Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Kentucky Campaign of 1862 and Battle of Perryville - Dr. Kenneth Hafendorfer

The following is a guest post submitted by Andy Papen.

When I first heard that Dr. Kenneth Hafendorfer had written a two volume treatise entitled The Kentucky Campaign of 1862 and Battle of Perryville, I was both intrigued and wary.   It was, to say the least, pricey.  Because of the price, I was somewhat hesitant to buy it as I didn't want to spend that amount of money on a book that was maybe just an expansion of his earlier book on Perryville.  That earlier book was one of my introductions to Perryville and the Kentucky Campaign, but it had its flaws and is, in my opinion, the weakest of his several books.  After hearing some good things about the new book, though, I went ahead and took the plunge.  Well, I just finished it, and I'm really glad I bought it.
It's self published, just like Hafendorfer's other books.  Self-published books are, for me as probably for most of us, a mixed bag.  Some are really, really good; others are, well, I see why no one would publish them.  These two volumes are so long, and contain so much detail, that I can understand why a publisher wouldn't do this set without significantly shortening it.  Personally, I'm glad that this one was self-published; I think I would have liked a shorter version a lot less.  This amount of massive detail isn't for everyone, but for "niche" readers like me, I much preferred it the way it is.  I can see both sides of the argument, and will come back to this question at the end of this post.

I've long been a Kentucky Campaign nerd; I've read pretty much everything that's out there and have visited several sites extensively.  However, I'm far from an expert, and I'm certainly not going to attempt a full review here; there are others far more qualified to do that than me.   I will, however, present a few thoughts on this lengthy study. 
Lengthy may not be the most accurate description.  Massive may well be more accurate!  These books are huge.  A word of advice; don't drop either of them, especially Volume II, on your foot or you will end up in the ER!  Here are a few stats on the books.  A total of 1,390 pages (537 in Volume I and 853 in Volume II).   The battle of Perryville itself (October 8, 1862) gets 461 pages.  175 maps, 78 on the Perryville battle alone.  The Perryville battle maps are generally in fifteen minute to half-hour increments, although there are some variances.  Obviously, we cannot complain about a scarcity of maps in these books.  I found the maps to be very good for the most part.  Again, if there are inaccuracies in the maps, I am not aware of them.  I also found the maps very tied to the text.  One of my pet peeves in campaign or battle studies is when activities described in the text never show up on the relevant map; that's not a problem here.   In addition, the bibliography takes up 43 pages, and the endnotes total 99 pages for Volume I and 115 for Volume II.

I felt the real strength of these books was the coverage of the campaign up to Perryville.  I hadn't read this much detail of the movements of Buell's and Bragg's armies in any other study of the Kentucky Campaign.  Plus, we get daily maps showing the movements from Chattanooga and North Alabama; I found that really helpful and informative.  We get detailed daily movements of each component of each army:  how far each marched and where they camped for the night.  Similarly, the movements out of Kentucky by each army get significant coverage.  Dog Walk, for example, gets about 8 pages and a map.  As a long time enthusiast of Jones Withers' division, I appreciated the amount of pages on Dog Walk!
Perryville itself gets massive coverage (461 pages and 78 maps worth….).  One thing that I found interesting, and useful, was that the author was very specific in the endnotes where he differed from Dr. Kenneth Noe's book Perryville:  This Grand Havoc of Battle and also when he differed from his own earlier Perryville book.  Serious Perryville students are probably going to have some areas on which to quibble with some of his interpretations, but isn't that why we study these topics so intensely?  I didn't agree with all of the battle interpretations either, but the author makes his case, and it's up to us as to whether or not that case is made adequately.  For example, he makes reference to the stone wall defended by Starkweather's brigade, called the high-water mark of the Confederacy in the western theatre by Noe, and states in an endnote that he has found no period reference that documents a stone wall in that position.  Hmmm…  Other more familiar with Perryville than me can start weighing in!
The author also dedicated several chapters to events somewhat peripheral, but certainly related to, the actual Kentucky Campaign.  There are chapters covering Iuka and Corinth, but these are in much less detail than the rest of the book.  The "organization" of the books is very similar to the author's earlier work They Died by Twos and Tens:  The Confederate Cavalry in the Kentucky Campaign of 1862.  In fact, I felt that the two volume set was much more a huge expansion of Twos and Tens rather than an upgrade of his earlier Perryville volume.  The actions of the Confederate retreat from Kentucky are well covered, as is Buell's "pursuit".  The final chapter contains some analysis of the campaign, and the author feels that the campaign was more positive for the Confederacy than negative.  I certainly agree with that conclusion.

The bibliography is extensive, and contains mostly primary sources.  I look at the endnotes/footnotes in books, and I saw that the vast majority of the citations come from primary sources, which was good.  I did notice one odd omission in the bibliography, though.  Various manuscript collections are listed, but I did not see a listing for the Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site itself.  I thought that a curious omission, and I hope that it simply was left out by accident.  I can't imagine doing any work on Perryville and not consulting the park's holdings.   Perhaps I missed it, as the formatting of the manuscript collections consulted is a little odd.
Now, to what I didn't like…..

There were a lot of typos.  More than a lot.  An alarming amount.  So many, in fact, that it became a distraction.  Remember when I said earlier that I was, to some extent, glad that it was self published?  Well, here is where I wish a publisher had been involved, as this thing really needed a professional editor.  Look, we've all seen typos in books published by well known and excellent publishers, but not this many.  I am currently proofreading/editing a manuscript for another author and on many instances while reading these Kentucky Campaign books, wished that I could have gotten my hands on these before publication, as so many of these typos would have been easy to find and correct.  Besides the obvious ones such as incorrect punctuation, missing words, and misspellings, some were just annoying.  For example, Union brigade commander Milo Hascall's name is almost always misspelled "Haskell".  The author cited the diary of Tennessee Captain Alfred Fielder extensively, but almost always spelled his name "Fiedler" in the text.  There were more like this, but I think you see my point.
Also, the entire index was included at the end of Volume II; there was no index included in Volume I.  (Volume I did have its own endnotes)   Granted, that's more of an inconvenience than a problem, but with books this size,  I would have liked to have had an index for each volume.  While reading Volume I, it was a little unhandy to have to get Volume II out just to look up something in the index.   In addition, the index was far from complete.  There were many references to people, places, etc. that were not included in the index.  That was more of a problem, for me anyway, than only having the index in the second volume. 

Shortcomings aside, if you're a serious student of the 1862 Kentucky Campaign, Perryville or, for that matter, the War in the Western Theatre, then this is something you might want to pick up.  It's very limited; only 108 copies (8 leather bound and the remaining 100 in hardcover).  It was pricey when bought new; I don't want to think about the eventual price on the secondary market; might have to store these in my bank box.  I have #55, so more than half of them have already sold.  With the amount of information presented, I wish there were more copies as I think this is a set that others besides a few serious students/nerds like me or a few book collectors should own.

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