A Readiness for Violence: War Preparations in the Early-Republic United States

Sunday, January 10, 2016: 8:30 AM
Room A601 (Atlanta Marriott Marquis)
Lindsay Schakenbach Regele, Miami University Ohio
At the nation’s founding it seemed impossible that the United States would develop into a military superpower.  Victory against Britain had only been possible with foreign assistance and there was no comprehensive plan in place for future military mobilization.  In the years following the Revolution the federal government dismantled the regular army and citizens celebrated the virtues of creating a nation without a standing military.  Yet within twenty five years of the ratification of the Constitution, the United States had gone to war against Indian and European nations, intervened in Spain’s colonies, and developed self-sufficiency in arms production.   How did this come to be?

This paper explores the relationships among military personnel, civilian bureaucrats, private contractors, and the general public as the newly formed United States developed a war-making apparatus not unlike the nation-states’ of the Old World. Drawing on War and State Department papers, congressional documents, factory accounts, Springfield Armory records, and newspaper articles, it traces the creation of a culture of preparedness for violence.  Debates about if and how the nation should prepare for war resulted in a federal strategy for producing and supplying the arms for the national militia.  Throughout the nation’s first decades, federally-sanctioned violence became commonsensical.

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