Date of Award


Degree Type




First Advisor

Peskin, Allan

Subject Headings

United States, Army, Cavalry -- History -- 19th century, United States. Army -- History -- 19th century, Arme Blanche, United States cavalry, Dragoon Mounted Rifles Cavalry Regiments


This thesis is a study of United States Army war fighting doctrine, tactical and strategic, and weapons in the years 1815 to 1861. The primary emphasis is upon the mounted forces, specifically the Dragoon, Mounted Rifles and Cavalry Regiments. The most traditional branch of the 19th Century Army, the Cavalry, was largely American in design albeit conventional in nature, not following any specific European model. As with the rest of the Antebellum Army, however, France was the wellspring for tactical and strategic doctrine, military instruction and weaponry. In order to answer the long debated question of why the Union defeated the Confederacy, this paper analyzes the post-Napoleonic, trans-Atlantic military consensus, as crystallized in the writings of Henri Jomini. The Antebellum Army was, doctrinally and operationally, modeled on French practice. The primary purpose of the formal Army was the defense of the United States against European naval assault. Thus the paramount emphasis on coastal fortifications. Moreover, in order to secure political legitimacy, against the ardent proponents of the militia, the Army actively pursued involvement in Western exploration and national improvement efforts such as canal building. West point was the nation's sole engineering school in the pre-Civil War Era. The other Army was charged with the ignoble business of frontier security and Indian pacification. Despite being functionally the primary responsibility of the Army, these duties had no consequential impact on tactics, weapons or organization. The US-Mexican War was waged on purely European lines by the Army and was the primary classroom for such future Civil War generals as Robert E. Lee, George B. McClellan and Ulysses S. Grant as well as Confederate President Jefferson Davis. In the years immediately preceding the Civil War, there was major expansion and modernization of the Army, particularly during Davis' tenure as the Secretary of War. The 1854-1856 US Military Commission to Europe, consisting of Majors Robert Mord

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