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A Short, Offhand, Killing Affair: Soldiers and Social Conflict during the Mexican-American War 1st New edition Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0807854051
ISBN-10: 0807854050
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Just as Herman Melville made his riveting and conflicted portrait of a Mexican War veteran in "The Confidence Man" speak to the nation's full history and predicament, this compact, meticulously researched, and dramatic study fully recasts race, empire, and class in the antebellum United States through its soldiers' stories. (David R. Roediger, author of "Colored White: Transcending the Racial Past")

Foos has a deep understanding of the society and politics of the U.S. Mexican War period. [His] scholarship is wide-ranging, reflecting a sensitive understanding of primary sources. (Richard Griswold del Casillo, San Diego State University)

Review

A provocative study of the social, economic, and political motivations behind the Mexican-American War.--Civil War Book Review



This book is well researched, and the author's arguments are frequently compelling. It helps fill an important niche.--Hispanic American Historical Review



This is a useful book that will contribute to debates over early U.S. empire building, labor history, and military service. . . . Foos does a fine job of explaining why the U.S.-Mexico War matters and why it should not be forgotten.--American Historical Review



Foos has a deep understanding of the society and politics of the U.S. Mexican War period. In his deconstruction of the volunteer ethic that pervaded the war he finds that the American soldiers rebelled against their regimentation and class subordination. Their undisciplined behavior in looting, raping, and committing atrocities arose from a complex of racial and class antagonisms. This book is a criticism of the 'glories' of the volunteerism during the war. The author's scholarship is wide-ranging, reflecting a sensitive understanding of primary sources.--Richard Griswold del Castillo, San Diego State University



Just as Herman Melville made his riveting and conflicted portrait of a Mexican War veteran in The Confidence Man speak to the nation's full history and predicament, this compact, meticulously researched, and dramatic study fully recasts race, empire, and class in the antebellum United States through its soldiers' stories.--David R. Roediger, University of Illinois



A provocative addition to the social history of the common soldier in the Mexican-American War.--Historian



[A Short, Offhand Killing Affair: Soldiers and Social Conflict During the Mexican-American War] is the first of its kind to view the Mexican War from the point of view of soldier as victim.--Post Library



[This book] deserves credit for raising new questions about a chapter in U.S. history in need of scholarly reappraisal. . . . [Foos] reminds us that the creation of an American empire carried a steep price for the victors as well as the vanquished.--Journal of Southern History

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1st New edition edition (October 7, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807854050
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807854051
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,178,576 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Paul Foos earned his B.A. at U. Mass., Amherst; Ph.D. at Yale, working with David Montgomery, the labor historian. He spent several years teaching at Georgia State University. “Although the war directly affected only a small minority of the citizens of the United States, it produced storms of controversy, changed the political and social climate, and inspired decisive action and much commentary from those who served in the military or helped recruit armies for Mexico.(4) Foos uses the Mexican war as a backdrop to analyze American labor conflict during the Nineteenth century. Another aspect of his argument is that the Mexican War “is a historic moment in the creation of an American empire rather than nation, encompassing proliferating hierarchies of race and social class, establishing the basis for oligarchic rule based partly on landed wealth.” (175)

Chapter one discusses service and servitude, arguing that life for a soldier in the army was equivalent to servitude. Chapter two discusses citizen’s militias in the US at the time. Chapters three and four discuss volunteers, both true volunteers and those forced to do so. Chapter five deals with discipline and desertion, chapter six discusses atrocities and the war while chapter seven looks at the limits of the “White Man’s Democracy.” Finally, reminiscent of Eric Foner’s Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men, Foos discusses Free Soil and the “Heritage of the Citizen Soldier.” The narrative starts off with wage labor in the antebellum period and the arrival of the US army in Corpus Christi in June 1845 and concludes with the post-war United States.

Foos uses first person recollections, diaries, letters and newspapers.
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Format: Paperback
I had occasion to look at one of Foos' sources and compare it with his account of same in his monograph. I have no doubt that the war was every bit as ugly, racist and unjust as he makes it out to be. But the tone of the account, by an engineer who was in Wool's advance party to Saltillo, is considerably less hostile to Mexicans than I had expected. The engineer doesn't sugar coat anything--he owns up to the property destruction and violence that the American forces have brought with them, but he also points out that there was considerable ambiguity in the Mexicans in the north toward the US presence, especially in those states where centralism was viewed with little sympathy. History is a subtle thing, and yet Foos displays little subtlety in his account. Gringo bad, Mexican good. I'm not going to go trawling through everything else he's used to see if this kind of distortion infects the rest of the narrative, but what I've seen doesn't inspire much confidence.
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Format: Paperback
A Short, Offhand Killing Affair: Soldiers And Social Conflict During The Mexican-American War by Paul Foos (History Department, Georgia State University - Atlanta) draws directly upon diaries and letters of soldiers in the Mexican-American War (1846-48), to survey and examine a bitterly fought conflict which was to change the shape of the emerging American nation. Offering an unflinching and brutal look at the horrors of war as sufferingly experienced by rank-and-file soldiers (as well as the violent, sometimes murderous and ravaging behavior many such soldiers exacted upon the inhabitants of the territory they conquered), A Short, Offhand Killing Affair fully and dramatically reveals a ruthless and darker aspect of what came to be called America's "Manifest Destiny".
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By A Customer on September 23, 2002
Format: Library Binding
This lucidly written history of how American soldiers were lured into service for a supposedly noble cause and then discovered themselves in a confounding situation couldn't be more timely. Issues of racism and nationalism are shown to be as alive then as they are today.
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