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A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War (Civil War America) First Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0807832776
ISBN-10: 0807832774
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Editorial Reviews


[A] very strong analysis of guerrilla warfare that is pertinent to counterinsurgency operations today. . . . Provide[s] excellent analysis.--Journal of Military History

Provides comparative analysis of the forces that motivated guerrilla operations, along with analysis of their effectiveness, in a chronological timeframe that is inclusive of virtually all regions of the nation. . . . Simply a banquet for Civil War buffs eager to learn more. . . . Written in engaging prose abundantly sprinkled with exciting anecdotes, this book will be useful to the scholar just as it will entertain the general reader. Skillfully constructed to educate, rather than pontificate, Sutherland's study raises the bar of Civil War scholarship.--H-Net Reviews

Sutherland offers a near encyclopedic survey of Confederate use of guerilla tactics and of Union efforts to combat them. . . . [His book] powerfully underscore[s] the ugliness and moral complexity of the uncivil war that divided Americans between 1861 and 1865.--American Historical Review

Sutherland's solid scholarship dispels the resilient image of guerrillas as colorful ancillaries of the 'real war' and integrates them into the broader narrative of the period. . . . An extremely valuable book.--Journal of American History

Sutherland places the 'Gray Ghost,' John Singleton Mosby; John Hunt Morgan; 'Bloody Bill' Anderson; bushwhackers; Red Legs; and jayhawkers, among many others, in the larger context of the 'irrepressible conflict' in this wide-ranging account.--Choice

An impressive new study of the impact of guerrilla warfare on the course of the American Civil War.--Indiana Magazine of History

Sutherland largely eschews the salacious rendering of individual acts of violence, choosing rather to bring sense and order to a tumultuous chapter of Civil War historiography.--North Carolina Historical Review

A richly detailed narrative laced with cogent analysis. . . . [Sutherland] has acquired a mastery of the subject that shows on every page of this well-researched and elegantly written book. . . . Deserves a place of honor among the period's most outstanding literature.--Civil War History

A welcome addition to the literature on guerilla warfare in America.--Intelligence Service Europe Newsletter

Perhaps the most comprehensive analysis of guerrilla warfare during the Civil War to date. . . . Well written and exhaustively researched. . . . Specialists and enthusiasts of the Civil War will enjoy this book as it is an excellent addition to any Civil War library.--On Point

What [Sutherland] has proceeded to do . . . is give us a way of thinking about the guerrilla war as a comprehensive, far-reaching, deep-reaching, whole. The evidence is literally in the narrative.--The Alabama Review

A comprehensive survey, well written and very readable. . . . A needed view of the war that is seldom seen.--TOCWOC: A Civil War Blog

No one has ever undertaken a survey this complete, this solidly based in an almost incredible array of primary sources, and this well rooted in the historiography. . . . Sutherland's achievement in compiling all this material and elucidating it with a convincing thesis is formidable.--Journal of Southern History

A book no serious student of the Civil War can do without.--Arkansas Historical Quarterly

A remarkable book based on stunningly exhaustive archival research . . . . Both lay readers and scholars will find this work indispensable in understanding the true nature and complexity of America's Civil War.--The Historian

Will surely invigorate discussion of guerilla conflict in the Civil War. . . . Sutherland has set the stage for further considerations on the place of guerilla warfare within American society.--Virginia Quarterly Review

A Savage Conflict is necessary reading for anyone who truly wants to understand the Civil War.--Journal of America's Military Past

The author's narrative style is neither pedantic nor theatrical, and probably about right for a scholarly work accessible to the public. . . . An excellent foundational work valuable to the Civil War or Irregular War historian, and a high mark for other scholars to match.--Military History of the West

With this masterful work, Daniel E. Sutherland has presented historians of the American Civil War with the most important single volume on the role of guerrilla warfare to appear in twenty years. Scholars of the conflict have long awaited the publication of Sutherland's definitive work and the book does not disappoint.--Common-place

The most comprehensive investigation of the topic to date. . . . Sutherland's impeccably researched study is long overdue and certain to become essential reading for anyone attempting to understand the effect of guerrillas on the Civil War and especially on Confederate defeat.--Virginia Magazine

The most comprehensive analysis of Civil War guerrilla warfare to date. . . . Intriguing. . . . Will surely captivate general readers and seasoned academics alike, as well as undergraduate and graduate students.--West Virginia History


Scholarly attention to guerrilla activity during the Civil War has expanded dramatically in recent years, with Dan Sutherland leading the charge. A Savage Conflict is a culmination of that good work, in which Sutherland makes the fullest and most compelling case yet for the pervasiveness of irregular warfare, for the many forms it took and the forces that drove it, and for its considerable impact on the course of the war, both militarily and on the home front. It's a masterful study and a major contribution to our understanding of the internal divisiveness that characterized this most uncivil of civil wars.--John C. Inscoe, coauthor of The Heart of Confederate Appalachia

Sutherland argues that the Civil War cannot be truly understood unless one examines the brutal guerrilla fighting that spread across the Confederacy and even into the Midwest. In scope and breadth, A Savage Conflict approaches the encyclopedic, stretching from Florida to Iowa. There is nothing like it in Civil War studies.--Kenneth W. Noe, Auburn University


