Synopses & Reviews
A protege of David Crockett and Sam Houston, Ben McCulloch (1811-62) led an extraordinary life as a frontiersman, entrepreneur, and soldier. This first modern biography tells his colorful life story and through his career illuminates mid-nineteenth-century American military culture. In particular, Thomas Cutrer focuses on the tension between traditional volunteer citizen-soldiers and the emerging professional military establishment. McCulloch was heir apparent to a long line of popularly chosen frontier military officers who rose to leadership positions despite a lack of formal training. Born in Tennessee, he figured prominently in Texas history, participating in the battle of San Jacinto and serving as a Texas Ranger and U.S. Marshal. He won distinction in the Mexican War, and during the Civil War he became the first civilian to receive a general's commission in the Confederate army when he took command of the Confederate forces in Arkansas and the Indian Territory and organized the Army of the West. He won a substantial victory over the Union army at Wilson's Creek in 1861 but was mortally wounded at the battle of Pea Ridge in 1862. Despite McCulloch's many successes, Cutrer reveals, his career was hampered because he was not a member of the West Point-trained cadre that gained influence in the 1850s. Although by the last half of that decade he was seriously spoken of as a candidate for the U.S. Senate and the governorship of Texas, McCulloch was repeatedly passed over for the army appointments that he coveted. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis sought to form a new model army led by professionally trained officers, and McCulloch's purely practical experience put him at a disadvantage.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 369-392) and index.