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History Civil War Period (1850-1877)

Inside War

The Guerrilla Conflict in Missouri During the American Civil War

by (author) Michael Fellman

Oxford University Press
Initial publish date
Mar 1989
Civil War Period (1850-1877)
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 1989
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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.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Michael Fellman is Professor of History at Simon Fraser University in Canada. He is the author of three previous books on nineteenth-century American history.

Editorial Reviews

"The best account I know of this 'inside' war--in Missouri or in any of the other border regions where it flared with lesser but still powerful intensity."--James M. McPherson, The New York Review of Books

"Fellman takes readers within the war itself....Inside War strips away the romantic nostalgia that surrounds the Missouri guerrillas on both sides."--The Kansas City Star

"If war is hell, Fellman here opens to us one of its innermost rings: a conflict breaking beyond limits, one in which Confederate guerrillas become brigands and executioners, Union soldiers become purveyors of an identical violence and civilians become helpless victims of all armed men. He depicts with power and persuasiveness an aspect of the American Civil War about which we do not ordinarily wish to think."--Gerald F. Linderman, author of Embattled Courage: The Experience of Combat in the American Civil War

"Fellman...has a both a vivid narrative gift and a respect for firsthand documentation."--The New Yorker

"The author provides a model that other historians could profitably emulate in studying other areas and aspects of the Civil War....Inside War makes an original and significant contribution, not only to its field of study, but to an understanding of the consequences paid when law and order give way to anarchy, and civilization yields to barbarism, as they did in Civil War Missouri."--Civil War Times Illustrated

"Most important....Imaginatively using the abundant civilian and military sources available, Fellman constructs a compelling analysis of the impact of Missouri's irregualr warfare on the federl military, the guerillas, and the civilian population....Engrossing."--Georgia Historical Quarterly

"A detailed and well-written narrative account of the guerilla fighting in Civil War Missouri....Fellman deserves enormous praise for this insightful look into the complicated nature of guerilla warfare among ordinary Americans."--The Maryland Historian

"Fellman takes readers within the war itself....Inside War strips away the romantic nostalgia that surrounds the Missouri guerrillas on both sides....A solidly researched, well-written book that gives a balanced account of the most traumatic, terrible years in Missouri history."--The Kansas City Star

"An original and significant contribution to the study of American history and culture. It fills in the factual background of a neglected aspect of the Civil War, the guerrilla struggle in Missouri. But in so doing it also illuminates the origins of one of our major myths, the legend of social banditry associated with Jesse James."--Richard Slotkin, Wesleyan University

"A powerful book, filled with some of the most immediate and unforgettable first-hand testimony available from nineteenth-century America. It brings the Civil War home front to life in a way no other book does, and does so with sophistication and subtlety."--Edward L. Ayers, University of Virginia