Synopses & Reviews
This fully documented study presents the organization and administration of the Spanish-American War army and the responses of the War Department to the conflict of 1898 and the challenges of overseas empire. In a clear and concise manner, Cosmas puts forth factors that invited many of the war's disasters. The Congressional penury of the 1890s, the political conflict in Congress, changes in President William McKinley's military strategy and goals, which placed frequent shifting demands upon the army - all contributed to sending inexperienced land forces ashore in Cuba. This account reconstructs the War Department's story of the war and traces the course of the department's effort to organize and equip an army and then deploy it to secure objectives of national policy. Cosmas analyzes each major decision concerning these matters: how and why it was made and the results it produced.
In America's popular memory of the Spanish-American War, the all-volunteer Rough Riders won the war in spite of ossified civilian and regular army leadership. In this authoritative account, however, military historian Graham A. Cosmas reconstructs the planning and execution of Spanish-American War strategy from the perspective of those with the ultimate responsibility: the president, the secretary of war, the commanding general of the army, and the chief and commanders of the army's various bureaus and corps.
Cosmas argues that the traditional view of the war is from the "bottom up" because, while headlines were being made about inadequate supplies, disease, and outdated weapons at ground level, the civilian and military figures at the highest ranks remained virtually silent about how and why they made their decisions. This volume, based on intensive research in documentary materials, including the personal papers of President William McKinley and Secretary of War Russell A. Alger, as well as the voluminous files of Adjutant General Henry Clark Corbin and the quartermaster general's offices, shows the day-to-day progress of the war as the highest-ranking officials saw it, digested it, and based subsequent decisions on it.
Faced with budgetary pressure from Congress, political pressure from the states' National Guard units, and the president's shifting stand on objectives for the war, the army was indeed ill prepared for its sudden mobilization. Cosmas concludes that the army's leadership was forced into a difficult new position in 1898, one in which its own new ideas of management and organization coupled with the broad new scope of national political/military objectives failed to address the actual circumstances of the war. After the initial wartime blunders, however, the army solved enough of its problems to make the campaigns in Puerto Rico and the Philippines run more smoothly, though with less news value. As Cosmas shows, the Spanish-American War was a foretaste of the new century, prompting the formation of a modern staff and command system that would profoundly alter world history.
This paperback edition of An Army for Empire incorporates the author's 1994 preface; additional illustrations; and expanded discussion of African American soldiers, the land engagements at San Juan Hill and El Caney, and the period between the August 1898 armistice and Secretary Alger's departure a year later.
About the Author
GRAHAM A. COSMAS is head of the General Histories Branch of the U.S. Army Center of Military History in Washington, D.C.