From an isolated and inward-looking new nation clinging to the East Coast, America in the 1800s grew in size, strength, and military might. From the War of 1812 to the century-long campaigns of conquest against Native American peoples, territorial expansion through war with Mexico to the great national tragedy that was the Civil War, American soldiers and sailors forged a tradition of pride and heroism that is part of our national heritage. Sometimes misguided, sometimes truly inspired, nineteenth-century America produced some of the greatest military leaders and witnessed some of the bloodiest battles in our history. Behind the scenes, and often neglected in our official histories, the life of America's citizen soldiers was a tough and brutal one. Patriotism, heroism, and human folly all combine in the story of the roots of America's rise to the status of world military power.