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Open Access Publications from the University of California

"[B]etween fires": Little Dixie, Missouri, during the American Civil War

  • Author(s): Harvell, Elle Evelyn
  • Advisor(s): Waugh, Joan
  • et al.

Recent historians have argued that the American Civil War was a relatively restrained conflict compared to other wars occurring concurrently. However, the irregular war in Missouri has generally been considered an exception. My dissertation addresses the nature of the war from the perspective of contemporary witnesses living in an eleven-county region located along the Missouri River plagued by guerrilla warfare and Union occupation. The local citizenry were caught between two equally unappealing foes but were most shocked by the behavior of the U.S. citizen-soldiers, occupying the region for the entirety of the war, who embraced irregular tactics and targeted local civilians in retaliation for the acts of destruction and violence meted out by Confederate guerrillas. Over the course of the war, residents grew increasingly disillusioned by soldiers’ irregular tactics and the government’s punitive policies aimed at the civilian population, and their once conservative, cooperative stance evolved into overt hostility. In the wake of the war, resident’s disillusionment caused them to identify more closely with the South and to embrace a southern regional identity symbolized by the application of the moniker “Little Dixie” to the region in the postwar period.

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