Friday, May 4, 2007

ed. Rose: "Kentucky's Civil War 1861-1865"

[ Kentucky's Civil War, 1861-1865 ed. by Jerlene Rose (Back Home In Kentucky, Inc.: Clay City, KY 2005) Casebound, illustrations, maps, photos, index. Pp. 154 $37.95 ISBN 0-97692-311-4]

Kentucky's Civil War is a full color, oversized hardcover that features around four dozen essays written by thirty authors, including well known historians James Ramage, Lowell Harrison, and Charles Roland. It should be mentioned that this is not a scholarly volume, but rather a series of brief (the typical one is only a few pages in length) lively articles written in a popular format and augmented with full color photographs and other illustrations.

However, what is lacks in depth it scores with in breadth of scope. Even individuals well informed about Kentucky's wartime years will likely discover something new. The essays cover just about every relevant subject imaginable. Battles and most significant raids and skirmishes are treated individually. Capsule histories of select Kentucky counties, cities, towns, cemetaries, railroads, camps and forts are also provided. Other essays comprise biographical sketches of major military, political, or civilian figures. The erection of large refugee camps and the raising of black regiments are also discussed.

Although there is a nice pullout map of the entire state, I wish the publisher had included military maps to accompany the battle essays. Also, since there are no notes or bibliography, a short suggested reading list at the end of each article would have been helpful. One rather disconcerting thing was the inclusion of so many advertisements. Although they cover relevant subjects (e.g. university presses, local history related events, civil war tourism, etc.) they are often quite intrusive in size and number. The book is obviously very expensive to produce, but I can imagine most readers would be more than a bit miffed by this publishing decision. These concerns aside, because it devotes focused attention on such a wide diversity of subject matter, Kentucky's Civil War can serve as a very useful introduction to the state's role in the great conflict.

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