Friday, July 13, 2007

Reading List: Kentucky Civil War military studies

As you can see by clicking here or on the sidebar link, I have put together various reading lists or links to bibliographical compilations. A recent radio interview with an author sparked me to create a short list of Civil War Kentucky campaign and battle histories. The interviewer made the rather cavalier assertion that Kentucky served as a buffer during the war and saw little fighting. Of course, in broad terms relative to other Border and Upper South states, there is a grain of truth to this but significant campaigns and battles occurred in Kentucky nonetheless, especially during the first two years of the war. Below is a selected reading list of military studies I found useful.

Where is all the Morgan stuff (one might ask)? Truth is, the Morgan literature has never really grabbed me much, beyond the recent Gorin book listed below and an excellent section of James Brewer's Raiders of 1862.
The best overall treatment of the battle.
  • Perryville, Battle for Kentucky -- by Kenneth Hafendorfer.
Remains a good microtactical history of the battle. Rumored to be yet another revised edition in the works.
  • The Battle of Wildcat Mountain -- by Kenneth Hafendorfer.
Definitive treatment of this SE Kentucky campaign. This book (along with Mill Springs and Richmond) shows the author at his more recent best.
  • The Zollie Tree -- by Raymond Myers.
An out-of-print classic. Battle history section is clearly supplanted by Hafendorfer's exhaustive account of Mill Springs (see below). Includes a fairly detailed biographical sketch of Felix Zollicoffer.
  • Mill Springs -- by Kenneth Hafendorfer.
Not a favorite of mine, but the only modern study that provides a complete overview of the 1862 Kentucky Campaign.
Excellent collection of essays, dealing largely with military events.
  • When the Ripe Pears Fell -- by D. Warren Lambert.
Another out-of-print classic. A history of the Battle of Richmond (also see Hafendorfer below), beautifully presented.
  • Battle of Richmond, Kentucky -- by Kenneth Hafendorfer.
Click on link for review comments.Click on link for review comments.A useful book, largely due to the dearth of Cumberland Gap studies. Click on link for review comments.
  • They Died by Twos and Tens -- by Kenneth Hafendorfer.
Not Hafendorfer's best, but useful as an exhaustive reference for 1862 Confederate cavalry organization, units, movements, and engagements. Also out-of-print.
While Belmont is a Missouri battle in the narrowest of terms, there are strong Kentucky elements in Hughes's study, esp. in the focus on Columbus.
Also has informative western Kentucky coverage.


  1. What's your opinion of Earl Hess' Banners to the Breeze from the Nebraska Great Campaigns of the Civil War series?

  2. Stephen,
    I've read the Hess and Engle volumes. There is certainly nothing wrong with any of them, but I think they are directed toward a certain audience needing a relatively brief but comprehensive synthesis of up to date scholarship of a particular campaign, in lieu of delving into all the specialized studies that surround them. If you are coming from the other direction, they are less useful. That's how I found them anyway.



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