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by Jack T. Hutchinson
©2000 The Cincinnati Civil War Round Table
There are names in the pageant of American history that evoke a certain wistful nostalgia due to their being so tied to the romance of our land --- such a name is Kentucky. It brings to mind a wilderness of great natural beauty into which trickled the hardy frontiersman. They were led by such men as Boone, Harrod., Logan., and Kenton and scores of other men in coonskin who, bearing long rifles, wrested the land from the Indians. It also reminds us of those great park-like estates of the Bluegrass bounded by slave-built fences of limestone with long tree lined lanes leading back to lovely old columned homes. Such estates were built on the wealth of hemp and tobacco and were devoted to the breeding of fine horses. Kentucky also conjures up mountains crowned with pine forests where in isolated coves little cabins nestle with blue smoke curling up from ancient stone chimneys and hound dogs bark in the yard.
It was a land that bred men of Spartan independence with the Scotch-Irish and English emphasis on the value of the individual. This pioneer heritage presented itself never more clearly than in the holocaust of the Civil War - when Kentucky was truly split in a war of brothers' blood. Being a state of Southern traditions with its major cultural, family, and social heritage having come from Virginia, Kentucky nevertheless knew a tremendous love for the old union and was the last to give up hope for a compromise in the Clay tradition. When faced with the inevitability of choice, however, the Kentuckian probably more than any other American made his choice individually, regardless of the sympathies and proclivities of others in his family or section. This independence of thought accounts for Kentucky being the paramount example among the Border States of the Upper South where the family was severed, and brother fought against brother and father against son.
To begin to understand so complex a subject as Kentucky and the part it played in the Civil War, we must go back into its history and see from whence its culture sprang and how it developed.
From the very beginning of exploration and settlement Kentucky was destined to be Virginia's daughter. When the first permanent English settlement in the New World was established at Jamestown on the James River in 1607 Virginia's territory was considered as extending from sea to sea.
In 1750 Thomas Walker, a Virginia physician, led the first surveying party Into Kentucky by way of the Powell River Valley in what is now East Tennessee. The party found a gap in the high mountain wall that had long been used by buffalo and Indians in their journeys from the lands of the Cherokees to the lands of the Shawnees and other tribes who lived north of the Ohio River. The gap had been known as Cave Gap but Dr. Walker renamed it Cumberland Gap in honor of the Duke of Cumberland. The same name was also given to the mountains about the gap and to the river which the surveying party soon reached. Dr. Walker's party, however, never saw the beauty of the "Great Meadows" as the Bluegrass was long called by the early frontiersmen.
Daniel Boone, as a young wagon driver in Braddock's campaign in 1755 during the French and Indian War, had listened wide-eyed around the night campfires to the tales told by John Finley, a trader and trapper, about the abundant game and wonderful land he had seen in the "Great Meadows". Boone never forgot it, and after returning to his frontier home in the Yadkin Valley of Piedmont, North Carolina, he decided to go through the gap and see this new wilderness land for himself. This he did in 1769, and it was on June 7th of that year that Daniel Boone from the top of Pilot Knob on the present Powell-Clark County line first viewed "the beautiful level of Kentucky." Thus began man's long attraction to that favored region of Central Kentucky - The Bluegrass.
Boone was followed by a large party of hunters who came out from Virginia and stayed as long as two years - and thus gained the name of "The Long Hunters". Settlement followed settlement. Boone blazed the Wilderness Road in the Spring of 1775 and Harrodsburg and Boonesborough were both established in that year - the year the American Revolution began in the seaboard colonies.
While the Revolution raged in the East, settlers began to pour into Kentucky from Virginia and the Yadkin and Catawba Valleys of North Carolina. Indian warfare in Kentucky continued intermittently during the Revolution while George Rogers Clark and his Virginia troops won the old Northwest for the new republic and protected Kentucky from the British. The Indian menace gradually terminated in Kentucky after the Battle of Blue Licks in August of 1782 where Col. John Todd, a great uncle of Mary Todd Lincoln, was killed leading the Kentuckians against the Indians and their Canadian allies.
Late in 1776 the Virginia House of Burgesses had created Kentucky as a separate county of. Virginia, and for a few years the new settlers seemed most content under the government of the historic mother commonwealth of Virginia. During the 1780's, however, the frontier county was slowly growing up and the desire for separate statehood began to grow. After ten conventions with the ultimate aim of creating a new state., Kentucky was finally admitted as the fifteenth state of the new Federal Republic on June 1, 1792.
Settlers were continuously pouring into the state due to the "Kentucky fever" in the East. By 1790 the population was nearing 74,000 of whom 12,400, or about 1/6th were slaves. The settlers came by two major routes. The greater number followed Boone's trail which was known as the Wilderness Road. They were for the most part independent Scotch-Irish frontiersmen from the western parts of Virginia and North Carolina with many from the Shenandoah Valley. They came by packhorse through the Cumberland Gap as there was no road fit for a wagon to pass until late in the 1790's. The other route of immigration to Kentucky was by the Ohio River, and it was the way followed by those coming from Maryland and Pennsylvania. The settlers came by flat- boats that pushed off from Ft. Redstone on the Monongahela, where Braddock's Road (now the old National Road) crossed that river. They descended the river past Ft. Pitt and finally disembarked at Limestone (now Maysville) on the Ohio River's south bank. From Limestone a fairly good wagon road led to Lexington in the heart of the Bluegrass.
The first settlers were plain frontiersmen with much courage and hope, but little material wealth. After the Revolution the number of wealthy settlers increased. Many came with their slaves to establish in the Bluegrass the same planter aristocracy that had existed in Virginia. Of these many were younger sons of old Virginia families, and the Bluegrass became dotted with their estates. Though social distinctions west of the mountains were never as firm and unbending as in the old colonies of the seaboard, nevertheless, the developing society of Kentucky bad in common with the rest of the South a ruling class closely related by blood and marriage that, could be termed a "Cousinocracy" of old and well-to-do families.
