Thursday, July 13, 2017

General E.A. Paine in Western Kentucky

Hand in hand with the rise of guerrilla studies over the past decade and more has been increased scrutiny of the civil rights record of Union military authorities (and their civilian oversight at the federal level) in occupied areas under martial law. Though still fairly restrained overall, a significant portion of this literature has been quite critical of Union policymakers and their agents on the ground. The issue becomes even more complex and controversial when the treatment of citizens of loyal Border States like Missouri and Kentucky is addressed. However, as is the case with so many hot Civil War topics, once a sort of critical mass is reached some push back tends to emerge. This appears to be the case with a new study scheduled for release later this year.

As district commanders in Kentucky, Union generals Eleazer Paine and Stephen Burbridge were the poster boys of bad behavior, and they continue to be vilified in some publications today. At least for General Paine, authors Dieter Ullrich and Berry Craig believe that most of this unsavory reputation is unearned. As they see it, their upcoming book General E.A. Paine in Western Kentucky: Assessing the "Reign of Terror" of the Summer of 1864 (McFarland, Nov 2017) sets the record straight. In their estimation, the general's radical views and ardent support for emancipation, black army enlistment, and fair treatment of freedmen made Paine the target of coordinated attacks from his many conservative political enemies in the state. In the end, the critics succeeded in painting Paine's tenure in command as a "reign of terror," and the general was removed. According to Ullrich and Craig, historians continue to accept this false image of the state of affairs in the District of Western Kentucky, and their study aims to tell "the complete story."

Not that first time authors can't come up with something astounding, but Ullrich and Craig certainly bring a lot to the table with established backgrounds in the study of the Civil War in the Jackson Purchase. The former is a documents expert and the latter has already published a number of popular and scholarly books. Craig also has another volume well on its way to publication. Kentucky's Rebel Press (UP of KY) is a study of the state's pro-Confederate newspapers during the secession crisis and is scheduled for release early next year.

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