War in Ky Book Review

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Book Review

McDonough, James L. War in Kentucky From Shiloh to Perryville. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press

19 November 2012

History 108

By:

Courtney Creech

James McDonough's War in Kentucky: From Shiloh to Perryville uses exerts from diaries, letters, and

participant recollection to explore the strategic importance of Kentucky for both sides in the Civil War.

War and Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Record of the Union and Confederate Armies was

also used as a reference. McDonough focuses on the under-examined facets of the Civil War in

Western Theater to recount the Confederates attempt to gain control of Kentucky. McDonough

identifies collective leadership deficiencies on both sides and argues that 1862 should be the decisive

year of the war.

June 20, 1862, Jefferson Davis, commander of the 11 states that made of the Confederate States

of America, removed General P.G. T. Beauregard from the command of the army of the Mississippi.

Braxton Bragg was appointed his successor at a time the Confederacy's circumstances were low.

McDonough does not claim the south would have won under Beauregard's command, however,

McDonough criticizes the Confederate tactics for lack of a clearly defined military objective and

suggests Beauregard may have offered stronger leadership.

McDonough sets the stage for his account of the Kentucky battles by outlining the

Confederacy's precarious state in the winter and spring of 1862. During this time, the Union

successfully launched a joint army-navy offensive in capturing Fort Henry and Fort Donelson. These

victories were described as great triumphs that presented the Union with many opportunities to weaken

and pose great threat to the Confederacy. The Confederates made a futile attempt to impede the

Federal advance. They failed, losing the battle at Shiloh. Shiloh was the largest battle, measured by

numbers engaged and causalities, of the Civil War as well as all battles in American history up to that

time. This delineated a chain of events from which the Confederacy would not recover.

The importance of the Union victories over Fort Donelson and Fort Henry can not be

exaggerated. In, The Story of the Confederacy, author Robert S. Henry writes, “Fort Donelson, in many

ways, may be considered the critical event of the Civil War.” i “Fort Henry Fell with ease. Poorly located on low ground, not well planned and poorly armed, it was threatened as much my rising water

as by approaching Yankees.” ii These vital events opened up the Tennessee River as an area of

penetration all the way to the state lines of Alabama and Mississippi.

Federal troops moved further south, severing Confederate communication on the Mississippi.

Yankees continued up the Tennessee, taking control of Memphis and Charleston Railroad line, moving

on to Nashville, a major arsenal and supply depot. Under the direction of General Braxton Bragg, the

operation originally began with the plan to face General Buell in Middle Tennessee. Instead, Bragg

was influenced by General Edmund Kirby Smith, who had a strong desire to conquer Kentucky. The

southerners launched an ineffective encroachment. Confederates sacrificed thousands of soldiers in

their effort to protect the Memphis Charleston Railroad. The southerners had the advantages of

numbers and the element of surprise. However, due to lack of military placement and implements of

war, the Confederates failed. The progress of the Yankees and the struggle for the railroads continued.

The Rebel generals understood the importance of Kentucky. However, a strategic plan in taking

Kentucky cities such as Lexington or Louisville, or another strategic location was never formulated.

The Confederacy lacked number in...
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