I've written quite a bit (on this blog and elsewhere) about the guerrilla conflict in Missouri during the Civil War. I don't consider myself an apologist for the Confederate guerrillas, because I think that they (and the South in general) were ultimately on the wrong side of history, but I can see the Southern side of the story. I think that much of the story that America has traditionally been told about the guerrillas has been skewed in favor of the Union because it was generally told by the victorious Union side. For instance, the Missouri guerrillas have often been portrayed as murderous outlaws who had no military legitimacy and whose only goal was plunder. My book Other Noted Guerrillas of the Civil War in Missouri
contains a fairly thorough discussion of how I see the guerrillas, but suffice it to say here that this simplistic Union portrayal of the guerrillas as opportunist brigands is far from the truth in most cases.
On the other hand, Southern apologists often go too far in the other direction and try to portray the guerrillas as gallant knights who were driven to take up arms only in response to the horrible maltreatment that they and their families received at the hands of the federal government. In many cases, there was some truth to this generalization, but it, too, is an oversimplification.
Take Dade County, Missouri, guerrilla Kincheon "Kinch" West (who was a first cousin of one of my great grandmothers, by the way), for example. Kinch is probably most famous for his raid on Melville (now Dadeville), in 1864. The Union side of the story seems to suggest that Kinch was nothing but an outlaw looking for plunder, whereas the Southern side of the story suggests that Kinch was a peaceful young man at the beginning of the war who only took to the bush on the Confederate side after his father was mercilessly killed without provocation by Union troops in 1863.
The truth is almost certainly somewhere in the middle. In all likelihood, Kinch joined the Confederate-allied Missouri State Guard near the outset of the war, although, as is often the case, no documentation of his military service has survived. What is known is that Kinch was later affiliated in his guerrilla activities with Lafayette "Fate" Roberts, who is known to have been an officer in the 8th Division of the Missouri State Guard during the early part of the war. So, Kinch, like most guerrilla leaders, probably did have some military standing or legitimacy, at least as far as the Southern side was concerned. However, it is also known that Kinch began his marauding activities before his father was killed by Union soldiers. In fact, his father was probably killed at least in part in retaliation for Kinch's activities. Of course, nothing would justify killing a father for what one of his sons had done, but the point I'm making is that Kinch was almost certainly not a peaceful young man who was staying home minding his own business at the time his father was killed, as the Southern side of the story would have us believe. In short, Kinch West was a desperate character, as the Union side of the story suggests, but he probably did not start out to be an outlaw and he did have personal reasons that helped drive him to desperation.
For anybody interested in more detailed information about Kinch West, I'm providing a link to a website dedicated to info about him: