Share This Article

The 10th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War: A History and Roster

by Dennis W. Belcher, McFarland, 2010, $45

The First Commander of the 10th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry was future U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan, a pro-slavery man who also believed the Union should be preserved at all costs. In many ways, those sentiments reflected the state of Kentucky as a whole and helps to explain why 870 men from the west-central part of the state mustered into the Union Army in November 1861 as the 10th Kentucky.

Historian Dennis W. Belcher has done an excellent job bringing together a wide variety of sources to tell the story of this unit. After the battles of Mill Springs, Shiloh and Perryville, he notes, the regiment’s lament was “too late” because it arrived on the battlefield after the fighting was over. That changed in 1863: The regiment suffered 40 percent casualties at the Battle of Chickamauga. By the end of the war, only 140 soldiers were left.

Belcher covers the campaigns and battles of the 10th Kentucky, as well as many anecdotes of the soldiers’ daily lives, from heroic deeds to the troubles brought on by illness and desertion. Postwar biographical information on the regiment’s surviving officers, additional details on a number of the enlisted men, information about cemeteries where 10th Kentucky men are buried and a collection of soldiers’ letters to their families back home round out the package.

The 10th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War is a welcome addition to the history of Kentucky’s contribution to the Union cause. This book will be an especially worthwhile reference for those looking to learn more about their 10th Kentucky ancestors.


Originally published in the September 2010 issue of America’s Civil War. To subscribe, click here.