Military historians are, quite rightly, concerned with war, but the Army does not simply cease to exist between the treaty ending one conflict and the opening guns of the next. Some Americans, however, have thought otherwise. Soon after the Civil War, when a colonel was introduced to a cultivated woman from a large Eastern city, she was astonished: "What, a colonel of the Army? Why, I supposed the Army was disbanded at the end of the war!"
The people who made up the "garrison world" during the peacetime intervals between the War for Independence and the Spanish-American War are the subject of this book. Who were these officers and soldiers? They were men collected mostly from the streets of Northern cities, men for whom enlistment was "a leap in the dark...a choice of evils," and men like one lieutenant who write in 1856: "I like the wild excitement of such a life and do not think anything would tempt me to resign my commission for the monotonous routine of civil life." Although the occasional Indian war made headlines, the unrelenting labor of building and maintaining frontier outposts occupied most of their days.
Drawing on diaries, letters, and other primary documents, Edward M. Coffman vividly recreates the harsh, often lonely, garrison life. He pays special attention to the roles of women and children, as well as black Americans, and to the development of military professionalism. Through the eyes of those who lived it, Coffman traces the evolution of the American Army from "the days of small things"--of limited resources and downright hardship--to the modern military age that began at the turn of the century.show more