Benjamin Franklin Cooling completes his military, political, social, and economic study of the Civil War in Kentucky and Tennessee with this book. Unlike the preceding volumes, this one emphasizes synthesis of the historical literature (much larger for this part of the story), rather than breaking new ground. It starts with two chapters usefully reviewing the earlier war experiences of the region, covers most of 1864 in five chapters, climaxes in two chapters on General John B. Hood's invasion of Tennessee, and concludes with the subsequent stabilization efforts. Despite the dates in the title, the work essentially runs from late 1863 to the end of 1865.
Obviously, the secondary-source research is very extensive. While the author consulted a number of memoirs and letters mostly for color, he mined the printed official records of the army and navy for his innovative segments. He did not use military records in the National Archives.
Overall the writing is very clear, smooth, interesting, and graceful. The organization is basically chronological, then topical. A little lack of polish appears in a few too many typos, errors on maps, and unnecessary repetition of quotations.
In late 1863, the Confederate army occupied only the northeastern corner of Tennessee, but Federals in both states had a growing problem with Confederate guerrillas. This led circularly to more Federal repression, more hostility among civilians, and more guerrilla recruits. The trend was especially significant in Kentucky, which, [End Page 469] unlike Tennessee, had a unionist civil government that had blocked some Federal actions. The main sore points for most whites were infringements of their rights and interference with slavery. Both states suffered from intensifying conflicts within their societies: slaves v. masters, unionists v. secessionists, and bandits v. the law-abiding. While dealers in the black market made big profits, many others saw their livelihood decline to a subsistence level or lower. Wherever either army camped or operated, troops stripped away supplies from and caused suffering for civilians.
Cooling pays laudable attention to logistics. The Federals had to divert some troops to guarding long supply lines, which ran back to the Ohio River. General William T. Sherman helped by detaching the largest western army for his march to the sea. However, inexperienced garrisons and poorly mounted cavalry behind the lines could not cope with enemy veterans. Confederate raiders or invaders could only draw supplies before they left their strongholds. Cooling agrees with historians who view cavalry raids as a waste of scarce Confederate resources. He contends that General George H. Thomas primarily defeated Hood's invaders because he gained two battle-worn corps and winter weather worsened.
Besides logistical analysis, the study innovates in examining the aftermath of the Nashville battle. Having eliminated the Confederate army from the area, the Federals in 1865 gradually ended the guerrilla menace through manhunts and amnesty deadlines. Following the end of the war came demobilization, the end of military restrictions, and reduced aid to black and white war refugees. Although the postwar economy struggled with the end of slavery and wartime damage, Memphis rapidly grew into a center of cotton-trading. A seething anger toward the United States government and a pattern of much lawlessness remained to create trouble during the Reconstruction period.
To Civil War buffs and specialists, much in the book will be familiar, yet Cooling tells it well and with new insights. His analysis of Federal efforts at stabilization in 1865 is especially revealing. [End Page 470]
John Cimprich teaches history at Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, Kentucky. His works include Fort Pillow, A Civil War Massacre, and Public Memory (2005) and Slavery's End in Tennessee, 1861-1865 (1985).