Mississippi Marine Brigade-Intro

The Mississippi Marine Brigade – Introduction

Guerilla and partisan warfare played a significant role in the Civil War. While much of this type of conflict was between the Union and Confederate sympathizers of the Border States there was also a concentrated effort made against standard Union military operations in areas controlled by Federal forces as well. The groups participating in this type of action generally fell into two categories:

1. Individuals or small groups of “bushwhackers” that operated without government authority.
2. Partisan Rangers who were constituted of local groups that were recognized and supported to some extent by the government.

These irregular forces created enough havoc in the Union ranks that it has been estimated that nearly one third of all Union troops were involved in protecting areas away from the primary battle lines. The severity of the problem created a separation between Lincoln’s early policy of conciliation and the desire of the military leaders in the most endangered areas for more stringent measures. Eventually the problem grew large enough to require some alternative response to be considered. Regular units were detailed to counter-guerilla duty. Among the first to draw the duty was Colonel George Crook and his 36th Ohio. Crook had some experience in this field fighting Indians in the Northwest and saw the need for continuous and aggressive small unit actions to wear down the guerillas. He wisely gathered intelligence and used local Unionist to assist his efforts. The 13th Indiana also saw counter-guerilla duty in Western Virginia and proved innovative in its approach. It abandoned the main supply routes, replaced the conventional supply train with pack mules to keep pace with their off the beaten path tactics, and developed a six man patrol system that spent 10 -12 days in the field searching for potential trouble spots. Despite some local successes the problem continued to grow and saw the development of units specifically designed for this type of warfare. In Tennessee three regiments of “Gillem’s Cossacks” rose from the Unionist population, George Kirk raised two regiments in North Carolina for the same purpose, the Loudoun County Rangers were raised in Virginia, and the 1st District of Columbia Cavalry was originally raised for the counter-guerilla warfare. These units had mixed success but demonstrated the growing concern over the guerilla/partisan problem.

The situation in the west was no different. The vulnerability of the long supply lines created serious problems for the Union commanders there. Riverine operations were particularly exposed to constant guerilla harassment from the shorelines. The need for some type of deterrent was clear. The constant interdiction of river traffic by irregular forces led to the creation of the Mississippi Marine Brigade. The following will be a short history of the unit and some of its operations, followed by an assessment of their effectiveness in the first large scale counter-insurgency effort of the United States military.

Mississippi Marine Brigade (Campaign Series)


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