top of page

'The Good, the Bad or the Ugly': the Rise and Fall of the Confederate Irregular Forces'

Philip Lewis gave the final Round Table talk of the year at the National Army Museum. This concentrated upon the activities of Morgan's Raiders, Mosby's Rangers and Quantrill's Raiders.

In May 1861, there was concern with Jefferson Davis' strategy which, to many, resulted in the Confederate army being spread too thin. A Captain Radford wrote to Robert E. Lee offering to raise a force of 1000 men if the Confederate Government could arm them; the letter was passed to Jubal Early who filed it. 'Me Virginia Dispatch in the same month urged the formation of Confederate guerrilla bands.

American Civil War Round Table UK / Battles & Campaigns / Confederate Irregular

In 1862, the Partisan Rangers Act was passed. Partisans could now sell all the arms and munitions they captured to the Confederate Government. The Confederate military however, was split on the issue. Lee considered them to be an evil. Mosby did not. The Act was repealed in 1864.

Philip described the operations of John Singleton Mosby, formerly a lawyer, whose actions were confined to a small area in Virginia. At one time captured by the Union forces, Mosby was later exchanged. He had a cruel streak in him. When Custer had some captured Partisans executed, Mosby retaliated in kind, executing captive Union troops. Mosby displayed audacity too, and was one of the last Partisans to surrender in June 1865.

John Hunt Morgan on the other hand was an idealist. Morgan was a man who liked luxury, hotels. The good life - while his men would camp in cold fields, near to mutiny.

Philip described some of Morgan's raids including the 'Great Raid' of 1863 where he came unstuck. Starting with about 2400 men, eventually 700 were captured and only 320 made it back across the Ohio river. Eventually Morgan was captured and imprisoned. First In the Ohio State Penitentiary and then later at Camp Douglas. He escaped from there and in late 1864 was staying at the Williams House in Greenville, where he was shot down by Andrew J. Campbell, formerly one of his band but who had deserted and joined the Union forces.

Philip then turned his attention to another sector, the Missouri-Kansas border, and another group. They were not Partisans but were bushwhackers led by William Clark Quantrill. Pro-Union forces included the Jennison Jayhawkers and fearsome characters such as Senator Jim Lane and Jim Montgomery. Quantrill moved to Missouri and at 16 was a schoolteacher before getting involved in rustling. Little is known of Quantrill. Barely two dozen letters survived and, according to Philip, all known photos of Quantrill have been altered.

Quantrill had been pro-North and then pro-South - but not out of conviction. Philip described Quantrill's activities and those of his lieutenants such as George Todd, Little Archie Clement, Bloody Bill Anderson and David Pool. Philip referred to one redeeming feature of Quantrill and his band - women were to be honoured. Early on, even prisoners were paroled. Following the death of one of Bill Anderson's sisters, however and crippling of another, occurring in the collapse of a house where they were being held by *Union forces, the attitude changed to one of 'no quarter'. Bloody Bill Anderson, described as psychopathic, was killed in 1864 and found to have 53 knots on his silk cord.

Philip described in some detail the infamous raid in August 1863 on Lawrence where nearly 200 died, and Bloody Bill's 1864 Centralia raid. Philip concluded his thought - provoking talk with a detailed description of Quantrill's own violent death.

Illustrating his talk with well-chosen slides, Philip also brought to the meeting two pieces from his militaria collection, a Remington Navy 36 and Colt. 44 (1860 new model). A lively question and answer session followed.


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page