February 18, 2015
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March 22, 2018
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The Civil War Guerrilla

Unfolding the Black Flag in History, Memory, and Myth

Most Americans are familiar with major Civil War battles such as Manassas (Bull Run), Shiloh, and Gettysburg, which have been extensively analyzed by generations of historians. However, not all of the war's engagements were fought in a conventional manner by regular forces. Often referred to as "the wars within the war," guerrilla combat touched states from Virginia to New Mexico. Guerrillas fought for the Union, the Confederacy, their ethnic groups, their tribes, and their families. They were deadly forces that plundered, tortured, and terrorized those in their path, and their impact is not yet fully understood.

In this richly diverse volume, Joseph M. Beilein Jr. and Matthew C. Hulbert assemble a team of both rising and eminent scholars to examine guerrilla warfare in the South during the Civil War. Together, they discuss irregular combat as practiced by various communities in multiple contexts, including how it was used by Native Americans, the factors that motivated raiders in the border states, and the women who participated as messengers, informants, collaborators, and combatants. They also explore how the Civil War guerrilla has been mythologized in history, literature, and folklore.

The Civil War Guerrilla sheds new light on the ways in which thousands of men, women, and children experienced and remembered the Civil War as a conflict of irregular wills and tactics. Through thorough research and analysis, this timely book provides readers with a comprehensive examination of the guerrilla soldier and his role in the deadliest war in U.S. history.

About the Authors

Joseph M. Beilein Jr. is assistant professor of history at Penn State University, Erie. He has published articles and reviews in publications including Civil War History and The Civil War Monitor.

Matthew C. Hulbert is an assistant editor at the Kentucky Historical Society and has published articles in Civil War History, The Journal of the Civil War Era, Common-Place: The Interactive Journal of Early American Life, and Journal of the West.


"A terrifically useful and important book. The essays in this collection explain the nature and logic of guerrilla actions in the Civil War and push scholars in new directions to investigate this central problem."—Aaron Sheehan-Dean, Fred C. Frey Professor of Southern Studies at Louisiana State University

"As Civil War scholarship continues to take a darker turn to unearth more stories pertaining to death, destruction, and suffering, the chaos (or controlled chaos) of guerrilla warfare logically should be front and center in that growing trend. The scholarship presented in this volume is fresh, well-researched and provocatively presented. The Civil War Guerrilla effectively injects race, region, and memory into our collective consciousness of guerrilla warfare, and the book is a must-read for academics, students, and Civil War enthusiasts."—Brian Craig Miller, author of Empty Sleeves: Amputation in the Civil War South

"Uniformly strong essays that will change how historians think and write about the Civil War and its memory. In this exciting volume are innovative methods, new comparisons, fresh perspectives, and an unfamiliar cast of characters. Its pages preview the future directions of historical scholarship on guerrillas and irregular warfare."—Lorien L. Foote, author of The Gentlemen and the Roughs: Manhood, Honor, and Violence in the Union Army

"A quarter of a century after Michael Fellman's revolutionary reconsideration of Civil War guerrillas, this collection heralds a new generation of scholarly insurgents who again challenge current wisdom. Ranging from Virginia to the desert Southwest, diverse in methodology, and as attuned to the manufactured mythology of the black flag as to its complicated reality, The Civil War Guerrilla is a signal achievement of the conflict's sesquicentennial."—Kenneth Noe, author of Reluctant Rebels: The Confederates Who Joined the Army after 1861

"These fresh and wide-ranging essays are mandatory reading for anyone hoping to understand the complexity of the guerrilla war. By asking new questions, posing new solutions, even employing new technologies, the authors show conclusively that the irregular conflict was something more than a "side-show" of the Civil War."—Daniel E. Sutherland, University of Arkansas

"The essays included in this volume underscore the compelling nature and significance of guerrilla warfare. Historians increasingly acknowledge that irregular warfare was in fact "decisive" to the conflict; but these authors further probe the motivations, narratives and memories by the guerrillas themselves. This is a vitally important book for all historians of the Civil War era."—Lesley J. Gordon, author of A Broken Regiment: The 16th Connecticut's Civil War

"A useful and fascinating work in a...neglected field. Highly recommended."—Choice

"The essays therein offer many valuable examples of how we should think about, or even rethink, the guerrilla war.

[. . .] The second half of the book is the most comprehensive examination to date of how the

guerrilla war was, and is, remembered.

[. . .] [T]he fine essays in this volume—bookended by an excellent foreword by Phillips and equally adroit afterword by Victoria E. Bynum—will help get us much closer to some consensus [about the civilian-based guerrilla war] ."—Missouri Historical Review

"The essays are well written and researched . . . . This volume covers a wide range of topics on Civil War guerrilla warfare and is recommended for the perspectives which its essays provide on this somewhat 'shadowy' subject. That the subject is now coming into its own can only be a good thing."—Journal of America's Military Past

"The present volume [] through the rigor and merit of the scholarship on these pages, shows skeptics what modern,

innovative scholarship can be.

It contains some of the field's most innovative

scholarship and important interpretations on the irregular conflict available today.

[..] they have produced a lasting contribution

to the fast developing field of Civil War guerrilla studies"—Brian D. McKnight, Civil War Monitor

"The eight essays in this volume are based in solid and [. . .] innovative research. For readers interested in understanding why guerrillas fought, how they influenced the course of the war, and, during the postwar period, how they remembered their role in the fighting, this is a solid read."—Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"[T]he volume succeeds as a solid introduction to many of the new intellectual

approaches to the study of guerrilla warfare. [. . .] Beilein and Hulbert have assembled a nice cross section of pieces engaging new digital humanities techniques, cutting-edge memory analysis, and the multidimensional uses of cultural history. In short, this collection of essays includes some strong additions to the literature of a growing subfield."—American Historical Review

"The Civil War Guerrilla makes for essential reading for scholars interested in guerrilla warfare during the Civil War."—Journal of American History

"Here Joseph M. Beilein, Jr., and Matthew C. Hulbert offer a collection of essays that offer interesting and insightful takes on the subject of irregular war in the Civil War and make a solid contribution to this now quite well-plowed field of research."—Journal of Military History

"There are many good things to say about this edited volume. The essays are of uniformly superior quality, in terms of both the depth of the authors' research and the clarity of and precision of their writing.

[. . .] The Civil War Guerrilla is a solid collection of historical scholarship."—Journal of Southern History

"[. . .] [T]his volume's essays make an important contribution to Civil War Studies. They do so by expanding the profile of the Civil War irregular soldier and by writing a new chapter in the story of how Americans have remembered the Civil War. Moreover, they succeed in disproving mythical stereotypes of irregular warfare and introducing new ways of researching this type of combat. "—West Virginia History

"This worthy volume adds eight insightful essays on the nature of irregular war to our understanding of this complicated and often controversial subject (guerrilla warfare).

[. . .] The essays [. . .] examine various aspects of the guerrilla conflict as it was waged across the country. Collectively, they enlighten us on the motivations of the participants and the effects on local communities, participants, and the memory of the war."—Journal of the Illinoi State Historical Society

"[...] [T]his work is an important contribution and a worthy addition to the growing number of studies on this crucial, brutal aspect of the American Civil War."—Ohio Valley History

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252 Pages
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March 22, 2018
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