Though the Bluegrass was the showcase of the flowering of Kentucky culture, there were other areas where the rolling terrain and fertility of the land resulted in a prosperous gentry depending at least in part on slave labor. Such an area was the southern Pennyrile in western Kentucky adjacent to the Tennessee line where dark fired tobacco was the staple crop. This region was separated from the more affluent Ohio River counties of the northern Pennyrile by a hilly, thinner soiled region where the people owned few if any slaves and had little in common with the interests of the well-to-do tobacco and hemp planters in the richer sections of the state.
A third great natural region of Kentucky is the Cumberland Mountains in the eastern portion of the state. This is a land of rugged mountainous terrain crisscrossed by the headwaters of the Cumberland, Big Sandy, Kentucky and Ticking Rivers. The earliest settlers passed through this wilderness area enroute to the more fertile lands, but few chose to settle here. Settlement gradually infiltrated the mountain fastnesses, however. Those who raised a cabin in this region had frequently come from mountain areas in the western parts of Virginia and North Carolina. They were in the main part a Scotch-Irish and English yeomanry, poor in material possessions but Spartanly independent of spirit. The first to come took up the bottomlands of a few fertile acres and their own industry, these old mountain patriarchs accumulated sufficient means to acquire a slave family or so which set them apart economically and socially from their more numerous poor relations who eked out a meager livelihood back up the streams and branches of the coves. This distinction was to assert itself in the tragic conflict of the 60's when the slaveholding mountaineer often found his allegiance at odds with that of the great majority of the mountaineers who were unswerving in their loyalty and devotion to the Union.
The final major geographic subdivision is The Purchase, that western toe of Kentucky that borders on the Mississippi River, raises cotton, and has as its unofficial capital the little city of Paducah, home of those two colorful Kentuckians, Irvin S. Cobb and Alben Barkley. The Purchase, or more accurately, the Jackson Purchase, is so named due to the agreement made in 1818 during Monroe's administration whereby Andrew Jackson and Isaac Shelby purchased from the Chickasaw tribe all the lands in Tennessee and Kentucky lying west of the Tennessee and east of the Mississippi Rivers. The Purchase, therefore, only knew about forty years of civilization from the time it was opened to settlement until the advent of the Civil War. Its people were ardently Southern in their allegiances and its way of life was most similar to that of neighboring West Tennessee.
During the early decades of the 1800's the slave population of Kentucky was increasing much faster than the white population. Whereas slaves had represented about one sixth of the population in 1790, by the year 1840 the white population was only a little larger than three times the number of slaves.
By 1860 Kentucky had an overall population of approximately 1,150,000 of whom about 226,000 were slaves and about 10,000 were free Negroes. The state stood third in total population among the slave states.
Kentucky in 1860 had about 60,000 foreign born, most of whom were Germans who had come in the 1850's and had congregated mainly in Louisville, Newport and Covington. Thus Kentucky had more foreign born then any other Southern state except Missouri with its great German population in St. Louis, which proved so instrumental in keeping that border state in the Union.
In 1860 Kentucky ranked first in the nation in the production of hemp which was the antebellum staple crop of the Bluegrass. Burley tobacco was not introduced there until well after the Civil War. Kentucky also stood very high in the national production of tobacco, being second to the mother state of Virginia. Both hemp and tobacco depended considerably upon slave labor. She ranked second in the production of mules and was a great supplier of this stubborn animal to the Deep South which depended heavily upon the mule in the operation of the plantation system.
The census of 1860 revealed that Kentucky had an unusually large number of slave holders. Of all the Southern states only Virginia and Georgia had more. This is evidence of the fact that the South's "peculiar institution" was broadly accepted as part of the economic and social life of the state. It also indicates that the economy of the state rested on a large grouping of numerous small slaveholders - the so-called middle class gentry of the state. In the Deep South the wealthy planters often had far more slaves, but the number of slaveholders, per state, was far less, thereby revealing the Deep South's greater extremes of wealth and poverty.
In Kentucky no planter owned over 300 slaves, only 7 owned over 100, and only 70 owned more than 50. However, on the other hand, with the exception of Virginia, Kentucky had more slaveholders owning from one to seven slaves than any other slave state.
In 1860 Kentucky ranked ninth in the number of slaves held among the fifteen slave states. She had less then North Carolina or Tennessee, but more then Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Maryland, Florida or Delaware.
Ante-bellum politics in the Bluegrass state reflected the dominance of the slaveholding areas of the Bluegrass region and Western Kentucky. From the time Isaac Shelby took the Oath of Office as Kentucky's first governor in 1792 until Thomas Bramlette was elected pro-Union governor during the height of the War in 1863, Kentucky had not had a governor from the mountains. From Isaac Shelby through the term of the eleventh governor John Breathitt in 1834, seven of these first eleven governors had been born in Virginia, one Isaac Shelby, who served two non-consecutive terms, was born in Maryland, and another was born in South Carolina. Only one of these early governors was born north of the Mason-Dixon Line, and that was Joseph Desha from Pennsylvania. Desha's family, however, was to add glory and military valor to Kentucky's Confederate war record, and descendants of that family were to spread the prominence of their name throughout the lower South.
The early politics of Kentucky were Jeffersonian and she was tied by her frontier and southern agrarian loyalties to the principles espoused by the Sage of Monticello. From the original Jeffersonian mold the wealthier electorate after the War of 1812 drifted into the developing Whig Party led so ably by Henry Clay.
Clay dominated the Kentucky political scene from the War of 1812 until his death as a member of the United States Senate in 1852, when the ominous distant thunder of the Civil War was beginning to be heard over the land. Henry Clay loved the Union passionately, as did the entire upper South. It did not harbor the fire-eating Secessionist of the Deep South, stamp, such as Calhoun, Yancey, or even a Jefferson Davis. The Whig party encompassed the financially and socially affluent in old Kentucky, represented by such prominent families as the Wicklfffes, Clays and Crittendens.
