The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996 Page: 468
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Contrary to the assumptions made by historians in the past, the pa-
pers of junior regular officers collected at West Point and the Library of
Congress contain remarkably few references to the probability, causes,
desirability, or potential outcome of war with Mexico, particularly in the
years before 1846 itself. This essay uses the personal correspondence of
junior army officers, primarily captains and lieutenants, to probe their
reactions to their stationing on the borders of Texas and Mexico from
the growth of tensions in 1844 until the final advance to the Rio
Grande, especially their opinions about the likelihood, desirability, and
probable consequences of a conflict. These attitudes must be under-
stood in order to assess the balance between careerism and professional-
ism in the Jacksonian officer corps-the conflict between officers'
concerns as individuals and as military experts bound to serve the state.
Because they were the men on the spot, directly exposed to the threat of
death as well as the prospect of glory and promotion, the silences of
army officers also provide a suggestive contrast to the vociferous belliger-
ence of large portions of the civilian populace. Indeed, this silence
reflects the officer corps' growing sense of accountability to civilian po-
litical authority, the most important dimension of its professionalism
during this era.
The army's most obvious mission, the one which gave its officers their
strongest sense of professional identity, was wartime command, but it is
remarkable how little eagerness for, or even interest in, war and expan-
sion is expressed in the letters and diaries of many junior officers. Such
quietude is in sharp contrast to the belief, almost universally held
among historians, that "the officer corps greeted the outbreak of fight-
ing in 1846 with an enthusiasm bordering on mania." The ten-month
interlude between annexation and the onset of hostilities gave army
officers plenty of time to reflect on its probable consequences for them,
but they wrote surprisingly little about their expectations of battle and
its consequences, nor did they give much attention to more technical
professional subjects like the strength, organization, and capabilities of
the Mexican army. Once they arrived in Texas most regulars mentioned
the Army of Occupation's intensified regimen of training and drills only
briefly and soon came to find them boring, "the dull routine of a life of
military instruction." Most of their letters and diary entries are descrip-
tions of camp life and the flora, fauna, and climate of Texas not unlike
Random House, 1989) and K. Jack Bauer, The Mexican War, r846-1848 (New York: Macmillan,
1974). The classic analyses of Manifest Destiny and expansionism are Albert K. Weinberg, Mani-
fest Destiny: A Study of Nationalist Expansionism in American History (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
Press, 1935) and Frederick Merk, ManSfest Destiny and Mission in American History: A Reznterpreta-
twon (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963). See also David M. Pletcher, The Diplomacy of Annexation:
Texas, Oregon, and the Mexican War (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1973).
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996, periodical, 1996; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101217/m1/546/: accessed April 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.