Civil War Book Review: DIVIDED LOYALTIES: Kentucky’s Struggle for Armed Neutrality in the Civil War

DIVIDED LOYALTIES: Kentucky’s Struggle for Armed Neutrality in the Civil War
by James Finck

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Savas Beatie (July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611211026
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611211023


In 1861, states faced the difficult choice of remaining in the United States of America or leaving.  The majority of states chose to leave or remain on their own.  A few were prevented from making a choice by force of arms.

Only one state chose to not make a choice.  Kentucky chose to be neutral.  Only in a time when “Sovereign State” is accepted could this happen.  Kentucky effectively chose secession from both sides.

The overall story of Kentucky neutrality is known to all that read Civil War history.  The state was critical to both sides.  In Northern hands, it is a platform for invading Tennessee.

In Southern hands, it controls one bank of the Ohio River while exposing the Midwest to invasion.  Kentuckians possessed strong ties, both commercial and personal, with both sides.

These ties and fear of being a battleground is the “standard story” behind neutrality.


James W. Finck’s long look at neutrality shows us how little the “standard story” covers.  Kentucky was a cross section of the United States.

The state is a mix of North and South in attitudes, personality and commercial interest.  Slavery is an integral part of the social and commercial life.  Kentucky has fewer slaves but is a major exporter of slaves.

Most Whites see slavery as necessary to control Negros.  As strong as the state’s Southern ties are, its’ Northern ties are equally strong.  Many Kentuckians’ want to avoid war just as all do not want their state turned into a battleground.


The book opens with a political, social and commercial history from 1840 to 1860.  This background is the foundation of a chapter on the election of 1860 and the impact of secession on the state.

Kentucky took the lead in trying to work out a comprise acceptable to both sides.  War ended any hope of comprise even as the infighting over pick a side took over.

The book has an excellent explanation of the factions involved and how they would combine and split apart.  Both sides cannot secure victory making neutrality a chance to gain strength.

Politics dominates the early chapters but neutrality is the main subject of the book.  About half the book is devoted to Kentucky, the USA and CSA working with and around neutrality.

The final chapter covers September to December 1861,when Kentucky is no longer neutral.


This is a well-written book with arguments logically presented.  While some of the material can be dry, the author never allows the book to become boring.

This is not “lite” reading but it will expand your understanding of the political and practical considerations Kentucky faced in 1861.


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