Sister States, Enemy States: The Civil War in Kentucky and Tennessee

Sister States, Enemy States: The Civil War in Kentucky and Tennessee, edited by Kent T. Dollar, Larry H. Whiteaker, and W. Calvin Dickson, 2009, reviewed by Pastor LaMont Bonath.

I have had a life long interest in the Civil War. I started reading general information about the Civil War as a teenager. My focus has changed on the topics I have read about over the decades. Currently, I have chosen to focus on regional areas or regional events in the Civil War around or near the states of Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. To quote the editors, "The essays in this volume focus...on the political, economic, and social conditions in Kentucky and Tennessee before, during, and immediately after the Civil War." There is a lot to learn about the Civil War, beyond the military conflicts. I would recommend reading the introduction, afterward and contributors' section of this book first.

Tennessee turned secessionist because the secessionist minority "...radicalized Tennessee's political climate and utilized fraud, intimidation, and coercion to engineer a coup d'état." Kentucky stayed in the Union for several reasons:

  1. Migrating Kentuckians sought out the farm lands in the free states of the Midwest. Families and friends on both sides of the Ohio River were bound together through social relationships.
  2. Kentucky was the first Southern state not to require a property qualification for "...either voting or holding public office."
  3. Henry Clay's influence on Kentucky left a heritage "...which viewed compromise as a viable alternative to disunion."
  4. Last of all "...Kentucky ... maintained a basis for a viable two-party system."

The essay written by Robert Tracy McKenzie on "An unconditional, straight-out Union man": Parson Brownlow and the Session Crisis in East Tennessee was enjoyable to read. In Eastern Tennessee there existed a complicated understanding of the area's predominant "Unionism" with some of the variables being class, kinship, geography, religious ties, partisan affiliation and regional self-image. Parson Brownlow had a phenomenal personal magnetism and an unerring grasp of common folks' views. He understood the people of Eastern Tennessee had numerous other forms of group loyalties in addition to Union allegiances. Most of Eastern Tennessee chose, when Tennessee seceded from the Union, "...neutrality, staying home, keeping their mouths shut and hoping to be left alone." They made the choice for Unionism because it seemed to be compatible with the other allegiances they believed in or held. Parson William Brownlow used this understanding to his advantage.

The last three essays of the book did a good job of showing the war's impact in Tennessee and Kentucky, during the era of Reconstruction. I thought the writing of all three essays were well organized, balanced, and used comparative analysis to help me understand the Civil War's impact on the local and regional areas of Tennessee and Kentucky.

ASIN: 0813125413