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‘United We Stand, Divided We Fall’ is Kentucky’s motto. Yet the Civil War sharply split the Bluegrass State. Kentuckians fought Kentuckians in some of the bloodiest battles of America’s bloodiest war. The names and faces of the winning and losing generals of those battles are in most history books. But this book is not like most history books; it is about hidden history. Most of the stories are not found in other books. Some are proof that the Civil War was truly ‘a brother’s war’ in the home state of Lincoln and Davis. From the Graves County gun grab to pirates in Paducah to dueling gunboats on the Mississippi, this one-of-a-kind collection of little-known tales by Kentucky historian Berry Craig will captivate Civil War enthusiasts and casual readers alike.
“As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Such a sentiment is fitting in our area given our entirely justified reverence for our history.
WKCTC history professor Berry Craig has been instilling that reverence in his students for over 20 years. (Full disclosure: I’m one of those fortunate students. I took two of his American History classes as an undergraduate. And I’d take ‘em again.) Craig’s new book, Hidden History of Kentucky in the Civil War, is the next best thing to a seat in his classroom.
Hidden History is a twofold pleasure. They’re great stories, historical or not, and Craig tells them well, much as you’d imagine someone would who’s got to keep it fresh semester after semester. Organized by year, the pieces can be read individually in a few minutes or all in one sitting.
For those of us who’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Craig, it isn’t hard to hear his voice talking about Trigg County’s Andrew Jackson Smith, an African-American private who won the Congressional Medal of Honor, or Paducah’s Confederate Colonel A.P. Thompson, felled by a Union cannonball in the assault of Fort Anderson not far from his home. And lest one think Hidden History is Purchase-centric, Craig includes anecdotes like “The Yankee Cusser,” from the Cumberland Gap.
In short, Hidden History of Kentucky in the Civil War is the history class you always wished you’d taken, written by the one professor you’d want to take it from.”