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Friday, May 13, 2016

A history of terrorist violence from below and above in America through the Civil War

A history of terrorist violence from below and above in America through the Civil War

Martin (2012) has introduced us to two modes of terrorism: that terrorism which is directed from “above” (from the state), and that terrorism which is directed from “below” (from non-state actors). Let us take a quick overview of our own American history to examine examples and possible examples of terror in both modes. 

Even prior to the American Revolution, extremism and violence were part of American history.  George and Wilcox (1996) note the massacres and counter-massacres between Native Americans and the immigrating European settlers.  To say this violence was introduced by the Europeans would be mistaken; George and Wilcox mention the example of intertribal slaughter centuries before the arrival of the Europeans.  It would also be a mistake to focus criticism on the Native Americans, as this type of “resolution” of societal conflict is constant throughout human history.  Kittrie and Wedlock (1998) point out that it was the result of massacre of settlers by Native Americans that leads to the first rebellion in Euro-American history.

The American Revolution provides examples of both “above” terror and “below” terror.  Ultimately, this is a war of waged to secure liberty from a government that refused to honor its own system of law and guaranteed rights of citizens.  However, there were terrorist acts committed by forces aligned with the Patriot side.  Johnson (1998) estimates that at the beginning of the War, approximately one of three American (British) citizens were Tories (that is aligned with the Crown).  Johnson notes that the term “lynching” is derived from Col. Charles Lynch, whose application of 39 lashes, not hanging, to Tories became known at the time as “lynching”.  The political violence directed at Tories was intended to end their support for the Crown, or to drive them from the community.

Col. Lynch dispensed justice against Tories as the head of a irregular court.  Would you say his terror was from “above” or below”?
Can you see the continuum from guerilla war to terror in the history of the American Revolution?
Soon after the American Revolution, the issue of taxation without representation sparked violence in America yet again.  During the Whiskey Rebellion, tax collectors were subject to tar and feather.  This violence was eventually targeted at those who obeyed the excise laws as well.  Kyff (1994) describes not just these assaults, but the arrival of an anti-tax militia in Pittsburgh, which led to the citizens of that town paying off the militia with goods…including whiskey!  The Federal army in response effected mass arrest without due process and subjected the arrestees to deprivation of food and shelter.

Did the methods that the Federal army used in countering the Whiskey Rebellion constitute terrorism from above?
Should targeted attacks against government officials be considered acts of terrorism?
Is violent tax resistance a political act, or a criminal act?

Cultural clashes continued to generate violence and terrorist actions up to the Civil War period.  Just two examples include The Mormon War of 1838, (and 1857) and the Comanche-Texian wars.  As Mormons began settling in greater numbers in Missouri and Illinois, their potential political power and different religion became a perceived threat to their neighbors.  Lutz and Lutz (2005) relate how these neighbors began directing violence at the Mormon community.  Governor Boggs ordered that "the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace” (Missouri Executive Order 44, 2016).  Lest I give the impression that the Mormons were solely the victims during this time, I will point your attention to the Mountain Meadows massacre.

An even deeper cultural conflict took place on the changing border between the Comacheria and the Texas frontier.  Comanche rules of war and treatment of captives were so markedly different than the incoming Anglo settlers that atrocity was sure to follow.  A perfect example of this situation occurred at the Council House massacre (AKA Council House fight) in 1840.  Comanche chiefs met with Texian leaders for the purpose of a prisoner exchange and boundary settlement.  The Texians expected the Comanche to bring in all captives, not understanding that each chief made his own policy regarding such return.  The Texians were further enraged over the treatment of returnee Matilda Lockhart, whose nose had been burned off as a captive (there is some dispute upon this account – see critical thinking note).  The Texians had been ordered to take the chiefs hostage if the agreed upon hostages were not returned (Patterson, 2015), and the Comanche for their part were furious when the Texians attempted to take them hostage during the negotiations.  The Comanche resisted, resulting in the killing of about 30 Comanche, including all 12 chiefs.  The Comanche as a nation considered the taking of hostages during a peace council to be treachery; the Great Raid of 1840 was the Comanche response. (For an excellent fountain of source material for the frontier “wars”, I will suggest Moore’s “Savage Frontier” series).

