The American Civil War had many faces. The first and most familiar was the conventional struggle between the Confederate and Union armies, a conflict that was fought under the authority of national governments, conducted by commissioned officers and organized forces, and, in theory at least, waged according to a recognized code of conduct. This dimension of the war has been treated in hundreds of accounts of campaigns, battles, mobilization, army organization, command, strategy, politics, and diplomacy.
A second face of the war was the unorganized conflict between Unionist and secessionist partisans. This struggle pitted region against region, community against community, and members of the same community against each other. It was decentralized, local, and often surprisingly detached from the conventional war, and its character varied from place to place. In Middle Tennessee secessionists formed partisan bands to deter the Unionist minority from challenging Confederate rule and fought an increasingly effective war of sabotage and ambush against Federal forces. In many parts of North Carolina loyalists encouraged desertion, harbored draft evaders, harassed Confederate authorities, resisted conscription, and fought against the state militia and Confederate troops. In Missouri Confederate guerrillas fought a savage war against Unionist partisans and Federal troops. And in parts of Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia loyalist and secessionist partisans harassed enemy troops, spread dissent, and battled each other for political control. This second dimension of the Civil War was seemingly less honorable and more brutal than the conventional war. Yet it was equally important in determining the loyalties of thousands of communities, the fate of the Union, and the shape of postwar Southern politics and society. 1
The relationship between the conventional war and the partisan conflict was complex. Both Confederate and Union officers condemned guerrilla violence as criminal and dishonorable, and they were frequently appalled at the viciousness and recklessness of their partisan allies. Yet both sides also tolerated the operations of friendly guerrillas and employed partisan bands when it suited their