Partisan warfare is over two thousand years old. Mythification of the partisan in Western civilization started in the 19th century in Germany with works such as Die Hermannsschlacht (a theatrical play1808-09; not published until 1821), when Germanic forces defeated Roman legions in the Teutoburger Forest in 9 AD. The Germanic forces were led by Arminius. During the Napoleonic wars the author, Heinrich von Kleist, was encouraging a resistance against emperor Napoleon of France across Europe. Guerrilla warfare already raged in Spain and in parts of Europe. Now, with Napoleon’s armies in Berlin von Kleist wanted to encourage a German resistance. Another early writing on the type of the partisan occurred first in Scotland and then in the American South.
The culture of the partisan and guerrilla was widespread in the South before the war between the South and the North. In the nineteenth century the South had a growing culture and admiration for the partisan warrior, a heritage from the American Revolution (see such Southern periodicals as Southern Literary Messenger, Southern Quarterly Review and DeBow’s Review).
Sir Walter Scott’s Rob Roy (which is based on Rob Roy MacGregor Campbell, who led a Scottish uprising against the English in 1715) was one ideal partisan figure.
Another important author Beverly Tucker of Virginia published many novels on partisan fighters including The Partisan Leader (1836).
Famed South Carolina author William Gilmore Simms was also influential. He wrote a series of seven novels beginning with The Partisan in 1835, which glorified the Southern guerrillas of the American Revolution (note the Hollywood film “Patriot” which was loosely based on Francis Marion, the South Carolina revolutionary leader).
Finally a few words of Professor James A. Ramage in his Rebel Raider – The Life of General John Hunt Morgan (1986):
Partisan warfare was a formidable strategic instrument, opening a hundred second fronts in the enemy rear, frustrating and wearing down the invaders, nullifying the advantages of superior manpower and resources in the North, and striking at the mind and will of Northern voters. Guerrillas could have paralyzed Union logistics, and many local successes could have changed the relative strength of the opposing forces. A lengthy guerrilla war might have resulted in a long drawn out struggle and maybe victory.
Instead of using the partisan strength of among others Southern sharpshooters, of whom many were woodsmen grown up with hunting and guns, almost all military force of the Confederacy was concentrated on winning large battles. The purpose was to achieve a final strike against the North in traditional Napoleonic style. This gave the North the advantage of larger numbers and overwhelming production base.
Confederate Guerrilla Poetry – The Case for Irregular War to Defend the South 1861 – 1865
Poetry, songs and music were an integral part of the great struggle between the South and the North 1861 – 1865. It is only natural that Confederate guerrillas, partisan rangers and raiders were treated in some of the war songs and poems of the time. The guerrilla, the ranger and the raider were of a mystical – yes, almost mythical – nature and the struggle against often overwhelming odds were admired by friend and foe alike.
The main theatres of guerrilla and partisan warfare were Missouri and Virginia but also Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee saw bitter and often brutal warfare of this kind. Many a man also took the opportunity to settle old scores under cover of the conflict.
SIMMS, WILLIAM GILMORE (1806-1870).
Novelist, etc., b. at Charleston, South Carolina, began his literary life with journalism. He then for some time tried poetry, but without any distinct success except occasionally in Southern Passages and Pictures(1839). But in fiction, which he began in 1833 with Martin Faber, he was more successful. The Yemassee (1835) is generally considered his best novel. He was less happy in his attempts at historical romance, such as Count Julian and The Damsel of Darien. During the war, in which he was naturally a strong partisan of the South, he was ruined, and his library was burned; from these disasters he never really recovered. He had a high repute as a journalist, orator, and lecturer. Simms was one of the first Southerners to achieve a great name in literature.
HAYNE, PAUL HAMILTON (1830-1886). —Poet, b. at Charleston, S. Carolina, of an old family, contributed to various magazines, and published Poems (1885), containing “Legends and Lyrics.” His graceful verses show the influence of Keats. His sonnets are some of his best work.
SEVERN TEACKLE WALLIS . (1816–1894) was an American lawyer.
Severn Wallis graduated from St. Mary’s College, Baltimore, in 1832, studied law with William Wirt, attorney general, and with John Glenn. In 1837 Wallis was admitted to the bar.
Wallis early developed a taste for literature and contributed to periodicals many articles of literary and historical criticism, also occasional verses. He became a proficient in Spanish literature and history and was elected a corresponding member of the Royal Academy of history of Madrid in 1843. In 1846 he was chosen a fellow of the Royal Society of northern antiquaries of Copenhagen.
In 1847 he visited Spain and in 1849 the U. S. government sent him on a special mission to that country to examine the title to the public lands in east Florida, as affected by royal grants during the negotiations for the treaty of 1819.
From 1859 until 1861 Wallis was a contributor to the editorial columns of the Baltimore Exchange, and also for other journals.
Wallis in 1861 was chairman of the committee on Federal relations in Maryland. In September of that year Wallis was arrested with many members of the legislature and other citizens of the state, and imprisoned for more than fourteen months in various forts. He was released in November, 1862, without conditions.
He then returned to the practice of the law in Baltimore.
A statue of him stands in Mount Vernon Square in Baltimore, Maryland.