The Army and the Politics of Expansion:
Texas and the Southwestern Borderlands,
T HE UNITED STATES ARMY PLAYED A MAJOR ROLE IN BORDERLANDS
disputes of the 187os and 188os. This was particularly true on the
Texas and southwestern frontiers where Indian raids, bandit intru-
sions, and governmental instability caused much unrest. A study of the
army's role in these controversies shows the extent and limitations of
military involvement as well as the complexities of the issues them-
selves. Emphasis will be placed upon Texas and the Southwest where
problems were greatest, but comparisons with the Canadian border will
place the question in its larger context.
The U.S. Army emerged from the Civil War as one of the world's
most powerful military forces. Many of its leaders were now national
heroes; meteoric promotions had become commonplace. Although ju-
bilant over the war's conclusion, these men now faced uncertain fu-
tures. Contemporary Americans lionized their military favorites but
demanded that the peacetime army be small. Accordingly, Congress
cut the army from over one million men in 1865 to 27,000 by 1874.
Officers accustomed to leading divisions now led regiments; those who
once commanded tens of thousands now commanded hundreds.'
These reductions notwithstanding, the lack of specialized govern-
ment agencies thrust a wide variety of responsibilities upon the regular
army. In addition to fighting Indians, the bluecoats garrisoned Atlantic
and Pacific seaboard defenses, occupied the South during Reconstruc-
tion, conducted and escorted scientific explorations, aided civilians im-
poverished by natural disasters, and quelled labor disturbances. In
*Robert Wooster is assistant professor of history at Corpus Christi State University. He is the
author of The Military and United States Indzan Policy, 1865-1903 (1988), Soldiers, Sutlers and
Settlers: Garrison Life on the Texas Frontier (1987), and is currently working on a history of Fort
IRobert M. Utley, Frontier Regulars: The United States Army and the Indzan, 1866-1891 (New
York: MacMillan Pubhshing Co., 1973), 1-37, 61-70.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101213/. Accessed February 1, 2015.