In honor of military history week at the University Press of Kentucky, here are some of our favorite books commemorating America’s past.
In Lincoln’s Final Hours, author Kathryn Canavan takes a magnifying glass to the last moments of the president’s life and to the impact his assassination had on a country still reeling from a bloody civil war. With vivid, thoroughly researched prose and a reporter’s eye for detail, this fast-paced account not only furnishes a glimpse into John Wilkes Booth’s personal and political motivations but also illuminates the stories of ordinary people whose lives were changed forever by the assassination.
In For Slavery and Union, Patrick A. Lewis uses Benjamin Buckner’s story to illuminate the origins and perspectives of Kentucky’s conservative proslavery Unionists, and explain why this group eventually became a key force in repressing social and political change during the Reconstruction era and beyond. Free from the constraints and restrictions imposed on the former Confederate states, men like Buckner joined with other proslavery forces to work in the interest of the New South’s brand of economic growth and racial control.
In Committed to Victory: The Kentucky Home Front During World War II, author Richard Holl offers the first comprehensive examination of the Commonwealth’s civilian sector during this pivotal era in the state’s history. National mobilization efforts rapidly created centers of war production and activity in Louisville, Paducah, and Richmond, producing new economic prosperity in the struggling region. The war effort also spurred significant societal changes, including the emergence of female and minority workforces in the state. In the Bluegrass, this trend found its face in Pulaski County native Rose Will Monroe, who was discovered as she assembled B-24 and B-29 bombers and was cast as Rosie the Riveter in films supporting the war effort.
The first dedicated study of this key region, Kentucky Confederates provides valuable insights into a misunderstood and understudied part of Civil War history. Author Berry Craig begins by exploring the development of the Purchase from 1818, when Andrew Jackson and Isaac Shelby acquired it from the Chickasaw tribe. Geographically isolated from the rest of the Bluegrass State, the area’s early settlers came from the South, and rail and river trade linked the region to Memphis and western Tennessee rather than to points north and east.
On October 8, 1862, Union and Confederate forces clashed near Perryville, Kentucky, in what would be the largest battle ever fought on Kentucky soil. The climax of a campaign that began two months before in northern Mississippi, Perryville came to be recognized as the high water mark of the western Confederacy. Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle is the definitive account of this important conflict. While providing all the parry and thrust one might expect from an excellent battle narrative, the book also reflects the new trends in Civil War history in its concern for ordinary soldiers and civilians caught in the slaughterhouse. The last chapter, unique among Civil War battle narratives, even discusses the battle’s veterans, their families, efforts to preserve the battlefield, and the many ways Americans have remembered and commemorated Perryville.