The Democratic Party, an the other hand, largely appealed to the loyalties of the mountain man and poor yeoman farmers of the thinner soils. This Jacksonian segment of the population, while always strong west of the mountains, failed to dominate Kentucky until the demise of the Whig party in the years following Clay's death.
The 1850's found Kentucky in the throes of party realignment. Many of the old Whigs supported the nativist "Know - Nothing" Party which was soon eclipsed. Most of these former Whigs then aligned themselves with the newly organized Constitutional Union Party which was to nominate John Bell of Tennessee in the presidential campaign of 1860. This party wished to preserve the Union and at the same time quite idealistically avoid the impending crisis. It attracted most of the former Whigs in the border states.
Lincoln, the nominee of the new born Republican party, could not expect many votes from his native state. He represented in the mind of Kentucky, abolitionism, coercion of state rights, and Yankee meddling, any one of which charges was sufficient to doom his prospects in the Kentucky of 1860.
The November election in Kentucky somewhat predictably resulted as follows:-
Bell of the Constitutional Union Party 66,000
Breckinridge lost strength in Kentucky due to the secessionist posture of his party in the Deep South, although it would be unfair to brand Breckinridge himself a secessionist in this campaign.
The War marked a major change in regional political alignment within Kentucky. The Bluegrass, old stronghold of the Whig Party, became ardently Democrat together with the Pennyrile and The Purchase. The Democratic Party in the Bluegrass and western Kentucky thus became part and parcel of the solidly Democratic South and remained so until the New Deal era when there began to show definite signs of conservative reaction in the inner Bluegrass. The Mountaineers of Eastern Kentucky, on the other band., deserted their long Jacksonian Democratic loyalty due to their unshakable allegiance to the Union and their dislike for the old slave-owning aristocracy. They adopted a sturdy Republican allegiance which remained steadfast until the New Deal Years of Franklin D. Roosevelt wooed many mountaineers back to the Democratic Party.
In religion as well as in politics, Kentucky followed the pattern of the times with the major denominations splitting over the slavery question. In 1844 the Baptist Church was severed nationally over the slavery issue and the Southern Baptist Convention was then organized in 1845 at Augusta., Georgia. A year later, in 1846 the Baptist churches in Kentucky united with the Southern Baptist Convention. The Baptists had the largest number of adherents in Kentucky., followed in order by the Methodists, the Christian Church (whose followers were called "Campbellites"), and the Presbyterians.
The Methodist Church underwent its great national schism over slavery in 1844. In May of 1845 at Louisville, Kentucky, the southern conferences formed the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The Kentucky Methodists, like their Baptist brethren, joined the Southern branch of Methodism. In 1861 the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in Kentucky numbered some 41,000 members whereas the northern Methodists counted only 3,405 members within the state. However, in all accuracy, it must be stated that the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in Kentucky had many loyal Union men among its adherents. It has been said, in fact, that Union sentiment during the war within the Southern Methodist Church was stronger in Kentucky than in any other state. This is another example of how the Kentuckian of the period was apt to support the Southern view on the slavery question but could not bring himself to actively participate in the dissolution of the Union.
The Presbyterians in Kentucky were smaller in number but were well represented among the families who were socially and politically prominent in the state. They, by a large majority, belonged to the "Old School" wing of Presbyterianism which was largely Scotch-Irish., very conservative and more tolerant of slavery. In 1861 the Presbyterians split nationally, with that portion in the eleven Confederate States forming at Augusta, Georgia "The Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America." The Border State Synods including those of Kentucky remained in the northern branch of the church throughout the war. In 1866, however, the Kentucky Presbyterians split, with the majority of them uniting with the Southern Presbyterian Church in 1860. After that year Southern Presbyterians steadily outnumbered Northern Presbyterians in Kentucky. Thus in religion., as well as in Politics., it can be said of Kentucky that she waited until after Appomattox to secede.
One of the most colorful figures in the annals of Kentucky in the war was the Rev. Robert J. Breckinridge, a Presbyterian minister, who was one of the most articulate spokesmen for the Union in the Bluegrass. He was a member of the Virginia-descended Bluegrass society and was the uncle of General John C. Breckinridge, but his devotion to the Union was unflinching. He was a bitter enemy of Confederate sympathizers and gave little or no quarter even to those within his own family.
Today it is difficult to imagine the alarm and apprehension that gripped the heart of Kentuckians after the election of Abraham Lincoln. They were faced with the prospect of Civil War not only on a national scale, but also on a state level, and they knew it. The blade of war would cut through their entire society, splitting families and friendships. The state, therefore, turned its attention to the preservation of the Federal Union through compromise and meditation. Kentucky by both location and tradition was in an excellent position to play the role of mediator -- bad the temper of the nation been willing to mediate.
Henry Clay had been called the "Great Pacificator" due to his many successful efforts in reaching compromise in sectional strife throughout his long political career. He had taken part in the Missouri Compromise, the Compromise Tariff of 1833, and was the prim leader in achieving the Compromise of 1850. It was, therefore, in continuance of this great tradition that Kentucky's Senator John Jordan Crittenden on December 18, 1860 proposed his plan for a compromise. He stated that the Missouri Compromise line should be made the definite dividing line between free and slave territory and that the federal government should not interfere with the institution of slavery south of that line. He suggested that this be accomplished by a non-repealable Constitutional amendment. The suggested "Crittenden Compromise" never reached a vote in Congress. 'The Republicans could not support it due to their platform against the extension of slavery. Kentucky's Senators and full Congressional delegation had supported it wholeheartedly, however.
