The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004

Book Reviews

agenda.... [but] a closer look reveals just the opposite" (p. 25). Stories appear-
ing in eastern and middlewestern newspapers influenced Smith's plans to pur-
sue Texas. Also noteworthy is Sam Houston's strong support of the Mormons.
According to Van Wagenen, Houston's appreciation of the Saints resulted in his
helping to diffuse the volatile Federal-Mormon Utah War that almost engulfed
Utah Territory in the late 185os. In summary, this fascinating book reveals the
potency of not only Texas identity in the 184os and 185os, but also the
Mormons' visionary geopolitical interests. As a chapter in western history that
had yet to be told, The Texas Republic and the Mormon Kingdom of God now fills a
very important void.
University of Texas at Arlington RICHARD FRANCAVIGLIA
A Short, Offhand, Killing Affair: Soldiers and Social Conflict During the Mexacan-American
War. By Paul Foos. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002. Pp.
223. Introduction, notes, bibliography, acknowledgments, index. ISBN o-
8078-5405-0. $18.95, paper.)
It is refreshing to find an old topic viewed from a new perspective. Paul Foos
does just that in A Short, Offhand, Killing Affair, an examination of U.S. soldiers in
the Mexican War. The author presents soldiering as an occupation, defining an
enlistment form as a contract between employer (the government) and employee
(the soldier). Moreover, he contends that looting and displacing others from their
land offered soldiers an opportunity for personal enrichment and served as an
unofficial enlistment bonus. It is a dark view of the Mexican War that harks back to
the days when scholars touted the conflict as an early version of the Vietnam War.
Richard Griswald del Castillo contends that "Foos has a deep understanding
of the society and politics of the U.S.-Mexican War period" (back cover). This
reviewer agrees but believes Foos's understanding of the American military is
imperfect, a significant shortcoming since that is the focus of his study. For
example, although the author attempts to draw distinctions between regulars
and volunteers, he fails to consider the animosity that existed between the two
corps that caused them to damn one another as each struggled to be seen as the
legitimate defender of the republic. Thus, it is no surprise to hear a regular offi-
cer criticize volunteers for their atrocious behavior (p. 116). D. H. Hill's
remarks can be interpreted as a salvo in the regular-volunteer feud as much as
an indictment of citizen-soldiers. Foos cites Texas volunteers as especially guilty
in perpetrating atrocities against Mexico.
Foos' unfamiliarity with the interworkings of mobilization lessens the impact
of his substantial research. For example, he selected three volunteer regiments
out of more than one hundred and twenty units to examine his thesis that main-
ly men of low social standing enlisted to fight Mexico as a way to demonstrate
their racial superiority and enrich themselves through plunder. His choices all
came from cosmopolitan centers (New Orleans, New York City, and Boston) and
were actually the exception to the rule rather than the norm for raising volun-
teers in the agrarian American society of the 184os. A comparison between rural

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101224/. Accessed August 30, 2014.