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The Uncivil War: Irregular Warfare in the Upper South, 1861-1865 (Campaigns and Commanders, 5) Hardcover – October 1, 2004
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In The Uncivil War, Robert Mackey writes a dissertation about the unconventional warfare in the Upper South during the American Civil War. He points out that, alongside conventional warfare, where soldiers confronted one another in opposing lines of battle, there existed a "shadow war" employing irregular strategies--hit-and-run, behind-the-lines, create-havoc-and-confusion "guerrilla" attacks.
Examining the entire spectrum of irregular warfare during the Civil War: Mackey makes a distinction between three types of tactics: guerrilla (or people's war), partisan warfare, and raiding warfare. His thesis is that, whereas such maneuvers had limited success, they were ultimately unsuccessful, and often counterproductive, in their results.
Contrary to many historians, Mackey argues that the Confederacy overtly organized and fought an irregular conflict but lost. Also in contrast to previous scholars, he argues that this unconventional war existed not as a separate conflict from the conventional conflict but as an integral but subordinate part of the overall Confederate conduct of the war.
Mackey zeroes in on such leaders as Thomas C. Hindman in Arkansas, John Singleton Mosby in Virginia, John Hunt Morgan in Kentucky (and also in Tennessee, Indiana, and Ohio), and Nathan Bedford Forrest in Tennessee."
In his description of Mosby, "the Gray Ghost of the Confederacy," Mackey writes, "Mosby was larger than life, a monster that would spring out of the darkness to attack isolated outposts and sentries and steal horses, supplies, and weapons, before fading back into the countryside."
One should remember that such encounters were often bloody and fatal; all was not swashbuckling adventure, fun and games. "War loses a great deal of romance," said Mosby, "after a soldier has seen his first battle."
Nathan Bedford Forrest (who, by the way, was born in Chapel Hill, Tenn.) was so elusive and persistent in his attack-and-destroy tactics, that the Union Army referred to him as "that devil Forrest." When asked was the secret of military success, Forrest replied, "War means killing, and the way to kill is to get there first with the most men."
Whereas most of the books written about the Civil War deal with conventional warfare fought by "regular" forces, The Uncivil War brings a fascinating perspective on "the war fought in the shadows." Mackey shows why such irregular warfare, while often annoying and sometimes highly disruptive and destructive, was ultimately a failure.
Major Robert R. Mackey, Ph.D., is a career Army officer currently working as a Strategic Plans and Policy specialist at the Pentagon. A graduate of Arkansas State University and Texas A&M University, he is a decorated veteran of Panama, Desert Storm, and Iraqi Freedom, and he taught military history at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He is a member of the Society for Military History, the Southern Historical Society, and is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and Staff College and the School of Advanced Military Studies. He devotes his free time to volunteer work at the Manassas National Battlefield and Civil War reenactments portraying a soldier of the 5th New York Infantry, "Duryee's Zouaves." His dissertation, from which The Uncivil War developed, was the top-selling dissertation in the U.S. for 2002.
Roy E. Perry may be reached at email@example.com
This is a well written and interesting account, although the picture on the cover leaves something to be desired. A very fascinating addition to material on the civil war and a fascinating topic that many will find interesting, especiall Civil War buffs and those interested in irregular warfare. The only problem is that the book should have been expanded to deal with the guerilla campaigns in Kansas and Missouri.
Seth J. Frantzman