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War upon Our Border

Two Ohio Valley Communities Navigate the Civil War
Stephen I. Rockenbach

BUY Ebook · 256 pp. · ISBN 9780813939193 · $45.00 · Nov 2016
BUY Cloth · 256 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813939186 · $45.00 · Nov 2016

War upon Our Border examines the experiences of two Ohio River Valley communities during the turmoil and social upheaval of the American Civil War. Although on opposite sides of the border between slavery and freedom, Corydon, Indiana, and Frankfort, Kentucky, shared a legacy of white settlement and a distinct western identity, which fostered unity and emphasized cooperation during the first year of the war. But subsequent guerrilla raids, military occupation, economic hardship, political turmoil, and racial tension ultimately divided citizens living on either side of the river border. Once a conduit for all kinds of relationships, the Ohio River became a barrier dividing North and South by the end of the conflict.

Centered on the experience of local politicians, civic leaders, laborers, soldiers, and civilians, this combined social and military history addresses major interpretative debates, including how citizens chose allegiances, what role slavery played in soldier and civilian motivation, and the nature of life on the home front. Examining manuscripts, newspapers, and government documents, War upon Our Border employs a microhistorical approach to link the experiences of common people with the sweeping national events of the Civil War era. The resulting study reveals the lingering effect of the war’s memory and how the effort to construct a new regional dynamic continues to shape popular conceptions of the period.


War upon Our Border addresses an important and understudied place, period, and set of sociopolitical shifts while engaging thoughtfully and originally with an emerging scholarly literature on the Civil War borderlands. It offers fresh insights on social conflicts and wartime transformations in the Ohio Valley. By juxtaposing the changes the Civil War wrought on Kentucky communities with similar but not identical changes in southern Indiana, the book reveals subtle insights about race relations, economic structures, responses to military and guerrilla incursions, meanings of loyalty, and the roles of historical memory.

T. Lloyd Benson, Furman University, author of The Caning of Senator Sumner

In this extensively researched book, Stephen Rockenbach reconceptualizes our understanding of the Ohio River border. Before the Civil War, common ancestry, culture, and trade tied the region north and south of the river together. Rockenbach’s work demonstrates how the Civil War broke those ties.

Nicole Etcheson, Ball State University, author of Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era

Rockenbach’s selection of his focal communities is elegant…The study confirms that the Civil War was a crisis not only for the nation but also for local communities.

Thomas J. Brow, Professor of History, University of South Carolina · Civil War Book Review

"In form, Rockenbach gives us a whirlwind tour of these two communities, covering roughly a decade from the mid-1850s to the mid-1870s in each town in just under two hundred pages... From Rockenbach's Frankfort and Corydon, we get a thesis-driven interpretation not just of those two communities but larger truths we can take with us on our downriver journey in the Ohio Valley."

Patrick Lewis, Ohio Valley History

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