Saturday, August 1, 2009

Dollar, Whiteaker, and Dickinson (eds.): "SISTER STATES, ENEMY STATES: The Civil War in Kentucky and Tennessee"

[Sister States, Enemy States: The Civil War in Kentucky and Tennessee edited by Kent T. Dollar, Larry H. Whiteaker, and W. Calvin Dickinson (University Press of Kentucky, 2009). Cloth, map, photos, notes, index. 400 pages. ISBN:9780813125411 $40]

Socially and politically, the slave states of Tennessee and Kentucky had much in common during the antebellum period. Additionally, during the Deep South's rush to secession in late 1860, strong unionist majorities held sway in both states. Yet, with the firing on Fort Sumter, their fates diverged. Why Tennessee moved toward secession and Kentucky remained in the federal union is just one of the complexities explored in Sister States, Enemy States: The Civil War in Kentucky and Tennessee (co-edited by contributing historians Kent T. Dollar, Larry H. Whiteaker, and W. Calvin Dickinson).

Economics, slavery, familial ties, political traditions, localism, geography and more all played roles in deciding what areas within the two states would vote for secession or decide to remain loyal to the U.S. government. In Part I of Sister States, Enemy States, essays by Gary Mathews and Thomas Mackey discuss the debate within Kentucky and the actions of both sides during the secession crisis, with Mackey joining previous historians in arguing that Kentucky was the "keystone" of the western theater. While this view is accurate on a macro scale, the author seems to too broadly discount the "pariah" treatment at the local setting. The other three chapters address the secession issue regionally, in West and East Tennessee. Derek Frisby's article is especially striking, as his well documented investigation credits the presence of outside agitators for swinging many West Tennessee voters' support toward the Confederacy.

Part II explores guerrilla warfare and the wartime roles of Kentucky blacks (slave and free) and women. To begin, Kenneth Noe examines the motivations of Middle Tennessee soldiers enlisting in the 9th Kentucky (U.S.). With much of the study of Tennessee unionism centered on the eastern section, Noe's work illuminates yet another aspect of Upper South unionism and anti-Confederate feeling. Brian McKnight summarizes his upcoming biography of guerrilla Champ Ferguson (who operated in both states), and Michael Bradley looks at the treatment of civilians in Middle Tennessee, the latter emphasizing oft overlooked provost marshal records. The social and political controversies surrounding the recruitment of black Kentucky soldiers and the privations of their families is discussed in another chapter, while Richard Sears recapitulates the findings of his well received book length study of Camp Nelson. The final essay recounts the large number of arrests of Kentucky women, with the author arguing (controversially, one suspects) that all support for the Confederacy, ranging from passive to active measures, comprised political acts justifying arrest, imprisonment, and/or banishment. The article provides some original insights into the limits of free speech in a border state.

The final section, Part III, begins with two personal stories. The first is a look at how the Christian faith of Alfred T. Fielder informed his outlook and interpretation of the war, and the second a biographical sketch of Col. Sidney Smith Stanton. The three concluding essays deal with Reconstruction. Jonathan Atkins argues persuasively that Andrew Johnson's personal and political shortcomings were significantly responsible for the failures of Tennessee's wartime reconstruction. Next, historian Ben Severance critically examines the 1877 Nashville mayoral election as a window into the bitter conflict between Tennessee radicals and conservatives, while B.F. Cooling completes the volume with an overview of the Reconstruction era in Kentucky.

Eschewing most military subjects by design1, Sister States, Enemy States is nevertheless a large book covering a lot of other important ground. Each chapter is well researched and fully documented. Beyond citation, the notes consistently fulfill an additional role as excellent resources for suggested reading lists. Comprised of a good mix of familiar2 and fresh subjects and analyses penned by specialist scholars well selected for the task, this is an important contribution to the western theater Civil War literature.

1 - For an excellent set of military essays, one cannot do better than The Civil War in Kentucky, edited by Kent Masterson Brown (Savas Publishing Co., 2000).
2 - Several essays are revised and expanded examinations of material gleaned from the author's book length studies of the same subject.

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Other CWBA reviews of UPK titles:
* Kentuckians in Gray: Confederate Generals and Field Officers of the Bluegrass State
* Virginia at War, 1863
* Contested Borderland

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