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Rebels on the Border: Civil War, Emancipation, and the Reconstruction of Kentucky and Missouri (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War) 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0807142981
ISBN-10: 0807142980
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Astor consulted an impressive array of manuscript collections, government documents, newspapers and secondary sources to fashion this fascinating study of the transformation of the political and social order in these two border states. Anyone with an interest in either of these critical states during the antebellum, wartime or postwar periods will need to consult this fine work. Highly recommended." -- Jeff Patrick, Interpretive Specialist at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield

"A fascinating and sobering view of shifting memories during Reconstruction, Astor's study goes a long way to complicate and drive forward the entire field of border state studies. Overall, Astor maintains a keen analytical focus on a slippery subject and in doing so provides us with an engaging and meaningful take on Kentucky and Missouri during the Civil War era."
-- Court Carney, H-Civil War, Author of Cuttin' Up: How Early Jazz Got America's Ear

''Aaron Astor compellingly and definitively explains the political culture surrounding the Border South's belated embrace of the Confederacy and its consequences for the region's citizens, both white and African American. This volume stands to redefine Civil War and Border State studies.'' --Anne E. Marshall, author of Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State

''In this clearly and forcefully written study, employing meticulous research skills, Aaron Astor reconstructs an utterly realistic panorama of the era of the Civil War in the border states of Kentucky and Missouri. Far from a romantic portrait of racial progress, what emerges is a sobering account of the sustaining force of a white supremacist nation whose long-term effects still corrode American society.'' --Michael Fellman, author of Inside War: The Guerrilla Conflict in Missouri During the American Civil War

About the Author

Aaron Astor is associate professor of history at Maryville College.
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Product Details

  • Series: Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War
  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: LSU Press; 1 edition (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807142980
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807142981
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #658,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

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This excellent comparative history examines how and why two of the South's most important Border Slave States--Missouri and Kentucky--remained in the Union and, in the case of Kentucky, why numerous Bluegrass slaveholders opposed secession in order to safeguard the state's peculiar institution. Presenting his argument in cogent fashion, the author, Aaron Astor, shows both his mastery of the secondary literature on antebellum, wartime, and post-bellum Kentucky as well as his knowledge of archival evidence and period newspapers. Even with a spate of new books on Civil War era Kentucky, one learns much that is new from Rebels on the Border. To cite but one example, the explanation Astor provides of the strength of Kentucky's conservative unionists in 1861, better enables readers to appreciate why, in a bid to protect slavery, so many of the state's slaveholders opposed the methods of Cotton South secessionists.

The study, which uses impressive statistical evidence that Astor gleaned from select, but densely enslaved Missouri and Kentucky counties, contains insightful observations about slave patrols and informs readers as to why initially formidable unionism in the respective states(with very different political bases)ultimately collapsed, giving way to efforts to reestablish what the author terms "white man's democracy" in the face of the challenge of "Black Suffrage and the New Political Order." Finally, Astor provides his readers and students with a tidy, yet authoritative conclusion.

This book is highly recommended.

Thomas M. Grace
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Format: Hardcover
By revealing the polarities within each section before the war and the making of common cause between the majority Unionists and the Confederates after the war, Astor's book "complicates the notion of sectionalism itself." Ironically, the opposing sides in those two regions fought for the same reason, to preserve slavery; for the same cause they worked together in post-war years to bring down blacks who had risen during radical northern dominance and to keep them down. That story "foreshadows the historical narrative of the rest of the nation in the later nineteenth century."

I shuddered to learn early in the book that about two hundred men and women gathered on Christmas Eve 1866 on the grounds of the First Presbyterian Church in former Unionist Danville, Kentucky to hang Al McRoberts, a black man. On that spot, the Daughters of the Confederacy erected a memorial to Confederate soldiers. One may visit it on the edge of the campus of Centre College, where I taught English in 1960 and '61.

One of Astor's most well-documented and revealing arguments is that "in a microcosm of national events the slave population would prove to be the real engine of political transformation during the Civil War and Reconstruction era."

Astor expresses his theories with cogent clarity, and his mastery of research provides narrative details that renders this book uncommonly readable, and, perhaps, revolutionary.
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Format: Hardcover
I would like to recommend this book as a corrective to simplistic conceptions of the American Civil War as a struggle between the North of budding industry and independent farmers opposed to a slaveholding South of great plantations and oppressed white poor. I would like to recommend a book that is the product of so much detailed and often correctly aimed research. I would like to recommend a book that gets so much right. I would like to recommend a book that shines a spotlight on a geographic area that I have studied intensely. But in the final analysis, I must demur.
Aaron Astor compares the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky with Missouri's Little Dixie. Kentucky and Missouri, in common with the other border states of Maryland and Delaware were slaveholding states that stayed within the Union. Astor believes that so many slaveholders in both Kentucky and Missouri opposed secession in 1861 because they believed slavery as an institution would be, in the end, better protected within the Union than within an embattled Confederacy. Over the course of the war and reconstruction, these conservative Unionists were gradually pushed toward the Southern position as the war changed from a war to protect the Union and preserve slavery within its mid-19th century boundaries and became a war to abolish slavery and give former slaves full legal and political equality.
I do not have the expertise required to evaluate what the author says about Kentucky, although most of what is said sounds plausible. But much of what Astor says about Missouri contains dubious assumptions, over-interpretation of a few incidents, or even misinterpretation.
The first question is the relative size of Missouri's conservative Unionist block.
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