The Effectiveness Of Irregular Warfare

Since irregulars were predominantly used by the Confederacy, the obvious point is that they did not save the South from defeat, but a closer look reveals that they both helped and hindered the war effort.

Guerrilla warfare in the "Bleeding Kansas" era helped draw the United States into civil war, creating an atmosphere of bitter and divisive lawlessness that made descent into open warfare all the easier. In the eyes of African Americans the most significant contribution would be that of the Kansas Jayhawkers, who led hundreds, perhaps thousands of slaves to freedom in

Jayhawkers

A Union foraging party returning from the countryside shortly after the capture of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on May 7,1862. Ttie men had endured a long boat voyage and were eager for fresh food. They found easy pickings in the poorly defended region, but such conduct hurt them in the long run by turning local sympathy in favor of the guerrillas. (Frank Leslie's illustrated Newspaper)

Kansas. Generally, however, Union guerrillas and partisans had less of an impact than their Rebel counterparts. Their greatest legacy was the creation of the state of West Virginia, which came into being in 1863 in Virginia's predominantly Unionist western hill country after a determined guerrilla campaign backed by political pressure.

Few of the Confederate guerrilla bands in any of the three theaters had any effect on the war's ultimate outcome, beyond lengthening it and adding greatly to its material and human cost. It is clear that it was guerrillas from Arkansas who were largely responsible for the failure of the Union campaigns to take Little Rock in 1862 and Camden in 1864. However, those in the Ozarks - and the Louisiana bayou country - generally achieved little other than creating lawless regions that required both sides to expend men and resources in order to protect civilians and fight groups that were often little better than bandits. While also adding to civilian misery, the Bushwhackers in Missouri were the elite of the Confederacy's guerrillas; they pinned down Union forces, keeping them from launching sufficiently iarge invasions into southern Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. Irregular warfare gave secessionist civilians in Union-occupied areas a chance to actively support the Confederacy, boosting their morale; but some guerrilla bands spread only suffering and chaos, and ultimately cost the South the support of many civilians.

The impact of the partisan rangers is more obvious. Mosby hampered Hooker's Army of the Potomac during the Chancellorsville campaign in 1863, and slowed his response later that year during the Gettysburg campaign. Forrest's brilliant victory at Brice's Crossroads did not stop Sherman's drive into Georgia, but it did slow the Union advance into Alabama and Mississippi. The necessity for the Union army to build blockhouses and devote large numbers of men to guarding towns, railroads, and supply depots had a definite effect on the

A Union foraging party returning from the countryside shortly after the capture of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on May 7,1862. Ttie men had endured a long boat voyage and were eager for fresh food. They found easy pickings in the poorly defended region, but such conduct hurt them in the long run by turning local sympathy in favor of the guerrillas. (Frank Leslie's illustrated Newspaper)

Union's ability to launch major offensives. An argument can be made that the daring exploits of Forrest, Mosby, Morgan, and other cavalry raiders were a wasted effort, having little overall impact while denying the regular Confederate army of some of its best horsemen. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that their raids gave the South reason for hope when most news was bad. Morale, both of the army and the civilian population, is as important a part of any war effort as generals and munitions, and it is in this area that the partisan rangers had perhaps their greatest impact.

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