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Inside War: The Guerrilla Conflict in Missouri During the American Civil…

de Michael Fellman

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During the Civil War, the state of Missouri witnessed the most widespread, prolonged, and destructive guerrilla fighting in American history. With its horrific combination of robbery, arson, torture, murder, and swift and bloody raids on farms and settlements, the conflict approached total war, engulfing the whole populace and challenging any notion of civility. Michael Fellman's Inside War captures the conflict from "inside," drawing on a wealth of first-hand evidence, including letters, diaries, military reports, court-martial transcripts, depositions, and newspaper accounts. He gives us a clear picture of the ideological, social, and economic forces that divided the people and launched the conflict. Along with depicting how both Confederate and Union officials used the guerrilla fighters and their tactics to their own advantage, Fellman describes how ordinary civilian men and women struggled to survive amidst the random terror perpetuated by both sides; what drove the combatants themselves to commit atrocities and vicious acts of vengeance; and how the legend of Jesse James arose from this brutal episode in the American Civil War.… (més)
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Reactions to reading this in 1991.

This was, at times, an interesting book. The title suggests the book’s emphasis on psychology and sometimes Fellman's use of formal psychological terms was rather annoying and belabored. Fellman wants to show how the participants felt about Missouri’s vicious, varied guerrilla war, but that emphasis on psychological themes leaves the book with no narrative structure and, at times, a tough read.

The book’s best parts are the extensive contemporary quotes which give a sense of time, language, and character. They show the many sided aspects of the war: the revenge and mercy, forgiveness and grudges, retaliation and counter-retaliation, and paranoia and insecurity. Through sheer volume, you get an impression of the horror of this bit of American history.

I did see two faults -- both areas outside of Fellman’s purpose for the book. I wished for a statistical breakdown on the frequency of various responses to the guerrilla war since there were so many contradictory ones. The second was that Fellman constantly emphasized how effective the Confederate guerrilla campaign was -- and he seems to scorn Confederate leaders who refused to acknowledge its effectiveness -- without telling us how much it cost in Union men or its effect on union operations in Missouri or how many men could have been re-deployed if the guerrilla war hadn’t been fought. ( )
  RandyStafford | Nov 19, 2012 |
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During the Civil War, the state of Missouri witnessed the most widespread, prolonged, and destructive guerrilla fighting in American history. With its horrific combination of robbery, arson, torture, murder, and swift and bloody raids on farms and settlements, the conflict approached total war, engulfing the whole populace and challenging any notion of civility. Michael Fellman's Inside War captures the conflict from "inside," drawing on a wealth of first-hand evidence, including letters, diaries, military reports, court-martial transcripts, depositions, and newspaper accounts. He gives us a clear picture of the ideological, social, and economic forces that divided the people and launched the conflict. Along with depicting how both Confederate and Union officials used the guerrilla fighters and their tactics to their own advantage, Fellman describes how ordinary civilian men and women struggled to survive amidst the random terror perpetuated by both sides; what drove the combatants themselves to commit atrocities and vicious acts of vengeance; and how the legend of Jesse James arose from this brutal episode in the American Civil War.

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