Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Midlist Writer blog, where he talks about writing, adventure travel, caving, and everything else he gets up to. He also reproduces all the posts from Civil War Horror, so drop on by!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Friendly fire in the Civil War, part 2

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, friendly fire became an increasing problem in Civil War Missouri. The happened because bushwhackers and Jayhawkers (as guerrillas were called in those days) dressed as civilians or wore the uniforms of the opposite side.

To fight the rebel bushwhackers, the Union army in Missouri soon developed a series of hand signals to deal with any approaching force. The signals were changed on a regular basis. While this was a good idea in theory, the Union militia included many Confederate sympathizers who only served because they'd been drafted. Often these rebels-in-blue would relay the current signals to local bushwhackers and they'd use them to get the drop on unsuspecting groups of militia. In my Civil War novel, A Fine Likeness, Captain Richard Addison has to deal with just such a situation.

By the end of the war, nobody trusted anybody, and so it came as no surprise that when Jesse James and his bushwhacker buddies tried to surrender on May 15, 1865, to the garrison at Lexington, they were fired upon. Jesse was shot through the chest and nearly killed. He and his friends and supporters thought this shooting to be treachery of the vilest stripe, but in reality he and the other bushwhackers were the victims of their own tactics.

Breaking the rules of war can give you an advantage, but it's a two-edged sword!

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