Tuesday, June 17, 2014

More About Guerrilla Warfare

Lately I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading about guerrilla warfare in Missouri and Arkansas. Since the 1980s there has been quite a bit of scholarly interest in the topic although there are certainly a number of avenues deserving more attention. Daniel E. Sutherland’s book, A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role Of Guerrillas In The American Civil War (2009) is a “big picture” study, helpful for understanding the overall dynamics and the importance of guerrilla warfare.(For more about this important book see my March 25, 2010 posting). Although some of the same material is covered in his book, Sutherland’s essay “Guerrillas: The Real War In Arkansas” in Civil War Arkansas: Beyond Battles and Leaders is a good overview. Sutherland argues in the essay that the guerrilla war in Arkansas was “Not a war within a war, as some historians have suggested, not even a second war, but the war” (p. 133).

Michael Fellman’s, Inside War: The Guerrilla Conflict In Missouri During The American Civil War (1988) is an in-depth study of the official policy of both sides, the plight of civilians, Union soldiers and their response to guerrillas, the impact of guerrilla war on women, and the postwar. Fellman tackled many other topics as well in this thoughtful book; I found it helpful to read it twice.

Take the books and the article above and couple them with Bruce Nichols’ books, and you’ll have a greater understanding of guerrilla warfare in the trans-Mississippi.

Friday, June 13, 2014

"It requires indefatigable care..."

Civil War histories often focus on the more "glamorous" combat related aspects of campaigning and don’t often dwell on the more mundane tasks. Sometimes, though, a glimpse of those less dramatic, but important duties comes through in a soldier’s account, a regimental history, or in a modern history. If a historian was willing to take it on, I suspect an interesting account could be written about the wagon trains that made their way to and from Fort Scott, Kansas, and the Union troops that protected those vital supplies.

While reading through W. S. Burke’s Military History Of Kansas Regiments During The War For The Suppression Of The Great Rebellion (1870), I spotted the following passage from the sketch about the 9th Kansas Cavalry:

“Col. [Edward] Lynde, with his regiment, in February, 1863, was ordered to Fort Scott as a convoy to an immense supply train, accompanying which were a number of refugee wagons. It is no idle responsibility to safely conduct a train several miles in length through a hostile and dangerous country. It requires indefatigable care, energy and watchfulness. Of the many hundred thousand dollars’ worth of army stores and provisions which have been entrusted to the protection of this regiment, not one dollar’s worth has been captured or wrenched from it by guerrilla band or rebel force” (p. 275). 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Missouri's Guerrilla War

Over the last two years, my research project has taken me into areas that I never thought I’d be studying in detail. I am editing the diary and other papers of Albert C. Ellithorpe, an officer in the First Indian Home Guards. My previous Civil War research related to the trans-Mississippi Confederacy, so it is an interesting mental shift to go to the “other side,” but my mind has also been stretched as I’ve studied American Indians as well as guerrilla warfare. Both have turned out to be fascinating areas, and I’ve discovered a number of sources that are new to me.

A helpful source has been the four-volume set written over the last ten years by Bruce Nichols, a Defense Department analyst. His Guerrilla Warfare in Civil War Missouri details the actions of Southern guerrillas/partisans/bushwhackers in the four geographical (northwest, northeast, southwest, southeast) regions of Missouri. In the process he explores the motivations of these men, tactics, weapons, Union policy changes, and many other topics. Ellithorpe participated in some operations against guerrillas in southwest Missouri, so I’m finding some extremely helpful background information in the Nichols set. The books have piqued my interest so much that I’ve ordered the recently published volumes covering 1864 to the end of the war even though Ellithorpe had left active duty by then.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

News Tidbits

Last week, I participated in a fantastic Staff Ride at the Wilson's Creek National Battlefield with a faculty colleague plus warrant officers from Fort Leonard Wood. It was a privilege to hear the insights of men who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. While at the visitor center, I was shown the plans for the renovated exhibit space. In 2011, the National Park Service acquired Dr. Tom and Karen Sweeney’s collection of archival materials and artifacts; this collection was formerly housed in General Sweeny’s Museum that was adjacent to the park entrance. The renovated exhibit area will allow for the display once again of a part of the Sweeney collection. Many of the artifacts relate to the trans-Mississippi and the war in the western theater so this is exciting news.

In other good news, the Civil War Trust is raising funds for the acquisition of 282 acres of land near the Mansfield State Historic Site. An article in the June issue of Civil War News also reported that the Civil War Trust donated to the State of Louisiana a one- acre tract near Honeycutt Hill as well as the Allen House that was used as a field hospital after the battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill.