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In September of 1861 the Kentucky legislature voted to align itself with the Union. It was a decision that tore at the heart of the state, splitting apart families and severing friendships. For the men of the newly raised First Kentucky Brigade of the Confederacy, the vote would mark the beginning of a war-long period of exile from their homes. Outcasts from their mother state, the men of the First Kentucky would nonetheless battle fiercely for the cause of the South—an orphan brigade in the raging tumult of the Civil War.
The Orphan Brigade is the story of the Confederate unit whose spirit and tenacity were known, feared, and respected from the earliest campaigns of the war up until its closing days. Baptized in fire and blood at Shiloh, the brigade went on to serve with great distinction at Vicksburg, Baton rouge, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, in the Hundred Days campaign, and the defense of Atlanta. Basing his account in careful research, William C. Davis fully captures the searing action of each battle. But he also tells of the months of drudgery in between fighting, the illness and hunger that beset the unit, and the losses that saw the First Kentucky dwindle from over 3,000 men to 513 by September, 1864. Davis tells of the generals who commanded the brigade—including General Simon Bolivar Buckner, who gave birth to the First Kentucky, and General John C. Breckinridge, who became devoted to its indomitable spirit—and also of the field officers and the men who fought and died in its ranks, dedicated to the cause of a nation to which they never officially belonged.
WILLIAM C. DAVIS is the former director of the Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech and the author of numerous books of southern history, including The Rogue Republic: How Would-Be Patriots Waged the Shortest Revolution in American History.
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