We Shall Conquer or Die: Partisan Warfare in 1862 Western Kentucky

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Derrick Lindow
Pub Date:
July 2023
Hardcover, 6 x 9
30 images, 12 maps, 288 pp
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About the Book

A deadly and expensive war within a war was waged behind the lines (and often out of the major headlines) in western Kentucky. In 1862, the region was infested with guerrilla activity that pitted brother against brother and neighbor against neighbor in a personal war that often recognized few boundaries. The riding and fighting took hundreds of lives, destroyed or captured millions of dollars of equipment, and siphoned away thousands of men from the Union war effort. Derrick Lindow tells this little-known story for the first time in We Shall Conquer or Die: Partisan Warfare in 1862 Western Kentucky.

Confederate Colonel Adam Rankin Johnson and his 10th Kentucky Partisan Rangers regiment wreaked havoc on Union supply lines and garrisons from the shores of southern Indiana, in the communities of western Kentucky, and even south into Tennessee. His rangers seemed unbeatable and uncatchable that second year of the war, especially because of the Partisan Ranger method of temporarily disbanding and melting into the countryside, a tactic relatively easy to execute in a region populated with Southern sympathizers.

In the span of just a few months Johnson and his men captured six Union-controlled towns, hundreds of prisoners, and tons of Union army equipment. Union civil and military authorities, meanwhile, were not idle bystanders. Strategies changed, troops rushed to guerrilla flashpoints, daring leaders refused the Confederate demands of surrender, and every available type of fighting man was utilized from Regulars to the militia of the Indiana Legion, temporary service day regiments, and even brown water naval vessels. Clearing the area of partisans and installing a modicum of Union control became one of the Northern war machine’s major objectives.

This deadly and expensive war behind the lines was fought by men who often found themselves thrust into unpredictable situations. Participants included future presidential cabinet members, Mexican War veterans, Jewish immigrants, some of the U.S. Army’s rising young officers, and of course the civilians unfortunate enough to live in the borderlands of Kentucky.

Author Lindow spent years researching through primary source material to write this important study. The partisan guerrilla fighting and efforts to bring it under control helps put the Civil War in the Western Theater in context, and is a story long overdue.


Derrick Lindow is an 8th grade United States history teacher in Owensboro, Kentucky. He graduated from Kentucky Wesleyan College (2010) with a BA in history and holds a Masters in Education from the University of the Cumberlands. He is currently obtaining a Master of Arts in history from Western Kentucky University. He is the 2015 Dr. Tom and Betty Lawrence National History Teacher Award recipient from the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, and the 2019 James Madison Fellow for the state of Kentucky. Derrick is the creator and co-administrator of the Western Theater in the Civil War website, which brings together authors and historians to write about that crucial area of the war. The Kentucky native is married to his lovely wife Allie and is the father of two boys, Ezra and Owen.