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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

360 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / 3 maps

ebook available

Civil War | Southern History

  Hardcover / 9780807142981 / May 2012
  Paperback / 9780807166512 / February 2017

Rebels on the Border 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 deepens and enhances understanding of the sectional conflict, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.

After slaves in central Kentucky and Missouri gained their emancipation, author Aaron Astor contends, they transformed informal kin and social networks of resistance against slavery into more 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.
Aaron Astor is assistant professor of history at Maryville College.

Praise for Rebels on the Border

“Astor’s narrative is compellingly argued and spritely written....[an] impressive volume by a promising young scholar.”—Journal of American History

“A well-argued and researched volume by Aaron Astor....This important and unique contribution...enriches our understanding of slavery and war in the borderlands.”—Kansas History

"[A] well-crafted narrative.”—Choice

“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

"A powerful corrective to the myth that slavery had little to do with the Civil War. This is a mature first book by an impressive young scholar.”—Christopher Phillips, author of The Making of a Southerner: William Barclay Napton's Private Civil War

“Fast-paced, sharply written, and deeply researched.”—Stanley Harrold, author of Border War: Fighting over Slavery before the Civil War

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