South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860. By Christmas Mississippi had sent a commissioner to Kentucky's pro-Southern Democratic Governor Beriah Magoffin at Frankfort, urging that he call a special session of the legislature to provide for the common defense, and by the end of the year a commissioner was received from Alabama who urged Kentucky to oppose Northern usurpation of states' rights. Magoffin answered by sympathizing with the commissioners but by suggesting that all slave states first meet in convention and present their grievances and demands to the new Republican President. If they then could gain no satisfaction in Washington Magoffin said the South could then secede as a united section instead of piecemeal. He truly hoped, however, that such a united course of calling a convention of all Southern states would save the Union rather than severe it. Nothing came of Magoffin's suggested plan.
Governor Magoffin then issued a call for a special session of the Kentucky legislature to meet on January 17, 1861. The legislators knew quite well that the temper of the great majority of Kentuckians at this time was against secession, especially of those Kentuckians who had voted for either John Bell or Stephen A. Douglas. Beriah Magoffin, a Breckinridge Democrat, wished the legislature to call a sovereign convention, where the state might decide its relationship to the Union. The legislature refused but it did warn the North against coercing the Southern states, and in so doing expressed the will of Kentuckians.
Some Kentuckians, at this time, thought the sad but eventual solution might be the establishment of three nations, with Kentucky becoming part of a confederacy of slave states of the Upper South including Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee and Missouri. Surprisingly enough this plan was even suggested in late 1860 by no other than that redoubtable old Unionist, the Rev. Robert J. Breckinridge.
While the Kentucky legislature was in session, it appointed delegates to a Peace Conference called at the request of "our old mother" Virginia to meet in Washington on February 4, 1861. The Peace Conference, meeting a month before Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated, tried to achieve a national solution but fell miserably short of success. The seceded states sent no delegates, and many states north of the Mason- Dixon Line also were not represented. The time for compromise had run out. The same day the Peace Conference met in Washington, the Confederate States of America was organized as a new nation in Montgomery, Alabama.
The special session of the Kentucky legislature finally adjourned on April 4th without taking any further action, to the great relief of the Kentucky Unionists.
This all proved to be merely the lull before the storm, for on April 12th the sound of cannon broke the stillness over Charleston Harbor -- and the firing on Fort Sumter raised the curtain on the tragic but heroic years of the Civil War.
It was a Kentuckian, Major Robert Anderson, who had the sad duty of surrendering Fort Sumter to the Confederate forces. He then returned home to Kentucky and later took part in the Union war effort within the state.
On April 15th, three days after Sumter, Lincoln called upon Governor Beriah Magoffin to furnish four regiments of Kentucky troops to assist in putting down the rebellion. Magoffin replied without hesitation, "I say emphatically Kentucky will furnish no troops for the wicked purpose of subduing her sister Southern states." This response was greeted with approval even by the Union men in Kentucky. Lincoln was wise not to have pressed for compliance at this time. Virginia seceded within several days, and Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee were soon to follow suit. Had the federal government attempted to coerce Kentucky in the late spring of 1861 it probably would have driven this pivotal state into the Confederacy.
The desire for neutrality grew stronger as the spring advanced. This, however, did not discourage the ardent young bloods of the state from leaving Kentucky in order to enlist under the contending banners. In April and May Camp Clay was established across the Ohio River from Newport as a base to recruit Unionist Kentuckians, and Camp Jo Holt served a similar purpose in Indiana when established across the Ohio from Louisville. In July Camp Boone would be created just south of the Kentucky line in Montgomery County, Tennessee, as a base to enlist Kentuckians in the Confederate service. At this camp the famous "Orphan Brigade" was organized.
In late April Capt. Joe Desha from Cynthiana in Harrison County led the first company through Lexington enroute south to Nashville to join the Confederate Army, and over the courthouse at Cynthiana the first Confederate flag was raised in Kentucky. By the first week of May, 480 Kentuckians under Blanton Duncan had reached Harper's Ferry to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Virginians and those from other Confederate states. Secret Confederate recruiting posts were set up in Kentucky with the knowledge of Governor Magoffin, and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad was said to be transporting Kentucky Confederate recruits to Nashville without charge.
Magoffin issued a call for another special session of the Kentucky legislature to convene on May 6th. He still wanted the legislature to call a sovereign convention to decide the state's relationship to the Union, which he hoped would precipitate the state's secession, but the legislature refused. Instead it proposed that the state maintain a position of strict neutrality between the warring sections. On May 20th Magoffin officially proclaimed the neutrality of Kentucky. In so doing, he warned both North and South against sending troops into Kentucky and he strongly advised Kentuckians to stay at home and not to join either warring camp. Magoffin urged that the state arm itself for self defense. The special legislative session adjourned on May 24th. A posture of neutrality in time proved not only impractical but also impossible. However, for four months it held the support of most Kentuckians. Lincoln willingly accepted it., hoping time might bring the state into a fuller alliance with the Union. It was once said of Lincoln; that he would like to have God on his side, but be must have Kentucky. Lincoln in the late summer of 1861 countermanded General Fremont's proclamation freeing the slaves of Confederate Missourians, as he feared the dire consequences it might cause in the other border states, especially Kentucky. He said, "I think to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game. Kentucky gone, we cannot hold Missouri, nor, as I think, Maryland."
A Congressional election was held in Kentucky on June 20th with pro-Confederates carrying only fifteen counties, most of which were located in the First District in the far western part of the state.
Throughout the summer of 1861 William "Bull" Nelson was the Federal government's agent in the distribution of guns to loyal Unionists in eastern, northern, and central Kentucky. Many of these "Lincoln Guns", as they were called, were furnished to those Unionists who were rapidly organizing themselves into units called Union Home Guards. These groups were organizing to counter the sixty some companies of official state militia called the State Guards, under the command of a West Pointer named Simon Bolivar Buckner. The State Guards were largely pro-Confederate and made up and officered by young men from the leading families of the state. One of the outstanding State Guard companies was "The Lexington Rifles" led by John Hunt Morgan.
