Over the years, I have read a few books on Kentucky in the Civil War and found that several of them focused on politics and social attitudes as much, or more than, pure military topics. This topic - Kentucky politics and the state’s Confederate image - has become a strong interest for me as I find it to be a complicated, confusing, and, yet, fascinating subject. It currently is one of my main interests in the Civil War.
I do not have any specific family or genealogical connections to the topic, but I had many ancestors in the state during this era, and I do wonder what their life was like or what their beliefs were. At least one of my Kentucky ancestors owned slaves but had a son and multiple grandsons fight for the Union. Did this family’s attitude shift like those of many other Kentuckians as the war progressed and Emancipation and the enlistment of African-American soldiers became realities? Did any of my other ancestors change views during this time? Questions like that help guide me in the direction of such studies.
I figured I would compile this list in a post and perhaps soon on a separate page. This will help remind me of these books in case I want to look something up and might help others find some interesting reading as I truly enjoyed each of these works. This list is in no particular order, other than how I remembered or thought of them when compiling this post.
Pre-War:Kentucky Rising: Democracy, Slavery, and Culture From the Early Republic to the Civil War by James Ramage and Andrea Watkins. (I consider it to be a good “prequel” to the books listed below and wish I had read it before the others.)
War and Post-War:Kentucky Rebel Town: The Civil War Battles of Cynthiana & Harrison County by William Penn
Wild Wolf: The Great Civil War Rivalry by Ronald Wolford Blair
How Kentucky Became Southern: A Tale of Outlaws, Horse Thieves, Gamblers, and Breeders by Mary Jean Wall
Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State by Anne Marshall
My Old Confederate Home: A Respectable Place for Civil War Veterans by Rusty Williams
Lincoln’s Forgotten Ally: Judge Advocate Joseph Holt of Kentucky by Elizabeth D. Leonard
(Kentucky politics is not a main focus of Lincoln’s Forgotten Ally, but it does touch on the topic and Holt’s life story serve as a wonderful example of how this state’s mixed political identity, especially late in and after the war, affected individual lives and families. How many other books are like that - not primarily concentrating on the political climate of the state, but nonetheless discussing it in terms of how it relates to their main subjects?)
The links are all to my reviews, except for Kentucky Rising. I wrote a long review of it, but accidentally hit the delete button and lost it all and was too frustrated to redo it, so that link is simply to the book’s amazon.com page.
I do realize there are likely many books I have not read or even heard of on this subject, so I will appreciate any suggestions in the future.