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For Liberty and the Republic

For Liberty and the Republic: The American Citizen as Soldier, 1775-1861

Ricardo A. Herrera
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    For Liberty and the Republic
    Book Description:

    In the early decades of the American Republic, American soldiers demonstrated and defined their beliefs about the nature of American republicanism and how they, as citizens and soldiers, were participants in the republican experiment through their service. InFor Liberty and the Republic, Ricardo A. Herrera examines the relationship between soldier and citizen from the War of Independence through the first year of the Civil War.

    The work analyzes an idealized republican ideology as a component of soldiering in both peace and war. Herrera argues that American soldiers' belief system-the military ethos of republicanism-drew from the larger body of American political thought. This ethos illustrated and informed soldiers' faith in an inseparable connection between bearing arms on behalf of the republic, and earning and holding citizenship in it. Despite the undeniable existence of customs, organizations, and behaviors that were uniquely military, the officers and enlisted men of the regular army, states' militias, and wartime volunteers were the products of their society, and they imparted what they understood as important elements of American thought into their service.

    Drawing from military and personal correspondence, journals, orderly books, militia constitutions, and other documents in over forty archives in twenty-three states, Herrera maps five broad, interrelated, and mutually reinforcing threads of thought constituting soldiers' beliefs: Virtue; Legitimacy; Self-governance; Glory, Honor, and Fame; and the National Mission. Spanning periods of war and peace, these five themes constituted a coherent and long-lived body of ideas that informed American soldiers' sense of identity for generations.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-6678-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Introduction: The American Citizen as Soldier and the Military Ethos of Republicanism
    (pp. 1-26)

    From 1775 to 1861, the American army was an awkward amalgam of the small regular army, the states’ militias, and, in wartime, a mass of volunteers. This mixture, although complex and frequently cumbersome in practice, accorded well with the beliefs and needs of the American citizenry. Classical, Commonwealth, and American republican tradition equated citizenship with soldering, as well as a distrust of standing armies; hence the United States’ greater reliance on and preference for the militia and volunteers. Americans perceived standing armies as more than potential threats to liberty. Professional soldiers were a poor commentary on the virtue and patriotism...

  6. 1 Service, Sacrifice, and Duty: The Call of Virtue
    (pp. 27-63)

    Virtue’s impress upon the ideal of the American citizen as soldier was a vital element in the military ethos of republicanism. The belief in the citizen’s duty to bear arms on behalf of the common weal reinforced the citizen-soldier’s conviction that he was a full member and participant in and of the “government and country” he served. His was a “unique character,” imbued with an idealized vision of the nation, its promise, and of course its soldiery. Writing after the Civil War, John A. Logan, an Illinois major general of volunteers, contended that in battle, the volunteer soldier’s “arm is...

  7. 2 Preserving, Defending, and Creating the Political Order: Legitimacy
    (pp. 64-84)

    Legitimacy was both conservative and forward looking. In its first role, legitimacy was conservative. The preservation and defense of the political and social order upheld the legitimate disposition of republican society, and in doing so soldiers were the agents of conservatism. Nearly every soldier considered himself a defender of traditional social and political rights and privileges, the republic, or of the Constitution, thereby elevating his purpose from simple defense into a principled act. These military agents of conservatism conceived of themselves and the army as the inheritors of a sacred trust, one that they had a responsibility to safeguard. Their...

  8. 3 Free Men in Uniform: Soldierly Self-Governance
    (pp. 85-111)

    American republicanism emphasized the right and responsibility of the citizen to rule himself and his society. The right of exercising nearly unlimited self-governance in virtually all aspects of life was a fundamental component of republicanism and originated inviolably in natural law. The citizenry’s acceptance of this construction guaranteed that the nation’s soldiers would, to different degrees, exercise their self-governing rights. The key manifestations of soldiers’ self-governance were their personal independence, enlistment negotiations, petitions to superior officers, militia constitutions, and negotiations regarding military discipline.¹

    Whether implicitly understood or explicitly stated, American soldiers acted out of confidence in their ability and right...

  9. 4 A Providentially Ordained Republic: God’s Will and the National Mission
    (pp. 112-135)

    Americans’ sense of divine election and their belief in themselves and in their mission as a chosen people to effect the spiritual or political regeneration of mankind has deep roots. Americans’ belief in their “chosenness” was more than a simplistic or disingenuous rhetorical device to lend a veneer of legitimacy to smug self-righteousness and aggressive continental expansion. It was, instead, a means by which Americans and American soldiers understood their history, their present, and their future as a people and as a nation. Providential will, they believed, had caused early colonists to venture forth from Europe to the New World...

  10. 5 Questing for Personal Distinction: Glory, Honor, and Fame
    (pp. 136-162)

    All of the elements underpinning American soldiers’ understanding of service and citizenship joined together in the adherence to and pursuit of glory, honor, and fame. Concern for these abstractions of proper behavior and for their very real rewards and recognition was not peculiarly American. Many, if not most, soldiers in the Western tradition held in high regard proper deportment, manhood, bravery, reputations, and the commensurate accolades derived from gallantry in battle. Exemplary service and performance, and, especially, bravery in combat were among the keys to success in a military life. But for U.S. soldiers, very few of whom were long-service...

  11. Epilogue: Disunion, Civil War, and Shared Ideals
    (pp. 163-168)

    South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas, the roll call of secession as one slaveholding state after another declared its independence from the United States and overthrew the federal government within in its borders during the Secession Winter of 1860–1861. In February 1861, this “harvest of disunion” joined in a provisional confederation. The following month, the new Confederate States Congress authorized a 100,000-man army. Abraham Lincoln had yet to be inaugurated as president of the United States, and the federal government had not taken any action against the rebellious states. On 12 April 1861, South Carolina troops...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 169-210)
    (pp. 211-238)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 239-246)
    (pp. 247-247)