- Book Notes
Confederate Generals in the Western Theater, Vol. 4, Essays on America's Civil War. Edited by Lawrence Lee Hewitt and Thomas E. Schott. (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2018. Pp. 369. $51.00 cloth; $51.00 ebook)
In explanations for the Confederacy's defeat, the majority of Civil War scholars in the past two decades have turned away from the battlefield and instead examined political divisions within the southern homefront, such as deserting soldiers and slaves. With this fourth and final volume of essays in the series, the editors assert that the failed strategies of Confederate officers on battlegrounds cannot be overlooked by serious scholars of the war. Kentucky is well-represented in this volume as well. James Prichard, of the Filson Historical Society, writes on John Hunt Morgan's last Kentucky raid. The Kentucky Historical Society's own Stuart W. Sanders (credited by the editors as the series's "most prolific contributor") writes on Benjamin Hardin Helm, brother-in-law to Lincoln and commander of the famous "Orphan Brigade."
Rethinking the Civil War Era: Directions for Research. By Paul D. Escott. (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2018. Pp. xii, 204. $50.00 cloth; $50.00 ebook)
Faithful readers of the Register will need no reminder of the depth and sophistication in the study of the American Civil War, nor would they need any demonstration of the new insights and methodologies Civil War historians constantly turn over. In Paul Escott's book, however, students of the war, professional or amateur, can put much [End Page 147] of the latest research on the war in perspective. Recent works have shifted focus on the war towards, for example, the surprisingly active role of African Americans on either sides, or the consequences the war brought to our environment. Scholars have also re-imagined many familiar areas of Civil War study, including the political dynamics and personal relationships within so many divisions and companies across the battlefields, and how information about the war is made available writ large. For the latter, look to the Kentucky Historical Society's Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition and many other digital history projects underway across the country.
Folk Music in Overdrive: A Primer on Traditional Country and Bluegrass Artists. By Ivan M. Tribe. (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2018. Pp. xxii, 392. $29.95 paper; $29.95 ebook)
Within the grand discipline of southern history and folklore studies, the history of country, old time, and bluegrass music has maintained a small but surprisingly energetic following for many years. Taking his title from Alan Lomax's famous description of the bluegrass genre, Ivan Tribe's Folk Music in Overdrive moves this discipline in an interesting new direction. Here you will not find the standard glorious origin stories of the Grand Ole Opry, Ralph Peer, or Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. Rather, Tribe offers dozens of smaller historical profiles of lesser-known artists and groups, based on interviews and primary source research. These various acts are less likely to appear in halls of fame or documentaries but they were nonetheless essential to the genre's history, and their stories make a valuable resource for students of country music history and old time music lovers. [End Page 148]