Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Phillips, Jason K.

Committee Member

Ridner, Judith A.

Committee Member

Osman, Julia

Committee Member

Hersey, Mark D.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of History


The Mexican War served as a social battleground for issues such as professionalism, racism, and anti-Catholicism for American regular and volunteer junior officers. Their reaction to these issues influenced and changed the nature of debates to destroy the regular army and close the military academy at West Point. Many in Congress and the United States held a deep-seated fear of the regular army that dated back to the colonial era. They feared that a standing army would become a tool of tyranny and destroy a republican government. Instead, many Americans preferred a volunteer system. They argued that volunteers were virtuous citizens who responded to danger and returned to civilian life when the danger was over. The Mexican War demonstrated that these ideals were not reality, though. Because of this, many in the United States realized that the regular army could safely exist within a republican government, and that the volunteers were not the virtuous patriots many thought. Both regular and volunteer officers reacted with bigotry toward their Catholic opponents in Mexico. Anti-Catholicism impacted the service experience of the junior officers in Mexico. As members of a mostly protestant nation, they pillaged and stole from the many Catholic churches that lay in their path. As members of what they viewed as a superior religion, many officers felt that the Catholic church and faith was a fair target during the Mexican War. Race impacted the service of the junior officers in Mexico. American officers created a racial hierarchy in Mexico that ranked the Mexican populace in various stages of whiteness. The highest social order consisted of those they viewed as white. The lower classes they viewed as a mix of African and Native American. Both regular and volunteers responded in the same manner to these issues.