Using the Term “Bushwhacker” to Deflect Blame

Missouri “Bushwhackers” firing on a Union steamboat.

According to Civil War on the Western Border {.org} a “Bushwhacker” is defined as follows:

“The “bushwhackers” were Missourians who fled to the rugged backcountry and forests to live in hiding and resist the Union occupation of the border counties. They fought Union patrols, typically by ambush, in countless small skirmishes, and hit-and-run engagements. These guerrilla fighters harassed, robbed, and sometimes murdered loyal Unionist farmers on both sides of the state line. They interrupted the federal mail and telegraph communications, and (most troublesome to the Union command trying to quell the escalating violence in the border region) the bushwhackers held the popular support of many local farming families.”

In my January 31, 2020 post entitled “Who Murdered the Patterson Family” I noted that:

“In most history books the term “bushwhacker” refers to Southern partisan fighters on Missouri’s western border. Often these Southern partisans formed into “irregular”, “independent” companies of men. That being said, many people relate the term “bushwhacker” to “Southerner” and “Confederate”.

Through my research I have found that in this area of Southeast Missouri the term “bushwhacker” was used indiscriminately to describe Union or Confederate independent units. Cochran’s 90 Day (Independent) Militia was not attached to any other units, nor was it beholden to any other units, which qualifies he and his unit as “bushwhackers”.

In the post quoted above, I make the case that significant evidence exists to point the finger of blame for the murder of the Patterson family in Bollinger County, Missouri during the Civil War at one James Rogers, who was a member of Captain Cochran’s 90 militia.

After the war Rogers was appointed Sheriff of Bollinger County but later fled back to Michigan because, according to one newspaper account, he was charged for murders that were committed in the area during the war.

In my opinion using the term “Bushwhackers” to describe local Union militia units, seems to be intentional , not only to cause confusion in an attempt to deflect the blame from Union forces, but to point the finger of blame at Southern forces.

I have found another example of this. In the book “Revolution in America” author Don Higginbotham writes:

“My mother’s grandfather, Jonas Myers served in the Confederate Army and was killed in Northeast Arkansas after the conflict ended while on his way home to Bollinger County in Southeast Missouri. Some accounts say that he and several other local men on their return journey were robbed and then lined up and executed by so-called bushwhackers, lawless men who preyed on both sides. But the old tombstone that was erected after their bodies were exhumed and returned home says they were “murdered by Union soldiers.”


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