Sunday, February 21, 2010

Kentucky in Print: Simon Bolivar Buckner, Boderland Knight by Arndt M. Stickles

A reprint of a biography first published in 1940, Boderland Knight is a solid (though fairly uncritical) look at one of most important figures of 19th Century Kentucky. Hart County's Simon Bolivar Buckner was a pretty remarkable man, one who all Kentuckians should know about but few do. At the eve of the War Between the States he commanded the Kentucky State Guard, which was the equivalent of today's Kentucky National Guard. At the war's outbreak he was offered a commission with the Union but instead became a Confederate General. He was blamed by some for the disaster at Fort Donelson, which essential gave Western Kentucky and Tennessee to the Union (although most point the finger to his superior officers). At Donelson he was forced to surrender to his old Mexican War compatriot US Grant, but later their friendship warmed enough for Buckner to serve as one of President Grant's pall-bearers. That kind of puts into perspective the bitterness of the war, or lack thereof, felt by the men at the top - I wonder how many folks realize that the head of all Union armed forces and President of the United States actually requested a Confederate General as pall-bearer (two, actually, General Joseph Johnston being the second). The fols who want get hysterical about Confederate monuments and whatnot should think about that. But I digress...

After the war Buckner became an influential newspaperman before he was elected Governor of Kentucky and spearheaded the adoption of a new state constitution, which is actually the Commonwealth's current state constitution. He really played a pivitol role in Kentucky's history for a half-century, but I've met very few who've even heard his name, which is more than a pity. Buckner really was the epitome of old-time Kentucky, he even looked the part! All things considered, Boderland Knight isn't exactly a page-turner, but until someone writes a new bio it'll have to do.