Monday, December 5, 2011

The Civil War at Perryville by Christopher L. Kolakowski

Braxton Bragg
The Civil War at Perryville – Battling for the Bluegrass State by Christopher Kolakowski describes the Confederate failure to gain control of Kentucky. Mr. Kolakowski has produced a well-researched account of the battle at Perryville, KY. The reader follows the day-long conflict on October 8, 1862 as the Confederate Army of Mississippi led by General Braxton Bragg drives the Union Army of the Ohio commanded by Major General Don Carlos Buell from the field.

Union Defense - Starkweather's Brigade
Kolakowski sets the stage for the engagement as Confederate forces under Bragg and General Kirby Smith conduct the Confederate Heartland Offensive. We follow Confederate forces through the Cumberland Gap and victories at Richmond and Munfordville as they gain control of most of the state. Finally the two armies collide over the farmland near Perryville. There the author describes the troop movements and flow of battle that ends with the climax at Dixville Crossroads. We learn about the Union’s stout defense at Starkweather Hill and the courage of both northern and southern forces to win the fight.

Don Carlos Buell
The author includes a discussion about the Buell Petition including a description of the meeting of officers written by Col. John M. Harlan of the 10th Kentucky Regiment. Harlan’s account indicates that the meeting took place after the Battle of Perryville. The officers present agreed to sign a petition to the President asking for Buell’s removal because the general had “lost the confidence of the Army of the Ohio.” The document was never sent because Harlan learned that Lincoln had removed Buell the day before.

The book contains numerous photographs and maps (see comment below). The narrative is sprinkled with first-hand accounts of the battle. I would definitely recommend reading the account before visiting Perryville.

I found the maps a little hard to read due to the size and orientation of the font. More distinctive coding on the units and movements would have helped considerably. I would have liked to see the unit sizes included with the order of battle information. The casualty figures for each unit would have been a good addition.

We gave this book a rating of two-stars or Major General. 

Christopher L. Kolakowski was born and raised in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He received his BA in history and mass communications from Emory & Henry College, and his MA in public history from the State University of New York at Albany. Chris has spent his career interpreting and preserving American military history with the National Park Service, New York State government, the Rensselaer County (New York) Historical Society and the Civil War Preservation Trust. From 2005 to 2008, Chris was executive director of the Perryville Enhancement Project. During his tenure he added 152 acres of critical battlefield land and increased Perryville’s national profile. Chris works as a military historian in Atlanta, Georgia. The Civil War at Perryville: Battling for the Bluegrass State is his first book.

A pdf copy of this book was provided by Mr. Kolakowski.

Check out Mr. Kolakowski's interview by Civil War Trust.

Please see Perryville for pictures of the battlefield and other information on the battle. Also check out the Battle of Perryville on Wikipedia.

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