In August of 1861 the people of Kentucky voted to elect all members of the state House of Representatives and one-half the members of the state Senate. The Unionists won a great majority of the seats in both houses. The federal government, feeling greatly encouraged, directed "Bull" Nelson to openly establish a recruiting and arms distribution center in the Bluegrass. This he did in Garrard County in the Southern Bluegrass and named it Camp Dick Robinson. Establishment of this camp enraged Confederates, caused great concern among the neutralists, and elated the Unionists. Events were fast moving towards a show down of force in Kentucky.
One September 2nd Federal troops in southeastern Missouri under Ulysses S. Grant occupied Belmont, Missouri, directly across the Mississippi River from the village of Columbus, Kentucky. Leonidas Polk, the Episcopal bishop-General, was in command of Confederate forces in nearby Tennessee. He felt the Confederacy must act and act immediately to save the situation in Kentucky. He ordered General Pillow to occupy Columbus and this was done on September 3rd. On September 4th Grant seized the ardently pro-Confederate town of Paducah on the lower Ohio River. Soon after the Confederate occupation of Columbus, Confederate forces under General Felix Zollicoffer moved through Cumberland Gap and pressed up into mountainous southeastern Kentucky in order to counter Unionist activity in that sector.
On September I9th Lexington was occupied by Federal troops from Camp Dick Robinson. Late in the evening of the next day, under cover of darkness, John Morgan's men rode out of Lexington on the Versailles Pike bound for Tennessee and a rendezvous with destiny, for this group of hard-riding adventure-loving young blades of the Bluegrass would go down in history as the "pride of Kentucky".
By mid-September Simon Bolivar Buckner had headed south taking most of the State Guard with him into Confederate service. The State Guard was then officially disbanded by the pro-Union legislature and state forces were subsequently placed under command of Thomas L. Crittenden, one of the sons of old Senator John Crittenden.
With General Polk in firm command of the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River at Columbus and with Zollicoffer in control of the mountains near Cumberland Gap, it remained for General Albert Sidney Johnston, the new Confederate commander in the West, to advance the Confederate lines into Kentucky between these two anchor points. He placed Simon Bolivar Buckner in charge of this sector, and Buckner swiftly occupied both Bowling Green and Russellville, and by October the Confederate line in the mid-sector of southern Kentucky followed in general, the course of the Green River. Confederate advance detachments made forays and raids as far north as Elizabethtown, and the Federal headquarters in Louisville breathed rather uneasily for a time.
Buckner established Bowling Green as his headquarters. Throughout the late months of 1861 and early 1862 Buckner, Zollicoffer, and Albert Sidney Johnston all issued proclamations calling for Kentuckians to rally to the colors of the South. By late 1861 General Johnston was complaining that Kentuckians were enlisting so fast he could not find sufficient arms for them.
In November John C. Breckinridge resigned his seat in the United States Senate and went South where he was commissioned a general in command of the First Kentucky Brigade of the Confederate Army which was to become immortal as the "Orphan Brigade".
During the months of October and November a Confederate Provisional Government of Kentucky was organized. A preliminary meeting was held at Russellville on October 29th with thirty-two Kentucky counties represented. A Sovereign Convention was called by this body to meet at Russellville on the eighteenth of November. The Convention met as scheduled with two hundred in attendance from sixty-five Kentucky counties. Both a Declaration of Independence and an Ordinance of Secession were passed. George W. Johnson of Scott County was elected Governor, and Bowling Green was chosen as the provisional capital of the state.
On December 10, 1861 the Confederate Congress at Richmond, Virginia, with the backing of President Davis, admitted Kentucky as the twelfth Confederate State. Kentucky was permitted two Senators and ten Congressmen in the Confederate Congress.
In viewing the entire situation, however, things were not going well for the Confederates in Kentucky. On October 21 Zollicoffer suffered a mild defeat at Wild Cat Mountain in Laurel County which dashed any hopes he held of advancing on the Bluegrass. At first it appeared his force would carry the day against a regiment of Unionist Clay County mountaineers, but six additional Union regiments appeared., made up of Indianans, Ohioans., and East Tennessee Unionists., and Zollicoffer and his forces had to withdraw.
On November 8th the Confederates suffered another setback in Eastern Kentucky. A superior force of Union troops defeated a Confederate contingent under colorful John "Cerro Gordo" Williams at the Battle of Ivy Mountain near the headwaters of the Kentucky River's South Fork.
The worst Confederate defeat in the mountains, however., took place in Pulaski County on January 19., 1862 in a battle which has been known by four different names: Nancy, Fishing Creek, Logan's Crossroads which is more accurate, and Mill Springs by which name it is most frequently known. The battle was fought just north of the Cumberland River between forces that were approximately even in number. General Zollicoffer was killed and the Confederates defeated. They retreated south through Cumberland Gap and left the mountains of southeastern Kentucky in Union hands, much to the liking of the majority of the native mountaineers.
The Confederate position in Kentucky began to deteriorate rapidly in the winter of early 1862. Fort Henry on the Tennessee River fell to Grant on February 6th, and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland was "unconditionally surrendered" by General Buckner on February 16th. The Confederates were thus forced to beat a hasty retreat from Bowling Green which they evacuated on February 15th and fell back on Nashville, which city was thrown into panic by the on-surging Yankees.
On February 23rd proud Nashville, "The Athens of the South", fell and was to be occupied by the Union Army throughout the reminder of the war. On March 2nd the Confederates evacuated Columbus, Kentucky, that "Gibraltar of the West", as it had been called, and drew back into West Tennessee. By March 6th young James Garfield wrote that the Big Sandy Valley in eastern Kentucky had been cleared of Confederate forces, and he soon planned to provide the Union population of this mountain region with arms.
When Springtime of 1862 spread its blossoms over the Bluegrass and mountains, Kentucky was securely in the control of the Union from border to border and also in the legislative halls at Frankfort. The sympathies, however, of a large and increasing portion of her people lay with those gray clad armies far to the south who were then attempting to regroup their forces in southern Tennessee and northern Mississippi in order to meet the Union invaders, and meet them they were destined to do on the bloody field of Shiloh.
