By the early twentieth century, Basil Wilson Duke had established himself as one of Kentucky's most popular storytellers, but unlike many other talented raconteurs, Duke was not merely a man of words. In Basil Wilson Duke, CSA, the first full-length biography of this distinguished American, Gary Robert Matthews offers keen insight into the challenges Duke faced before, during, and after the strife of the Civil War. As first lieutenant of General John Hunt Morgan's legendary band of Confederate raiders, Duke became Morgan's most trusted advisor and an integral contributor to his dramatic tactical successes. Duke was twice wounded in battle and was captured during a raid in Ohio in 1863. Held captive for over a year, Duke rejoined Morgan's cavalry in August 1864, only days before Morgan (who was Duke's brother-in-law) met his demise in Greeneville, Tennessee. Promoted to brigadier general and appointed commander of Morgan's men, he helped convince Jefferson Davis of the futility of continued resistance at the close of the war and was assigned to the force escorting Davis in his escape. Duke's life of action and achievement, however, did not end with the war. He wrote A History of Morgan's Cavalry, preserving for posterity the experiences of his fellow warriors, and covered for the Louisville Courier-Journal an 1875 horserace that would eventually be known as the first Kentucky Derby. He built a reputation as a skilled historical writer, and his interests led him to help found the Filson Historical Society in Louisville. Duke also applied his talents to public and political life. He opened a law office and was elected as a Democrat to the Kentucky House, where he served until 1870. Then applying his legal expertise and political connections at the state and national levels, Duke represented the powerful L&N Railroad as the company's chief lobbyist in the aftermath of the war and during the emotionally charged era of Reconstruction. Gary Robert Matthews's comprehensive study of the life of Basil Wilson Duke allows a great soldier and statesman to step out of the shadows of the past.
"Civil Warriors interested in Rebel cavalry operations in the West will find this book of value." -- Blue & Gray Magazine
"This long-needed biography should be in the library of every reader who is interested in Kentucky's role in the Civil War." -- Bowling Green (KY) Daily News
"Basil W. Duke rides again alongside his kinsman John Hunt Morgan in this first full length biography. Duke helped to establish Morgan's reputation as a cavalryman in his writing in the years after the Civil War. More important, we watch the enterprising Kentuckian as he also engaged in law, politics and railroading. Remaining an advocate of the 'Lost Cause,' Duke firmly embraced the spirit of reconciliation as well as remembrance." -- Brian S. Wills
"This first biography on one of Kentucky's best Confederates provides Gen. Basil Duke long overdue attention. He played a major role in the Confederate war effort and after its defeat became a good citizen working for reconciliation between North and South." -- Charleston (SC) Post and Courier
"A fascinating account of the career of General Basil W. Duke, from his escapades while riding with John Hunt Morgan and his Confederate raiders, through Duke's entry into Kentucky's tumultuous political arena. This is a vividly written story about a modest Southern gentleman in which the reader may come to his own conclusion that Basil W. Duke was the power behind Morgan's so-called military genius." -- Edison H. Thomas
"There has long been a need for a full-length study.... Provides a good narrative overview of Duke's life and career." -- H-Net Reviews
"Gary R. Matthews provides a reevaluation of Duke's role, his contributions to [John Hunt] Morgan's career, and his post-war memory... The author convincingly 'demonstrates that Morgan was in charge but that Duke perfectly complemented him.'" -- Indiana Magazine of History
"Second in command to the more flamboyant John Hunt Morgan, Duke's usually good judgment and sense of military tactics contributed greatly to the exploits that won Morgan acclaim. The decline in Morgan's reputation while Duke languished in Union prisons testifies to Duke's contributions to the unit's success.... In this new study, Basil Duke receives merited recognition as one of the unsung heroes of the Confederate cause." -- Lowell H. Harrison
"This biography illuminates Duke's distinguished service in the Civil War, as well as his productive postwar career as a railroad man and historian." -- Military Trader
"Readers will be surprised, even fascinated, when Matthews substantiates the iconoclastic view that it was Duke, not Morgan, who provided the tactics, the organization, and the discipline that made Morgan's cavalry an effective force in the Western theater. And when Morgan's cavalry, be it of division or brigade strength, had been smashed or scattered, it was Duke who restored the unit to operational efficiency." -- Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes Jr.
"The first biography of a very overlooked officer, and it's a good one." -- New York Military Affairs Symposium Review
"An engagingly written and ably told biography of a popular Civil War hero whose star has faded due to neglect, not lack of exploits." -- Signal Flag
""This book is the very best biography of General Duke's life and servce to the Confederate cause. This book is a great addition to your Confederate library dealing with Confederate Cavalry Raiders." -- Lone Star Book Review" --
""This book is a 'must have' for your book collection on the war in the Shenandoah Valley." -- Lone Star Book Review" --