Lockhart’s condition as a returnee has been questioned.  How important is the need to verify information before using it in study?  Did her condition play a major role in the way the Council House situation turned out?
What are similarities in Comanche attacks on settlers, The Missourians attack on the Mormons, and the Mormon’s attack on the wagon train?

Instead of trying to cover all aspects of the Civil War that may be addressed through a lens of terrorism, we will address one area of study for this time.  “Bloody Kansas” was the site of terror and guerrilla activity from before the war, but based upon the same underlying issues of sovereignty and slavery.  Bushwhackers (on the Confederate side) and Jaywalkers (on the Union side) fought their civil war in terms of terrorism, guerilla war, and just plain crime.  Keller and Jussel (2015) discuss several ways that the Union Army used to classify the different irregular Confederate units by the method in which those units fought; some fought in uniform and attacked military targets primarily, while others had various levels of organized command (down to none) and attacked civilian targets as often (or more than) military targets.  The Lieber Code was developed to give Union Army commanders guidance in dealing with irregular forces, and gave local commanders leeway in interpreting that guidance.  It needs to be emphasized that irregulars took up arms for both sides, terrorists actions were committed on both sides, and that not all irregulars undertook terrorist acts.  Kalyvas (2004) points out that violence in civil war can be looked at in two ways; with the goal of exterminating a population, or with the goal of forcing compliance upon that population.  As the Civil War continued, we see that terror acts become more commonplace, and that the level of brutality increased.  Regular army response, on both sides, to irregular operations (whether targeted at military or civilian targets) was also often brutal.  As Keller and Jussel note, motive for some irregulars was based upon revenge.   It should be considered that the goal of compliance can morph into a goal of extermination.

 Although we didn’t discuss it, can Sherman’s March, directed at civilian populations and the first modern use of “total war”, be considered as terror from above?
What is chevauchée?  How does this concept mesh with our discussion?
Bushwhackers and Jayhawkers could be armed by a government, and then raid targets of their own choosing.  When their targets were civilian in nature, was this terror from above or below?  Who was responsible for those acts?

References and suggested reading:
George, J., & Wilcox, L. M. (1996). American extremists: militias, supremacists, Klansmen, communists & others. Amherst, N.Y: Prometheus Books.

Johnson, P. (1998). A history of the American people (1st U.S. ed). New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

Kalyvas, S. N. (2004). The paradox of terrorism in civil war. The Journal of Ethics, 8(1), 97–138.

Keller, C., & Jussel, P. (2015). We had to burn out the entire county: irregular warfare in the American Civil War and its modern implications. Small Wars Journal. Retrieved from http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/we-had-to-burn-out-the-entire-county-irregular-warfare-in-the-american-civil-war-and-its-mo

Kittrie, N. N., & Wedlock, E. D. (Eds.). (1998). The tree of liberty: a documentary history of rebellion and political crime in America (Rev. ed). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Kumamoto, R. (2014). The Historical Origins of Terrorism in America: 1644-1880. Routledge.

Kyff, R. (1994). The Whiskey Rebellion. American History, 29(3), 36–43.
Lutz, J. M., & Lutz, B. J. (2005). Terrorism: origins and evolution. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Martin, G. (2012). Understanding terrorism: challenges, perspectives, and issues, 4th Edition. [VitalSource Bookshelf version].

Missouri Executive Order 44. (2016, April 29). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Missouri_Executive_Order_44&oldid=717672847

Missouri Kansas Border War and Civil War Bibliography. (n.d.). Retrieved May 13, 2016, from http://www.rockymtncivilwarrt.com/study_groups/western_MO/Jan%20Civil%20War%20Bibliography.pdf

Moore, S. (n.d.). Savage Frontier: Rangers, Riflemen, and Indian Wars in Texas, Volumes I – IV. Denton, Texas: University of North Texas Press.

Patterson, M. (2015, March 19). San Antonio’s bloody Council House Fight: 175 Years ago today. Retrieved May 13, 2016, from http://therivardreport.com/san-antonios-bloody-council-house-fight-175-years-ago-today/

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