American Frontier and Western Issues: A Historiographical Review

By Roger L. Nichols | Go to book overview

political context in which the subject operated. The frontier army often acted, for instance, as agents for the expanding capitalists of the urban Northeast, and recent biographies of Sheridan by Paul Andrew Hutton and of William B. Hazen by Marvin Kroeker have delineated those business connections in detail. The impact of the army on Indian policy was emphasized by Richard Ellis in his biography of John Pope and by John Bailey in his work on Alfred Terry. The important contribution of the army to science is explored in Joseph C. Porter's biography of John G. Bourke. There is still a need for solid biographies of important figures like George Crook, Nelson Miles, Christopher C. Augur, William S. Harney, and Ranald S. Mackenzie.51

With public and scholarly interest in military history on the rise in the late 1980s, more strong publications on frontier military subjects will undoubtedly appear. A new generation of historians, building on the impressive work of Utley, Prucha, Goetzmann, and others, will bring new techniques and new fields of inquiry to military studies. Historians from the late 1960s on have exhibited more sympathy for the plight of the Indians and have been far less ethnocentric in their writing but have still failed, in the most part, to use ethno-historical data in their publications. Increased use of such materials, already evident in the work of Thomas Dunlay and James Haley, will better explain the nature of Western campaigns. The use of quantification techniques should prove rewarding to future military studies. The frontier army was so small and enlistment records are so good that a solid profile of the army could be compiled with the aid of a computer. It is also important for writers to place the frontier army in a strong national and international context. Comparative studies of the American military frontier with those of India or South Africa should prove quite revealing. More study is also needed on the multifaceted and diverse roles performed by the military on the frontier. Studies like that of Darlis Miller and Robert Frazer on the economic and social impact of the military on New Mexico need to be done for other areas. There is every reason to expect that this, one of the oldest fields of historical inquiry in the nation, will continue to mature in terms of technique and approach and will remain lively and exciting.

John E. Ferling, A Wilderness of Miseries: War and Warriors in Early America ( Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980); William L. Shea, The Virginia Militia in the Seventeenth Century ( Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983); Fred Anderson , A People's Army: Massachusetts Soldiers and Society in the Seven Years' War ( Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984); John W. Shy, "A New Look at Colonial Militia", William and Mary Quarterly 3d Ser. 20 ( April 1963): 175-85. John K. Mahon argues that regulars were superior to the militia in fighting Indians during this period in "Anglo-American Methods of Indian Warfare, 1676-1794", Mississippi Valley Historical Review 45 ( September 1958): 254-75. Mahon traces the development of the militia from colonial times to the present in History of the Militia and the National Guard ( New York: Macmillan, 1983). For the ideology that supported the militia tradition, see


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American Frontier and Western Issues: A Historiographical Review
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vi
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • Notes 6
  • 2 - The Environment and the Frontier 7
  • Notes 21
  • 3 - Economic Development of the American West 27
  • Notes 42
  • 4 - Agriculture and Livestock Production 51
  • Notes 60
  • 5 - Frontier Urbanization 69
  • Notes 82
  • 6 - Frontier and Western Transportation 89
  • Notes 104
  • 7 - Mining Frontiers 109
  • Notes 124
  • 8 - Frontier Social History 131
  • Notes 144
  • 9 - Historians and Indians 149
  • Notes 169
  • 10 - Frontier Women 179
  • Notes 194
  • 11 - Ethnic Groups and the Frontier 199
  • Notes 211
  • 12 - Foreign Affairs and Expansion 217
  • Notes 229
  • 13 - Territorial Government 235
  • Notes 244
  • 14 - The Frontier Army 253
  • Notes 264
  • Sources and Repositories for Frontier and Western History 275
  • Index 279
  • About the Contributors 301


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