Book Review: Partisans, Guerillas, and Irregulars: Historical Archaeology of Asymmetric Warfare


by Steven D. Smith and Clarence R. Geier, editors

Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2019. Pp. x, 256. Illus., maps, tables, references, index. $49.95. ISBN: 0817320202

Excavating Unconventional Battlefields

Battlefield archaeology has been influencing the writing of military history for some time now, and this collection of essays explores its application to non-conventional warfare, in the process offering the reader a few surprises.

The editors, who are also contributors, to this volume, offer an introduction, ten essays explaining revelations from archaeological excavations on site from some very different wars across several centuries, and some general conclusions.

Four essays cover various American Revolution sites, one on some border clashes in what is now West Virginia, one on the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge (Sep. 3, 1777), one on the Battle of Williamson’s Plantation (Ju. 12, 1780), and one on archaeological evidence from Francis Marion’s irregular operations.

There follow an essay on the Second Seminole War, one on two clashes during the “Bleeding Kansas” conflict, and one the sites of several engagements in the Trans-Mississippi during the Civil War.

The last three essays are particularly interesting. One deals with Indian fights and “other little wars” in northern Mexico and the American southwest. There follows an examination of related to the famous Hatfield-McCoy feud in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. The final paper deals with the site of a Ukrainian nationalist ambush of a Soviet NKVD unit in early 1945, during the protracted UPA insurgency.

All of the papers discuss various aspects of the methodology used to some extent, and all of them throw new light on the events that unfolded at the various sites, revealing how terrain, tactics, and defenses affected the action.

While primarily of interest to specialists in the events that took place at the sites examined, this work shows how the discipline of battlefield archaeology has already altered traditional accounts of a number of other events – such as the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

Partisans, Guerillas, and Irregulars is also a worthwhile read for anyone wishing to learn more about how battlefield archaeology works.


Note: Partisans, Guerillas, and Irregulars is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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