstract: During the course of U.S. territorial expansion and imperialism, the United States usually proclaimed its intention to establish representative civilian government as soon as the white settler population reached a certain point in new territories. Indeed, Congress created a fairly elaborate process, far more consistently systematic than those in most European empires, to do so. Yet it often took several years for the executive branch to appoint and dispatch an initial set of civilian executive and judicial officers for the first (pre-representative) phase of territorial government. In effect, the first U.S. governments in many newly acquired territories were officered by military commanders, following directly from war and conquest or by virtue of the army's more rapid deployment onto new American frontiers. This session presents three case studies, from across the long nineteenth century and across the expanse from the Old Northwest the "insular empire" acquired during the war against Spain in 1898. Each paper explores questions of military professionalism, local civil-military relations, and the elaboration of state institutions. These dynamics came together in the efforts of American military officers to conciliate public opinion among culturally diverse local populations, whether in quest of attachment to the United States or to stabilize volatile situations and provide opportunities for the implementation of American policy writ large. While identifying some common patterns and threads of continuity, the papers also demonstrate the influence of distinctive contexts, particularly those of the army's institutional development and of the populations of the different regions, and the agency of specific military commanders. Together these papers help us understand the role of national military officers as federal and international diplomats, attempting to shape the local politics of volatile frontiers in support of U.S. national objectives, and the shifting balance of conciliation and coercion these officers employed.
Samuel Watson, United States Military Academy
Participant's Paper Title: Federal Military Diplomacy at Vincennes, 1787-1790
Participant's Paper Abstract: The Ohio River Valley was a violent place during the 1780s. The small army, a mere battalion in size, moved slowly westward establishing outposts, but struggled to restrain conflict between white settlers and Native Americans. Indeed, before 1790 white offensives against Native Americans were undertaken entirely by Kentuckians acting under local authority, increasingly contrary to Confederation and national policy. The federal army could do little besides showing the flag, and the 1787 expedition to Vincennes, in modern Indiana, was the largest effort to do so. After COL Josiah Harmar toured the Indiana and Illinois countries, he left MAJ John Hamtramck at the important trading village of Vincennes, on the Wabash River the farthest north of any U.S. fort in the region, to continue showing the flag while conciliating French, Indian, and American settlers. Hamtramck had little success deterring Kentucky forays against the Indians of the Wabash Valley (though they abated for other reasons), but he was welcomed by the French and metís habitants of Vincennes, and established a moderate regime of municipal ordinances aimed at minimizing conflict between Americans and the French. Hamtramck was not replaced by federal civil officials until 1790. His efforts solved few long-term legal problems, such as the complex issue of land grants, but presented a conciliatory face for the new U.S. government in a turbulent region, helping to attach French habitants to the United States, and perhaps to minimize military opposition to U.S. expansion from the Weas, Piankshaws, and other Indians in the area. Hamtramck presents the example of a national military officer whose diplomatic success, such as it was, came almost entirely from his personal moderation and deportment, rather than institutional support.
Robert Wooster, Texas A&M Corpus Christi
Kevin Adams, Kent State University
Durwood Ball, University of New Mexico
Participant's Paper Title: The Regulars Return: The U.S. Army's Protection of Lincoln's Journey in February 1861
Participant's Paper Abstract: In February 1861, four U.S. Army officers served on the security detail that escorted President-elect Abraham Lincoln on his historic journey from his home in Springfield, Illinois, to his inauguration in Washington, D.C. These regular officers were Col. Edwin V. Sumner of the First Cavalry, Maj. David Hunter of the Paymaster Department, Capt. John Pope of the Corps of Topographical Engineers, and Capt. George Hazzard of the Fourth Artillery. After Lincoln's election, the large number of southerners in the officer corps immediately brought the loyalty of U.S. Army under suspicion among Unionists, and the steady defection of southern officers to the Confederacy heightened those doubts. The crisis thrust officers and enlisted men, most of whom served at stations in the West, into uncharted frontiers of American politics and constitutional law. Loyal to the Union, Sumner, Hunter, Pope, and Hazzard?all four northern-born officers?were among the very first commissioned officers to volunteer information and service to the president-elect. Stationed at Fort McHenry for several years, Hazzard warned Lincoln about the likely threats to his life from secessionist mobs and assassination plots in Baltimore, through which he and his entourage would have to pass. Major Hunter independently sounded the same alarm. Headquartered in St. Louis, Sumner visited Springfield to consult with the president-elect and his staff about the loyalty or disloyalty of officers in the army. Sumner represented Winfield Scott, the army's commanding general. Their service to the president-elect was a powerful symbolic act. At an anguishing moment in the Union's history, they interjected the U.S. Army into the national political process and helped commit the U.S. Army to the protection of the constitutional transfer of presidential power.
Mark Askew, Texas A&M University
Participant's Paper Title: '"Hopelessly Destructive of the Public Order": Political Dissent under the Military Government of Cuba, 1899
Participant's Paper Abstract: This paper explores the extent to which the United States Army engaged in a conscious colonial project in Cuba in the wake of the Spanish-American War and the role of censorship and narrative control in achieving that goal. The heirs of the Cuban Revolution turned to their local editorial pages and public officials to scrutinize every aspect of the American military government's operations and what these operations meant for the island's political future. Although the U.S. Army's relationship with the Cuban press remained volatile, the American military government tolerated a wide variety of Cuban political discourse, including support for Cuban independence. The paper's main focus will be on American military officials' response to criticism from Cuban elites and the press about U.S. intentions. Although much of the historiography on the American Military Division of Cuba has argued that the United States pursued a conscious political program of annexation, examining the American military government's tolerance of a wide spectrum of political activity in Cuba suggests that if an American program of annexation existed, it remained firmly subordinated to the U.S. Army's highest priority in Cuba: the maintenance of public order. The paper will incorporate some traditional sources like the personal papers of James H. Wilson and Leonard Wood, along with previously unexamined correspondence from the National Archives which will help to illuminate the varying degrees of tolerance adopted by American officials toward the independence movement. There were several intriguing dynamics at play: balancing strategic priorities, the role of politics in the use of force, the limits of force, and the balance occupying nations strike between coercion and conciliation during military occupation. All of these issues contextualize the limited success of U.S. efforts to alter occupied nations' political systems to suit American interests in the late 19th and early 20th century.

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