“Tell Her What a Good Rebel Soldier I Have Been”: Mary Ann Clark Disguised During the Civil War

Written by Tim Talbott. Posted in Uncategorized

ClarkBy Sunshine Al-Jumaily, Lexington Universal Academy, Lexington, KY

In history classes, wars are often viewed as the male sphere.  This is especially true in the case of the Civil War.  The war is often referred to as a “brothers’ war”.[1]  We hear of male soldiers, generals, politicians, but ladies are generally kept away from the front.  Clara Barton is mentioned as a famous nurse and women are mentioned as baring the burden of the home front as their men marchd off to the war.  However, little to no attention is given to the women who did more than follow camp to aid the sick and wounded.  Many women disguised themselves as men and made the same march off to war.

Mary Ann Clark is one of “an estimated 400 women who took up arms in the war”.[2]  The Civil War was not the first instance of women taking up arms, but is unique due to the large number of women who enlisted in the ranks.  It was easy for women to do so because of the lack of personal identification and documentation in the mid-nineteenth century. Women just had change their personal appearance to seem more masculine and they could become someone else.[3]  Mary Ann Clark chose to become Henry Clark and served in the Confederate army under General Braxton Bragg.

Mary Ann was one of many women who fought, but her reasons for fighting are brought into question when comparing a letter from Mary herself and a letter from her mother.  Mary Ann wrote a letter to two friends, Mrs. Huffman and Mrs. Tucker to inform them of her enlistment into the army and her capture.  She requested they inform her mother as well of her decision to enlist and the location of her children.[4]  It is obvious that Mary Ann’s friends gave her mother the message because she was quick to return correspondence to them explaining her daughter’s unconventional choice.  Mrs. E.A.W. Burbage provided a short biography of her daughter particularly focusing on her rather abusive marriage to George Walker and the murder of her beloved brother-in-law, a Southern sympathizer, at the hands of a Union home guard.[5]  Mrs. Burbage cited the mental anguish caused by these events as being the catalyst for Mary Ann choosing to hide her gender and enlist in the army even if it meant losing her life.[6]  Her mother particularly cited two nervous breakdowns she suffered after her husband announced he would be returning to Kentucky from California with the new wife he wed while out west and the aforementioned murder of her Southern sympathizing family.[7]  However, Mary Ann was of sound enough mind to procure a divorce from her husband after learning of his second marriage.

However, mental instability and pure emotion were not the reasons for Mary Ann Clark becoming Henry and enlisting.  Her own words tell this story begin this story.  In her letter to her friends she requests that they tell her mother “what a good Rebel soldier I have been.”[8]  This statement in itself implies patriotism for the Confederate cause.  She is, also, not afraid of her decision or what consequences it may hold.  Perhaps her mother’s letter was written out of pure concern and is evidence of a mother struggling to look for reasons why her daughter chose to disguise herself and enlist. 

After her capture at the Battle of Richmond and discovery of her true identity, she did not change her determination to remain in the army.  Upon her discovery, her Union captors decided to release her, but on the condition that she promised to live as a lady again.  She was also provided with “proper” ladies attire:  a dress.[9]  However, Mary Ann found herself back in the Confederate army shortly after her release as she indicated in her letter that she would be headed to Vicksburg.[10]  The Union Army was used to discovering recruits.  Their practice was to dismiss women who were discovered.[1]  It can be assumed they did not intend on a woman having the persistence of Mary Ann Clark. 

One major change did occur when Mary Ann rejoined with the Confederate Army.  She served openly as a female officer.  One young soldier serving with Mary Ann wrote in a letter home:  “Pa among all the curiosities I have seen since I left home one I must mention, a female Lieutenant.”[12]  Women serving openly female on the battlefield was not as unusual.  These openly female members of the army were much more likely to go into battle carrying the regiment’s colors, or flag, into battle.  These women would pick up arms for fallen soldiers if they knew how to shoot.[13]  Mary Ann was not a flag bearer, but many of same romantic ideas were applied to her when the press got a hold of her story.

Despite her mother’s apprehension to her decision, many newspapers both Northern and Southern reported Mary Ann’s story portraying her as a heroine.  However, their version of the story is far from the truth.  Many newspapers reported that Mary Ann ended up in the Confederate Army following her beloved husband into the Battle of Shiloh where he was killed.  The story goes on recounting Mary Ann burying him with her own hands and how she continued fighting in his stead under General Bragg until she was wounded and captured.[14]  Much of this story is complete fiction.  Mary Ann was divorced and Mary Ann never fought in the Battle of Shiloh.  Yet, the story the newspapers told made Mary Ann acceptable and honorable because it adhered to “popular romantic themes” of the time.[15]  The press, also, did not portray her as mentally unstable as her mother’s letter would suggest.

Women were more than weeping widows crying for a time gone by or mothers praying for their sons to return in safety during the Civil War.  They were on the fields fighting next to their brothers in humanity.  They were present in striking numbers.  It is true that the Civil War was a “brothers’ war”, but it was a “sister’s war” as well.  When the nation divided, it affected people so strongly that both genders answered the call to fight for their respective sides.  Mary Ann Clark is just one example of many women who chose to answer that call.

[1] Anne E. Marshall, “A “Sisters’ War”: Kentucky Women and Their Civil War Diaries,” The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, 110, no. 3&4 (2012): 481-502,p. 483.

[2] Howe, Robert F. Smithsonian, “The Civil War: 150 Years Later Covert Force.” Last modified October 2012. Accessed August 16, 2013. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/Covert_Force.html?c=y&page=1.

[3] DeAnne Blanton, and Lauren M. Cook, They Fought Like Demons, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2002), 25.

