Between 1854 and 1856, the Franklin Pierce administration called upon the U.S. Army to conduct a series of peace operations in the newly formed Kansas and Nebraska territories. The army responded to the president’s call by successfully completing a mission against the Lakota Sioux in 1855 and by aiding civil authorities in the imposition of peace among competing factions in Kansas during 1856.
Although these police duties were not always popular with the soldiers that conducted them, the purpose behind them remained constant—the maintenance of peace, order, and security. Given Americans’ misgivings about a standing army and their limited expectations for it as a domestic peacekeeper, its use in this fashion during the 1850s was a delicate proposition.
By drawing on diverse sources, including official army correspondence, personal papers of key military and political leaders, and local accounts of army activities, Mullis shows how peace operations were conducted by the U.S. Army long before the second half of the twentieth century. He alsopresents a thorough analysis of the professional dilemmas confronted by army officers, as well as the delicate command and control issues associated with the different types of peace operations.
Mullis’s assessment of the army’s peacekeeping efforts in the mid-1850s offers a full understanding of the constraints and frustrations involved. Many of the dilemmas faced by the army in Kansas parallel those encountered in various spots around the globe today. Peacekeeping on the Plains will provide any reader with a better insight into the nuances of peace operations in the 1850s and assist military historians in their understanding of these activities as they relate to the twenty-first century.