Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Booknotes: General E.A. Paine in Western Kentucky

New Arrival:
General E.A. Paine in Western Kentucky: Assessing the "Reign of Terror" of the Summer of 1864 by Dieter C. Ullrich and Berry Craig (McFarland, 2018).

As the war dragged on and radical change in the form of emancipation with recruitment of black troops into the Union Army became prioritized, the Lincoln administration appointed increasingly hard-line officers to head up Kentucky military districts and carry out Republican war aims and policy in the state. Perhaps the most notorious of these generals was Stephen G. Burbridge, who earned the enmity of many of his fellow Kentuckians (so much so that he was given the decidedly unfriendly sobriquet of "Butcher"). Another commander whose actions alienated a significant part of the local population was Eleazer A. Paine, the subject of Dieter Ullrich and Berry Craig's General E.A. Paine in Western Kentucky: Assessing the "Reign of Terror" of the Summer of 1864. Judging from his best-known photograph, Paine certainly looked the part of fire and brimstone enforcer.

From the description: "When General E. A. Paine assumed command of the U.S. Army's District of Western Kentucky at Paducah in the summer of 1864, he faced a defiant populace, a thriving black market and undisciplined troops plagued by low morale. Guerrillas pillaged towns and murdered the vocal few that supported the Union. Paine's task was to enforce discipline and mollify the secessionist majority in a 2,300-square-mile district. In less than two months, he succeeded where others had failed. For secessionists, his tenure was a "reign of terror"—for the Unionist minority, a "happy and jubilant" time."

Authors Ullrich and Craig obviously view Paine as an unfairly maligned figure in Kentucky Civil War history. "An abolitionist, Paine encouraged the enlistment of black troops and fair wages for former slaves. Yet his principled views led to his downfall. Critics and enemies falsified reports, leading to his removal from command and a court-martial. He was exonerated on all but one minor charge yet historians have perpetuated the Paine-the-monster myth." Seeking to rehabilitate Paine's historical reputation, the book claims to tell "the complete story."

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