The legacy of the American Civil War (1861 – 1865) is remembered as the war that tore the U.S. apart. On April 12, 1861, Confederate commander P.G.T. Beauregard ordered open fire on Fort Sumter in South Carolina, and the war officially began. Until General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, the Union forces of the north, and the Confederate forces of the south clashed bitterly on battlegrounds across the country. Even as one of the darker blemishes on American history, the Civil War remains a part of our legacy as a struggle that helped shape our nation as we know it.
Today we commemorate the sesquicentennial, or 150th Anniversary, of the start of the Civil War. As Kentuckians we have always had the unique designation as a border state that declared allegiance to neither the south nor the north, and our geography claims battle sites such as Perryville and Forts Henry and Donelson. Kentucky is also the birthplace of both Civil War presidents Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, Lincoln’s wife Mary Todd, U.S. Vice President and Confederate States’ Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge, and Basil Wilson Duke, who was also the brother-in-law of John Hunt Morgan (not a native Kentuckian, but who made Lexington his home).
President Lincoln recognized the strategic importance of Kentucky during the war, declaring:
“I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.”
If Civil War history is your thing, or you’d like to celebrate the sesquicentennial by learning a little bit more, The University Press of Kentucky wants to feed your interest with books, maps, photos, and a little help from our friends.
- The Kentucky Historical Society has lots of Civil War happenings and projects you can check out here. And links to their news and events surrounding the sesquicentennial here.
- You can also check out the KY Military History Museum in Frankfort.
- KET has some wonderful educational overviews of the Civil War in Kentucky, including timelines, maps, and speeches.
- The Library of Congress was recently gifted with the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs which features ‘more than 700 ambrotype and tintype photographs [that] highlight both Union and Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War’. Spend a few minutes flipping through, the quality and detail are incredible!
- Though its not ENTIRELY Civil War related, The University of Louisville has an extensive collection of historic Kentucky maps, digitized for your easy perusal. Including this Civil War-era map of Louisville and its defenses.
- University Press of Kentucky author Rusty Williams (My Old Confederate Home) maintains a blog of the same name, highlighting stories from Confederate soldiers’ homes.
- And of course, The University Press of Kentucky has a substantial list of Civil War reading, inluding:
The Virginia at War Series
One of Morgan’s Men: Memoirs of Lieutenant John M. Porter of the Ninth Kentucky Cavalry
Kentuckians in Gray: Confederate Generals and Field Officers of the Bluegrass State
Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle
For more UPK Civil War Titles see below, or visit www.kentuckypress.com
Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
Gray Ghost: The Life of Col. John Singleton Mosby
Breckinridge: Statesman, Soldier, Symbol
Josie Underwood’s Civil War Diary
The Battle Rages Higher: The Union’s Fifteenth Kentucky Infantry
Sister States, Enemy States: The Civil War in Kentucky and Tennessee
Basil Wilson Duke, CSA: The Right Man in the Right Place
An American Iliad: The Story of the Civil War, second edition
My Old Confederate Home: A Respectable Place for Civil War Veterans
Reconstructing Appalachia: The Civil War’s Aftermath
The Trial: The Assassination of President Lincoln and the Trial of the Conspirators
Lincoln of Kentucky
Lincoln on Lincoln
Lincoln Legends: Myths, Hoaxes, and Confabulations Associated with Our Greatest President