Stuart Sanders ’95 publishes “Perryville Under Fire”
March 1, 2012 By Laura Coleman Pritchard
The Aftermath of Kentucky’s Largest Civil War Battle,” a book
highlighting the hardships faced during the Battle of Perryville.
“Perryville Under Fire: The Aftermath of Kentucky’s Largest Civil War Battle,” a book by Stuart Sanders ’95 released just last week, highlights the hardships soldiers, civilians, communities and institutions endured once the fighting in the small town of Perryville stopped.
“With 7,500 casualties sustained in less than five hours, veterans remarked that Perryville was the most intense battle they ever experienced,” Sanders says. “As nearly every barn, home, shed, stable, business, school and church became makeshift field hospitals, the burden of caring for this massive number of casualties fell upon Perryville’s 300 inhabitants and the residents of other nearby communities.”
Danville, for example, had about 4,000 residents in 1862, the year the battle was fought. Post-battle, about 3,500 sick Union troops came to Danville, nearly doubling the population and filling the courthouse, churches, businesses, private homes and Old Centre.
“That building probably held about 150 sick Union troops, and the lower south wing of the building was a post-mortem examination room,” Sanders says. “Soldiers and caregivers alike died on the campus, and the book discusses how several faculty members and graduates were impacted by the battle. For example, Centre President Lewis Warner Green died from an illness he likely contracted while helping sick soldiers.
“It’s amazing that any of these institutions survived after being occupied for months after the battle,” he continues. “Centre only survived because of a dedicated faculty.”
Sanders, a public history administrator in the Commonwealth of Kentucky who has also worked for the Perryville Battlefield Association, has some advice for historians interested in writing and getting published.
“When starting out, focus on obscure topics that will generate interest to potential publishers,” he says. “I wrote my first Civil War magazine article when I was a senior at Centre and was fortunate that it was picked up by a national Civil War magazine. The subject was a lesser-known Confederate general from western Kentucky — Hylan B. Lyon — who burned down several Kentucky courthouses while on a conscription mission. I think the editors were intrigued by this forgotten character whose exploits were only remembered on historical markers dotted across the commonwealth.”
And during the publishing process, he says, the devil is in the details.
“It’s important to remember that the research and writing are the fun and easy parts,” he says. “When you think you’ve finished editing, go over the piece two or three more times.”
Sanders says that Centre was extremely helpful in preparing him for a future as a professional historian.
“When I was at Centre in the early ’90s, the college had — as it does now — a strong history faculty. Charles Lee, Walter Nimocks, David Newhall, Clarence Wyatt and a group of visiting faculty and professors at the Centre-in-London program were also influential,” he says. “Being a history major forced me to hone my writing skills and taught me the value of weighing sources and information with a critical eye.”
Bob Glass, Centre’s archivist, was extremely helpful in helping Sanders procure images for the book, and several more Centre graduates helped with the project indirectly, Sanders says, including Kent Masterson Brown ’71 and David L. Morgan ’75.
But, he says, his most direct supporters were members of his own family.
“My greatest Centre influences were my parents,” he says. “My father, Taylor Sanders ’65, was a history professor at Washington and Lee for forty-two years, and my mother, Babs Wilson Sanders ’66 is a former English teacher. They have both taught me a great deal about research and writing. In addition, my wife, Jenny Neighbors Sanders ’95, kindly encouraged me along the way.”
“Perryville Under Fire” is available in bookstores, on Amazon and from The History Press.
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