Disease, Disuse, and Disappointment: The Volunteer Experience and the Modernization of the American National Guard, 1898-1902
This dissertation combines an intimate study of the common volunteers during the Spanish American War with a look into larger institutional changes within the American military at the turn of the Twentieth Century and the development of a modern National Guard. The Spanish American War left a stronger imprint on the form and function of the United States military than previous scholarship has ascribed to it. Particularly silent in scholarly discussions of the war are the voices and experiences of the common men that volunteered to serve in April and May of 1898. Their experiences in the service reveal the serious flaws that existed in the American military at the end of the Nineteenth Century and helped define the service experiences of citizen soldiers and veterans in future wars. Foregrounding the letters, diaries, and memoirs of the volunteers provides a rich source base from which to tell the story of how the volunteers of 1898 helped spark the modernization of the American military, sources that have long been overlooked. A result of the focus previous historians had on issues of empire and imperialism, this omission in the scholarship prevents historians from fully understanding how the Army grappled with new technology, new medicine, and new styles of combat. In addition to adding a new layer of perspective to discussions of disease and military operations during the Spanish American War, focusing on the experiences of the volunteers reveals why conditions in American military camps deteriorated so quickly during the summer of 1898, how integral the actions of the volunteers were to altering the shape and function of the Army, and why the militia was willing to support the creation of the modern National Guard after the war had ended.