Thursday, September 29, 2016

Booknotes: Kentucky Rebel Town

New Arrival:
Kentucky Rebel Town: The Civil War Battles of Cynthiana and Harrison County
by William A. Penn (UP of Kentucky, 2016).

Penn's original self-published study of the Civil War battles fought in and around Cynthiana, Kentucky was long out of print before I "discovered" it. The volume was so scarce on the secondary market that I wasn't even allowed to take home the ILL copy that I borrowed. I'd shared brief notes with the author over the years regarding his planned revisions and expansion of the title, but so much time passed that I lost hope over it ever seeing the light of day. It was a source of surprise and pleasure, however, to see the new version finally appear among Kentucky's catalog listings earlier in the year. I now have a copy in my hands, and it looks great.

Located thirty miles north of Lexington and with the Kentucky Central Railroad passing through it, Cynthiana was a town of divided loyalties and a rich target for opposing military forces. In Kentucky Rebel Town, "Penn draws on dozens of period newspapers as well as personal journals, memoirs, and correspondence from citizens, slaves, soldiers, and witnesses to provide a vivid account of the war's impact on the region." He explores in great detail the battles of Cynthiana fought in 1862 and 1864 (with the second battle destroying much of the town), but book chapters also discuss the Union occupation, local reactions to emancipation and black enlistment, and the town and county's post-war physical and societal rebuilding process. UPK has done a fine looking job with the volume's presentation, with one of its stand out features being a great series of battle maps.

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