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Contested Borderland: The Civil War in Appalachian Kentucky and Virginia

by Brian D. McKnight

Availablepaperback$30.00 978-0-8131-4113-8
Availablecloth$65.00 978-0-8131-2389-9
328 pages  Pubdate: 08/01/2012  6 x 9  5 b&w photos, 7 illustrations, 1 map, 3 tables

From 1861 to 1865, the border separating eastern Kentucky and southwestern Virginia was more than just a geographic marker—it represented a major ideological split, serving as an “international” boundary between the United States and the Confederacy. The loyalties of those who lived in this mountainous region could not be so easily divided, and large segments of the population remained neutral or vacillated in their support. Location and a wealth of resources made the region strategically important to both sides in the conflict, and both armies fought for control. In Contested Borderland, Brian D. McKnight shows how military invasion of this region led to increasing guerrilla warfare and how regular armies and state militias ripped communities along partisan lines, leaving wounds long after the official end of the Civil War.

Brian D. McKnight is a teaching fellow of history at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. His work has appeared in numerous books and journals, including the Historian, the Smithfield Review, and Ohio Valley History.

The Civil War in southern Appalachia has received considerable scholarly analysis over the past few years, but until now there has been surprisingly little attention directed toward central Appalachia, which was fully significant militarily and suffered just as great a social and economic upheaval as did any part of the mountain South. Brian D. McKnight does much to fill that gap with his comprehensive new study of the war as experienced along the border of southwestern Virginia and eastern Kentucky. McKnight adeptly juggles the military, social, and political complexities of this border war in a meticulously documented and often compelling narrative. -- American Historical Review

Comprehensive. . . . McKnight adeptly juggles the military, social, and political complexities of this border war in a meticulously documented and often compelling narrative.

This book makes a major contribution to the study of the Civil War in the mountain South by . . . [keeping] clear both the big picture and its smaller components. Contested Borderland' s integration of campaign histories with the social chaos and civilian suffering initiated by those campaigns has made for a very valuable study. -- Appalachian Journal

McKnight shines a bright analytical light on mist-shrouded mountaintops, into darkened hollows, and along meandering creeks to illuminate the reasons why, from the earliest days of the war, commanders of both armies sought to recruit soldiers from among the region's insular and clannish population. -- Civil War Roundtable of DC Newsletter

Engaging and eminently readable. . . . A compelling account of an isolated world turned upside down by a war fought over issues few of its residents understood or cared much about. -- Civil War Times

A revealing and richly diverse account of the war in this too-neglected pocket of the South. -- Daniel E. Sutherland, editor of Guerrillas, Unionists, and Violence on the Confederate Home Front

Contested Borderland, Brian D. McKnight's well-researched narrative, represents one of the best recent, comprehensive examinations of the Civil War era in the mountain highlands of Kentucky and Virginia. . . . I recommend [it] to all serious Civil War scholars and enthusiasts. -- Journal of American History

McKnight's work has much to offer in covering the war in the Central Appalachian Divide and in explaining why this region's inhabitants choose their respective allegiances. -- Journal of East Tennessee History

Amply supplies the reader with an enjoyable and informational read that attempts to bridge a gap in Civil War history. -- Journal of Military History

Written in a clear and accessible style, this book will appeal to both general and scholarly readers. This book is essential for all Appalachian regional and Civil War collections. -- Journal of Southern History

McKnight's book is an important contribution to the cumulative work of many other scholars who have explored the Civil War in Appalachia for the past two decades. His work adds to the geographic breadth and the thematic complexity of our collective understanding of the subject. -- North Carolina Historical Review

Through firsthand accounts and original military documents, McKnight portrays a self-sustained population forced into a conflict from which they perceived they had little to gain and much to lose. -- Northern Kentucky Heritage

McKnight deserves praise for his effort to shed light on the long-neglected war in the mountains. -- Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

Addresses an often-overlooked border conflict. -- WTBF Radio

Contested Borderland is the first detailed study of the Civil War on the eastern Kentucky border. The author's analysis of military tactics, political realities, and genuine hardship, is first rate. -- West Virginia History

As the only modern, comprehensive examination of the Civil War era in the mountain highlands of Kentucky and Virginia, McKnight’s book makes a wonderful contribution to Civil War history. I heartily recommend the book. Contested Borderland is a fine narrative history of a complex subject in a very complex region, and I hope it spawns more scholarship on the highland region during the Civil War. -- Indiana Magazine of History

Winner of the James I. Robertson Literary Prize