Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"The Uncivil War: Irregular Warfare In The Upper South, 1861-1865"

In an earlier review of Gary Ecelbarger's latest book, I praised University of Oklahoma Press's Campaigns and Commanders Series and mentioned other noteworthy Civil War-related entries. Below is a snapshot summary I wrote several years ago of Robert R. Mackey's study, volume five in the series.

Mackey's The Uncivil War: Irregular Warfare In The Upper South, 1861-1865 (Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 2004) is an important book because the author attempts to cast aside the misconceptions in the definitions and portrayal of Civil War irregular operations in modern literature and provide the reader with more useful categories for further study. Mackey clearly and intelligently differentiates between “partisans”, “guerrillas”, and “raiders” and, perhaps more importantly, is able to discuss their actions in the context of the acceptable military practices of their own time period.

The book is divided into three separate case studies. The first is a nice introduction to the evolution of guerrilla and anti-guerrilla warfare in northern Arkansas. The section detailing the measures used by the 1st Arkansas Cavalry (US) in dealing with guerrilla attacks is especially informative. Moving on to the next case, John S. Mosby’s Virginia operations and the Federal countermeasures are studied in relation to the author’s definition of partisan (as opposed to guerrilla) warfare. Raiding as a distinct form of irregular combat is covered in the third and last case study. It is discussed in the context of the Forrest and Morgan raids into Tennessee and Kentucky in 1862 and 1863.

The book's maps are underwhelming, but the explanatory notes are copious and provide much additional depth and suggestions for further inquiry. An original contribution, The Uncivil War is one of the most useful modern introductions to Civil War irregular operations.

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