Civil War Book Review: Creating a Confederate Kentucky

by James Durney on March 3, 2011 · 2 comments

Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State
by Anne Elizabeth Marshall

Product Details

Becoming Confederate

Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State by Anne Elizabeth MarshallE. Merton Coulter said Kentucky “waited until after the war was over to secede from the Union.”   In Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know about the Civil War Garry W. Gallagher looks at secession 150 years after the war.  This book documents the process and reasons for Kentucky becoming a Confederate state in popular memory.  In the process, the reader gains an understanding of how the South lost the war but won the peace.

Kentucky is a badly divided Border State in 1861.  With strong ties to both sides, politically the state makes no choice.  Kentuckians follow their heart in choosing sides, even as events force Kentucky into the Union ranks.  This is never a comfortable fit for the state or the Union.  The Emancipation Proclamation is not applicable in Kentucky.  After the war, slavery is still legal and people are slaves.  Reconstruction is not necessary in a state that never seceded.  An army of occupation does not protect people working for the Freedman’s Bureau.  Black men, who enlisted in the USCT and their families, are free but the law offers little protection.  Many Whites that supported the Union did not do so to destroy slavery and feel betrayed.  Many ex-Confederates are welcomed home and have their civil rights restored as if nothing happened.  With so many tensions, Kentucky is a powder keg.

The author documents the explosion in Kentucky and the resulting development of a Confederate memory.  In the process, we see post war America and the development of reconciliation.  This is not an easy process filled with high-minded people acting with the best of motivations.  This is a bloody, violent era where factions struggle for advantage and in some cases survival.  Age, selective memory, practical considerations and race play major roles during this time.  All of these threads and many more are woven into an intelligent narrative that takes the reader from the end of the war to the 20th Century.  The author writes well and is easy to read.  This well illustrated book has a complete set of endnotes, bibliography and index.  It is a valuable and serious history of the development of Confederate memory in Kentucky and in America.  This is an excellent book for any student of Reconstruction, the process of reconciliation or the years after the Civil War.


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Richard March 4, 2011 at 7:08 pm

I agree with this review – it’s an excellent book.

I also suggest that readers (particularly those interested in Kentucky) may want to read this and “My Old Confederate Home” by Rusty Williams back-to-back, as Marshall provides great examples of the how and why Kentucky developed a Confederate image and Williams’ book (though it touches on those themes) shows an actual result that this image produced.

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Joe Reinhart September 1, 2011 at 8:31 am

This is an excellent look at Kentucky after the war and the reasons it is said that the Bluegrass State did not secede until after the war. Another excellent work about the conflict in Kentucky during the Civil War is Brian D. McKnight’s Contester Borderland.

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