Even a vacuum doesn’t operate in a vacuum.
Military Social History
Competing Conceptions of Manhood and Honor in the North and the Union Army
If you are like me, there is a never ending list of books you keep adding to but can’t get to. For me, that often also leads to a similar stack of books on my bookshelf bought in excitement, just waiting to be read. The Gentlemen and the Roughs, by Professor Lorien Foote, is one of those books. I’ve finally been able to dive into it and what a consuming read it has been so far.
On My Nightstand: More on Preparing for War by J.P. Clark
A bit further along in Preparing for War: The Emergence of the Modern U.S. Army, 1815-1917, by J.P. Clark. I’m always looking to steal some time to get in a little reading every day, but it is a continual struggle–particularly after long days of reading at my day job.
Clark has done an excellent job so far of leading me through the army culture’s evolution as it responded to its experience, as well as its parent society.
Take this excerpt, for example, as Clark discusses the late 1800s:
But underneath political deadlock, society was undergoing a profound change from traditional personalized customs to new impersonal systems. That was, in broad terms, the difference between the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era. Naturally, such a momentous transition was neither instantaneous nor absolute. The broad trend, however, manifested itself in different ways across all aspects of society: in government, the patronage of party machines slowly yielded to an impartial bureaucracy manned by civil servants; in the private sector, unregulated free practitioners were subsumed by national credentialing associations for professions such as law and medicine; in the army, individual autonomy would be slowly subordinated to a general staff dictating a centrally determined notion of professionalism.
Beyond the clear and vivid, well-researched writing, I am particularly intrigued by Clark’s thesis.
Though still working through the details of my thesis, I believe a similar argument can be made about the evolution of military justice, both within the parent society and the law that governs its people.
Reading books like Clark’s, and other well researched and written articles, help refine the questions to be asked and hypotheses to test, even though they might not directly reference military justice. My intent is to share and celebrate these works on this blog . . . and to take good notes . . .
On My Nightstand: Preparing for War by J.P. Clark
I picked up Preparing for War: The Emergence of the Modern U.S. Army, 1815-1917, by J.P. Clark, a few weeks ago and added it to my reading rotation.
The inside jacket cover was particularly appealing.
The author, an active duty Army officer and former faculty at the United States Military Academy, “traces the evolution of the Army between the War of 1812 and World War I. . . .” But this was the part that hooked me:
Nineteenth-century officers believed that generalship and battlefield command were more a matter of innate ability than anything institutions could teach. They saw no benefit in conceptual preparation beyond mastering technical skills like engineering and gunnery. Thus, preparations for war were largely confined to maintaining equipment and fortification and instilling discipline in the enlisted ranks through parade ground drill. By World War I, however, Progressive Era concepts of professionalism had infiltrated the Army. Younger officers took for granted that war’s complexity required them to be trained to think and act alike—a notion that would have offended earlier generations.
Does that sound cool or what???
I’m a little over ninety pages in so far, and it is fascinating. This “industrialization” of American though on command, mobilization, organization, and training promises to be a fascinating insight on this aspect of the evolution of military society, and the broader society in which it exists. I’m hopeful that this will add to how best to understand the proper evolution of military law. So far, this book does not disappoint.
Check it out, share your thoughts, and pass along recommendations!
A Story Long Overdue – Sharing the Rich History of Courts-Martial
Modern day accusations of using the military for social experimentation appear unprecedented to modern readers. But this is just another example of the ever growing divide between the civilian population and military society. Since the early days of the Republic, military society has grappled with the most difficult social issues of the day well in advance of the broader public. Unlike broader society, the need for discipline forced the difficult questions debated in broader society into courts-martial. These stories have largely been relegated to a few academically minded military members. And our holistic understanding of our history has suffered. Until now. I am truly honored to review Dr. Chris Bray’s recent excellent book, Court-Martial: How Military Justice Has Shaped America from the Revolution to 9/11 and Beyond.
Enlisted Acts of Rebellion: From Public Drunkenness to the Slow Salute
My last post included a brief discussion about public drunkenness on the part of enlisted personnel as a sort of rebellion against the rigid and erratic conditions of military life in the Revolutionary and Civil War era, and the officers who administered this society and its corresponding disciplinary system. In this post, I’d like to have a bit of fun and take a satirical look at one of today’s most common acts of rebellion—the slow salute.