Gordon Rhea, our scheduled speaker for Tuesday, March 13th, is not only a
renowned Civil War author and historian, he is also a US attorney of note. In
his capacity as attorney, he has been ordered by a judge to appear in her
courtroom this week thus making his appearance with us impossible.
To the rescue is our old friend Brian McKnight, historian, author, tour guide, and
professor at University at Virginia – Wise. His topic will be the subject of his
current research and next book: Simon Bolivar Buckner.
BRIAN McKNIGHT BIOGRAPHY:
Brian McKnight is Professor of History and a Founding Director of the Center for
Appalachian Studies at University of Virginia-Wise. He is a specialist in contested
and coerced loyalties and is the author of Contested Borderland: The Civil War in
Appalachian Kentucky and Virginia, which won the James I. Robertson Literary
Award, and Confederate Outlaw: Champ Ferguson and the Civil War in
Appalachia, which won the Tennessee Library Award for best book in Tennessee
history. His most recent book is titled “We Fight For Peace”: The Story of
Twenty-Three American Soldiers, Prisoners of War, and Turncoats in the Korean
War. His other writings have been featured in the New York Times and his work
on Korean War prisoners of war was profiled in the New Yorker. Brian is
currently at work on a volume of writings on guerrilla warfare in the Civil War and
is coauthoring with Gary Robert Matthews a biography of Confederate General
Simon Bolivar Buckner. Brian grew up in Virginia’s westernmost county and
received his undergraduate degree from UVa-Wise and his Ph.D. from Mississippi
State University. When he is not teaching or researching, he is usually on his farm
planting fruit trees, building fences, and keeping bees.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL SIMON BOLIVAR BUCKNER
Simon Bolivar Buckner Sr. graduated from the United States Military Academy
with the class of 1844. He served during the Mexican-American War, during
which he fought at the battles of Churubusco, where he was wounded, as well as
Contreras, Churubusco, and Molino del Rey. After the war, he briefly taught at
West Point, and served in the west before resigning from the military in 1855.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Buckner was the adjutant general of the
Kentucky State Guard, and after declining a commission of brigadier general in the
Union Army, accepted a commission of brigadier general in the Confederate Army
on September 14, 1861.
After joining the army, Buckner was sent by General
Albert Sidney Johnston to be one of the brigadier generals in charge of defending
Fort Donelson, an important fortification built along the Cumberland River.
Forces under General Ulysses S. Grant were able to force Buckner and several
other generals in the fort to accept an “unconditional surrender” that helped bring
fame to Grant. Buckner was imprisoned until August 15, 1862, when he was
exchanged for Union general George A. McCall. After his release from prison, he
returned to the Confederate Army where he served under General Braxton Bragg at
the Battle of Perryville, and helped fortify Mobile, Alabama until April of 1863.
He was then transferred to the Department of East Tennessee and directed an
infantry corps at the Battle of Chickamauga, and then under General James
Longstreet during the Siege of Knoxville. On September 20, 1864, he was
promoted to lieutenant general, and became the Chief of Staff under General Kirby
Smith, until the army surrendered in 1865.
After the war, Buckner lived in New Orleans, since he was not permitted to reside
in Kentucky for three years. He returned to Kentucky in 1868, and was elected
governor of Kentucky in 1887, where he served until 1891.