Example Historiography

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From 1848 to 1891, the government of the United States and its army were tasked to secure the nation’s expansion into newly acquired territories west of the Mississippi River. Even during the Civil War years, the western frontier and those citizens intending to settle those areas compelled attention and protection from the government and the army. Yet, the United States government never clearly formulated a doctrine for handling the population already living in the new territories, the American Indian tribes. A cohesive doctrine issued by the Government to manage Western expansion and Indian affairs, along with a professional, well-trained, unified army would have avoided the worst violence of the Indian wars. The foundations of the United States mistakes in coping with the native population of the lands west of the Mississippi River began in 1848, after the Mexican War and were fully entrenched by the close of the Civil War. In Robert M. Utley’s Frontiersmen in Blue: The United States Army and the Indian, 1848 to 1865, the frontier problems are examined through army organization and lack of financial support and direction from Congress. In Indians and Bureaucrats: Administering the Reservation Policy during the Civil War by Edmund Jefferson Danziger, Jr. the Indian problems are studied from the Office of Indian Affairs perspective, laying the blame in a mismanaged government system. Both authors find fault in the government’s lack of thorough planning and comprehension of the problems of the Western frontier. Utley gives a vivid picture of the difficulties of frontier army life. Recruits were untrained and undisciplined. “Frontier service meant abominable food and living conditions, grinding monotony punctuated at infrequent intervals by the hardest and least rewarding kind of field duty, long separation from friends and family and the comforts of civilization, and the prospect of death or disability from disease, enemy action, or a constitution...
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