Thursday, February 26, 2009

eds. Allardice and Hewitt: "Kentuckians in Gray: Confederate Generals and Field Officers of the Bluegrass State"

[Kentuckians in Gray: Confederate Generals and Field Officers of the Bluegrass State authors and gen. eds. Bruce S. Allardice and Lawrence Lee Hewitt (University Press of Kentucky, 2008) Cloth, photos, index. 344 pp. ISBN:978-0-8131-2475-9 $40]

The military fraternity from the Bluegrass State that achieved general officer rank in the Confederate army were an impressive lot. Kentucky generals were overrepresented in the army (9.2 percent of generals from a state that provided only 4 percent of total CSA manpower), but, given their outstanding leadership contribution to the western and Trans-Mississippi fighting forces, the Confederacy was clearly better for it. Indeed, one cannot imagine the Trans-Mississippi armies without the likes of Richard Taylor, Thomas Churchill, James Fagan, Richard Gano, James Hawes, Samuel Bell Maxey, JO Shelby, and William Slack.

In Kentuckians in Gray, Bruce Allardice and Lawrence L. Hewitt have contributed to and edited 39 fine biographical essays, one for every native or resident* Kentucky general officer. They assembled 26 other experts, many of whom are either the subject's modern biographer or have published major associated works. It is an impressive field, and the editors did fine work in standardizing the structure and content of each essay. Each entry runs approximately seven pages and covers the subject's entire life. With the exception of Mary McBride's portrait of Randall Gibson, the preponderance of attention is paid to each general's war service. An image of each officer is provided, as well as a short reading list.

In addition to the generals, there are brief biographical entries for Kentucky field grade officers. The format is very much similar to that found in Allardice's Confederate Colonels (Missouri, 2008). Information provided includes: birth date, birthplace, college attended, prewar residence and occupation, prewar military experience, spouse(s), service record (ranks, units, dates of promotion), wounds/captures, postwar residence/occupation, public/political posts held, date/place of death and burial, and sometimes a brief quote from a contemporary illustrating the officer's perceived character.

It has been mentioned before that 2008 saw the publication of a number of top notch reference books, especially Confederate ones, and Kentuckians in Gray is certainly near the top of the pile. Institutional libraries will want to order this book, and researchers and genealogists will all benefit from the use of this exhaustive and authoritative biographical guide to the Bluegrass State's Confederate field officers and generals.

* - Men who were not born in Kentucky, but spent enough time in the state to become identified with it, were included along with the Bluegrass natives.

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Other CWBA reviews of Univ. Press of Kentucky titles:
* Virginia at War, 1863.
* Contested Borderland: The Civil War in Appalachian Kentucky and Virginia

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My recent interview (Jan. '09) with co-author Bruce Allardice touched on this book and others from his earlier body of work.

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