Books, art, and movies most often portray the frontier army in continuous conflict with Native Americans. In truth, the army spent only a small part of its frontier duty fighting Indians; as the main arm of the federal government in less-settled regions of the nation, the army performed a host of duties. The Frontier Army in the Settlement of the West examines the armys nonmartial contributions to western development. Dispelling timeworn stereotypes, Michael L. Tate shows that the army conducted explorations, compiled scientific and artistic records, built roads, aided overland travelers, and improved river transportation. Army posts offered nuclei for towns, and soldiers delivered federal mails, undertook agricultural experiments, and assembled weather records for forecasting.
The multipurpose army also provided telegraph service, extended relief to destitute civilians, and protected early national parks.