A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War

In This Review

A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War
By Daniel E. Sutherland
University of North Carolina Press, 2009
456 pp. $35.00
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The sesquicentennial of the onset of the American Civil War will arrive in 2011; this engagingly written and beautifully researched study of the role of guerrilla warfare in the conflict will serve as a helpful antidote to the sentimentality and nostalgia sure to attend the event. For historians, A Savage Conflict opens a new window onto the Civil War, portraying the anarchy and conflict that gradually enveloped the South and showing why, once the Confederates' major armies were defeated in the field, neither the Confederate government nor its supporters were willing to fight on as guerrillas. For students of contemporary politics, Sutherland's dispassionate but horrifying study of partisan warfare in the United States will illuminate many of the challenges faced by modern militaries and diplomats in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. Sutherland's sober depiction of the moral and human costs of such conflicts, as well as his accounts of the terrifying rapidity with which civil peace disintegrated as anarchy spread, provides much food for thought.