Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Book News: Decisions of the 1862 Kentucky Campaign

After General Beauregard evacuated Corinth at the end of May 1862 and took the unauthorized health leave that led to his dismissal, the Confederate high command and general military situation in the West was in such disarray that there were fears of the front's imminent collapse. However, Braxton Bragg's elevation to command and his aggressive offensive movements turned western momentum on its head. Although his bold campaign into Kentucky failed to achieve satisfactory results, the western theater as a whole stabilized and the Confederates regained a strong military presence in Middle Tennessee. As much as it pains me to say that anything published in the 1990s can feel dated already, given the significance of the 1862 Kentucky Campaign it's surprising that no new single-volume campaign history has emerged to replace James Lee McDonough's War in Kentucky: From Shiloh to Perryville (1994).

Before he passed, Kenneth Hafendorfer completed and published a two-volume military history of the Kentucky Campaign. Unfortunately, I could find no good information online about it beyond his daughter's efforts to sell the set online [here] at a price too rich for my blood. Presumably, the books serve as something of the physician-historian's magnus opus, incorporating his extensive previous work on Perryville, Richmond, and Confederate mounted operations into a fully realized campaign narrative.

But getting to the news matter at hand, one of the upcoming volumes from UT Press's excellent Command Decisions in America’s Civil War series will address the campaign. Along with the Spruills, Lawrence Peterson is already a veteran of the format and his Decisions of the 1862 Kentucky Campaign: The Twenty-Seven Critical Decisions That Defined the Operation is currently scheduled for a May 2019 publication date. The series is well established at this point, but it's pretty clear that some campaigns are better fits than others in terms of supplying large numbers of strategic and operational level decisions conducive to intriguing analysis and discussion. I believe that that 1862 Kentucky Campaign would be one of the better candidates and I'm looking forward to seeing Peterson's treatment.

1 comment:

  1. Good news, although twenty-seven decisions seems ambitious. I wonder if he'll cover Nelson's decision to insult Davis. The choices seem obvious. :)

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