Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

LeRoy P. Graf

Committee Members

S. J. Folmsbee, Ralph W. Haskins


Preface: President John F. Kennedy, in a speech to the 1962 graduating class at West Point, mentioned a type of warfare which has become particularly important today. He observed:

"This is another type of warfare--new in its intensity, ancient in its origin-- war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins-- war by ambush instead of combat, by infiltration instead of aggression--seeking victory by eroding and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him."1

This study proposes to examine the Civil War in East Tennessee in the light of what we know about unconventional warfare today. As the name unconventional would imply, the records of such activities are scarce. As a result, many of the fact have had to be pieced together from local histories, memoirs, letters, newspaper accounts, and stores told by the descendants of a number of participants. Most of their stores have lost nothing in the retelling over the several generations which have elapsed since the Civil War; verification is impossible. Use of such stories has been limited to assisting the author in attempting to get a feeling for the times.

This study will employ some of the terms and ideas which are specifically the tools of the military historian. These are likely to be unfamiliar to the reader not intimately associated with them. Hence it seems advisable to have available definitions of some of the more important terms. Appendix I contains a glossary of these terms which are especially related to unconventional warfare and which will be used in this study.

There is still a controversy among historians as to the type of conflict that was fought between 1861 and 1865. But there is no doubt about the fact that it was a war, and, for the purpose of this study, war may be defined as ". . . a violent interaction between two organized political groups (governments or otherwise)."2 Warfare is a particular variety of military activity involving specific forces, weapons, or tactics. It need not employ all of a participant's capability, nor is it necessary for that part which is employed to conform to any specific proportion or to be used according to any set pattern. Any war may be fought by using any form of warfare to the degree which each antagonist assumes will result in victory for his particular cause. Unconventional warfare may be defined as that method of warfare used by the indigenous people of an area in opposition to an enemy occupying force.3 The effort is usually supported and directed from outside the zone of conflict by a government friendly to those who are resisting. In unconventional warfare there are three major components: guerrilla activities, evasion and escape, and subversion. The technical requirements of all three have a common basis, and in Appendix II are discussed in detail from the point of view of guerrilla operations.

This study is divided into six chapters. In the first, unconventional warfare is related to the Civil War background with attention to the problem of its legitimacy as a method of warfare. In the succeeding three chapters, unconventional warfare, as it unfolded in East Tennessee between 1861 and 1865, is presented in some detail. Chapter two sets the background and ends with Colonel S. P. Carter's raid in early 1861. Chapter three continues the narrative through General Ambrose Burnside's successful occupation of Knoxville in late 1863. The fourth chapter considers the remaining years of the war. Chapter five is devoted to escapes involving East Tennessee throughout the war. The concluding chapter summarizes the war in East Tennessee from the viewpoint of unconventional warfare.

I wish to express my sincere thanks to all of those who have helped and encouraged me in this undertaking. My special thanks to Professor LeRoy P. Graf who directed this study and to Professors Stanley J. Folmsbee and Ralph W. Haskins who patiently gave their time and valuable suggestions. However, for the final product I must assume full responsibility.

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