Kentucky's Civil War Battlefields: A Guide to Their History and Preservation. By Randy Bishop. Photos, maps, notes, bibliography, index, 400 pp., 2012, Pelican, www.pelicanpub.com, $25.
It is hard to study battles without visiting the battlefields. For those of us a thousand miles away this means making the most of our infrequent trips to the South and relying on detailed books to fill in the gaps for places we have not yet been. Randy Bishop has provided an excellent resource in this respect for the main battles of Kentucky.
He has examined the thirteen battles that the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission deemed as having some significance to the outcome of the war. This includes well known battles such as Perryville, Richmond, Mill Springs and Wild Cat Mountain, plus other smaller engagements such as Ivy Mountain, Sacramento and Paducah. As makes sense when dealing with a border state three-fourths of the book covers actions through the fall of 1862 with the final part being raids by Morgan and Forrrest.
The general outline of each chapter is a history of the battle followed by information of what one will see there, a map which typically includes some modern touring information along with the troop movements and some pictures, of both personalities and the battlefield itself.
I thought the histories of the battles were fairly detailed, some of them require a book of their own to explain the battle but Bishop does an admirable job in the space he has. My favorite part though was the section in each chapter explaining what one will find there today. In some cases there is not much to see, such as Ivy Mountain, but in others, like Perryville, there is quite a bit preserved. One of my favorite ways to study a battle is to visit the site and this book will be extremely helpful in that respect. Bishop even lists phone numbers of places to visit, though I would personally confirm tour info online before I visited.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Kentucky’s battles, either to learn about them individually or with plans to visit them as well. It will probably spark an interest to read more on a battle and make a visit there soon.