Saturday, June 2, 2012

Book Review: The Civil War at Perryville: Battling for the Bluegrass

Christopher L. Kolakowski
copyright 2009
The History Press
Civil War Sesquicentennial Series 

Yet another post on Perryville here, but it's not really a coincidence, as I did want to do some reading before my recent trip to the historic site.

This is a concise, but informative and well-written book that starts with a description of the campaign that culminated in the major fight among the Chaplin hills. I found it to be really enjoyable and it was easy to read. The flow of the writing helped make it a quick, fun book and especially helpful to me before my trip to the battlefield.

I really liked the many pictures and maps  throughout the book. This review, from a blog and blogger I enjoy, criticizes the quality of these illustrations. I did notice some text cut off on one of the maps, but the photographs seemed fine to me and really added to the quality of the story Kolakowski put together. The portraits on pages 108 and 110 especially caught my eyes as they are of 2 soldiers who died on the field, and the captions tell where. This allowed me to stand in the area where they had died and look at their portraits at the same time. This may be only important to me due to my trip, but these two pictures really added to my view of the what happened on the Open Knob and Starkweather Hill. They added a human touch to my tour.

(As I look more closely at the various pictures, I can understand the criticism in the other review, but I did not notice any of that while reading the book. I focused on the text and on the subjects of the illustrations, so perhaps that's just a different reading style than the previous reviewer employs. I still feel the number of illustrations was very nice and a positive aspect of the book.)

In hindsight, I wish I had read this book before reading Stuart Sanders' Perryville Under Fire (the link goes to my review of it) but they both are very good and added to my understanding of the battle. With my interest in the biggest battle in Kentucky and my recent trip to the field, these books both attracted my interest even more than they normally would have, and perhaps that has influenced my review, but I thought Kolakowski did a fine job of describing both the campaign that led to this battle, the battle itself and even a little bit of the post-battle happenings (at which point Sanders' work does an excellent job of telling the affects of the battle on the region.)

If anyone is looking for a quick, readable and enjoyable look at this major western Civil War battle, this book is a fine choice and will prove to be very helpful. I enjoyed it very much.

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