The American Civil War and Guerrilla Warfare
Roman Emperor Hadrian and the world’s greatest military power were brought to their knees by inferior guerrilla
bands in the early second century. Because of Rome’s losses to guerrilla raids from the north, it succumbed to a stalemate
and constructed a massive wall, known as Hadrian's Wall, to separate the Roman Empire from northern Britain, which is presently
referred to as the Scottish Highlands. The Roman Empire never conquered northern Britain, and Hadrian's Wall is considered
a great "guerrilla victory." Applying their familiar terrain and home field advantage, King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans,
with their Greek allies, defended the Pass of Thermopylae and inflicted at least 20,000 casualties on the invading Persian
Army. Prior to surrendering the Army of Northern Virginia, General Lee seriously contemplated disbanding the army, creating
a massive guerrilla force, and relocating it to the mountains. And in the twentieth century, the Vietnamese excelled in guerrilla warfare
and proved to be a very formidable foe.
|Guerrilla Warfare and Guerrilla War Strategy Map
|American Civil War: Guerrilla Warfare and Guerrilla War Strategy Map
General Ulysses S. Grant, traveling through the South’s Cumberland Gap in 1864 noted: "With two brigades of the Army of the Cumberland I could hold that pass against the army which Napoleon
led to Moscow."
During the American Civil War, William Holland Thomas, a Cherokee chief and Confederate colonel, opposed the traditional Napoleonic Linear Tactics and understood the superior advantages of Defensive Guerrilla Warfare
(see Thomas's Civil War Strategy). Thomas officially petitioned North Carolina Governors Henry Toole Clark and Zebulon Baird Vance, and he even petitioned Confederate President Jefferson Davis and General Braxton Bragg. His petition was to employ
his troops, the Thomas Legion, "to defend the passes of the Smokies." (See Cherokee Indians: Weapons and Warfare.) And in February 1864, Colonel Thomas reminded South Carolina officials that
in the beginning of the war, he had urged the Carolinas to “make preparations to defend the passes in the Smoky Mountains
for their common protection…and by express permission of President Davis, I raised a legion of Indians and highlanders.”
The catastrophic results of abandoning Defensive Guerrilla Warfare were the loss of home field advantage
and the outright attacks against a defenseless civilian populace.
On May 2, 1864, in a letter to "Headquarters Armies Confederate States," General Bragg proclaimed
that "General Longstreet’s army having left East Tennessee opened all of Western North Carolina, Northeastern Georgia,
Northwestern South Carolina, to incursions of the enemy." And in May 1864, Colonel Black, with the First South Carolina Cavalry,
stated that although Thomas and the Cherokees were assigned to Western North Carolina, "a wide gap is open for the inroad
of the enemy." Bragg and Black had voiced their concerns the exact month that the Thomas Legion was ordered to the
Black Flag: Guerrilla Warfare on the Western Border, 1861-1865: A Riveting Account of a Bloody
Chapter in Civil War History. From Library Journal:
The Civil War on the Kansas-Missouri border was initially fought by Bushwhackers and Jayhawkers, guerrillas from Missouri and Kansas, respectively.
Union troops mostly displaced the Jayhawkers by 1862, but the Bushwhackers remained active until Lee's surrender. Continued
describes the death and destruction the guerrilla war wrought on this region through excerpts from diaries, letters, local
news accounts, and published articles, letting the victims do most of the talking. Citing cases that graphically underscore
the terrorism, Goodrich captures the fear of the populace. He indulges in a few overly dramatic statements… This title
should be considered for public libraries with strong Civil War collections.
Recommended Reading: The
Devil Knows How To Ride: The True Story Of William Clarke Quantrill And His Confederate Raiders.
Description: William Clarke Quantrill was quite possibly the most dangerous man to fight in the Civil War.
The leader of an almost psychopathic band of guerrilla warriors, Quantrill participated as a Confederate in a deadly border
war between Southern sympathizers in Missouri and the Unionist Jayhawkers of Kansas. He was largely responsible for the 1863
massacre of nearly 200 unresisting men and boys in Lawrence, Kansas, as well as dozens of other brutal acts that today would
be called terrorism. Among the notorious men who rode with him were Frank and Jesse James, whose postwar crime careers are
briefly reviewed. Continued below...
Edward E. Leslie provides an objective treatment of his controversial subject, and readers will appreciate
his ability to tell a good story--including the one about why Quantrill's bones currently rest in three different states and
why a forensically correct wax reconstruction of his head can be found in the refrigerator of an Ohio historical society.
