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Monday, April 22, 2013

Lieutenant Sardius Smith on his experiences in Civil War Missouri

As I've mentioned frequently on this blog, the Civil War in Missouri quickly shifted from one of standing battles to a Confederate guerrilla campaign in the Union-occupied state. Guerrilla wars are especially brutal, and Missouri was no exception. Rebel irregulars burnt homes and used various tortures on Unionist civilians such as foot burning.

The Union soldiers assigned to suppress the insurgency became hardened as well. In 1862 Lt. Sardius Smith wrote in his diary, "We are getting quite hardened by this kind of thing, and I can go into a house with a pistol in my hand, with a smile on my face, speak politely to the ladies, ask where their men are in order that I may shoot them or take them prisoner with as much grace as though I was making a call for friendship's sake."

Anna Slayback of St. Joseph had a civilian's view when she wrote on May 9, 1862, "We Union people are very low up here. The laws are becoming more stringent on the rebels in Mo. & they must be put down. They are impudent & rejoice over our defeat. This must not be."

In a later letter she wrote, "Were the rebels a foreign foe or a stronger people, then subduing them might be called victories. But this is a family quarrel, brother against brother, & we bite & devour one another that other nations may mock & laugh at our folly."


  1. Replies
    1. It's interesting to see the term "brother against brother" was actually used at the time.


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