[Railroad Defenses of the Blue Grass: The Defenses of the Kentucky Central Railroad, Lexington & Frankfort Railroad and Kentucky River during the Civil War (1861-1865) by Charles H. Bogart and William M. Ambrose (Yellow Sparks Press, 2012). Softcover, maps, drawings, photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. 188 pp. $25]
Count me among those with a great fondness for books like these. Railroad Defenses of the Blue Grass by Charles Bogart and William Ambrose is not a narrative history, its text instead is directed toward creating patchwork descriptions of the widespread Union defense system devised to protect the army's railroad logistics network in central Kentucky from fast moving Confederate raiders.
The book does provide background material, beginning with a brief summary of the Kentucky "neutrality" period, centering on the federal government's establishment of strategically located military camps, but the main focus is on the forts, redoubts, and blockhouses constructed to defend the Kentucky Central, Lexington & Danville, and Lexington & Frankfort railroads. The type and extent of earthworks located at Kentucky River crossings convenient to raiders, like Clay's Ferry and Hickman Bridge, are also described. Wherever possible, contemporary maps showing the locations of these fortifications are included, as are detailed drawings of the blockhouses and earthen fortifications. Reports written by those stationed at these posts, or the officers in charge of their construction [Major J.H. Simpson, Chief Engineer of the Department of the Ohio, is quoted throughout], offer first person insights. While the Union perspective predominates, very brief summaries of various Confederate raids and campaigns that at one time or another directed their attention toward these particular defenses are offered.
Appendices A through K comprise nearly half the book. Located here is more background history and information pertaining to the business practices of the three railroad companies mentioned above. Additional maps, photos, and drawings were placed in this section, as well as detailed tables of milepost markings for stations, tunnels, and bridges. The illustrations relating to the Kentucky Central RR are especially useful. Highlights from the rest of the appendices include an extensive collection of military correspondence and information about the Police Guard (a special unit of 26 companies raised specifically to protect the Kentucky Central, and later disbanded with the manpower used to create the 18th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry Regiment).
The profusely illustrated guidebook Railroad Defenses of the Blue Grass should appeal to both students of Civil War Kentucky and those interested more generally in the study of fortifications. Also, while the book is not designed as a touring tool, nor does it provide site location data as specific as GPS coordinates, the information and visual aids therein do comprise a useful reference for the outdoor adventurer.
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