In 1963, unrest in Sudan’s three southern provinces (today’s South Sudan) escalated into a civil war between the government and the Anya-Nya rebellion. The subsequent eight years of violence has hitherto largely escaped scrutiny from academic researchers and has remained a subject of popular imagination and politicised narratives. This article demonstrates how this history can be explored with greater nuance, thereby establishing a local history of a postcolonial civil war. Focusing on the garrison town of Torit, our research reveals a localised and personalised rebellion, made up of a constellation of parochial armed groups. This new history also demonstrates how these parties built upon experiences from imperial conquest and colonial rule when entrenching violent wartime practices such as mass displacement and encampment, the raising of local militias and intelligence networks, and the deliberate starvation of civilians — all common methods in subsequent wars.