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Kentucky Civil War Books - Part III

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

Focusing on what some call the Heartland Campaign, this post will cover books related to the summer campaign of Bragg and Smith into Kentucky that culminated in the battle at Perryville.

The Battle of Richmond, Kentucky (KH Press, 2008) is a detailed account of one of the most complete, yet little known, Confederate victories of the war. Taking place on the same day as Second Bull Run, Edmund Kirby Smith's Confederate Army of Kentucky defeated, routed, and captured most of the Federal Army of Kentucky, a small force of mostly new recruits. Hafendorfer's book is filled with maps, pictures of personalities, and first person accounts. It also has the occasional typo, and the annoying habit of repeating the full rank and name of a person already mentioned in the same paragraph.

If Hafendorfer's breadth of detail is not your pint of beer, consider Dean W. Lambert's When the Ripe Pears Fell: The Battle of Richmond, Kentucky. Published in 1996 by the Madison County Historical Society it is a highly readable account. Buy your copy directly from the Richmond battlefield - not only will you save a few bucks over the inflated prices found online, you'll also be directly supporting the park.

Kenneth A. Hafendorfer wrote the first definitive account of Perryville in the 1980s, which was updated to a second revised edition in the 1990s, and more recently he expanded the work into a massive two volume work that was limited to just 100 or so copies (and nearly 1400 pages). As with all of Hafendorfer's titles, he could have used a good editor and perhaps a little less guesswork, but the two volume campaign study is well worth having if you just have to have nearly every detail known to man on this campaign. An excellent review was written by Andy Papen that provides an excellent summation that I will not try to duplicate here.

Kenneth W. Noe's Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle, was the definitive account until Hafendorfer's previously mentioned and recently released tour de force. However, Noe's book is still the single most recommended title and for good reason. Extremely well written and it encompasses the various facets of the campaign in a flowing style. The only "flaw" is the lack of maps. There are a few serviceable maps, but after being spoiled by Hafendorfer, I had hoped for more of the visual interpretations of the text, which for me, short of walking the ground, helps put units and movements in their proper context. If you want one title on Perryville, this is the book. Published by The University Press of Kentucky, it is still a detailed read, coming in at 520 pages.

There are two books that I have to include, both written by Stuart Sanders. Sanders published Perryville Under Fire: The Aftermath of Kentucky's Largest Civil War Battle in 2012 (The History Press, 160 pages), and became for me an instant classic of the forgotten impact of a battle on the surrounding communities. Rich in description, at times disturbing (imagery of hogs rooting up and eating poorly buried men, which in turn dropped local hog prices as no one wanted to eat pork after that), it can be used as a study for the aftermath of any battle.

Sanders followed up this work with one a less graphic in nature but no less excellent, that being Maney's Confederate Brigade at the Battle of Perryville (The History Press, 2014, 178 pages). This is an excellent tactical account of one brigade at Perryville, but one that also provides views and details from the Federals that Maney's men faced. As with all of Sanders' book, they are written in an easily readable style and laced with first person accounts.

Dr. Hafendorfer also wrote a detailed account of the Confederate cavalry operations during the campaign. Titled They Died by Twos and Tens - The Confederate Cavalry in the Kentucky Campaign of 1862 (KH Press, 1995, 959 pages). Good luck in finding this one at an affordable price, but once again if you just have to know every detail of the Confederate mounted arm during the campaign, this is the book to own. Traditional Hafendorfer in maps, first person accounts, and typos...and in this case the annoying habit of ending each chapter with "they died by twos and tens." Okay, okay, doc, I get it!

There are numerous other books written about Kentucky during the Civil War, and alas many that are simply not worth the paper they were printed on (mostly being self-published works). However, this four part series was designed to focus on some of what I consider to be the definitive or must have accounts. In the future I will occasionally discuss other titles that were outside the scope of this series. Until then, I hope you enjoy some of the aforementioned books, and more importantly, that you have a chance to visit the Bluegrass battlefields as some of them are simply gems.

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