Academic journal article Military Review

The Delafield Commission and the American Military Profession

Academic journal article Military Review

The Delafield Commission and the American Military Profession

Article excerpt

THE DELAFIELD COMMISSION AND THE AMERICAN MILITARY PROFESSION, Matthew Moten, Texas A&M University Press, College Station, 2000, 270 pages, $47.95.

In 1855, nearly a year after British and French forces invaded the Crimean Peninsula on the Black Sea to beat back a Russian offensive aimed at crushing the Ottoman Empire, US Secretary of War Jefferson Davis sent a commission to observe the fighting and report on developments in military strategy. He selected three of the US Army's forest officers, all West Pointers, who had graduated near the top of their respective classes and received commissions in the Corps of Engineers-- plum assignments for graduates before the American Civil War. Major Richard Delafield, Class of 1818 and former academy superintendent, led the three-man delegation that included Albert Mordecai, Class of 1823, and one of the Army's most promising young leaders, Captain George McClellan, Class of 1846.

Delafield, Mordecai and McClellan were the first group of officers officially dispatched by the United States to observe a war in progress. Their mission was highly publicized in military circles, and its outcome was awaited anxiously by Davis and hundreds of active-duty officers.

In The Delafield Commission and the American Military Profession, Matthew Moten tells the story of how well the Commission did its job and why it failed in ways crucial to the development of US military strategy. His thesis, far from being confined to an analysis of the Commission's work, is broader. Moten argues persuasively that the Commission represented "a milepost in the history of American military professionalism." He contends that "the performance of the Delafield Commission furnishes a useful indicator of the maturity of professional thought in the 1850s-the state of the American military art. …

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