LSU Press Publishes In-Depth Study of Civil War Border Conflict
Aaron Astor explores the transformation of politics in Kentucky and Missouri
BATON ROUGE – “Rebels on the Border,” now available from LSU Press, offers a remarkably compelling and significant study of the Civil War South’s highly contested and bloodiest border states: Kentucky and Missouri. By far the most complex examination to date, the book sharply focuses on the “borderland” between the free North and the Confederate South. As a result, “Rebels on the Border,” by Aaron Astor, deepens and enhances understanding of the sectional conflict, the Civil War and Reconstruction.
Astor contends that after slaves in central Kentucky and Missouri gained their emancipation they transformed their communities. Informal kin and social networks of resistance against slavery became formalized processes of electoral participation and institution building. At the same time, white politics in Kentucky’s Bluegrass and Missouri’s Little Dixie underwent an electoral realignment in response to the racial and social revolution caused by the war and its aftermath. Black citizenship and voting rights provoked a violent white reaction and a cultural reinterpretation of white regional identity. After the war, the majority of wartime Unionists in the Bluegrass and Little Dixie joined former Confederate guerrillas in the Democratic Party in an effort to stifle the political ambitions of former slaves.
“Rebels on the Border” is not simply a story of bitter political struggles, partisan guerrilla warfare and racial violence. Like no other scholarly account of Kentucky and Missouri during the Civil War, it places these two crucial heartland states within the broad context of local, southern and national politics.
Astor is assistant professor of history at Maryville College.