- Series: Civil War America
- Hardcover: 456 pages
- Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; New edition edition (July 1, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0807832774
- ISBN-13: 978-0807832776
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #461,941 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War (Civil War America) New edition Edition
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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
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
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
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 Savage Conflict is necessary reading for anyone who truly wants to understand the Civil War.--Journal of America's Military Past
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 welcome addition to the literature on guerilla warfare in America.--Intelligence Service Europe Newsletter
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
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
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
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Attempting to cover the entire guerilla conflict, from Missouri to Virginia, Texas to Florida, Sutherland shows that there was often conflict between the Southern public and the Confederate government. From the start of the war, southerners often argued in favor of guerilla fighting as a way to defeat the north, likening themselves to the colonists who had defeated the British during the American Revolution. In fact, several Southern guerilla leaders were called "the Swamp Fox of the Confederacy", thus comparing Civil War leaders to Revolutionary guerilla hero Francis Marion. The Confederate government, however, was not so sold and tried to reign in the partisans throughout the war. And even when the Confederacy raised official partisan outfits, they found many soldiers wanted to join units closer to home, thus diminishing the number of men in the main theaters of the war. The Union response helped in this respect. Unionists were just as vicious as their rebellious neighbors. Furthermore, Union generals and soldiers had no clue how to deal with the Confederate guerillas and struggled with fighting guerillas while also maintaining the goodwill of the people and protecting supply lines. Often times, Union generals and soldiers treated guerillas and civilians harshly, causing animosity among Confederates. So while some southerners became disaffected with the war due to the guerilla fighting, others used the Union response as a reason to keep fighting.
There is much to like about Sutherland's book. Simply put, it is the best one volume history of guerilla fighting during the Civil War. Sutherland has managed to pack information about the guerilla conflict from the Eastern Theater to the Western Theater using a variety of sources, yet kept it highly readable and understandable. You would almost expect to get lost with all the names and details, but somehow Sutherland manages to keep it all coherent. Much of that is due to his writing style, but credit should also be given for breaking the book in to chronological sections. The only thing this reviewer can think to complain about is Sutherland's assertion that guerilla fighting was decisive in the outcome of the Civil War. While he does make a solid case for guerilla fighting as a factor in the eroding of support for the Confederacy, I was not convinced that guerilla warfare was decisive by any means. If the South wins the Battle of Gettysburg, I am not so sure guerilla fighting in Missouri has much of an effect on the outcome of the war. In this way, I think Sutherland falls in to the trap of writing knowing that the Confederacy has lost and is trying to figure out why they lost.
In the end, though, this is really a small critique. This is a great achievement by Sutherland and is a book that all students of the Civil War should read. Going beyond Quantrill and Bloody Bill, Sutherland shows us that guerilla fighting was pervasive and affected many more people than we have previously thought. Highly recommended.
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.
Some states were worse than others, but the whole Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department was effectively paralyzed and Northern Texas, Northern Arkansas and Missouri were no mans' land. Tennessee was overrun and devastated, and the Appalachians from Northern Alabama through Eastern Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia were brutal battlegrounds between murdering, burning and robbing bands of both sides. In fact, the author's detail recounting of all this brutality sometimes made for depressing reading.
The author discussed most of the principal bands of Confederate partisans as well as some on the Federal side like the Red Legs. After the was was over most surrendered, but some simply disappeared. No doubt many met ignominious ends in the Western states under assumed names.
All in all, this book is extremely valuable in depicting a war that is often overlooked. The author's thesis appears fully justified, once again proving that a soldier will not fight well hundreds of miles from home when he knows his family and home are subject to brutal predators and there is no one providing protection. In a sense, democracy became too local, and the Confederacy died as a result. Security is first and foremost the government's responsibility, and a government that cannot provide it is soon abandoned by its citizenry. Our current government should keep this lesson in mind, -- particularly as long as the 2nd Amendment continues in force.
I recommend this book most heartily to all those interested in the American Civil War.
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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Daniel E. Sutherland
University of North Carolina, 2009
Hardback, $35.Read more