My curiosity about the role of guerillas in the Civil War has led me in a couple of directions. Fortunately, the Kentucky Historical Society has multiple resources which help shed valuable light on this subject and time period.
The KHS collections contain a four-page Civil War account written by Charlton G. Duke about his capture and the capture and imprisonment of his comrades by Union forces in Kentucky. His arrest and incarceration was due to his participation in guerilla activities, and his imminent execution was ordered by Gen. Stephen G. Burbridge in retaliation for the guerilla actions of the notorious Sue Mundy [Marcellus Jerome Clark] during raids in Kentucky. In addition, another perspective is offered in the later entries of the diary of Ellen Wallace. In her written thoughts she clearly expressed the havoc brought upon the citizens of Kentucky by these guerilla bands. Her words make their arrests and imprisonments seem justified.
In Charlton’s diary entries-written while imprisoned-he explains the way Kentucky was torn apart during the conflict. According to Charlton’s account, he had been sent back into Kentucky by Col. Lylypint to gather some of the men who had not been able to escape Kentucky. In trying to do so, he found the whole area overrun with federal soldiers, and while trying to return to their command they were captured and sent to Louisville “called Slaughterhouse Place.”1 Charlton described how there were “many indignations heaped upon the men in the prison.”2 After being at the prison for some three to four weeks Charlton learned that Gen. Burbridge had ordered the execution of Charlton, Captain Lindsay Buckner, K. F. Wallace, and John Duke, due to a band of guerillas having killed a mail carrier, supposed to be the Sue Mundy gang. Speaking to the pride men felt in serving their cause, Charlton expressed his unwillingness to die at the hands of the enemy in a controlled execution rather than in “the glory of the battle field.”3
As the story turns out, Charlton was spared execution due to Gen. Burbridge allowing the men to take an oath of allegiance and return home. However, Charlton opted to be sent to a northern prison camp rather than take the oath of allegiance. One of Charlton’s comrades, Captain Leily, was released because his mother had paid $1700.00 in cash to Louisville authoities.4 Unfortunately, one of the men was put to death because money for his release did not arrive in time. Charlton mentioned four men who were taken out to the Jeffersontown Road and shot to death. Charlton was sent to Johnson’s Island and his brother to Camp Douglass where they remained until the end of the war.
The diary of Ellen Wallace also sheds light on the struggles of the Kentuckians during the War. Ellen wrote on May 7, 1861, of her feeling that Union and peace would soon be restored. However, she expressed concern that “if the Republican party continues in power and carries out their wicked designs in opposition to the conservative men North and South then indeed the country will be shattered into fragments.”5 These words are proof that raw emotion was playing out throughout the countryside. On May 14, 1861, she wrote in her diary about raiding bands tearing up railroads, and preparations on both sides for a terrible conflict. She went on to pray for her family and the suffering country. Mention was made of flames of Civil War again threatening to devastate Kentucky. Ellen noted how the Federal Army was repulsed at Richmond and asked where the horrors would end.6
In August of 1862, Ellen wrote about feeding the Federal troops.7 Later, she talked about how the people of her town were aroused from their slumber by guerillas invading the town. She mentioned Morgan and how he had torn up the railroad tracks and had taken 200 prisoners, and also that a “desperado” named Moodard was demanding unconditional surrender of the town. Ellen’s husband was arrested by a band of guerillas, but by the influence of a friend, he was released.
Ellen discussed her feelings about President Lincoln by stating that he and his cabinet were a disgrace, and that their operations were dictated by a mean, low party spirit.8 Confederate soldiers had marched into Clarksville, Tennessee, and convinced the Federal soldiers to surrender. Kentucky’s governor Magoffin had resigned. Ellen also expressed it was her wish that it had been the President of the United States who resigned.
In Ellen’s entries of October 1862, it is apparent that she was totally opposed to the policies of Pres. Lincoln and the direct impact it was having on Kentucky. On October 3 she wrote, “the state of affairs here is deplorable, courts are not allowed to act, murderers are turned out of jail and permitted to roam at large.” Her wrath turned to Lincoln when she said that his proclamation liberating the slaves in January was the finishing stroke to all the horrors that had taken place. Ellen questioned if this was the only protection the federal government extends to Kentucky, a border state that did not pass an ordinance of secession. She stated bluntly that it was a “burning shame to Lincoln, the cabinet and officers of the army.”9
After reading through the countless pages of entries made by Ellen during this critical time of our nation’s history, it is evident how the country and the people were torn apart. Passions ran high, and many were disillusioned by the consequences of the war.
1. Charlton G. Duke Civil War Account, SC695, Kentucky Historical Society
2. Charlton G. Duke
3. Chartlon G. Duke
4. Ellen Wallace Diary, MSS52_Box2 _F2_0, Kentucky Historical Society
5. Ellen Wallace Diary, MSS52_Box2_F2_0, Kentucky Historical Society
6. Ellen Wallace Diary, MSS52_Box2_F2_0, Kentucky Historical Society
7. Ellen Wallace Diary, MSS52_Box2_F2_0, Kentucky Historical Society
8. Ellen Wallace Diary, MSS52_Box2_F2_0, Kentucky Historical Society
9. Ellen Wallace Diar,y MSS52_Box2_F2_0, Kentucky Historical Society
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