For Liberty and the Republic

The American Citizen as Soldier, 1775-1861

272 pages

December, 2017

ISBN: 9781479867905



Add to Cart Available: 11/1/2017

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Part of the Warfare and Culture series


Ricardo A. Herrera is Associate Professor of Military History at the School of Advanced Military Studies, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. 

All books by Ricardo A. Herrera

The relationship between soldier and citizen from the War of Independence through the first year of the Civil War

In the early decades of the American Republic, American soldiers demonstrated and defined their beliefs about the nature of American republicanism and how they, as citizens and soldiers, were participants in the republican experiment through their service. In For Liberty and the Republic, Ricardo A. Herrera examines the relationship between soldier and citizen from the War of Independence through the first year of the Civil War.  

The work analyzes an idealized republican ideology as a component of soldiering in both peace and war. Herrera argues that American soldiers’ belief system—the military ethos of republicanism—drew from the larger body of American political thought. This ethos illustrated and informed soldiers’ faith in an inseparable connection between bearing arms on behalf of the republic, and earning and holding citizenship in it. Despite the undeniable existence of customs, organizations, and behaviors that were uniquely military, the officers and enlisted men of the regular army, states’ militias, and wartime volunteers were the products of their society, and they imparted what they understood as important elements of American thought into their service. 

Drawing from military and personal correspondence, journals, orderly books, militia constitutions, and other documents in over forty archives in twenty-three states, Herrera maps five broad, interrelated, and mutually reinforcing threads of thought constituting soldiers’ beliefs: Virtue; Legitimacy; Self-governance; Glory, Honor, and Fame; and the National Mission. Spanning periods of war and peace, these five themes constituted a coherent and long-lived body of ideas that informed American soldiers’ sense of identity for generations.


  • "Ricardo Herrera’s superbly crafted study suggests that scholars may have been too quick to replace the Republican Synthesis with alternative interpretations to explain Americans’ motivations for military service between the end of the American Revolution and the Civil War. Herrera convincingly demonstrates how republican ideals stamped early nineteenth-century soldiers’ understanding of their duty, their service, and, paradoxically, the recognition and rewards they expected society to lavish upon them for embracing that duty and service. For Liberty and the Republic should inspire us to reconsider and reexamine the indelible power that republicanism held over American soldiers—West Point-trained professionals, militia men, and tens of thousands of volunteers alike—who fought the new nation’s wars."

    —John Grenier, author of The First Way of War: American War Making on the Frontier, 1607-1814

  • "Herrera explores the ideological foundations of the military ethos among the male citizenry of the new American republic. His broad gaze takes in officers and men of the federal regulars, U.S. volunteers, and state militias. His research is deep and wide, and his analysis, rigorous and convincing. Herrera revises our historical understanding of the relationship between militancy, citizenship, and manhood."

    —Durwood Ball, University of New Mexico

  • "Herrera has produced an important volume addressing the relationship of civilians and soldiers during the period from the American Revolution to the beginning of the Civil War."


  • “Herrera’s book provides an important look into the motivations that led citizens to put their lives on the line in early republic and antebellum America.”

    The Journal of America's Military Past

  • “Herrera succeeds in placing the motivations and beliefs of American soldiers within their broader text...His work captures the essence of what it meant to be a citizen and a solider and reminds us that at one time most Americans thought the two were inseparable.” 


  • “This was a topic due for fresh reexamination.  For Liberty and the Republic is a well-executed and convincing study of the ideological world of American soldiers as they defined themselves as actors in the great historical dramas of the early United States.”

    On Point

  • “Ricardo A. Herrera’s book investigates the moral and political universe of American soldiers who served between the American Revolution and the Civil War.  His central claim is that a ‘military ethos of republicanism,’ originating in the revolutionary war, became a shared inheritance among succeeding generations, surviving more or less unchanged until the Civil War.” 

    American Historical Review

  • “Ricardo A. Herrera has endeavored to answer an important question about war and early American society: how did citizens value their military service?”

    Civil War Book Review

  • “Especially valuable for its nuanced treatment of citizen soldiers’ ‘contract ethos’ and the exclusive ‘voluntary associations’ that supplanted the organized militia during the nineteenth century, For Liberty and the Republic complements and complicates other recent works in the field to provide a composite portrait—at once impressionistic and compelling—of the American citizen soldier.”

    Journal of Interdisciplinary History

  • “The work is massively researched and documented.  [Herrera] relied heavily on unpublished manuscript materials such as letters, journals, and diaries…From these sources, Herrera argues that the soldiers reveal their connection to American republicanism, a belief system that gave meaning to their lives and their relationships to society.”

    The Journal of American History