On April 6th and 7th, 1862 along the west bank of the Tennessee River in southwestern Tennessee was fought the great Battle of Shiloh. General Albert Sidney Johnston, a native Kentuckian, was killed the first day - a day that saw nightfall take from the Southern forces a victory almost within their grasp and turn the next day's field into a Southern defeat. It is reported that of the soldiers of both armies who were killed or wounded or missing in this battle, 1,400 were Kentuckians and that 40% of the Confederate Kentuckians engaged were either killed or wounded. One Kentuckian killed was George W. Johnson, the Confederate governor of Kentucky. He lies buried in the cemetery at Georgetown, that historic little city on the north edge of the Bluegrass. The famed Orphan Brigade was engaged at Shiloh under General John C. Breckinridge who, together with General Bragg, collapsed the Union left on the afternoon of the first day.
As the war progressed Governor Beriah Magoffin, whose sympathies remained with the South and whose own son was a member of the Confederate Army, came under increasing pressure from the Unionist legislature to resign his office. He finally do so in August of 1862 when he was assured that the office would devolve on James P. Robinson of Scott County. Robinson was a conservative Unionist and completed the term of office to which Magoffin had been elected in 1859.
The fortunes of the Confederacy seemed at low tide in the Spring and early Summer of 1862. Not only did the fall of Richmond appear imminent at the height of McClellan's Peninsula campaign in the East, but the boys in blue were also penetrating deep into the Mississippi Valley following bloody Shiloh. There came a swift change, however. The mighty Stonewall in his rapid Valley Campaign saved the day in Virginia and then assisted in raising the siege of Richmond. In the West it was John Morgan who in mid-summer aroused Confederate hopes by making the first of his lightning raids into the Bluegrass. He crossed into Kentucky on July 9th and in quick succession captured Glasgow, Lebanon., and Springfield. At Harrodsburg, a great picnic was spread on the lawns for his men by the ladies of the town. He then proceeded by way of Lawrenceburg to Georgetown where he lingered a few days while his forces were augmented by young boys of the Bluegrass eager to enlist. On the 18th of July these boys received a baptism of fire in the first Battle of Cynthiana which was a victory for Morgan's forces. They then, however, began their return to Tennessee by way of Paris, Richmond, and Somerset. His forces returned with over 300 more men than they had started. The raid had boosted Southern morale in the Bluegrass.
No sooner was Morgan back in Tennessee than there began to take form the Confederacy's greatest offensive in the West. Generals Bragg and Kirby Smith were planning a great march into Kentucky which if successful was to roll the Federal Army back north of the Ohio River. This campaign took place at the same time that Lee was leading the Army of Northern Virginia north of the Potomac into Maryland. The Confederacy was in its rich "Summer" of hope - on the verge of fulfillment. Its tide was running full.
By way of the Jellico gorge, Big Creek to the west of Cumberland Cap, and other mountain passes into southeastern Kentucky, Kirby Smith with approximately 20.,000 troops advanced on the Bluegrass during the last week of August. Their movement was so rapid it caught the Union forces in central Kentucky completely off guard.
General William "Bull" Nelson was the Union commander at Lexington. The Federals fell back before the advancing Rebels in a skirmish on August 29th near Big Hill in southern Madison County, where the Cumberlands suddenly give way to the rolling Bluegrass plateau. Later that day the Federals were again defeated in a fight near the present Bluegrass Ordnance Depot south of Richmond. On August 30th Union defeat turned into an actual riot in the Battle of Richmond. Most of those who fled north seeking escape by way of Clay's Ferry Bridge were blocked by a Southern Cavalry contingent. All in all the Confederates captured approximately 3,000 men. Kirby Smith's army entered Lexington on September 2nd and came into possession of a rich harvest of stores and supplies of all sorts that bad been abandoned by the Union forces who had fled toward Louisville and Cincinnati.
Morgan's cavalry entered Kentucky on the 29th of August and moving through Glasgow, Columbia and Danville they reached Nicholasville in Jessamine County, just south of Lexington on September 3rd. Morgan paused there overnight in order to enter Lexington with his cavalry the next morning. The reception afforded both him and his men was that reserved for a delivering hero. It is said the streets were thronged with both cheering Lexingtonians and people who had poured into town from the surrounding pro-Confederate countryside. The cavalry rode to the Court House square which has always been called Cheapside and were there extended a warm welcome. Morgan and his men had come home to Kentucky.
Realizing the great danger to his exposed flank General Buell, Union commander in Tennessee fell back on Nashville. Braxton Bragg in the meantime bad moved his army across the Cumberland Mountains in Tennessee from Chattanooga and moving swiftly occupied Glasgow, Kentucky on Sept. 13th. Buell could readily see the danger now posed to the great Union supply base at Louisville. He therefore started in that direction by way of Bowling Green, and the race for Louisville was on. The Confederates under Bragg captured Munfordville on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad on Sept. 17th and in so doing took about 4,000 Union prisoners. Bragg now blocked Buell's route to Louisville and appeared to hold a major victory in Kentucky within his grasp. At this crucial moment Bragg hesitated, and in so doing probably lost the Kentucky campaign. Instead of racing for Louisville or attacking Buell, he turned aside toward Bardstown -- and Buell, with all haste, sped on to Louisville. Once there, Buell's replenished Army moved east to stalk its prey in the Bluegrass.
Bragg and Kirby Smith were in the meantime playing politics. They turned their attentions to the inauguration on October 4th of a new Confederate governor of Kentucky at the old Capitol Building in Frankfort. He was Richard Hawes of Bourbon County and was the second Confederate governor, having succeeded George W. Johnson, who was killed at Shiloh.
