The struggles of being a soldier, all the hard work and pain they had to go through on a daily basis, the traumatizing events and effects of the war on these poor humans, and all of the deaths and tragic issues faced with war. James M. McCaffrey evaluates all these events and what the soldiers really go through as they fought for power for their country. The Mexican-American war was a fight over land to see who would gain Texas and the Mexican felt that America has too much land would make them feel superior and want to gain more and more power. In the novel, Army of manifest destiny by James M. McCaffrey, he begins his book by going into debt about his research on the Mexican-American war and the effects it had on the people, socially, physically, politically, and economically. In the author’s preface, he states his reason for why he writes his book and the purpose associated with it. James M. McCaffrey writes his thesis which is,” The purpose of the present work, then, is to look at the war from the viewpoint of the common soldiers’ experiences. What prompted them to enlist in the first place? What did they think of the Mexican people with whom they came in contact? How did they feel toward the officers? Were they adequately supported with food, clothing, shelter, and medical care by their government? How did they spend their spare time? If they broke any rules, how were they punished? What did the regular soldiers think of these temporary volunteers, and vice versa? And finally, having answered these questions, how did the American soldiers in the Mexican war measure up to their counterpart's earlier and later conflicts?”(McCaffrey # xii) James was trying to emphasize the importance of all the soldiers and the obstacles faced in their way in order to finally gain peace between the countries. He uses very detailed information and makes the reader feel as if he is in the story and is a part of the journey in this war as a soldier. His focus is to show us the reality of how soldiers lived and what went through their heads as war happened and to make us think of what we would do in their place as soldiers living in a war and the environments that they had no control over, things that would end up killing them with no hesitation as they went forward with war such as diseases being an example.
Since the beginning of the book, James M. McCaffrey uses his detailed text to show his audience the resemblance.” Just like soldiers before and since, they would strive for personal laurels, putting their manhood to the ultimate test. “ (McCaffrey, #34) this shows me that the young men that were eager to enlist would mainly do it for personal recognition and as a way to make themselves feel empowered and as a way to test their manhood. The young men felt so hurried to go into war but little did they know that they would have to go through multiple training before ever reaching their enemy in war. To expand on what the young men would experience we were given details on what they went through as they were sent off to war. “The most often mentioned cause of displeasure was the poor food served on the ships, the overcrowded conditions, and the almost universal sickness “ (McCaffrey,#46). The war came with many negative effects than it did positive for the soldiers. They experienced a horrible ride to war as they were not used to the new environment that they were being placed. “ I was sick only a few minutes, vomited only once,’. most, however, were not that lucky.” (McCaffrey #47).
Some survived but most died off on the way to war or in the camps as the author explained. Very few had it easy when it came to going off to war, some of the soldiers had already once before gone through all the traumatizing events that the new enlisted men were now going through. I viewed all of the soldiers as strong individuals for being able to go through so many traumatizing things as they tried to defend their country and show no weakness to anyone on the journey to war and to the people back home in the United States. I feel as is takes a lot of courage to be able to just get up and decide that you will go to war, knowing all the different situations that as a soldier you can be put in and knowing that going off to war is nothing like their homes with decent food and being safe from diseases, unlike the camps and ships that these soldiers and volunteers and enlisted men were placed on to, to survive and to be ready to fight.
