By Kirk C. Jenkins
The University Press of Kentucky
I finally have finished another book, as my reading continues to be slower than it should, so I thought I’d post a few thoughts about it. It has been a while since I did a book review.
The Battle Rages Higher is a fine book,well-written with a readable and enjoyable narrative. Jenkins’ writing style is a good fit for this subject.
I had heard about the 15th Kentucky during my trips to Perryville, where I stood on and near the hallowed ground where they fought near the Bottom House. I have been there several times but that was about all I had heard of this unit. Once I saw this book, it was only natural for me to read it, though I wish I had done so years ago. Still, it is better late than never - I am glad to have read thus work.
This book is a basic regimental history, tracing the unit from its formation and following it into the many battles and campaigns in which it fought, including Perryville, Stone’s River, Chickamauga, the Atlanta Campaign and more. A few of its men were even sent to in Andersonville and though three of them survived that prison, two of the survivors ended up on the doomed ship Sultana. Private Milton Davis somehow lived through that disaster after years of war then Andersonville. That fascinates me.
Jenkins discusses the various battles and campaigns in good detail, using letters, official records and other sources for information and details to discuss the men, their leaders and their army. It comes across as a well-researched book that provides an in-depth review of the regiment.
This book is from 2003, so plenty of other scholarship has taken place in the years since then. I’m admittedly not expert enough to know what newer studies might add to Jenkins’ work, but this is an enjoyable and informative book that I do recommend others read. I knew of the 15th Kentucky’s fight at Perryville, but that is only a small part of this unit’s story, a tale like that of many regiments - marching, camping, fighting and various hardships in the field, away from home and family.
One surprise I received from this book was that several members of it were from, lived in, died in or are buried in my home of Campbell County, with a couple others from neighboring counties. I had never heard or expected that. At least one of these soldiers lies at rest in the same cemetery as my paternal grandparents. This entire section with the biographies of the unit’s soldiers is a terrific piece of this book, even for the many men with no connection so local to me.
The discovery of these men (most in Companies H or I) will likely lead me to a future project looking into their lives more deeply. Jenkins does include a sentence or two about each and perhaps his work will form the majority of my idea, but maybe I can find more information about at least a few of these men, or even pictures of headstones. This is something I will work on, though I am not yet sure of the format. Perhaps I will do a separate post for each name, finishing each one as I can or maybe I will do one or two longer posts focusing n several men at a time, or all at once. I have no clue on the timing of this, but I started a draft with a list of the names from the book, so that is at least a start.
Another piece that might only interest me was that this unit mustered into the army in the small town of New Haven, Kentucky. This meant little to me, except for referring to that town in a fairly recent post I made, but, more unexpectedly, during my recent trip to Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, I passed through New Haven just before arriving in Hodgenville. Had I read the early part of the book more recently or planned m6 trip more in advance, I might have realized how near those towns are to each other, but I did not and seeing the “Welcome to New Haven” sign did catch me off-guard. That is just another small connection th3 book made to my life.
The Battle Rages Higher is a very good book about a Kentucky unit full of Kentucky men, and their many war-time experiences. It certainly belongs on Civil War bookshelves and in the hands of readers.