That region that includes Wright, Douglas, Webster, and Texas Counties had it really tough. The war there started early and ended late. That is, the people divided into sides early in 1861 and became bitter toward each other long before that happened to other parts of the state. After the war the bitterness remained for a long time, too. The fear of recrimination prevented very much writing about the war in that area until the interest in it died to the point that the war weary residents were happy to go on with their lives and try to forget. I found fewer resources about the guerrilla war there than almost anywhere else, even though they had more of it than lots of places. It doesn't help that there weren't many newspapers published in that part of the state during the war--primarily Springfield and Rolla. The papers from across the state didn't pick up many stories from those newspapers, either, as they did from others.
I agree that it's hard to tell the renegades from the Confederate guerrillas. I take the advice of the Bible talking about false prophets that "ye shall know them by their fruits." That is, you can get an idea about where one group or another fits into the picture by studying the acts that they performed, and how they conducted themselves. The bitterness and the intense emotion of the fighting in Missouri tended to blend the lines, though. Remember that Missouri was a border state, and that being the jumping off place to "The Great American Desert," Missouri tended to collect the debris that collected along that line. Lots of those guys played at war until something better came along. Some of them found a cause for the first time in their lives, and merely adapted their old ways to a new adventure. And, that kind tended to gravitate toward whatever they could put in their pockets or saddlebags. Some of them just enjoyed the killing. The renegades were on both sides and they certainly hurt the cause they associated themselves with. Some of those guys were on one side one year and the other the next.
Complicating this picture was the "no quarter" rule officially put into effect in Missouri in early 1862 by then-Missouri Union commander Major General Henry Halleck. Halleck's nickname was "Old Brains," but he wasn't using his on that issue. Any thinking man should have seen where the "no prisoners" rule was going to lead. This sad edict resulted in hundreds of preventable deaths. Human nature being what it is, lots of both guerrillas and Yankees violated that rule and granted clemency to their enemies on many occasions. Many others used it as an excuse to kill.
If I were examining a particular group--northern or southern--I look at:
--whether they granted clemency or not;
--if they abused the helpless or rendered assistance to innocents;
--if they stole only subsistence to live (food, horse, forage for the horse, clothing, bedding, firearms, ammo, camp equipment, and the like) or looted watches and jewelry or sold the stuff they took for money (some needed cash to operate, too);
--if they took what they needed only from the other side or robbed indiscriminately;
--their relationship to regular combatants of their own side--for example, if guerrillas provided security to Confederate recruiters working in their area, and if regular Union units could work beside questionable northern outfits;
--it they attempted to write reports to superiors and keep records like name rolls or not; and so forth.
The provisions of the Confederate's "Partisan Ranger Act" of spring 1862 laid out the rules for guerrilla groups, even though the Confederacy rescinded this act later in the war. A lot of this depended upon whether the leader had military experience and training or not, and some leaders just flat couldn't make their men mind them. There were men in both actual southern guerrilla groups and actual Union outfits that violated those rules over and over.
Some groups like the "Alsup Gang" just made the whole thing personal, even though they were really a Union outfit, I suppose.
I tend to think Alf Bolen was really a Confederate guerrilla, but he chose to carry on his war by tracking Union men and shooting them with a rifle from a distance. That's how Murder Rocks got their name.
A number of Union militia stationed at the Springfield garrison in summer 1863 assassinated southern men in the several counties around from a "kill list" like a hit squad. They would just ride into someone's yard, blast the guy, and then ride off. The witnesses could only tell the authorities that "it was a bunch of soldiers." Of course, they were right.
It all seems kind of crazy to us now, but we have little idea what the sense of betrayal and treason does to people like what happened in a war within a country fighting against itself. If we dehumanize our enemies by calling them names and treating them as something lower than ourselves we look for a license just to exterminate. It's hard to admit that lots of Americans did that back then, but they did. It's a part of human nature we don't want to admit we could perform.
P.S. Did the Goodspeed history of Wright County give Confederate Captain Bowman's first name and the month and year he worked with Union Colonel Palmer? Also, what was Palmer's first name and his unit?