The South and the Guerilla Option

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    In the War Between the States, did the South even ponder guerilla fighting as an option after the formal surrender? I’ve always wondered this, and I’ve never been able to find any good information about it. There’s some that say President Davis called for it in a roundabout way, and I’ve even heard that he gave Gen. Lee a direct command to disperse his men to the hills if defeat was imminent. Any truth to those claims?

    It seems to me that maybe if the South carried on with a couple years of partisan fighting they may have won their independence. Thoughts?



    Jefferson Davis said that the South would fight to the “last ditch,” and it was openly discussed after the administration fled Richmond in 1865. The War Department considered the move, and various Confederate detachments surrendered long after Lee at Appomattox, the most famous being the Cherokee General Stand Waite in June 1865. I am not sure if a prolonged guerrilla campaign would have achieved victory. The U.S. Government considered anti-Republican efforts during Reconstruction to be a bushwhacking effort. I don’t think Southern morale was high enough in 1865 to support a longer open struggle.


    There is good discussion of this question in Gary Gallagher’s THE CONFEDERATE WAR. Prof. Gallagher explains why it was extremely unlikely that President Davis would adopt this approach early in the war. Of course, by the time Davis decided on it, it was too late.

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