Military Policy From the Mexican War to the War of the Rebellion

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Chapter VIII Pages: 92-93

The American troops had scarcely evacuated Mexico before Congress reduced the Regular Army from 30,890 to 10,317, (1) thus removing virtually all influence which the war had exercised over the military establishment (2), just as was done after the Florida War, and leaving the organization both defective and unprovided for future emergencies. (3) The last imperfection was remedied by the Act of June 17, 1850, in which the principle of expansion was wisely embodied. (4) It was not until the trouble with the Indians became very grave in 1853 and 1854 that President Pierce availed himself of the power thus vested in him and, by augmenting the 123 companies west of the Mississippi to their full authorized strength, increased the Army to 13, 821.

 However, as this feeble increment of 3,489 men was palpably insufficient to guard the vast extent of territory in which the Indian Tribes were none too friendly, a further increase of two regiments of cavalry and two of infantry was made by the Act of March 3, 1855. (5)

In the six ensuing years the only military legislation meriting particular attention was the Act of April 7, 1858, which authorized the President to receive into the United States service a regiment of mounted Texas volunteers for the purpose of defending the frontier of that State, as well as to call out and accept volunteers to the extent of two regiments to be organized, if he saw fit, as mounted infantry and used to quell "disturbances in the Territory of Utah, for the protection of supply and emigrant trains, and the suppression of Indian hostilities on the frontier." (6) Eighteen months were fixed as their term of service, and reverting to the vicious principle enunciated in 1792, (7) the men were required to furnish their own horses and equipment, at a compensation of forty cents per diem; and the officers to be appointed by their respective States and Territories, with the exception of the commissaries and quartermasters who were to be assigned from the Regular Army. As General Upton pertinently remarks: (8)

"This effort to secure economy was undoubtedly a wise step in the right direction, but like so much of our hasty and ill-digested military legislation it began at the wrong end. Had the President been allowed to call for the volunteers by companies, with authority to select the field officers, adjutants, and quartermasters from the Regular Army, not only the economy but the discipline and instruction of the regiments could have been controlled by trusted officers of the Government."

The military operations between 1848 and 1861 were confined to Indian wars (9) and the Utah expedition which took place in 1858. The latter, although free from bloodshed, resulted in transferring almost all of the Army to stations west of the Mississippi.


1. Act of August 14, 1848, which fixed the number of privates in the dragoon companies at 50, in the mounted rifles at 64 and in the artillery and infantry at 42.__Callan, p. 397.

2. A regiment of mounted rifles, two companies in each artillery regiment, an extra major to the old regiments of infantry and a small increase to some of the staff corps were the only additions tot he army as organized before the Mexican War.

3. The 15 regiments remaining varied in strength from 558 to 800 men each.

4. Section 2 empowered the President "by voluntary enlistment to increase the number of privates in each or any of the companies of the existing regiments of the army, at present serving or which may hereafter serve at the several military posts on the western frontier, and at remote and distant stations, to any number not exceeding 74."__Callan, P. 408.

5. Callan, pp. 435-436.

This law fixed the strength of the army at 12,698.__Heitman, II, p. 597.

Had the 108 companies on the frontiers been raised to their full strength as authorized by this and previous laws, they would have numbered 17,861. If the entire army, 198 companies had been similarly increased, its force would have been 18,349. As a matter of fact, its actual strength in November, 1855, was 15,752.__Upton, pp. 223-224; Heitman, II, p. 626.

6. Callan, pp. 451-452.

7. Page 48.

8. The Military Policy of the United States, p. 224.

9. Texas and New Mexico Indian War, 1849-1855; California Indian disturbances, 1851-1852; Utah Indian disturbances, 1850-1853; Rogue River Indian War in Oregon, June 17 to July 3, 1851, August 8 to September, 1853; March to June, 1856; Oregon Indian War, August and September, 1854; Yakima Indian War, October and November, 1855; Klamath and Salmon River Indian War in Oregon and Idaho, January to March, 1855; Florida Indian War, December 15, 1855, to May, 1858.__Strait, pp. 222-223.

A most interesting account of "the American Army among the Indians," is given in Chapter V of the Comte de Paris' History of the Civil War in America, I, pp. 59-75.


Website: The History
Article Name: Military Policy From the Mexican War to the War of the Rebellion
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From my collection of Books: The Military Unpreparedness of the United States- A History of American Land Forces from Colonial Times until June 1, 1915. By Frederic Louis Huidekoper; Publisher: The Macmillan Company-New York 1916
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