IMPERIAL ECHOES 1492-1776 : A NEW LOOK AT THE ROLES OF ARMED FORCES IN COLONIAL AMERICA
[Dr. Benjamin Franklin Cooling, Assistant Director for Historical Ser- vices, United States Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Pa., U.S.A.]
Two soldiers accompanied the first white settlers to Virginia and Massa- chusetts. Captain John Smith, sometime adventurer and veteran of sixteenth cen- tury religious wars in Europe as well as Captain Myles Standish in the employ- ment of the Pilgrims, represent the beginnings of the Anglo-American military tradition in the New World. Yet, even they were preceded by other men-in-arms with the mariners of Columbus and the conquistadores of the Spanish. The sei- gneurs of France in Canada predated English colonization. Moreover the very first interlopers to American shores were immigrants from beyond the Bering Straits, introducing customary conflict between invader and native son. Violence and the need for instruments or warfare were thus introduced very early in the colonial world of the Americas. 1
This essay is a modest plea for a new synthesis. Imperial conflicts of six- teenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth century in the Americas saw civil and mili- tary matters far more intertwined than later. This was due to the Indian-European cultural confrontation as well as Darwinian survivalism among the imperial su- per powers of the Age. Conquering by the sword, the waves of European immi- grants soon embraced plowshare, mining pick, and trading post for their talis- mans. Yet, musket or halberd were never completely out of sight. As frontier conflict was successively replaced by civilization in an unrelenting process, sol- dier and civilian remained remarkably at one with each other in New Spain, New France, and the English colonies of the Atlantic slope.
One must be aware of the caveats. Naturally, space and time compression are vital. Military-civilian integration was certainly more apparent on the frontier than among older settled sections. Similarly, this integration did not extend uni- formly over the hundreds of years comprising the colonial era. Then too, there were differences between English, Spanish, and French colonial systems, and even within these systems. Still, is it not time to pull these experiences together in some meaningful fashion - using the military thread, perhaps, as a drawstring? Such an approach would overcome traditional anti-military biases of liberal aca- demic tracts, and the professional military historians' overemphasis on wars or the regular versus militia issue. 2 It would clarify many intriguing sub-themes within the framework of military mission in a New World.
Exploration, public works, cultural dissemination, leadership among non- homogeneous societies, and administrative management of civil government often came from soldiers apart from their combat roles. Naval personages en-