Product Details

  • Series: Civil War America
  • Hardcover: 456 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; First edition (July 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807832774
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807832776
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,232,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
John Mosby, William Quantrill and Bloody Bill Anderson encompass most of our knowledge about guerrillas. The sack of Lawrence and understanding Missouri had a very active guerrilla war completes the picture. If you read a lot of Civil War history, you can discuss the problems caused by deserters and the battles between Unionists and Confederates in the CSA. Pushed, you might talk about guerrillas firing on shipping in the Mississippi River. Really pushed, you might mention North Carolina and/or East Tennessee as "hot spots" of guerrilla activity. After that, we have gone through our knowledge on the subject. After reading this book, you will be able to talk intelligently about this subject across the nation for the entire war.
For one book to pack so much information, be readable and have good historic sources is an accomplishment. This book manages to exceed all expectations by providing a summary with the right level of detail, in an intelligent readable format. The history hangs on a frame covering six to twelve month periods of the war in chronological order. Each part follows the development of the guerrilla war with a section of the nation during this period. The major sections are Kansas/Missouri/Arkansas, Kentucky/Tennessee, West Virginia/Virginia, Mississippi/Alabama and the Carolinas. Texas, Florida and Louisiana appear when they have something to contribute. The author adds sections, as they become part of the story. In Spring-Summer 1861, Kansas/Missouri/Arkansas, Kentucky/Tennessee, West Virginia/Virginia are the major story. This includes problems of guerrillas spilling into Iowa & Illinois from Missouri and into Ohio from Kentucky. As the war progresses, areas are added.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Few books have been written about the guerrilla fighting which was a major part of the Civil War. Most Southern civilians did not experience the war by witnessing a major battle or seeing the passage of a major army; but a huge number of these civilians did experience the work of guerrillas--both Confederate and Union--and the attempts of the U.S. army's Provost Marshal troops to suppress the Confederate guerrillas.

While there are studies of the guerrilla war in specific localities, such as "With Blood and Fire" about Middle Tennessee or books about Champ Ferguson in the Tennessee mountains or John Mosby of Virginia, this is the first contemporary book to deal with the sweep of the guerrilla war across the South.

The strength of the book is the area it covers. The weakness of the book is the area it covers. A strength because the sweep of the work introduces the reader to the extent and effect of the guerrillas; a weakness because little can be said about specific locations and leaders. This book can do an excellent job of opening eyes to a neglected part of Civil War studies and in encouraging other authors to investigate and publish about the guerrilla war in detail in specific locations.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent, scholarly book on the partisan warfare during the American Civil War. Author Sutherland contends that the Southern partisans or guerrillas ultimately exerted a negative effect of the Southern ability and resolve to wage war and thue helped bring about the South's defeat. Well, maybe, but after reading the book I tended to agree with the author.

The Confederate guerrilla bands included units with some legitimate military status like Mosby's Rangers, citizen bushwackers, and outright criminal bands using the war as justification for their activities. The problem was that their activities steadily provoked harsher and harsher Federal responses, mostly against civilians and their property. Towards the end of the war, this created a war-weariness in the South as the suffering passed the point of civilian endurance. When the main Confederate armies surrendered, there was simply no will to go on when one's farm was destroyed and there was little prospect for economic recovery.

The author vividly points out the breakdown in Confederate authorities and their ability to keep order, peace and security in Confederate territory as the war progressed. Citizens were reduced to defending themselves against Federals and Confederate partisans, taking the law into their own hands out of necessity. With impotent civil authorities, it was every man for himself, and the citizenry ultimately blamed the Confederate and state governments for their predicament. Everything became extremely localized, and sending men away to fight the Yankees was not an option with raiders and troublemakers on the prowl near one's own home. Desertions also increased in the main Confederate armies as soldiers returned home to defend their families and homes.
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Format: Hardcover
Daniel E. Sutherland
University of North Carolina, 2009
Hardback, $35.00, 435 Pages, Illustrations, Maps, Notes, Bibliography

Irregular, or guerrilla, operations played a prominent role in several theaters of the War Between the States. Although they were most conspicuous in Missouri and Kansas, guerrillas operated in virtually every Southern state, from the mountains of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina to the swamps of Florida and Louisiana. The number of Union and Confederate guerrillas and quasi-guerrillas reached perhaps as high as 25,000. In retrospect, their actions had little effect on the campaigns of the regular armies, but they certainly contributed to a brutalization of the war-devastating as they did portions of the South and bringing terror and misery to large numbers of noncombatants. Two of the principal areas of guerrilla operations were the Missouri-Kansas region and Virginia. Guerrilla activities in the former region were an extension of the violence that had erupted there in the 1850s, when Missouri Border Ruffians and Kansas Jayhawkers terrorized the region. At the outbreak of the War Between the States, Missouri Governor Claiborne Jackson advocated secession and the attachment of his state to the infant Confederacy. These actions prompted Kansas Jayhawkers to invade Missouri to protect their state's eastern border. Senator James Lane, along with other Border War veterans such as Charles Jennison and James Montgomery, led Jayhawker bands that roamed throughout wetern Missouri, committing depredations against both secessionists and neutral civilians alike.
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