As I continued to read I found much more information that made it all feel so real as if I was in the war fighting against the Mexican people and the environment around them. The soldiers were so strong that they not only fought for peace and power but even fought through long killing diseases that would kill them in a blink of an eye. “ diarrhea, malaria, and dysentery were the most pervasive diseases, but other killers such as smallpox, cholera, and yellow fever also appeared in the camps “. (McCaffrey #52). I could emphasize that the soldiers had it very rough than they had anticipated when they first signed up for going into the war. This goes into debt over how the Americans were not really prepared for the locations they would be going through and how weak they were physically/internally when it came down to diseases and sickness overpowering their bodies. I think that the author was really trying to get us to envision all the soldiers sick and in desperate need of medical attention which he did an amazing job of detailing the novel over all the small details needed to imagine the scenario of the soldiers. “Diseases, which killed almost eleven thousand American soldiers and led to the discharge from service of several thousand more “. These soldiers did not even suffer much from war instead were being killed off and were seen as waste if not useful for the war. The war was mainly fought by volunteers and was deadly because of unknown diseases with no actual medication to cure the people which became one of the most costly wars that America had experienced at the time. I feel as the author mainly just wrote throughout the book about the diseases and the doctors trying to find the cure for these diseases or how to cure people when injured in war but since science/medication was not advanced at all, it was very hard on the soldiers and volunteers to survive. Americans and Mexicans never really ever had peace between them, the tension was high and even though the Americans were on Mexican people’s land they still felt as if they were superior to the Mexicans.” On a general level the American Soldier regarded the Mexican people as being of a lower racial order” (McCaffrey #74). “ Americans easily rationalized the concept of manifest destiny by equating the Mexican people with what they considered a lesser form of human” (McCaffrey #68). The Mexicans were viewed as “treacherous devils” and “ lesser of a human “ and were usually mocked by the American soldiers but had to find peace because they were on the Mexican's land and camping in their towns and villages. I believe the Americans in my opinion instead of trying to be so hurtful towards the
Mexicans should have used the advantage of becoming friendly to find benefits out of Mexican people and making friendships but instead wanted to view them as less of people just as they saw slaves at the time and felt they needed to spy on them and their way of living but also their culture and The main concept in America was racism as they felt they were more dominant than any other race and from American history that development of wanting more land was from the belief of the founding fathers believing they had to expand west. the Americans wanted them to make themselves feel like a higher power when in reality they were not and were more fragile than, the Mexicans and like usual, the Americans had to depend on others for any type of resources they needed such as food or housing or their way of making money such as their economy growing bigger and stronger but it is all thanks to the others taking all the responsibility and hard work and those being pushed out or taken advantage of, that the American’s were living their best life and feeling superior than the rest of the countries in the world. While some viewed the Mexican people as disgusting, some Americans could not lay their eyes off the beautiful Mexican women. “ those who saw beauty in Mexican womanhood were not always shy about expressing their admiration. One volunteer declared that the women in Mexico were so beautiful that he could not keep himself from falling in love with them “ ( McCaffrey # 79 ). Americans have always wanted to take advantage of women and in many wars such as the Mexican-American war, they viewed women as subjects and maids, and mostly for African Americans, they were raped and thrown to do all the hard labor for both white men and women. So for the Americans to view the Mexican women as the most beautiful women could trigger the reader as to what could and would happen to the women of Mexico. But it also
shows how the Americans and the Mexicans had something in common liking the same type of beautiful women as they described in the book and how their beauty could gain anybody's attention but the more racial-based Americans wanted to see them as ugly and disgusting or at least that is what they claim to their wives back home in America. As we all know the soldier’s never always had it so perfect and mostly when it came to listening to others give orders as they felt superior and felt like no blame should be put on the soldiers. “On more than one occasion, conscientious soldiers blamed their field grade officers for the fact that their regiments did not get to participate in the battle .” (McCaffrey # 89). The soldiers were so quick to blame everyone but themselves showing a lack of honesty and lack of respect for the officers who were there to lead them to succeed. “They sometimes physically threatened unpopular officers...Actual cases of soldiers murdering their officers, now called ‘fragging’”. (McCaffrey #91). From all the violence they experienced on their trip to war they felt as if violence was the key to everything and was the solution to all the problems that they faced. They felt as if fighting and killing would get them what they want and Felt as if everyone was lower than them. The American people felt the need to release the boredom of camp life and began to be troublemakers and lawbreakers in the civilian society . “military courts handed down sentences that varied from mere reprimands to death.”(McCaffrey #106). The army officials were not having it with the soldier's horrific behavior and felt that they should be punished even if they were not bad people but needed to receive consequences for their misfits in society and to learn from their mistakes. These soldiers would experience horrible and traumatizing punishments even for the slightest behavioral issues happening in the camps .” found themselves put into dark holes with a minimum of nourishment… bucked and gagged … was extremely painful .. ‘very good way of keeping down unruly spirits”( McCaffrey #106,#107). The army’s elaborate justice system was very harsh and strict on how they went about with the wide range of penalties. They, later on, had a processed law which was that no soldier may receive punishment till they were seen by the court to see if the punishment was extreme or may only need a few officers to decide. Which led to the different courts going up to the highest court in the development of law in the country for disciplining those who are being charged with any type of misbehavior or misfit in society. society was very strict and cruel when it came to punishment back in the 1800s but as time has progressed, they have found less cruel punishments for the citizens making wrong decisions in the community that we now live in.
The author James M . McCaffrey in my opinion could have done better on explaining not only what happened but how it affected the soldiers emotionally and not only what the American soldiers felt and thought, but how the viewpoint of mexican’s was on the war and how they felt towards the Americans soldiers as they were the ones camping in their towns and villages and were taking their resources as well as, spying on them and trying to see them as less of humans when in reality they do have feelings and they should have been expressed in the novel not only what happened during the war to the American soldiers and volunteers. I felt as if the author just focused on what he felt towards what the Americans experienced instead of the Mexican feelings and what they went through as they got ready for war and everything they had to give up as they left their homes as well. I felt if the author would have put the internal conflicts and the perspective of an American and Mexican soldier in the novel that McCaffrey wrote it would make more sense not only on what happened but how the emotional aspects of the war affected the soldiers in the Mexican-American war. I feel as the author did excellent in his description of the book on the specifics of the journey from enlisting, to heading off to war and the effects of the ships and camps to the poor volunteers and enlisted men who had never in their life experienced such disastrous events and lack of resources causing the major killing of soldiers in the war. James M. McCaffrey is an excellent writer and his book gives us a background story/ knowledge before writing about the soldier's experience and closes off with the winning of the war and the peace treaties being signed to be able to sign off on his whole novel. This novel is like a summary of the war but in a third-person view, so instead of the author speaking as if he is the soldier, he speaks as if he is viewing everything they are going through and not what he as a soldier is experiencing It should be like a memorable book to honor those soldiers and volunteers who went through diseases and amputated body parts and deaths. The Mexican war was a deadly war because most soldiers died of diseases because of a lack of hygiene and lack of resources which the author provided specific evidence over.
In conclusion, James M. McCaffrey strongly demonstrates all the events leading up to the war. He states a lot of what or who or why questions to set up the rest of the novel for the reader to be able to visualize the whole story as a movie in the reader’s head, which he states all of this in his preface of the book. He examines America’s first foreign war against Mexico. James continues his story on an everyday basis over the experience of the soldiers and volunteers in the war. The author justifies his novel and questions by giving his evidence over the war and what he viewed as he wrote the book. The author demonstrates his thoughts as the war went on and he goes through the order of the journey to be specific about what was happening and the physical and political effects it had as the soldiers were punished cruelly and were sent to court as well as most of the soldiers dying off and having to worry 24/7 over if they were going to be the next victims to be killed by the deadly diseases causing the frustration of the soldiers and causing them to act out and made behavioral issues occur. I believe this book taught me a lot more about what the soldiers experienced in the Mexican American war and how I learned a lot more about the war that I before did not know and it opened up my mind to what it really meant to be a soldier and how brave they were to be able to get through all they did go through as horrifying as it realistically was. It was all facts about the war and what in reality happened.
- MacCaffrey, James M. Army of Manifest Destiny: the American Soldier in the Mexican War, 1846-1848. New York Univ. Pr., 1992