Hispanic or Latino American History and Culture, History, Mexican War, Military and Wartime History, Social Studies
This lesson will take 30-45 minutes to complete.
Up to 36
National Standards: Gr 5-12 Social Studies: World History Eras 4 & 7 Gr K-12 National Standards-Language Arts: 1, 3, 4, 12
Volunteer Soldiers, regular army, U.S. Army, Mexican Army, war, soldiers
At the start of the U.S.-Mexican War, both Mexican and U.S. citizens mistrusted a standing army. In this lesson, students discuss reasons for joining an army. Next, they discuss the differences between a regular army and a militia of volunteers. Then they review and discuss U.S. and Mexican perspectives on regular and volunteer soldiers.
Why do people join the army?
What is the difference between a regular army and a militia of volunteers?
What were the U.S. and Mexican perspectives on regular and volunteer soldiers?
U.S.-Mexican War Soldiers
Discuss reasons for joining an army
Discuss differences between a regular and all-volunteer army
Discuss the U.S. and Mexican perspective on regular and volunteer soldiers
Before starting, review and print out the PDF worksheets in the Materials section. This lesson can be modified for High School students.
PDFs for this lesson plan include:
Dividing the Class (PDF 54.9 KB)
U.S. Viewpoints on the Standing Army Before the U.S.-Mexican War (PDF 109 KB)
Mexican Viewpoints on the Standing Army Before the U.S.-Mexican (PDF 108 KB)
Volunteers for Texas *optional extension activity* (PDF 139 KB)
Ask students if they have ever done volunteer work and, if so, why they volunteered. Discuss the reasons why people volunteer. Be sure to mention not having a choice as a reason.
Tell students they will discuss the difference between a volunteer militia (group of citizens who are not part of the regular army who are called to active duty in an emergency) and a regular or permanent army (professionally trained and employed soldiers who are always ready to deploy to active duty). Discuss reasons why people join the army. Write the reasons on the board. Be sure to mention the following:
Need a job
Escape domestic problems
Free transportation to frontier
Be a local hero
Ask students/have students look up the definition of a draft. The formal word for a draft is conscription. People who are conscripted for the army are known as conscripts.
Tell students that some people think a volunteer militia can protect the country better than a regular army. Take a vote on which students think is better. Record results on the board
Use the Dividing the Class worksheet to divide students into two different corners of the room.
Tell the class that they are all U.S. soldiers during the U.S.-Mexican War. The smaller group represents the regular or permanent army and the bigger group represents the volunteer army.
Give each group (regulars and volunteers) a U.S. Viewpoints on the Standing Army Before the U.S.-Mexican War or Mexican Viewpoints on the Standing Army Before the U.S.-Mexican War worksheet.
Have each group work together to complete the worksheet.
Have each group discuss what they learned from the worksheet
Tell students the Battle of Palo Alto was fought by regular soldiers. After the Battle, U.S. citizens were more accepting of the regular army.
Have a class discussion on whether it would have been better to have the regular army or a volunteer militia fight the Battle of Palo Alto.
Assess student performance in two key areas:
Participation in group discussion
Group discussion: Offers information which directly relates and builds on the topic.
Worksheets: Thoughtful answers. Effective and accurate use of writing conventions.
Group discussion: Offers information which directly relates to the topic.
Worksheets: Completed. Effective and accurate use of writing conventions.
Group discussion: Offers very little information of which some relates to the topic.
Worksheets: Incomplete. Writing conventions are not always followed.
At the time of the U.S.-Mexican War, many citizens mistrusted a standing army. President Polk stated that "standing armies . . . are contrary to the genius of our free institutions, impose heavy burdens on the people and are dangerous to public liberty." Have students write essays about or discuss this statement.
Use the worksheet with the political cartoon "Volunteers for Texas" from the Materials section.
Have students pretend to volunteer for the U.S.-Mexican War and write a letter explaining their reasons for volunteering.
draft: requiring people to do military service. The formal word for a draft is conscription. citizen army: an army made up of citizens who volunteer in times of war. conscription: law that orders men into military service. conscript: person who is forced to join an army. regular army: permanent army of a country with professionally trained soldiers. militia: group of citizens who are not part of the regular army with some military training who are called to active duty only in an emergency. fatigue: manual work performed by military personnel.