Outliers, Army Deserters and Bushwackers Civil War Facts and History
Disloyalty and cowardice played an important role in the American Civil War. Pro Unionists in Southern states attacked Confederate troops and disrupted the homefront by making raids. The most notable was the raid in Bloody Madison in North Carolina. These raids and other disruptions resulted in Confederate troops being taken away from the front in order to guard the homefront. The Confederate Army (CSA) could not afford to spare any troops from the front. In addition, Bushwackers, army deserters and outliers attacked and raided supplies which also took Confederate troops away from the front.
Bushwackers were guerilla raiders who were often not in uniform. Although a few raids were organized, most raids were not. Most raids were on individual families who favored the opposing side. Bushwacking were most prevalent in Kansas and Missouri. Kansas pro-union bushwackers were called Jayhawkers. Pro-Confederate raiders followed William Quantrill and were called Quantrill raiders. The most famous Missouri pro-Confederate bushwacker was Jesse James. In the Shenadoah Valley of Virginia, Coloniel John Mosby carried out Bushwacking raids on Union troops.
Outliers were those who evaded the draft and lived outside the law and society to keep from getting caught. They included bushwackers, escaped slaves, escaped POWs, and army deserters. Bushwackers were known as Buffaloes on the coast.
Army deserters increased as raids by dissenters had an impact on the fighting men causing excessive anxiety by worrying over the safety and welfare of their wives and families. In addition, men were tired of the high death rates on the battlefield and off (disease). This caused many more to desert in both the North and South armies. Deserters were willing to risk being executed for desertion rather than take the far greater risk of dying in battle.
When opportunities arose to be excused from battles, men did so. For example, General Robert E. Lee told his men that those men who did not have shoes could stay in Virginia when the Confederate army was crossing the Potomac to take the war to the North. The results were men cast off their shoes off. Calvary troops were told that men could go home if their horse broke down. The CSA did not supply the men their horses. The men did. This resulted in many breaking down their horses on purpose so either they could remain on the road going back and forth from home or remained at home.
In the North, many soldiers refused to fight after the emancipation proclamation. They had signed up to fight for the preservation of the Union not to free the slaves.
In the South, the CSA confiscated supplies from civilians leaving a worthless iou. In addition, outliers often raided civilian homes. This created hardships on Southern civilians. For self-preservation, people began hiding food and livestock.
It soon became hard to tell who was the enemy. Many troops deserted because the CSA was as bad as the Yankees. The homeguard was vicious killing anyone they thought might be a deserter, bushwacker or other "enemy of the Confederacy" on the spot. Civilians hid deserters on both sides.