Academic journal article Military Review

Fort Donelson's Legacy: War and Society in Kentucky and Tennessee, 1862-1863

Academic journal article Military Review

Fort Donelson's Legacy: War and Society in Kentucky and Tennessee, 1862-1863

Article excerpt

FORT DONELSON'S LEGACY: War and Society in Kentucky and Tennessee, 1862-1863, by Benjamin F. Cooling. 408 pages. The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN. 1997. $38.00.

Most American Civil War histories of the Western Theater focus on the major campaigns and battles of the region in Tennessee from Fort Henry to Fort Donelson, then along the waterways to Shiloh church. They then examine the lethargic Union march toward Corinth and General Ulysses S. Grant's Vicksburg Campaign. Other accounts center on the events of Confederate General Braxton Bragg's march into Kentucky, the Tullahoma Campaign, the Battle of Chickamauga and the siege of Chattanooga. Rarely is there an attempt in one study to examine these battles and campaigns as if they were part of a single theater or to examine what transpired in the areas through which the armies had passed.

Not only does author Benjamin F. Cooling study the events of 1862 and 1863 from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River, he also focuses on one aspect that has received little coverage. While armies were marching and soldiers were fighting, other forces-guerrillas and partisans-were at work. The "uncontrolled, unorganized popular violence against the advancing Yankee hordes" created problems for Union commanders with which they were ill-equipped to deal.

Many commanders believed extreme measures, to include execution, had to be taken against Southern civilians criminals in the view of many Union soldiers-who participated in irregular warfare. The South countered by enacting the Partisan Ranger Act, but generals on both sides who had been trained at West Point disdained such tactics and could not accept units roaming the countryside without being controlled by regular army officers. …

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