During the years of the Civil War, various uprisings, raids, and lynching’s took place in the Southern Illinois counties. These events were often labeled as copperhead activity, and even worse associated with the residents of Little Egypt. However, at a closer examination it becomes evident that the claims of Egyptian involvement were often grossly over-exaggerated. First, saying that men from Illinois were joining the Confederacy in large numbers is incorrect. Only 100 men from Illinois altogether joined the Confederacy, and many of them were not even residents of Illinois, nor where they officially documented in the CSA! Of those who were Illinois citizens and officially recorded, 34 men total from Little Egypt joined the Confederacy. (Gleeson p.1) Furthermore, incidents of flag burning after the firing at Ft. Sumter were also overblown, as it was just a handful of men who participated and not entire counties. A few Illinois residents, like the Twelve Apostles who recruited the Confederate company, were often the only ones in their community to take an active pro-South stance. Others who joined the Confederacy commuted into Illinois from downriver states such as Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee.
During the years of the war, copperhead activity did occur in Little Egypt. Accounts of a rebel group called the Clingman Gang ran wild in the newspapers of the North. “Armed rebel sympathizers often met in numbers for military organization and drill. Union men were seized and whipped and sometimes driven from their homes; in numerous instances they were shot down, even in their own homes, by rebel sympathizers.” (Nunes) This bandit group was led by Josiah Woods of Missouri, and terrorized the countryside of Southern Illinois in Vandalia, Charleston, and Jacksonville. The raiders were called rebels, because they supported the Confederacy and sometimes wore the gray or butternut colors of the CSA. However, to say that this was Little Egyptian rebellion is illogical.
The rebels, were men from Missouri and other areas of the South, and have been accused of using the southern cause as an excuse for their crimes. In fact, Little Egypt’s towns and residents where the ones being targeted by the outlaws, and having their property looted and destroyed. In his contribution to the Centennial History of Illinois, Arthur Cole calls Illinois a, “Botany Bay for the traitors of Missouri” (Cole p. 332) Cole notes that Missouri military authorities would banish convicted rebels and criminals out of Missouri and into Little Egypt. Cole states that this was coupled with a change to the Missouri state Constitution, “[the Missouri Constitution change] disfranchised certain classes. As a result of which a number of noted bushwhackers, guerrillas, and rebel soldiers moved over into the southern counties of Illinois.” (Cole p. 332) Thus, much of the rebellion in Little Egypt during the years of the war came either from a handful of Illinois residents, or more likely criminals who had moved into the region, and used the rebellion as an excuse for destruction.