by William A. Penn
Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2016. Pp. x, 400.
Illus., maps, appends., notes, index. . $45.00. ISBN: 081316771X
A Kentucky County in the Civil War
Penn, editor of the Harrison Heritage News, who has written extensively in Kentucky local historian and genealogy, takes a fresh look at what has generally been regard as “the best rebel town in Kentucky,” Cynthiana in Harrison County, to offer a “more nuanced” view of the area’s role and experiences during the Civil War.
Penn makes a good case that, although the area was generally pro-Confederate, there was a strong Unionist presence. Early in the war, during the period of Kentucky’s self-proclaimed “neutrality”, the local Unionists were suppressed by local secessionists and an influx of Rebel sympathizers from outside the state, in violation of that neutrality. After the Confederacy invasion of Kentucky in September of 1861, however, Harrison County – and most of the rest of the state – passed quickly behind Union lines. This permitted local Unionists to emerge and assume political control of the area, imposing rather rigid restrictions on Secessionists.
This control was only threatened twice, in mid-1862 and mid-1864, when John Hunt Morgan raided into the area, only to be defeated each time, decisively in the Second Battle of Cynthia (June 11-12, 1864), in which his command was virtually wiped out, and action covered in considerable detail in Penn’s account, which includes an excellent order of battle.
Kentucky Rebel Town is a very good account of a small community in the midst of a very big war, and will appeal to anyone interested in the Home Front or small unit actions during the Civil War.
Note: Kentucky Rebel Town is also available as an epub, ISBN 978-0-8131-6772-5, and in pdf, ISBN 978-0-8131-6773-2.