The Mexican War (1846-1848) and the American Civil War (1861-1865) were two seminal American military conflicts of the ninteenthy century.
The Mexican-American War (1846-1848) stemmed from the annexation of Texas to the United States and the ensuing dispute between the United States and Mexico over the territorial extent of the new state of Texas. The war, which proved highly controversial, was supported by President James K. Polk and the Democratic Party, and opposed by the Whig Party and abolitionist elements, the latter of whom saw the war as an attempt to extend slavery into the conquered Mexican territories. Decisive American military victories resulted in the annexation of over 500,000 square miles of Mexican territory, and, in turn, spawned further political discord over the expansion of slavery. The Compromise of 1850 emerged as a temporary resolution: it admitted California as a free state and ceded the issue to popular sovereignty in the remaining territories.
The American Civil War (1861-1865) was a civil war fought between the 23 states of the federal government (the "Union") and 11 Southern states which sought to secede and form their own nation, the Confederate States of America (or, the Confederacy). The Civil War was the product of decades of tension over slavery, trade and tariffs, states' rights and the fundamentally different economies of the North and the South. The ensuing war claimed the lives of over 600,000 soldiers and wounded another 275,000, in addition to an unknown number of civilians wounded or slain. In terms of body count, it remains the deadliest war in American history. Although fought using many of the tactics of earlier wars, the Civil War is regarded as one of the earliest industrial wars, owing to its widespread use of new technologies such as railroads, iron clad ships, telegraph lines, and mass produced weaponry. The Civil War ended in the destruction of the Confederacy and the abolition of slavery in America. While it strengthened the role of the federal government, it left behind social, political, economic, and racial tensions which remained violentally active long after the war's end.
"American Civil War." Encylopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2011. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/19407/American-Civil-War. Accessed 16 December 2011.
"Mexican War." Encylopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2011. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/379134/Mexican-American-War. Accessed 15 December 2011.
The Nineteenth-century American military collection is an artificial collection that contains 1.6 linear feet of American military records spanning the period 1846-1903. The bulk of the collection dates from the American Civil War (1861-1865). Additional records are from the Reconstruction period (1865-1877) and the remainder of the nineteenth century. There are also five items pertaining to the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) and two documents from the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers from 1856-1858. The records primarily document the administrative and bureaucratic logistics of waging a war and maintaining an army. Items include official correspondence between officers; orders; morning, tri-monthly and consolidated reports of unit manpower and supplies; food inspections; cargo and livestock manifests; provisions for supplies; and discharges and appointments of individual soldiers. Some personal letters (11 items) to and from Civil War soldiers are also present, as are a number of personal letters to and from Civil War veterans written during the post-war period.
Notable items in this collection include a William Tecumseh Sherman manuscript; an apparent forgery of Abraham Lincoln's signature; and a certification of the muster-out-roll for Sylvester Butcher, a private in the US Colored Troops.
The collection is organized chronologically into four series: I. Pre-Civil War; II. Civil War; III. Post-Civil War; and IV. Veterans' documents.
Series I contains five documents pertaining to the Mexican War (1846-1848) and two records from the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers from 1856-1858. The Mexican War documents are administrative in nature, and include official correspondence, a morning report, and an inventory of supplies. The Topographical Engineers records consist of two vouchers for expenses incurred on duty.
Series II, which comprises the bulk of the collection, contains records of the Union Army during the Civil War. (No records of the Confederacy are present.) The records, which are primarily administrative in nature, are organized by the state or territory from which they originated. Multiple regiments and units are represented within each region. Official correspondence and orders provide information on the engagement and management of individual units both on and off the battlefield. Administrative record-keeping documents such as morning reports, food inspections, cargo manifests, and requisitions for supplies document the day-to-day manpower and movements of individual units. Although most of the records are official in nature, Series II also includes eleven personal letters to and from Union Army soldiers, which are interfiled with the other documents from their relevant regions. The personal letters are noted in the container list.
Series III consists of official military records post-dating the American Civil War. The document types are similar to those found in Series II. As in Series II, these records are organized by the state or territory from which they originated. Many of the documents in Series III were originally collected as examples of the autographs of various Civil War officers.
Series IV contains the personal and business correspondence of former soldiers, primarily American Civil War veterans. A number of the documents consist of letters from former soldiers seeking political patronage or requesting aid in obtaining civilian employment. Other letters document veterans’ attempts to document and commemorate the Civil War through published writings, private reunions and commemorative associations. Many of the documents in Series IV were originally collected as examples of the autographs of various Civil War officers.
A handwritten item-level description of the collection was prepared in the 1970s and is available in the collection files.