American Military Forces in Wars of 1812 and 1846


The American military tradition traces its roots back to the colonial period. The English colonists introduced a tradition of militia service and a phobia of standing armies to America. While in America, England organized their militias for defense and offensive operations. The fear of establishing a standing army prevented the Continental army, and then later the American soldiers, from becoming an effective entity.

However, at the advent of the American Civil War, this notion had changed. There emerged a standing army and troops of trained officers. This shift in the American military from a civilian-centered model to a professional force is traced to the period between 1820 and 1840. However, this report builds from these transformations in the American military and explores three distinct events that define the milestones achieved by the American military since its inception.

The War of 1812

The first section will discuss the War of 1812 against the British forces. The initial state of the American military was uncertain and vulnerable to organized attacks by their adversaries. There was an extreme misunderstanding in the chain of command and poor communication in the American military. This conflict was because of the absence of a defined hierarchy in the American military.

For instance, all the three of the 1812 attacks were planned to commence concurrently to inflate the British’s ability to engage their forces. Due to confusion in the chain of command, this plan was unsuccessful allowing the British to stop both the American force from Detroit and Buffalo. Besides, regular officers adamantly refused to cooperate and assist the soldiers advancing the Canadian soil from the Niagara River. The initial years of the War of 1812 manifested the poorly organized American military. The top command was crowded with political and revolutionary officers who lacked the composure and military experience in guiding the troops.

Out of the consequences of 1812, the American military and the officials realized the essence of effective command. The administration embarked on various strategies to bring sanity and order in the chain of command. The first changes involved replacing the Secretary of War William Eustis with John Armstrong Jr. In 1813, other major changes were made to introduce people who had gained experience during the American Revolution.

These new leaders brought some light, and thus more cooperation was experienced in 1813 than there had been in the previous year. For instance, there was a manifestation of army and navy cooperation during the Niagara Peninsula attack in May 1813. A group of the Lake Ontario squadron helped hundreds of troops to navigate from the eastern side of the Niagara River past the British Fort George. The American troops were able to push back British force and managed to drive them from Fort George.

This example of organization and cooperation gave the military a basis to engage more tactically. By 1814, the American military had two-year experience in fighting against a professional British army. This aspect provided the junior officers platform to acquire experience in leading troops, and it facilitated weeding out of the ineffective commanders. Consequently, the military performed better in the last year of the war. This success was attributable to the rise of energetic, focused, and battled experienced leaders.

The events of the War of 1812 generated the need for professionalization of the American troops. The experience gained from the War of 1812 was the turning point, and the officers who participated in the war orchestrated the professionalization of the military after the end of the war in 1815. This war helped shape the national character and hugely refined the American’s understanding of an organized army. For many decades, policy makers had been reluctant on military spending, weakening the country’s military forces.

The lawmakers and all Americans later learned the hard way. This experience led to the formation of a full-fledged defense program aimed at the continuance of peace that persists until today. The war gave the nation an enduring acknowledgment for the importance of military strength in maintaining sovereignty. Decades after the war, federal military spending continues to grow, as leaders reckon the unfathomable cost of failing to cater for the mainstream defense of the United States. Today, military professionalism is highly emphasized as more training centers continue to emerge. Besides, the role of the American military has evolved to a global stage to cater for peacekeeping missions and assisting in times of natural disasters.

The Mexican War

The U.S.-Mexican War had a huge influence on the history of the American military. This was America’s first foreign war battled entirely on foreign ground. It incorporated large troops, long supply lines, and it offered the first experience of invading a foreign territory. The initial state of the military was better compared to previous years. Following the experiences of the War of 1812, the American military manifested some maturity concerning cooperation.

The American military had started to illustrate some professionalism. After the Texas Revolution of 1835, Mexico declined to accept the results. In 1845, the US annexed Texas causing Mexico to pull off relations with the American government. Following these tensions, the US declared war on Mexico on May 13, 1846. The intention of the American government was to compel Mexico to surrender the New Mexico and Californian territory. The military took an offensive stance for this case. During the Mexican War, the military was more professional and it involved only a few volunteers although the regular army was highly relied upon during that period.

In a span of two years, the American army had defeated the Mexican army at several battles. In nearly all of these battles, the American army was outnumbered. This stressed the significance of trained small-sized troops over regular large troops. Even though the Mexican army could not match the British army, the outcome was a manifestation of the milestones the American army had achieved since the war of 1812. The American army had a defined line of command, experienced junior officers, and a disciplined military hierarchy.

The impacts of these changes to the American military were tremendous. The competent military bureaucracy gave the field commanders a better opportunity for battlefield victories. The performance of junior officers improved remarkably. The war with Mexico served as the first test in which West Point graduates formed the majority of the troops. Their engineering and reconnaissance skills served a great role in the entire war. This war was the vindication of the increasing professionalism acquired from the West Point Academy.

