Friday, July 16, 2021

Booknotes: The Most Hated Man in Kentucky

New Arrival:
The Most Hated Man in Kentucky: The Lost Cause and the Legacy of Union General Stephen Burbridge by Brad Asher (UP of Ky, 2021).

From the description: "For the last third of the nineteenth century, Union General Stephen Gano Burbridge enjoyed the unenviable distinction of being the most hated man in Kentucky. From mid-1864, just months into his reign as the military commander of the state, until his death in December 1894, the mere mention of his name triggered a firestorm of curses from editorialists and politicians."

Burbridge was not the only Union general to be accused during and after the war of installing an arbitrary military rule over the home front that encompassed widespread abuse of the civilian population (including the loyal Kentucky majority under his charge). Readers might recall the recent publication of General E.A. Paine in Western Kentucky: Assessing the "Reign of Terror" of the Summer of 1864 (2018). In similar vein, Brad Asher's The Most Hated Man in Kentucky: The Lost Cause and the Legacy of Union General Stephen Burbridge reassesses the contentious historical reputation of its subject.

More from the description: "In this revealing biography, Brad Asher explores how Burbridge earned his infamous reputation and adds an important new layer to the ongoing reexamination of Kentucky during and after the Civil War. Asher illuminates how Burbridge―as both a Kentuckian and the local architect of the destruction of slavery―became the scapegoat for white Kentuckians, including many in the Unionist political elite, who were unshakably opposed to emancipation." In addition to "recalibrating history's understanding of Burbridge," The Most Hated Man in Kentucky "adds administrative and military context to the state's reaction to emancipation and sheds new light on its postwar pro-Confederacy shift."

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