Book Review: Soldiers West: Biographies from the Military Frontier


by Paul Andrew Hutton and Durwood Ball, eds

Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009. Pp. xii, 404. Illus, maps, notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN:0806139978

Paul Andrew Hutton's original Soldiers West, published in 1987, used the careers of ten officers to illustrate the life and experience of the army on the far western frontier from the aftermath of the War of 1812 through the end of the Indian Wars.  In this expanded second edition, Durwood Ball has not only revised the original essays in keeping with more recent scholarship, but has added five more soldiers, to expand the range of military experience found in the west.

While many of the officers are fairly well known (Stephen Watts Kearny, Phil Sheridan, Benjamin Grierson, even John Chivington), some are today obscure (Stephen H. Long, John G. Bourke, Charles King).  Each officer profile helps throw light on life in the "Indian Fighting Army," warriors all, some good and some bad, many were also explorers, scientists, peacemakers, ethnographers, or authors.

In the process the book also provides a look at the full range of military experience in the period.  Some of these men entered the service as enlisted men, others as volunteers, many were West Point graduates, several received direct appointments, and one began his service as a militiaman. Many of these men served for years in boring garrison duty on isolated frontier posts or coast defense installations, rather than operating in the field against armed foes. Those who did campaign, served not only against the Native Americans, but also against Mexicans and Confederates. All experienced the hardships of the military life, and those who with black regiments had the added burden of coping with the many slights to which their troops were subjected. 

A good book for anyone interested in the frontier army.  

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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