West Pointers and the Civil War
The Old Army in War and Peace
The task of transforming America's ragtag militia into a professional fighting force in the first half of the nineteenth century was a difficult one. Americans had long supported a tradition of militia and distrusted professional soldiers. By the time of the Civil War, however, most of the high-command positions in both armies were filled with West Point graduates who had been trained in the European military tradition and had honed their experience in the Mexican War. This training and experience would predetermine the sorts of campaigns the armies would wage, the rules of those engagements, and even their understanding of victory. It also ensured that the two armies, products of the same military education, were closely matched in ability, leading to a much longer war, with unforeseen political consequences.