The Geography of Military Power in the United States: Using HGIS to Plot Both Qualitative and Quantitative Records

Benjamin Hoy, University of Saskatchewan

In the late nineteenth century, the United States used military force to pressure Indigenous groups to sign treaties. Soldiers enforced order along their borders with both Mexico and Canada and provided vision for distant administrators who drafted legislation and international policy. Building off paylists and post records, this conference paper will show how regional episodes of violence and fear prompted the placement of federal troops. Drawing on post records, it will also suggest how soldiers, once placed, faced a diffuse and differentiated set of challenges. Lack of timber, long supply lines, and poor access to water plagued soldiers across the American West at disproportional rates. Combining this information with records on patrols routes and rates of absenteeism provides an opportunity to examine how regional events and dilemmas shaped the application of federal power. Methodologically, this papers draws on Historical GIS to plot both qualitative and quantitative records. It maps the location of tens of thousands of American soldiers across the continent between 1870 until 1896. Combining qualitative post records, which include brief descriptions of the Indigenous people in the surrounding areas, with the locations of tens of thousands of Indian agents allows this conference presentation to emphasize the uneven ways the federal government approached the management of Indigenous lands. In doing so it helps to uncover hidden boundaries that existed throughout the United States at the very moment when it attempted to rationalize and enforce its borders with Mexico and Canada.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 174. Geographies of Qualitative Sources