Thursday, February 24, 2011

Book Review: My Old Confederate Home

Rusty Williams
copyright 2010
The University Press of Kentucky

After having read Anne Marshall's Creating a Confederate Kentucky (see my review here), I thought perhaps that Rusty William's book would make for a nice follow-up. That intuition proved to be correct, as I really enjoyed My Old Confederate Home.

In this book, Williams employs a very readable, free-flowing style to tell the tale of a property in Pewee Valley, Kentucky that served as a home for former Confederate veterans for over 30 years. 
William picks a pair of "characters" to build each chapter around, discussing how those two individuals knew each other or what other similarity they held. This is an effective tool and provides consistency throughout the book.

This book is easy to read, full of enjoyable writing and with a good flow.

Williams shows how the seeds for such a house were planted in post-Civil War Confederate groups that sprung up throughout the south and in Kentucky. 

He also discusses many of the people who played major roles in the establishment of this home, the maintenance and administration of it, as well as how state-wide Confederate groups such as the United Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy contributed and/or tried to contribute to the house.

The role women played - and tried to play - is a very interesting "story within a story" as women as individuals and as members of groups showed a keen interest in the upkeep of this institution.

Williams describes the changing roles of Kentucky state politics in the house, from its beginning to its end as the number of residents inevitably declined. The final chapter, with mentions of the numbers of inmates at the house at various time frames does a great job of serving almost as a "countdown" to the home's final days.

The book does concentrate specifically on the Confederate Home and events surrounding it, but the nature of this story does describe some of the same aspects of Civil War memory in Kentucky as does Marshall's book. Williams' piece adds to the study of just how far the image of Kentucky as a Confederate state spread in the late 1800s and early 1900s and the influence former Confederates and Confederate supporters had throughout the state. Marshall spends more time explaining how this happened, but this books provides a good specific example of the effects of that image. Reading these books back-to-back proved to be a terrific idea and one I certainly suggest other readers to consider.

My Old Confederate Home is a very fine book dealing specifically with the Confederate Veteran's Home in Pewee Valley, Kentucky and is a nice addition to the study of Kentucky's image as a Confederate state. 

I gladly recommend this book

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