Peacekeeping on the Plains: Army Operations in Bleeding Kansas

Peacekeeping on the Plains: Army Operations in Bleeding Kansas

Peacekeeping on the Plains: Army Operations in Bleeding Kansas

Peacekeeping on the Plains: Army Operations in Bleeding Kansas

Synopsis

Historians have written on "Bleeding Kansas" and on the frontier army as a constabulary force, but little scholarship exists on how the army performed its peacekeeping operations in the 1850s. In Peacekeeping on the Plains, Tony R. Mullis is one of the first scholars to detail the military concerns associated with peace enforcement in Kansas and the trans-Missouri West. Between 1854 and 1856, the Franklin Pierce administration called upon the United States Army to conduct a series of peace operations in the newly formed Kansas and Nebraska territories. The army responded to the president's call by successfully completing a mission against the Lakota Sioux in 1855 and by aiding civil authorities in the imposition of peace among competing factions in Kansas during 1856. Although these constabulary or police duties were not always popular with the soldiers that conducted them, the purpose behind them remained constant--the maintenance of peace, order, and security. Given Americans' misgivings about a standing army and their limited expectations of it as a domestic peacekeeper, its use in this fashion during the 1850s was a delicate proposition. By drawing on diverse sources, including official army correspondence, personal papers of key military and political leaders, and local accounts of army activities, Mullis shows how peace operations were conducted by the U.S. Army long before the second half of the twentieth century. He also presents a thorough analysis of the professional dilemmas confronted by army officers, as well as the delicate command and control issues associated with the different types of peace operations. Mullis's assessment of the army's peacekeeping efforts in themid-1850s offers a full understanding of the constraints and frustrations involved. Many of the dilemmas faced by the army in Kansas parallel those encountered in various spots around the globe today. Peacekeeping on the Plains w

Excerpt

May 30, 2004, marked the 150th anniversary of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. This piece of legislation may not have been the most significant in American history, but its impact on America's past is undeniable. Regardless of the act's original objectives, it placed the question of slavery extension at the heart of the nation's political being. To many, the future of Kansas represented the future of the nation. Whether one was a free soiler, a pro-slavery zealot, or a disinterested factory worker, Kansas symbolized a crossroads in the country's destiny. Most agreed with the need to organize Kansas and Nebraska, but few wanted to deal with the wound that the slavery extension debate reopened. The Democratic Party's solution was to let the people of Kansas decide their own local institutions. Popular sovereignty was to be the bandage for the slavery extension wound. Republicans, free soilers, and others said no. Slavery had to be contained. The only way to save the patient was to keep the disease from spreading to new, untainted areas. Neither prescription worked. Only after a thorough bloodletting manifested by four long years of civil war would the patient begin to recover from the lesion the Kansas-Nebraska Act reopened in 1854.

The blood spilled in Kansas was a mere pinprick when compared to the carnage of the Civil War to follow. But those first wounds were significant. They provided an opportunity for the government and the army to save a dividing nation before it required major surgery. Many historians have written on the political, social, and economic aspects of Bleeding Kansas, and others have addressed the frontier army as a constabulary force. Unfortunately, little scholarship exists on how the army attempted to resolve violent political disputes by conducting peace operations in the 1850s. This book—in conjunction with other recent scholarship—begins to fill that void.

Between 1854 and 1856, the Franklin Pierce administration called upon . . .

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