Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis



First Advisor

Dr. Andrew N Buchanan

Second Advisor

Professor Paul Deslandes

Third Advisor

Professor Bob Taylor


Citizen-Soldier, American Military Policy, Conscription, Emory Upton, George Marshall


The Army is one of the oldest institutions in the United States, older even than the country itself. Unlike some other nations, the United States does not have a rigid and distinct historical character to its force composition. It has not favored a dominant blue water navy over conventional ground forces, like the British. It has not conscripted generation after generation of young men and women into regular army service, like the Russians. It does not employ universal service, like the Israelis. The United States Army has a more complicated story, one that is interwoven with the founding of the nation itself.

Through a review of primary source material, historical events, demographic compositions, and the first hand accounts of contemporary officers and policy makers, this thesis examines the deeply rooted foundational value in the Army of the citizen-solider, how this concept has evolved from colonial days, and its implications for the modern United States Army. Through a historical study of the ways in which the Army fills its ranks, this thesis reviews the evolution of conscription and volunteerism in major wars in US history. It then goes on to explore two framework perspectives on the citizen-soldier concept in greater detail. The seminal ideas of Brevet Major General Emory Upton calling for a professional military corps supplemented by a civilian reserve influenced the shape of the Army in the decades following the Civil War. And the proposals of General George C. Marshall to institute University Military Training following World War II raise interesting questions about the role and necessity of the citizen-solider in the Army that remain every bit as relevant, today.

Throughout its history, the Army’s composition has fluctuated according to the needs of, support from, and engagement with the general public. At issue is the question of whether the conscripted citizen-soldier Army that cannot be easily deployed without considerable public support may, in fact, help avoid American intervention in unnecessary and costly wars. Is today’s professional army more readily used and deployed in unpopular, “immoral” wars than a conscripted citizen-soldier force, and if so, is this is a primary factor in making wars of that nature a possibility? This thesis concludes that the advent of the professional standing army after the Vietnam War and the demise of citizen-soldiers within the Army’s ranks has significantly lowered the political risk of going to war for American elected officials, and served to divorce the American public from the Army that serves and protects it.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.