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Guerrilla War in Little Dixie: Understanding Conflict Escalation in Missouri during the American Civil War

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US Army School for Advanced Military STudies Fort Leavenworth United States

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The state of Missouri never seceded from the United States, yet the state witnessed more violence and bloodshed than almost any other state in the Union. The violence in Missouri looked little like the larger war. It devolved from conventional operations for territorial control to criminality motivated by personal grievances. The conflict deteriorated quickly in sixteen short months the war in Missouri was completely disconnected from the larger Confederate movement, leaving United States soldiers behind to impose law and order to pacify a tense populous. Tactically, these troops often failed, enforcing ill-conceived policies with ill-disciplined actions. Strategically, however, any threat of Missouri joining the rebellion had dissipated by late 1862. This study examines this escalation of violence in a region of Missouri known as Little Dixie, the agricultural nexus of the state and the area in which many believed to most resemble the south. These notions were false these preconceived notions influenced the conduct of Union soldiers and contributed to the brutal conditions of the state. By understanding the social conditions in Little Dixie on the eve of war, the political strategy of both national and state leaders toward Missouri, and the military actions taken by both sides in 1861 and 1862, this conflux of events and their connection to the deteriorating conditions becomes evident. For students of irregular war, this study demonstrates the potential consequence of misalignment between military and political policy, the dangers inherent in holding preconceived bias about any indigenous population, and the understanding that well-intended actions will have unintended consequences. These dynamics can counter-intuitively cause an occupation force to become a source of instability in itself.

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Technical Report,01 Jun 2013,31 May 2014

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DOI: 10.21236/AD1003951



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Approved For Public Release;

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