During 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.