The Great Warpath's Influence on War Today

By Kingseed, Cole C. | Army, April 2012 | Go to article overview

The Great Warpath's Influence on War Today


Kingseed, Cole C., Army


The Great Warpath's Influence on War Today Conquered into Liberty: Two Centuries of Battles Along the Great Warpath that Made the American Way of War. Eliot A. Cohen. Free Press. 432 pages; illustrations; maps; index; notes; $30.

Native American tribes called the 200-mile corridor between New York City and Montreal the Great Warpath. From Colonial times through the War of 1812, this strategic highway astride the Hudson River - and most particularly Lakes George and Champlain - witnessed the struggle for supremacy of the North American continent among Europeans, Americans, Canadians and Native Americans. Along the water and wilderness path, what became the fledgling American nation learned the intricacies associated with raising and equipping armies, developing light infantry tactics, and sustaining operations in a hostile environment. Here also, the Americans first conceived the strategy of "conquering into liberty" a hostile country, learning lessons that remain relevant today.

Eliot A. Cohen is a scholar of strategy and contemporary security policy. The author of the prize-winning Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime, Cohen is the Robert E. Osgood Professor of Strategic Studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and is founding director of the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies. A graduate of Harvard College, Cohen has taught at Harvard and the U.S. Naval War College. From 2007 to 2009 he was counselor to the U.S. Department of State, serving as Secretary Condoleezza Rice's senior advisor on strategic issues.

Broad in scope and gripping in its narrative, Conquered into Liberty is as informative as it is captivating. Cohen's thesis is straightforward: The military contest along the Great Warpath powerfully influenced American military institutions, strategic thought and military culture. To support his thesis, Cohen offers a "historical exploration through a careful examination of selected battles real and, in some cases, potential."

Why focus on the Great Warpath? Cohen posits that from the Colonial period through American independence, and for half a century afterward, the military struggle for what is now Canada was America's central strategic focus. Such an approach possessed more relevance during Colonial times and during the early stages of the United States' existence than it does in the period from the 19th century to the modern era.

Cohen's assessment of the dangers posed by the possibility of Great Britain tendering official recognition to the Confederacy is particularly intriguing. He outlines in detail Abraham Lincoln's frustration as he endured political humiliation at the hands of Great Britain during the Trent Affair, when an American warship stopped a British steamer and apprehended two Confederate agents. …

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