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US Army in the Plains Indian Wars 1865–1891 (Battle Orders) Paperback – June 24, 2004
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From the Publisher
Definitive guides to the actions and evolution of fighting forces, these comprehensive studies on the organisation, strength, command, deployment and evolution of forces in key military encounters, use a highly detailed 'unit-by-unit' examination.
About the Author
Clayton K. S. Chun, Ph.D., is on the U.S. Army War College faculty at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania where he teaches courses on national security, strategy, and economics. He completed a military career in the U.S. Air Force and has published in the fields of national security, military history, and economics.
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Top Customer Reviews
Dr. Chun begins his study of the frontier army with a short introduction and an enumeration of the mission of each of its three principle branches (infantry, cavalry and artillery). Readers conditioned to thinking that the frontier army was composed primarily of cavalry will be surprised to see that it constituted only 37% of the actual strength in 1876; the much-cheaper infantry was 50% and the all-but-ignored artillery branch was 12%. Dr. Chun then spends seven interesting pages discussing the doctrine and training of the frontier army; as Chun notes, the army's leadership was focused on preparing for war against a European foe and did not believe that intermittent conflict with Indian tribes (i.e. "low intensity conflict") warranted any significant doctrinal revisions. The army's leadership was shaped by the total war mentality of the recent Civil War and held any form of "police actions" in low regard. However, the basis of frontier doctrine rested on a belief in the offensive, executed by converging columns and winter attacks. General Sherman began to change US strategy in 1867 from "pacification" to "total war upon hostiles." Chun notes that the strategy evolved into "selective totality" - where the reservation system was used to contain the Indians and the US Army was used to punish tribes that left the reservation.
The heart of this volume lies in the 32 pages that Dr. Chun devotes to unit organization, which has maps and line and block charts that depict all the major US Army posts and unit dispositions in the West for the years 1867, 1876 and 1884. For example, a reader could find that in 1876 there were two companies of the 19th Infantry with 99 soldiers stationed at Fort Lyon in Colorado. Dr. Chun also details the organization of infantry, cavalry and artillery units from regimental down to squad level. There is a wealth of information in this section, including statistics on desertion (one-third of all enlistments between 1867-1891 ended in desertion; the desertion rate on the Plains was 25-40%, whereas it had only been 14% in the Civil War), cuts in pay and strength authorizations by Congress, frontier posts and Indian scouts.
Dr. Chun also provides a lengthy section on tactics, which indicates that while French Napoleonic-era influences were still strong, Army officers on the frontier were adapting to local circumstances. A good deal of this section focuses on the work of Emory Upton in codifying a post-Civil War doctrine for the US Army; Upton was important for introducing standardized marksmanship training and an attempt to standardize tactical training (previously, mostly done at unit level). Dr. Chun notes throughout this volume that the greatest weakness of the frontier army was inadequate training, although this was beginning to improve by the end of the 19th Century. Although Upton's ideas helped to increase professionalism in the US Army, some of his ideas - such as the concept of "fours" - did not work. The next section, on weapons and equipment is also quite good and details how the Army was plagued with surplus equipment and inadequate funds for new development. Final sections on C3I and unit status for each regiment (including tables on authorized and actual strength) round out the volume. Readers expecting a discussion of individual campaigns such as the Little Bighorn will be disappointed (although there is no shortage of other works on that subject), but Dr. Chun's volume is an excellent dissection of the US Army in the Plains Wars. In fact, I noticed only one significant omission in this volume, namely that the maps did not depict railroads or any civilian towns or cities; it would have been useful to compare the dispositions of the US Army in 1867-1891 with the westward progression of civilization.