Ken Noe’s Perryville

In yesterday’s post I failed to mention two of my favorite battlefield studies of recent years. The first is George Rable’s, Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg! and the second is Ken Noe’s, Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle. Ken’s study is a great example of what historians have in recent years dubbed the “New Military History.” Studies that fall into this category analyze battles within a broad context of how they connect to factors away from the field such as the home front, the economy, and politics. On this view battles cannot be properly understood apart from an analysis of how they fit into this broader context. The battle of Perryville was fought in Kentucky in October 1862, just a few weeks following the battle of Antietam. Of course, most students of the war know a great deal about the latter and little of the former. That said, Ken argues convincingly as to why both battles are necessary in better understanding how the war was transformed from one to save the Union to a war that ended slavery. Unlike many battle studies Ken examines how the wounded were cared for and how the battle impacted the surrounding community. Such a focus serves as a constant reminder that battles were not isolated events. Anyone interested in the postwar period will find the last chapter to be of particular interest. Questions surrounding how the soldiers adjusted to life in the postwar period are addressed as well as the battlefield itself, which hosted both veterans reunions and other acts of commemoration. All in all, this is a first-rate study by a very talented historian. Happy reading!

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