While the inauguration ceremonies were still underway, Federal forces appeared on the hill to the west of Frankfort and caused Governor Hawes and the Confederates to speedily conclude the ceremony and withdraw from Frankfort toward Versailles. General Buell's main Army, however, was heading for Bardstown rather than Frankfort. Contingents of Buell's Army and the forces of Braxton Bragg encountered each other near Perryville in Boyle County, not far from Danville. There on October 8th was fought the greatest battle ever waged in Kentucky. Though the actual battle was not a clear cut Union victory, the end result proved such, as the greatly outnumbered Bragg decided to withdraw his forces toward Harrodsburg on the night of October 8th. Buell had hoped to meet Bragg on the same field on the following day with about 30,000 fresh Union troops.
Bragg's Army of some 17,000 and Kirby Smith's 10,000 then joined in orderly withdrawal from Kentucky by way of the mountains into East Tennessee. Buell did not press the pursuit, and in so doing, allowed the Confederate Army to escape with their supply wagons loaded to overflowing with supplies garnered from the campaign. Morgan and his men remained in Kentucky for several more weeks keeping the Union forces in confusion by their lightning attacks and destruction of bridges and railroad lines.
The Confederate retreat from Kentucky in October of 1862 marked the end of major warfare in the state for the remaining years of the conflict. Never again was a Confederate Army to enter Kentucky. The remaining two and a half years of war in the state were mainly devoted in a military sense to three raids by Morgan, one by Forrest, and to considerable guerrilla and bushwhacking activity. A total of approximately 130 combats were fought in Kentucky during the wax.
Morgan conducted his so-called Christmas raid in December of 1862 by advancing as fax as Elizabethtown and Bardstown. In the summer of 1863 Morgan made his greatest raid of the war. He struck for Bardstown and Brandenburg on the Ohio River. He crossed that river on July 8th, not knowing that General Lee's Army was retreating south after Gettysburg. What followed was Morgan's long raid through southern Indiana and Ohio which finally terminated with his capture near East Liverpool, Ohio on July 26th. The general was imprisoned in the Ohio penitentiary at Columbus from which he made his escape on the night of November 27th, 1863. He crossed the river on the outskirts of Cincinnati, and through the first half of December, with the assistance of Southern sympathizers, slowly moved southward through Kentucky into Tennessee, barely avoiding capture on several occasions. He crossed the Smokies, however., and reached Confederate held territory before Christmas. In June of 1864 Morgan raided into Kentucky for the last time. He crossed the Cumberlands from southwestern Virginia and, in succession, surprised and captured, Mount Sterling, Lexington, and Georgetown, but met with defeat at the hands of a large force in a battle at Cynthiana. He then turned back to Virginia by way of West Liberty and the mountains of eastern Kentucky. General Morgan was killed in a skirmish at Greenville in East Tennessee on September 4, 1864 but his legend still lives in the Bluegrass and his bronze equestrian statute still looks down from the courthouse lawn on the bustling streets of Lexington.
In the spring of 1864 that wizard of the saddle, Nathan Bedford Forrest., made a quick raid against Paducah In the western toe of Kentucky.
In the meantime Kentuckians at home were becoming increasingly alienated from both the Federal administration in Washington and the Union commanders and forces occupying the state. Even Governor Thomas E. Bramlette, an ex-Union officer who had been elected governor in 1863, became aroused at the Army's involvement in Kentucky civil matters. The following common complaints were voiced:- The whole state was accused of disloyalty; The military interfered with the civil courts and with elections; People were imprisoned or sent out of the state without being tried; Property of Confederate sympathizers was confiscated; Confederate soldiers were occasionally shot as guerrillas rather than treated as prisoners; The press was frequently suppressed.
To these grievances was added an action highly inflammatory to the Kentucky mind of the 1860's. The Federal authorities began enlisting free Negroes and later slaves in the Union Army. This caused a tremendous reaction, even amongst the pro-Union Kentuckians and caused a new surge of men heading south to enlist in the Confederate Army late in the war.
As the wax progressed Lincoln became increasingly disliked in a state that had feared his election from the beginning. Special hatred was saved, however, for General Stephen Burbridge, the Federal Commander, due to his policies of treating the state as a conquered province. Lincoln was finally forced to replace him in a vain effort at pacification.
Reaction exhibited itself in the Presidential election of 1864. Being mindful that Confederate sympathizers were denied the ballot and that at least 35,000 Kentuckians were away in the Confederate armies, George B. McClellan still garnered some 61,000 votes to Lincoln's approximate 26,500.
Pro-Union Kentuckians became increasingly moderate or conservative as opposed to the radical element that was to control the national administration throughout Reconstruction. Disaffection caused by wartime excesses was laying the groundwork for a strong reaction in Kentucky politics in the postwar period.
Now let us turn to a brief statement of the strength of Kentucky's forces in both armies during the war:
Union Army White troops 64,000 Negro troops 25,000 Total 89,000
plus 14,000 white Union state militia, making a total of 103,000 men that Kentucky gave to the Union.
Kentucky volunteers to the Confederate Army numbered some 35,000 to 40,000. The overall total of Kentuckians engaged was about 140,000 men.
Thus from the figures it is noted that Negroes supplied almost one-fourth of the total Union forces furnished by Kentucky. Of the total number of Kentucky white men in both armies almost one-third were Confederate.
To better understand how this tragic conflict was truly a brothers' war one has but to look at the war record of a few of the old and prominent families of the Bluegrass state. Families with names emblazoned indelibly on the history of Kentucky, such as:- Breckinridge, Bullitt, Marshall, Todd, Logan, Hardin, Morgan, Castleman, Garrard, Clay, Speed, Desha, Harlan, Preston, Shelby - to name but a few.
A section attached at the back of this paper attempts to show the heart rending divisions within some of these families. Another section shows the severed loyalties of counties and regions within the state. In Kentucky it was truly a Civil War with unbelievable complexities to the sentiments and loyalties expressed through the entire commonwealth from the Ohio River to the Tennessee line and from the mighty Mississippi to the pine covered Cumberlands.
