Baker & Taylor Drawing on military and travel accounts, newspaper dispatches, and a wide range of other sources, the author explores the cultural meaning of the Mexican War, an intensely popular war, for mid-nineteenth-century America
Oxford University Press "Our country has entered on a new epoch of its history," wrote a Whig Party journal in 1849, just after America's triumph in the Mexican War. Indeed, for that romantic generation of Americans in the mid-nineteenth century, the Mexican War was a grand exercise in self-identity: it legitimized the young republic's convictions of mission and destiny to a doubting world. It was easily one of the most popular wars the United States has ever fought. This rich cultural history examines the war's place in the popular imagination of the era. As Robert Johannsen notes, the Mexican War was the first American conflict to be widely reported in the press, as well as the first to be waged against an alien foe in a distant, strange, and exotic land. For mid-century Americans, Johannsen shows, the war provided a window onto the outside world, promoting an awareness--if not an understanding--of a people and a land unlike any they had known before. The war helped to dispel some of the mystery of Mexico, as it generated a huge flood of popular literature, poetry, songs, art, and stage plays. Would-be historians began chronicling the war almost as soon as the first shots were fired, and the war provoked myriad questions about the true nature and purposes of the republic. Drawing on military and travel accounts, newspaper dispatches, and a host of other sources, Johannsen vividly recreates the mood and feeling of the period--its unbounded optimism and patriotic pride. The book's unique perspective not only adds a new dimension to our understanding of the Mexican War; it offers new insights into American itself. About the Author: Robert W. Johannsen is J.G. Randall Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and author of Stephen A. Douglas, which received the Parkman Prize of the Society of American Historians.