Bushwhackers: Guerilla Warfare, Manhood, and the Household in Civil War Missouri.
The book is arranged around specific arguments and themes rather than a chronological narrative, so readers unfamiliar with the characters and events discussed may struggle to place the evidence in historical context or to form clear lines of causation. The first three chapters lay the framework of the argument, outlining the contention that the strategy, tactics, and logistics of guerilla warfare were products of the gendered roles, relationships, and identities of the antebellum household. The strength of Beilein's research is evident in this section, which uses census data, provost marshal records, and guerilla memoirs to piece together 122 separate rebel households, and then divides them into two distinct groups organized around bonds of kinship in resistance to Union occupation. Describing these groups as the "Fristoe" and "Holtzclaw" systems of warfare, Beilein persuasively demonstrates how these distributed networks of autonomous households were effectively connected by family bonds and shared notions of deference and hospitality and fulfilled reciprocal needs of protection, logistics, and intelligence gathering across a guerilla band's area of operations, satisfying both military and social necessities.
The remainder of the book addresses the material culture of guerilla society, analyzing both the practical uses and social meanings of food, clothing, horses, armaments, and rituals of remembrance. Beilein demonstrates how the domestic production and agricultural labor of women were sufficient to keep the guerillas adequately fed and clothed, negating the necessity for pillaging beyond retribution against anti-Southern households and communities. More important, by providing for the logistical needs of the fighters, women became active participants in the guerilla system and reinforced mutual social bonds and obligations. In addition, Beilein argues the guerillas' choices to be mounted and to adopt the Colt revolver were due not only to military advantages of mobility and firepower but were also products of a "horse culture" and notions of martial masculinity that valued individual skill and courage as markers of manhood.
Perhaps Beilein's greatest contribution in Bushwhackers is his attempt to analyze guerilla warfare through a gendered lens, which challenges conventions within military history and shows clearly in his endnotes and bibliography. His secondary sources center on a constellation of social and gender history scholars like Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Amy S. Greenberg, Nancy F. Cott, Kathleen M. Brown, Stephanie McCurry, John Mack Faragher, and his mentor LeeAnn Whites. These sources give him excellent scaffolding for theorizing about a system of family- and community-based warfare, one that both contrasts with and complements social histories of conventional forces like Edward Coffman's. For scholars of counterinsurgency, this book may prove a useful case study on how irregular forces can subsist and succeed outside conventional logistical networks and a cautionary note on developing strategies to combat insurgencies at the household or community level.
While Beilein's research is thorough and convincing, and his thematic chapters will have topical interest to scholars beyond the field of military history, his characterizations of both Union and Confederate regulars in the broader conflict are likely to draw criticism. In an effort to emphasize the culture of masculine individuality that guerillas embraced, he casts the regular soldier broadly as its antithesis, where the relationship between soldier and firearm "corroded his identity as a man" (152). He crafts an elaborate contrast between the yeoman farmer of the South, who mastered the land and his weapon as signs of his manhood and independence, against factory workers and regular soldiers, who existed as unskilled and timid cogs in the hierarchical machinery of industrial warfare.
If military discipline and distance from family are what distinguish the regular soldier from the guerilla, it must be considered a difference of degree rather than one of type. Soldiers in the Union and Confederate armies remained individuals and maintained reciprocal bonds with their families and communities that profoundly shaped their experiences, a reality broadly reflected in the literature of the conflict. Simplifications of the regular military experience like this occasionally betray Beilein's shallow dive into conventional military history beyond Missouri, but within his field of expertise and the scope of his primary argument, Bushwhackers is a welcome addition to the historiography of the American Civil War.
By Joseph M. Beilein Jr.
Reviewed by CPT David Krueger, Scholar of American History, Harvard University, with Dr. Walter Johnson, Winthrop Professor of History, Professor of African and African American Studies, and Director, Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, Harvard University
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|Title Annotation:||MILITARY HISTORY|
|Author:||Beilein, Joseph M.|
|Date:||Dec 22, 2016|
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