Friday, November 18, 2016

Five books on the Civil War in East Kentucky

1. The Civil War in the Big Sandy Valley of Kentucky, Second Edition (2008)
by John David Preston [review].
Though primarily directing its attention toward four SE Kentucky counties, Preston's book easily offers the best information about the Civil War in East Kentucky contained in a single volume. The Second Edition is so far superior to the first that the original publication is hardly worth mentioning in comparison. In it, there are chapter length studies of all the major campaigns and battles fought in the region. The author's demographic analysis charts recruitment and political allegiance patterns, and the study usefully discusses how the region's society and politics transformed over the wartime period.
2. Contested Borderland: The Civil War in Appalachian Kentucky and Virginia (2006)
by Brian D. McKnight [review].
McKnight's fine regional study centers on the soldiers and civilians occupying the mountainous divide between East Kentucky and Southwest Virginia. The volume includes strong elements of military, political, social, and religious history. The author also describes in depth how the area's geography (especially the mountain gaps) affected how the war was conducted. You'll notice that most of the books in this list are of very recent vintage, which attests both to the resurgence of interest in the topic and the dearth of prior research and writing of good quality.
3. Marauder: The Life and Times of Nathaniel McClure Menefee (2014)
by Randall Osborne [review].
Many Confederate and Union guerrillas operated in the mountainous wilds of the Kentucky-Virginia borderland. One of the most notorious was the pro-southern Menefee, who was such a terror that he was eventually charged with murder by Confederate authorities. Osborne's biography provides the most complete picture possible of Menefee's life from the sources available. In addition to detailing the guerrilla's operations in East Kentucky, the book also expansively illuminates the larger war in the region.
4. The Most Brilliant Little Victory: Nelson's Eastern Kentucky Campaign of 1861 (2014)
by Marlitta H. Perkins [review].
In this book, Perkins offers a fine study of Union general William "Bull" Nelson's campaign up the Big Sandy River in 1861 that aggressively cleared East Kentucky of organized Confederate resistance, at least on a temporary basis. The hard war aspects of this very early operation are well documented by Perkins and the main features of the campaign's most important engagement, the Battle of Ivy Mountain, are sufficiently detailed.
5. Jack May's War: Colonel Andrew Jackson May and the Civil War in Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Tennessee, and Southwest Virginia (1998) by Robert Perry.
Early in the war, May was a company commander in the 5th Kentucky infantry regiment, and he would eventually rise to lead the 10th Kentucky Cavalry as its colonel. Perry's biography discusses May's extensive involvement in the the war in East Kentucky during several of Confederate general Humphrey Marshall's operations as well as John Hunt Morgan's Last Kentucky Raid.

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