Reading: Inside War: The Guerrilla
Conflict in Missouri During the American Civil War.
Description: During the Civil War, the state of Missouri
witnessed the most widespread, prolonged, and destructive guerrilla fighting in American history. With its horrific combination
of robbery, arson, torture, murder, and swift and bloody raids on farms and settlements, the conflict approached total war,
engulfing the whole populace and challenging any notion of civility. Michael Fellman's Inside War captures the conflict from
"inside," drawing on a wealth of first-hand evidence, including letters, diaries, military reports, court-martial transcripts,
depositions, and newspaper accounts. Continued below...
He gives us
a clear picture of the ideological, social, and economic forces that divided the people and launched the conflict. Along with
depicting how both Confederate and Union officials used the guerrilla fighters and their tactics to their own advantage, Fellman
describes how ordinary civilian men and women struggled to survive amidst the random terror perpetuated by both sides; what
drove the combatants themselves to commit atrocities and vicious acts of vengeance; and how the legend of Jesse James arose
from this brutal episode in the American Civil War.
Recommended Reading: Mountain
Partisans: Guerrilla Warfare in the Southern Appalachians, 1861-1865 (Hardcover). Description:
This is the story of a civil war within the Civil War. Some mountain folks in Southern Appalachia opposed the Confederacy,
especially when the South's conscription and impressment policies began to cause severe "home hardships." Deserters from
the Rebel army hid in the mountains and formed guerrilla bands that terrorized unprotected Confederate homesteads. Violence
escalated so much that Richmond had to detach entire Confederate regiments to pursue, engage, and eliminate these guerrilla
units. Continued below...
Mountain Partisans penetrates
the shadowy world of Union and Confederate guerrillas, describes their leaders and bloody activities, and explains their effect
on the Civil War and the culture of Appalachia. Although it did not alter the outcome of the war, guerrilla conflict affected
the way the war was fought. The Union army's experience with guerrilla warfare in the mountains influenced the North's adoption
of "hard war" as a strategy used against the South in the last two years of the war and helped shape the army's attitude toward
Southern civilians. Partisan warfare in Southern Appalachia left a legacy of self-imposed isolation and distrust of outsiders.
Wartime hatreds contributed to a climate of feuds and extralegal vigilantism that lasted for generations. The mountain economy
received a monumental setback from the war's devastating effects, laying the groundwork for the region's exploitation and
impoverishment by outside corporations in the early 20th century.
Reading: War at Every Door: Partisan
Politics and Guerrilla Violence in East Tennessee, 1860-1869. Description: One of the most divided regions of the Confederacy, East Tennessee
was the site of fierce Unionist resistance to secession, Confederate rule, and the Southern war effort. It was also the scene
of unrelenting 'irregular,' or guerrilla, warfare between Union and Confederate supporters, a conflict that permanently altered
the region's political, economic, and social landscape. In this study, Noel Fisher examines the military and political struggle
for control of East Tennessee from the secession crisis through the early years of Reconstruction,
focusing particularly on the military and political significance of the region's irregular activity. Continued below...
in grim detail the brutality and ruthlessness employed not only by partisan bands but also by Confederate and Union troops under constant
threat of guerrilla attack and government officials frustrated by unstinting dissent. He demonstrates that, generally, guerrillas
were neither the romantic, daring figures of Civil War legend nor mere thieves and murderers, but rather were ordinary men
and women who fought to live under a government of their choice and to drive out those who did not share their views.
Bushwhackers, The Civil War in North
Carolina: The Mountains (338 pages). Description: Trotter's book (which could have been titled "Murder, Mayhem,
and Mountain Madness") is an epic backdrop for the most horrific murdering, plundering and pillaging of the mountain
communities of western North Carolina during the state’s darkest hour—the American Civil War. Commonly referred
to as Southern Appalachia, the North Carolina and East Tennessee
mountains witnessed divided loyalties in its bushwhackers and guerrilla units. These so-called “bushwhackers”
even used the conflict to settle old feuds and scores, which, in some cases, continued well after the war ended. Continued
bushwhackers were highly organized ‘fighting guerrilla units’ while others were a motley group of deserters
and outliers, and, since most of them were residents of the region, they were familiar with the terrain and made for a “very
formidable foe.” In this work, Trotter does a great job on covering the many facets of the bushwhackers and guerrillas,
including their: battles, skirmishes, raids, activities, motives, the outcome, and even the aftermath. This book is also a
great source for tracing ancestors during the Civil War; a must have for the family researcher of Southern Appalachia.