America's Small Wars & Insurgencies: from Fighting Indians to Afghanis

‌Course Description: “Small Wars” and insurgencies, ranging from the various wars with the Indians* to the war in Afghanistan, have some striking similarities and differences. Technological and cultural differences influence weapons systems, communications, command and control capabilities, discipline, and willingness to support American efforts against their neighbors. Other issues include logistics, international support, rules of engagement and public support. Lessons that were learned were usually quickly forgotten, only to be relearned at considerable expense. What might opponents learn from the Sand Creek Massacre or Custer’s stupidity at Little Big Horn?‚Äč *Please be patient: terminology will be explained Day 1.

Course Information: Tuesdays, 9:30-11:30 a.m., starting Sept. 19, 2017, O'Shaughnessy Educational Center Auditorium, University of St. Thomas St. Paul Campus

Course Instructor: Dr. Joseph Fitzharris is a Professor Emeritus of History at the University of St. Thomas (Ph.D. U.W. Madison.) and the Great Plains Regional Coordinator for the Society for Military History. He is a member of the Executive Board of the “Dr. Harold C. Deutsch World War II History Round Table and former President and Director of the Twin Cities Civil War Roundtable. The author of several articles in Civil War history, he edited Patton’s Fighting Bridge Builders; the Diary of Company B, 1303 Engineer General Service Regiment, which was a finalist for the Army Historical Foundation’s writing award. At UST, he taught courses and seminars in the US Civil War, World War II, and American Military History, and he has taught courses for the Selim Center on a variety of American wars and on American Military History, most recently a five year course on the Civil War (2011-1015) and on World War I.

Fee for the series:  $90 per person

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To print out a form to complete and then mail in with a check or cash payment, click on this link: ‌Printable Registration Form Fall 2017

Link to campus mapSt. Paul Campus Map

Detailed Course Syllabus:

Sept. 19 

Day 1:  Suspicion Becomes Conflict

The first colonial-Indian conflicts set the parameters for future war on the continent and define weapons systems, logistic base, etc. Assess: were Indians doomed from the start? Compare British and US Indian policies, US conflicts with Indians from Revolution through the removal of the "Civilized Tribes" (Cherokee) to Oklahoma on the "Trail of Tears."

Sept. 26

Day 2: War and the Settling of the Northern Plains

Settlement moved onto the northern plains where the US was a minor power using bad diplomacy more than war until Gen. William Harney's 1855 winter campaign changed the equation. Treaties, reservations, and late indemnity payments brought Minnesota's Dakota bands to starvation in 1862 and they took the opportunity of Civil War to try for change. Indians fought on both sides in the US Civil War and were both recruited and victimized (e.g., the Sand Creek massacre). Observations upon bad agenda driven history, activists as historians, and the importance of knowing the truth.

Oct. 3

Day 3: The Indian Wars on the Great Plains and in the Southwest

Building the trans-continental railroads and the exploitation of resources (gold!) precipitated conflict on the Great Plains despite President Grant's "Peace Policy." The large campaigns broke major tribal resistance, but the army (especially the "Buffalo Soldiers") fought the tribes mostly in little fights by small, dispersed units stationed in forts without walls. Lessons learned and forgotten. The role of the BIA, Boarding Schools, Treaties, and Reservations.

Oct. 10 

Day 4: The Philippine "Insurrection" and the "Banana Wars"

During the Spanish-American War, we aided the Filipinos against the Spanish, then annexed their nation and they resumed their struggle for independence - against us. It was mainly a war of small units using non-conventional tactics, resettlement villages, and massacres (Samar), involving many National Guard Units (13th Minnesota). Taking Panama, we became the "policeman" of the Caribbean and the Navy and Marines intervened in and occupied several countries serving US strategic, political, and economic interests. Mexico became a problem and "Black Jack" Pershing led a large force into northern Mexico. Intervention supposedly ended with Hoover's "Good Neighbor Policy," but El Salvador and Nicaragua might claim otherwise. The Marines codified their lessons learned (to include use of air power) in The Strategy and Tactics of Small Wars (1921, 1940) and then mostly forget them until Afghanistan; the Army never noticed them.

Oct. 17

Day 5: World War II and the Cold War

US Forces in the Philippines fought a guerrilla war against the Japanese occupiers, and the OSS supported "resistance" movements against the Germans. Some observation regarding USMC Combined Action Program and Special Forces efforts in Vietnam. During the Cold War, the CIA instigated and supported insurgencies in a number of countries and CIA and Special Forces teams assisted in suppressing other insurgencies. Interventions from Lebanon and Cuba to Nicaragua, Panama, and Grenada - a mix of small wars, counter-insurgencies, and police actions - and international efforts, with the UN in Somalia and in peace-keeping efforts, and with NATO in Kosovo (ongoing) usually produced unhappiness and less than optimal results. 

Oct. 24 

Day 6: The "Long War' or Global War on Terrorism

The 21st Century was ballyhooed as the "Century of Peace" and is the Century of Terrorism, a form of asymmetric warfare. US forces are/were involved in Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Colombia, the Philippines, and Syria in actions that sort of fit our topic. US Army cavalry charges (Afghanistan), forts (forward and combat operation bases) resemble the Great Plains conflicts while other aspects seem drawn from the small wars in the Caribbean. Al-Qaeda and ISIS/DAEASH, operating across the conflict spectrum from insurgency-style attacks to main force engagements further complicates modernity. In every clime and time, lessons were learned and forgotten, only to be relearned at great cost. Even now, the advocates of big wars are trying hard to forget the lessons newly relearned (see: FM 3-24/MCWP 3-33.5, Petraeus' and Mattis' Counterinsurgency manual). 


 America's Small Wars Week 1 Handout with Map Links