Jul 11, 2019 in Book Review

Brownlee, Richard. Gray Ghosts of the Confederacy: Guerilla Warfare in the West, 1861-1865

The book entitled Gray Ghosts of the Confederacy: Guerilla Warfare in the West, 1861-1865 was authored by Richard Brownlee and it was the only book written by him. The book falls under the history category and it was published by Louisiana State University Press in 1986. The book is non fiction as its contents comprise of facts and realties that forms part of the history.

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The civil war started when people least expected any chaos and destruction that would last for years between 1861 and 1865. United States was tormented by the civil war and despite the massive efforts by the large armies to try and take control of the eastern board and the Mississippi Valley, areas west of Mississippi that were vast with light settlement got wracked by continued guerilla war fare and insurrection. The history of guerrillas of the western confederate began long before 1861 civil war in the state of Missouri prompting union stationing of thousand of troops by the Union army to attempt to curb the escalating turmoil caused by the guerrillas.

First and foremost Brownlee introduces his book with the theme of loyalty and disloyalty and the first presentation showing elements of disloyalty is evident in the sates newly elected governor Claiborne Jackson whom during his campaigns made his fellow statesmen and his countrymen into believing that he was an anti-secessionist and after his election he hoped that the state of Missouri would then join the confederacy. This then, made Jackson to refuse to send an order of troops from Missouri in which was one of the Union states as requested by then the president Lincoln and this is attributed to his believe that the state did not support the union at all.  His action would later force him to flee Missouri giving way for Gamble Hamilton to be appointed as the provisional governor of the state and these events made the residents of Missouri to feel betrayed and abandoned.

Brownlee book also reveals that Missouri and Kansas states had shared much animosity in the years that preceded the civil war and that Kansas a state fast union sates utilized the opportunities that war presented to invade Missouri towns as union army representatives. Despite the fact that many guerilla band received aid from the confederacy they never considered themselves as part and parcel of the civil war cause and this is evident by what Bill Anderson says “I am a guerrilla. I have never belonged to the Confederate Army, nor do my men. I have chosen guerrilla warfare to revenge myself for wrongs that I could not honorably avenge otherwise". As it regards to the context, by being treated wrong he implies the killing of his parents and the imprisonment of his sisters and the book critically analyses the events that happened as the civil war unveiled in Missouri.

 In his analysis it evident that Missourian during the civil war was torn into two rivalry between those loyal to the Union and those loyal to the confederate states and to illustrate further on how Missourians faced the war,  the author of the book uses people, like Bloody Bill Anderson, George Todd and William Quantrill. Therefore it comes out clear that being a Missourian at the time of the civil war was very hard to decide on which side to be loyal to and this is clearly shown by the example given regarding the burning of Lawrence. State of Missouri was then attacked from all sides including the Union soldiers, the guerrilla, confederates as well as the Jayhawkers who strongly believed that people of Missouri were not loyal to the Union.

The book reveals how the Missourians were treated badly especially buy the guerrillas who taught they were defending the state while in fact were causing more harm than good. Guerillas would kill a man, burn his house as well as destroy his place of work but leave women with dire consequences with having to put up without a man to take care of her, without a place to live and without a place to earn a living. On the other hand the Union soldiers would also come to Missouri destroying towns and kill helpless people without ant sound reason and such incidents like destruction of town of Osceola made guerilla groups like the Quantrill’s to revolt against the Union soldiers. In the end the guerillas lost their live and survivors were chased down, killed and arrested because of their acts at war and in conclusion the author says “In a few years only a few men remained of those who had followed Quantrill, Anderson and Todd. In doing so the author wanted to put his put across that whether the actions of these guerillas were bad or good they did make a critical contribution to the civil war.

The book succeeds in delivering its purpose as the author uses heavy documentation with footnotes wherby it source heavily relies on primary sources like news papers as well as on the accounts of the time . The book unlike most of other civil war books that only covers the big battles, the eats and south, it also covers the Kansas/Missouri border wars that occurred way before the civil war. Moreover the books also gives an unbiased accounts of the longest, bloodiest and significant part of the civil war and thus takes a very objective view of what happened as well as the atmosphere, politics, people and power struggles that prevailed at the time.     

He also utilizes secondary sources that date back to 1900’s and these is coupled with interwoven accounts of the civil war yielding a vivid image of the time. In addition to that the author also use personal conversation like the ones with William Quantrill and bloody bill Anderson and this serve to representing Lazaras-esque scholastic resurrections of the civil war.  In addition to that the author succeeds in giving credit his charters with personal responsibilities and he achieve this by seeking to praise or condemn them where he sees deem fit and this has given the author unbiased opportunity o present both the contextual factor that shape the guerillas as well as the decisions that were made hence shaping the history. In my own opinion I fine the author of this book to be opinionated and most of his judgments are limited to speculative ethics as opposed to falling under the political demarcations.

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