The U.S. Civil War Almost Became an Iraq-Style Insurgency


Categorie: History |

civil-war-002.jpgDuring the U.S. Civil War from 1861-1865, Missouri — out on the fringes of the conflict — was a guerrilla battleground. Jay Winik describes the fighting in his book April 1865:

Union soldiers hunted down the guerrillas like animals, and in return, they, too, eventually degenerated into little more than savage beasts, driven by a viciousness unimaginable just two years earlier. By 1864, the guerrilla war had reached new peaks of savagery. Robbing stagecoaches, harassing citizens, cutting telegraph wires were everyday occurrences; but now it was no longer simply enough to ambush and gun down the enemy. They had to be mutilated …

As Ulysses Grant’s Union army closed in on Robert Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in early 1865, Confederate President Jefferson Davis ordered Southerners to take to the hills and turn all of America into an insurgent battleground. For a time, the country faced what Lee called “a state of affairs it would take … years to recover from.”

So the noble general, in what is surely one of the most important moments in U.S. history, decided to surrender his army rather than unleash hell — essentially overruling Davis. And Grant, in a characteristic display of pragmatism, allowed surrendering Rebels to return home with their sidearms and horses, and their dignity.

The Civil War was over … and a potentially bloody insurgency was averted.


18 Responses to “The U.S. Civil War Almost Became an Iraq-Style Insurgency”

  1. Joshua Foust says:

    Are you suggesting this might be a lessons learned?

  2. James says:

    Maybe if the Mehdi Army head-shed read the book too they would learn what they are doing is counterproductive?

    Just a thought

  3. AGray says:

    This is not quite accurate. Lee deserves credit for averting an incredible worsening of the civil war. On the other hand, the failure of Reconstruction was a mix of raw violence and politics. Sounds like insurgency to me.

  4. Michael J. McMahon says:

    What tore the country asunder was Sectionalism. What began to bring it together was the sheer brillance of those two opposing generals who refused to subject their soldiers to butcher.

  5. Jason says:

    The issue with the Iraq insurgency is that for them it is a holy war for the rest it’s just a “normal” war.

    Did you notice in the civil war picture, nobody is sitting “indian” style.

  6. Paul Hugh Reilly says:

    Often, the military & military leaders are better at solving problems than politicians are. Might does not mean right; and if you don’t learn from history, then you are doomed to repeat it.

  7. Dave says:

    “The issue with the Iraq insurgency is that for them it is a holy war for the rest it’s just a “normal” war. ”

    you’re completely wrong. We invaded Iraq illegally and with false reasons. If the exact same situation occurred in say Mexico, you would never say the insurgents were waging a holy war. Since most Iraqis are Muslim however, it’s easy and stereotypical to say; “oh they are waging holy war”. When the insurgents have never claimed they were, they simply don’t agree with the US invasion so turn to guerrilla warfare.

  8. josephdambrosio says:


  9. Where did you find this photograph? Was it taken in Missouri?

  10. mike says:

    I have been studying the Civil War for several weeks in writinf a novel. Absolutely not an expert, it seems to me that though some of the leaders on both sides, administrations and officers had clear cut philosophies on certain things such a slavery, the war was haphazard, with no clear overall military stradegy, except ‘get the enemy’. I believe that that is just one of the reasons so many lost their lives. The North ‘won’, most likely becacause of numbers and equipment produced in the industrial North. Yet NO ONE won. Only those who were left standing. There are no words that adequately describe the horror and shame of brother killing brother!

  11. I hate the war but if I was alive when it was happening then I would try to help. I love the soljers but I hate the war. I am thankfull for everyone that went out there and fought. When I think about all the people that went out there and died for other people i wish i could of done that. However I could not look into someone from my family and kill them. I would go and find a place for us to exape and help them. I think it is very sad that they where seperated and then both of them got killed. I just pray for that family and pray for every one that has gone there a war or that has had hard times because of loosing family members. I wish I could just talk to them and help them and see every thing that they have gone threw. If any of you that has been in a war reading this then please e-mail me back. I would like to know how it felt and write a story on you life and how hard it was for you if that is ok. Thank you for every thing that you have done.
    *~Hate the war love the soljers~*

  12. He says:

    they should make a civil war ga me for ps3 make it like cod mw2 except civil war style.

  13. Jeff says:

    Iraq – it goes way back. They have for years (100′s) sought the power to bring us down. It is what the Muslim religion calls for….bring the disbelievers into the flock or destroy them if they don’t give in…don’t pray for them but annihilate them. Don’t forget about the huge numbers of Christians in that part of the world who were Christians for just as long.
    The Civil War….It had to happen, the States were splitting apart years before and there was a right thing to do. If the South hadn’t took Fort Sumter, Lincoln probably would have been able to stave it off. It was an irrational thing to do on the South’s behalf but it happened and it was dealt with properly.

    You can’t not fight if it’s the right thing to do because you are worried about getting hurt. We can’t forget that we have to fight sometimes.

  14. Robert says:

    The Photograph Above is from the First Regiment Michigan Engineers and Mechanics, Roughly Spring 1862. Army of the Ohio. And with the education I have, you wouldn’t have the right to speak. The English were selling guns and stuff to both sides, but if the South had won, They would have swooped in and took back over. Just thought you’ld like to know.

  15. Paco Wrong says:


  16. George says:

    The faded fellow lying on the right looks like he got up during the exposure and walked over to the rifles to strike a dashing pose as a slightly faded sergeant.

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