The Mexican War manifested the importance of professional training for the military. There was a tremendous improvement compared to what was experienced during the War of 1812. By the end of the Mexican War, the American military had attained the requisite goals of a professional military. This kind of professionalism has been emphasized throughout the years and today the American military stands out as one of the most skilled, disciplined, and organized armies in the world. The civilian officers of the 18th C were replaced with well-trained officers. The West point curriculum continues to experience reforms and since the good results of the Mexican War, the academy has been releasing scores of professional officers. Furthermore, the military facilitated

The Spanish-American War

The Spanish-American War of 1898 was short-lived, but it had a tremendous implication regarding the state of the American military. After Cuba had unsuccessfully battled Spain for independence, the U.S sought to intervene due to its economic interests in Cuba. The violent conflicts led to a massive increase of immigrants seeking refuge in the American cities. This aspect captured the Americans’ attention due to the economic and political instability that had the potential to affect the U.S. Consequently, many Americans and the international community laid much expectation on the American military to intervene and save Cuba from the Spanish brutalities.

The main battles took place in the Spanish colonies of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippine. In the Philippines, the Spanish were easily overwhelmed by the naval prowess of the American military. However, the campaign in the Caribbean was at first uncoordinated and failed.

Prior to this war, the American military had made leaps toward being an organized army based on the experience gained during the War of 1812. The military had made various adjustments to address demands on its ability and equipment. However, there was little time for reorganization and training. The emphasis on training and purchasing modern equipment were curtailed by the inadequate funding.

The troops were inadequately equipped and poorly supplied. Nonetheless, the American military landed in Puerto Rico and within three days, it took control over the Island. On August 1, America declared a cease-fire. The American military had grown to a specialized force making it easy for the U.S, with the war’s outcome never a big worry. The outcome of this war predicted the rise of the U.S as a major power onto the global stage.

The war signaled to the world that the U.S military was becoming a major player. Even though America used civilians in less technical battles, there were less efficient as compared to the trained soldiers. However, the US was compelled to abandon its reliance on part-time private soldiers and embarked on building a full-fledged military. The tradition to disband the army after the war changed and trust of a standing army started to build. This transformation was fueled by the persisting conflict with Native Americans.

This war secured the United States the position of great power. The victory by the American military led to a peace treaty that forced the Spanish to abandon claims on Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. However, these achievements were very fundamental to the transformation of the American military. During this war, the American military gained further skills as it emphasized using small sized troops but very competent.

Defeating the Spanish army within such a short period and ease was a source of confidence for the American military. Besides, the ability to elevate the US to a position of a Pacific powerhouse has life long influence to the way the American military responds today. The American military today has the challenge to maintain the accolades acquired many years ago during past wars.

An increased role

After a series of wars involving the United States, the role of its military in ensuring world order magnified particularly with the end of the Cold War. Starting in 1945 to the collapse of the Soviet Union there were various prominent events of the use of U.S military abroad. From the collapse of the Soviet Union to the present, the number of U.S military on foreign soils has almost tripled. The role of the U.S military has grown from peacekeeping missions to support for public authorities in times of natural disasters.

The debate for abandoning America’s security role in the world has been termed as baseless by the international community. The U.S military remains the main structural feature that creates the stability to the current international order. Undoubtedly, abandoning the role of the American military in international affairs would result in major instability, the massive proliferation of nuclear weapons and obviously increased threats to the homeland security.

Following the series of success in battlefields, there has been a viral misconception that the American military was developed and sustained to serve the world. In essence, the U.S has managed to develop a global security structure and the world’s competent military because it has served interests of the majority. For instance, the American military ties and agreements, particularly NATO, were initiated to curb another war from emerging, suppress the Soviet Union, and ensure that the prominent economic hubs stay free, and that world trade flourished. Despite the fact that the Soviet Union is no more, the critical role of America’s military in the world remains.

Following the international free trade system, the U.S has grown to become the world’s largest economy. America’s most investment is global. America has millions of citizens working and touring all over the globe. In a bid to avoid global turmoil, the U.S military has to keep with its oversight role. The role of the American military has enlarged at a time when the threat of terrorist attacks has intensified. Unlike the earlier situations, today, the American military has divisions that are more flexible and more evolved roles.


The US has a lasting tradition of militia forces that emanated from the English militia tradition. The initial American military spearheaded the campaign of professionalization for the 19th Century American military. Today, such professionalization has led to huge success in many battlefields and America has placed significant value on military training. The War of 1812 served as the precursor for professionalization making an indelible impact on the military and the American nation.

The Mexican War gave the American military an opportunity to access its ability on a foreign land. Despite the lack of professional force, the American military managed to build on the tactics they had achieved in the previous war. The Spanish-American War was a vindication of the swiftly maturing the American military. Even though the Spanish side did not have the capacity of the English military, the composure manifested by the American military was an indication that it was growing into a highly organized force.

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