Legalities of Hit and Run Tactics
It has been said that if one had made themselves a good citizen in society, they likewise would make for themselves a good soldier; yet the army can not make a good soldier out of a bad citizen. War itself breeds chaos and the American Civil War followed suit solely by the human nature involved in creating it. The end of the political solution generated the organized armies to meet in the field enforcing the policy they were employed for. Still others had used the same political circumstances to wage war of their own and in their own fashion.
The term assigned these small factions of raiders was guerilla from the Spanish word guerra war, translated petty war. Marauders according to common law not only of war but of every society; armed robbers, of whom everyone would have the human right to arm and defend themselves against.
Many of these parties had developed quite a reputation for themselves, resulting in both governments seeking means of arresting the embarrassment on their names. On August 21, 1863 an enormous group of horseman assembled under William C. Quantrill raided Lawrence, Kansas murdering more than two hundred of its citizens and burning it to the ground upon riding out. An act the Confederate Government did not endorse nor help finance. Quantrill's men rode under self constitution whose mission was to murder or plunder and had the flexibility of being disbanded and re-organized upon the will of its leader.
William T. Anderson, or "Bloody Bill" had found his father murdered upon returning home from a trip in Kansas and began his murdering spree of Federals not long after. Riding at first with William Quantrill, he later formed his own band of guerillas in 1864 with both Frank and Jesse James. He became perhaps the most feared of guerilla showing no mercy to those bearing allegiance to the Union.
The Partisan, soldiers armed and wearing the uniform of their army were by definition detached from the main body and acting solely under instructions of a chain of command. Colonel John S. Mosby had won the recognition of General Robert E. Lee's cavalry commander, Major General JEB Stuart and provided a chain of command, placing his men under the protection of being treated as a prisoner of war, if captured. He was granted permission to organize his partisan rangers in January of 1863 and operated mostly out of the Loudon Valley in Northern Virginia.
In the 1860s warfare was still recognized as one governmental body at odds with another, and yet perhaps it had been changing into something far uglier. Outlaws and bandits exploiting the miserable circumstance of war and approving for themselves a license to murder and destroy. Partakers of brutality no civilized guideline could readily define but that of desperado. There end, if cornered or captured, as most were, would be to taste the same violent death their career in the field dished out; to be pumped up with lead or dangling from the end of a rope.
Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at firstname.lastname@example.org