Civil War History 50.2 (2004) 200-202
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In The Civil War in Kentucky,Kent Masterson Brown has assembled a collection of essays by some of the most renowned scholars of Civil War Kentucky. Many of the essays are devoted to military topics, including a cogent account by the venerable Charles Roland of the Confederacy's desperate attempt, headed by Albert Sidney Johnston, to defend Kentucky's violated [End Page 200] neutrality. Scholars Ron Nichols, D. Warren Lambert, Kenneth Noe, and Brown write authoritatively on the battles at Mill Springs, Richmond, Perryville, and Munfordville respectively, emphasizing the strategic importance of each encounter. These chapters are enriched by maps of battle engagements as well as summaries of forces and casualties of each conflict.
Two of the book's essays examine the military leadership of individuals. Wiley Sword explains how General Patrick Cleburne's early successes in Kentucky, first at the Battle of Richmond and later at the battle of Perryville, contributed to his legacy as one of the Confederacy's best tacticians. James Ramage pays homage to Kentucky's famous "rebel raider," John Hunt Morgan, focusing both on his military prowess, particularly his pioneering use of intelligence, and the phenomenal reputation he developed among the Southern populace as a dashing, romantic hero. Brown's sentimental hagiography of the Orphan Brigade rounds out the content on military participation.
Perhaps the most interesting essays in the volume examine the political aspects of Kentucky's divided loyalties as well as the sectional struggle over the state. John Y. Simon offers a nuanced account of the various contingencies that in the early days of the war proved so crucial in the decision of most white Kentuckians to remain loyal to the Union, while Lowell Harrison writes about one of the most fascinating aspects of Kentucky's Civil War experience: the creation of the state's provisional Confederate government. Despite a dearth of archival material on the subject, Harrison vividly recounts the founding of the Russellville-based government and the ill-fated career of provisional governor George W. Johnson, who died fighting as an infantryman at Shiloh. The ultimate irony of Kentucky's Confederate government, as Harrison points out, came in the postwar declaration made by Johnson's successor, Richard Hawes, that Kentucky had never left the Union.
The essays contained in The Civil War in Kentucky prove instructive and insightful. They are well researched and expertly written, in many cases, by men who have devoted significant portions of their careers to their topics. What is missing from this volume, however, is the type of the scholarship that has breathed new life into the field of Civil War studies in the last two decades. The essays in this volume say nothing of the thousands of African American Kentuckians whose resistance, either nonviolently or from within Union uniform, as William Freehling has recently shown, played a crucial role both on the battlefield and in shaping white public opinion on the home front. Nor do they tell us how the people of Kentucky's various geographical regions responded differently to secession and war, a subject that scholars of [End Page 201] Appalachia have studied successfully in the past decade. That said, The Civil War in Kentucky offers something to any reader interested in the Bluegrass state's Civil War politics, battles, or personalities.