The enlisted soldier of the United States Army: a study of the Seventh Regiment, U.S. Infantry, 1815-1860
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Throughout the antebellum period, the American public often viewed the regular military establishment with disdain. To some the United States Army represented a threat to the republican traditions it was supposed to defend. At the same time, popular convention held that only those men unwilling, or unable to find a place in society turned to the military as a source of sustenance. Consequently, many recognized the army as a haven for society's dregs, the immigrants, and the dispossessed. Between 1815 and 1860, a wide variety of men enlisted in the Seventh Regiment, United States Infantry, commonly known as the "Cottonbalers," reminiscent of their defense of New Orleans in early 1815. While many members of the regiment fit into the aforementioned categories, particularly during times of national and international depression, famine, and crisis, there were those who joined for more practical reasons. This is particularly true during the latter half of the Mexican War, when the promise of 160 acre land warrants in exchange for military service resulted in the enlistment of a higher percentage of native-born men of limited means. Regardless of these variations, the men who became Cottonbalers made use of the equalizing influence of the uniform, sought solace in a large military family, and in the process, played a significant role in the settlement of the American frontier.
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Wettemann, Robert Paul (1995). The enlisted soldier of the United States Army: a study of the Seventh Regiment, U.S. Infantry, 1815-1860. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from