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The Delafield Commission and the American Military Profession (Williams-Ford Texas A&M University Military History Series) Hardcover – April 1, 2000
From the Inside Flap
In 1855, Secretary of War Jefferson Davis dispatched Maj. Richard Delafield, Maj. Alfred Mordecai, and Capt. George B. McClellan to the battlefields of Crimea to observe the European military in action. American military commanders had studied European armies before, but the Delafield Commission was the most ambitious military observation mission up to that time and the first to observe an ongoing war. Although historically underrated, the commission and the members' reports constituted an important step in the development of U.S. military professionalism. In The Delafield Commission and the American Military Profession, Matthew Moten is the first to explore in detail this connection between the commission and military professionalization.
Moten begins with an overview of the definition of military professionalism and what other scholars have said about when and why American military professionalism developed. Part One examines the U.S. Military Academy, the development of the army officer corps, and the influence of the West Point "system and habit of thought" on the antebellum army. The second section follows the actions of the Delafield Commission and places the commission in the context of the military profession of the 1850s. The final section analyzes the commission's reports and their effects on the American military profession. Here, Moten assesses what the commissioners saw and wrote, as well as what they did not see and write.
The Delafield Commission and the American Military Profession provides in-depth analysis to military historians and other readers interested in the development of the professional army in antebellum America.
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The Delafield Commission and the American Military Profession gives a concise, detailed account of an exceptional group of three American officers, Maj Delafield, Maj Mordecai and Capt McClellan. In the 1850's they stood at the top of their profession, and each was widely respected in his particular branch, or specialty. Although Moten does not bludgeon the reader to death with the details of each, he gives full scope to their qualifications and personalities, and how this colored the prism through which each viewed their twelve month journey through the armies of Europe. Likewise, although the Commission sought to make it to the Crimean Peninsula before the war there ended, the long term effect of their travel was not what they saw, or did not see in the Crimea. Rather, as Moten argues, it was the cumulative effect of what they saw, and central to his thesis, the manner in which they gathered, evaluated, and processed this information that sat them apart as the defining standard of military professionalism of their day. The Commission did see a great deal in the Crimea, but only the end of a drawn out siege style war.
Moten could make more of the time spent in Prussia, England, France and Russia. The reports of the three commissioners have a great deal to say about these militaries, and McClellan's report was published under the title The Armies of Europe. The commissioners thought a great deal about the technical details of what they saw on each stop, but they thought, at least to measure by their writings, very little about the future implications of the details they so closely observed.
Moten notes what the Commission not accomplish. The three officers chosen represented the mentalities of their own branches, and not the needs and views of the total Army as an institution. They were all primarily scientific corps officers, not combat arms, although McCLellan had recently transferred to the cavalry. Moten notes that the commission failed to address the impact of the new telegraph. There was evidence that it would be of major impact: William Howard Russell was sending daily dispatches to the Times, and the governments of Paris and London were sending almost daily operational and even tactical orders via the telegraph. The commission failed to address the impact of steam screw ships: the ability to move men and material regardless of wind planning consideration was truly revolutionary. The commission also failed to address the tactical implications of new rifled artillery and small arms, although the evidence was there to be seen, in both the new "rifle pits" and the extent to which both sides had entrenched. To be fair, a review of the British military journals at the time reveals a failure of the combatants to realize the importance of this as well.
Of interest, Moten notes that Delafield felt a need to improve the quality of military education. He may have been prompted in this by the debate raging in England at the time of the Commission's visit on the exact same subject. Whilst the British were complaining of the difficulty of maintaining the professional education of an army who had 2/3 of her officers across the globe on any given day, the American military was complaining of the same thing with the outposts in the West.
Overall, Moten does a superb job of analyzing the state of the professional American military in the 1850's, using the Delafield Commission as a benchmark. The book is concise, accurate, meticulously researched, and a valuable insight into the American military on the eve of the American Civil War.