There were 67 natives or residents of Kentucky who were Union Generals, whereas 38 natives or residents of the state were Confederate Generals. Only Virginia and Louisiana are said to have furnished more Confederate Generals. Some of the outstanding Union Generals from Kentucky were: Robert Anderson, William "Bull" Nelson, Thomas L. Crittenden, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Edward Hobson, Lovell H. Rousseau, Speed Fry, Green Clay Smith, and T. T. Garrard.
Some of Kentucky t s prominent Confederate Generals were: John C. Breckinridge, John Hunt Morgan, Benjamin Hardin Helm, Simon Bolivar Buckner, Albert Sidney Johnston (born in Kentucky), George B. Crittenden, John B. Hood (born in Kentucky), Humphrey Marshall, and Basil Duke.
With the return of Kentucky's Confederate veterans after the South's defeat, the state entered upon a long period of championing the "Lost Cause." To have worn the Confederate gray made one a hero almost overnight, whereas those who wore Union blue and wished to run for political office kept silence as to their wartime service, as it was to be a definite political liability rather then an asset for the remainder of the nineteenth century. Kentucky's heart and soul went out in sympathy to the prostrate South. Confederate veterans were in the ascendancy, politically from 1867 until the mid-1890's. The heritage of Virginia asserted itself more ardently than it had done during the War. It has been said aptly that Kentucky waited until after Appomattox to secede.
It has now been one hundred years since trumpets sounded the last call at Appomattox. Perhaps never in the history of mankind has there been a war that due to its tragedy, pathos, and gallantry, has so captured the interest of scholars and people everywhere. It was a brothers' war -- and never more so than in Kentucky. But out of that cataclysmic period has come a nation all the stronger and more resolute to be the greatest bulwark of human freedom and dignity on this earth. And who would say our goodness and greatness does not come from both sides of those blood-drenched fields.
I would like to end with a quotation of a great gentleman and a great American in his finest hour - after the war -
"I sball devote my remaining energies to training young men to do their duty in life. "
"Abandon the dream of Confederacy and render a new and cheerful allegiance to a reunited government. The interests of the State are the same, as those of the United States. Its prosperity will rise or fall with the welfare of the country. "
-- Robert E. Lee
Senator John J. Crittenden - for compromise and neutrality but in the end stayed with the Union
Gen. Thomas L. Crittenden - UnionGovernor John Larue Helm - pro-Confederate, ex-Governor
Brig. Gen. Benjamin Hardin Helm - Confederate General., killed at Chickamauga., his wife was Emilie Todd., half-sister of Mary Todd Lincoln. She visited the Lincolns at the White House after her husband's death.Henry Clay -
James B. Clay - openly supported the ConfederacyGrandsons -
3 fought for the UnionRev. Robert J. Breckinridge - ardent old Unionist
2 in the Union ArmyGeneral John C. Breckinridge - leading Confederate after his resignation as U. S. Senator in November of 1861
3 sons were in Confederate serviceGovernor Beriah Magoffin -
Son - Beriah in the Confederate ArmyGeorge D. Prentice - Unionist Editor of the Louisville Journal - A leading Kentucky Unionist
His 2 sons, however, went into the Confederate ArmyJohn Hunt Morgan - His five brothers were all ardent Confederates:-
Richard - served on A. P. Hill's staff in VirginiaSisters:
Henrietta married summer of 1861 to General Basil DukeMary Todd Lincoln -
3 half-brothers killed in Confederate ArmyIsaac Shelby - Kentucky's first Governor
A grandson., Maj. Isaac Shelby, was in the Confederate Army
1. In the Bluegrass -
Scott County gave I.,000 to 1,200 men to the Confederate Army and only about 100 men to the Union.2. Some studies have shown that 20 Bluegrass and Western Kentucky counties containing 100,000 slaves furnished only 6,000 Union soldiers out of a military population of 36,000 while, on the other hand, in forty other counties, numbering only 27,000 slaves, as many as 18,000 soldiers were furnished to the Union Army out of a military population of 51,000.
3. Some strong Confederate counties were: Anderson, Owen, Harrison, Nelson, Hardin and Carroll.
4. Logan County was typical of the Pennyrile. Its rich, level farming land covering the southern half of the county supported a well-to-do slave-owning gentry which was ardently Confederate while the hilly northern half, known as "the coon range", was largely pro-Union during the war. The county gave 1,000 men to the Confederate Army and over 500 to the Federal Army.
5. In the hillier mid-section of the Pennyrile Hopkins County was more for the Confederacy while Muhlenberg County had a strong majority for the Union.
6. The Purchase counties in far western Kentucky were almost wholeheartedly Confederate. By mid-1861 Hickman County in the Purchase had furnished only 9 Union soldiers and Fulton County had furnished none. Confederate sentiment was also dominant in the three prosperous Ohio River counties of Union, Henderson, and Davies in the Pennyrile.
7. Hill counties on the fringe of the Cumberlands., such as Casey, Russell, and Clinton were Union to the core.
8. Wayne and Morgan counties, though in the mountains, had a larger proportion of slaves and were wealthier than most other mountain counties and, as would be expected, they also had a considerable number of Confederate sympathizers.
9. After the war Confederate monuments were erected over the state, on court-house lawns, in cemeteries, and in city parks. However, only one such monument was erected to Union soldiers and that was to the soldiers of mountainous Lewis County on the Court House lawn in Vanceburg. This is said to be the only statue of its kind south of the Ohio River. Lewis County was intensely loyal to the Union and is a Republican party stronghold., quite different from its neighboring county of Mason to the west, which has Maysville as its county seat, a town steeped in the traditions and charm of an old Southern river town.
10. At Perryville Battlefield the state of Kentucky erected a monument to the Confederate dead in 1902, but no monument was placed in memory of the Union soldiers until 1931 when the Federal government did so.
1. Anderson, Charles C. Fighting by Southern Federals
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