[4] Clark, Mary Ann. Letter from Mary Ann Clark to Mrs. Huffman and Mrs. Turner. Letter.  From Kentucky Historical Society, KHS Digital Collections. http://www.kyhistory.com/cdm/compoundobject/collection/MS/id/63/rec/1

[5] Burbage, E.A.W. E.A.W. Burbage to Mrs. Katie Huffman, December 27th, 1862. Letter. From Kentucky Historical Society, KHS Digital Collections. http://www.kyhistory.com/cdm/compoundobject/collection/MS/id/60/rec/2

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] Clark, Mary Ann. Letter from Mary Ann Clark to Mrs. Huffman and Mrs. Turner. Letter.  From Kentucky Historical Society, KHS Digital Collections. http://www.kyhistory.com/cdm/compoundobject/collection/MS/id/63/rec/1

[9] Howe, Robert F. Smithsonian, “The Civil War: 150 Years Later Covert Force.” Last modified October 2012. Accessed August 16, 2013. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/Covert_Force.html?c=y&page=1.

[10] Clark, Mary Ann. Letter from Mary Ann Clark to Mrs. Huffman and Mrs. Turner. Letter.  From Kentucky Historical Society, KHS Digital Collections. http://www.kyhistory.com/cdm/compoundobject/collection/MS/id/63/rec/1

[11] Ellen C. DuBois, and Lynn Dumenil, Through Women’s Eyes: An American History, (New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005), 218.

[12] Howe, Robert F. Smithsonian, “The Civil War: 150 Years Later Covert Force.” Last modified October 2012. Accessed August 16, 2013. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/Covert_Force.html?c=y&page=1.

[13]Ellen C. DuBois, and Lynn Dumenil, Through Women’s Eyes: An American History, (New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005), 218.

[14] DeAnne Blanton, and Lauren M. Cook, They Fought Like Demons, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2002), 151.

[15] Ibid, p. 152

The Camp Nelson Expulsion: The Union Army, Black Recruits, and their Families

Written by Tim Talbott. Posted in Uncategorized

AlexanderBy Patrick O’Neil, Mallard Creek High School, Charlotte, NC

Camp Nelson, located in Kentucky, served as a recruitment and training camp for African American soldiers and also a refugee center for the wives and children of these soldiers during the Civil War.  Since border state slaves were not freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, the war measure only pertained to slaves in the rebellion territories; the enlistment of enslaved men into the army was the first major step in the destruction of slavery in the state.  From outset complications surrounding such enlistments made military life extremely challenging because many black soldiers were accompanied by their families.  Thousands of African Americans – men, women, and children – came to Camp Nelson hoping to gain their freedom.[1]

The Emancipation Proclamation also declared that “such persons [that is, African American men] of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States.”  In May 1863, the government established the Bureau of Colored Troops to manage the growing numbers of black soldiers.  However, President Lincoln’s cautious handling of the slaveholding border states delayed recruiting efforts in the Kentucky.  After April 1864, the Union army began recruiting African American soldiers in Kentucky.  Almost half of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) who enlisted from Kentucky were recruited, trained, and placed in infantry, artillery, and cavalry units at Camp Nelson.  Over 24,000 black Kentucky soldiers served in the war, representing nearly one-third of the total number of Union soldiers from the state.  Kentucky provided second largest number of black soldiers, only Louisiana offered more.[2]

Once black men were permitted to join the army, thousands escaped bondage, flocked to the installation, and were sworn in as soldiers.  In numerous cases, African American recruits brought their families with them to Camp Nelson.  On many farms and plantations, slave owners mistreated the families of runaways by tearing down slave cabins, refusing support, and eventually turning out their wives and children.  As a result, many women ran away with or without their children to Camp Nelson. Their families accompanied them for many reasons, including fear of slaveholders’ retaliation, hope of better opportunities, or emancipation for the entire family. New recruits were concerned about the safety of the families but the presence of these women and children in the camp posed problems for army officials.[3]    

Since there was no military policy regarding the families of black soldiers, even the idea of families staying within the camp was questionable.  The families were referred to as refugees, a clear indication of the uneasiness between army officials and black military families.  In July 1864, army leaders offered a bold but dispassionate resolution and ordered camp commanders to dismiss African American dependents. Union officials opposed the order without offering any alternatives so the families remained considerably anxious about their fate.[4]    

Finding black soldiers’ families troublesome, army officials clung to a tendency to drive the women and children out. When removed from the installation, the families set up outside the camp. Seeking support and protection from the Union army the families of black recruits were abandoned and quickly realized they were unwelcome.[5] 

For several months beginning in the summer of 1864, Army leadership ordered troops to harass and expel refugees from the camp and cooperated with slave owners to return their slaves.  The issue presented a serious challenge as runaway slaves exhibited willful determination as newcomers arrived at the camp and those previously dismissed continually returned.  The matter of dealing with the families of black recruits lingered until the issue was escalated in late November when General Speed S. Fry, the commander of Camp Nelson, expelled all the refugees and subsequently destroyed their makeshift homes to prevent their return.  Amid the turmoil, hundreds of refugees died of exposure or disease in the cold weather as a result of this unconscionable action.[6]

The affidavit of Joseph Miller, a black recruit, plainly tells the story of a family seeking support from the Army.  When Miller ran away and enlisted in the army, he took his family with him, assuming his master would mistreat his family on the plantation.  When Miller arrived as a recruit, his wife and four children were sent to a tent within the camp’s limits but within days they were loaded on a wagon and taken away.  His wife held a sick child in her arms as they were carried away.  Miller followed them to the camp line unaware of their destination.  After duty later that night, he located his family six miles away in Nicholasville in an overcrowded old meeting house that served the black community.  His family was shivering and hungry and the sick son his wife carried was dead, a casualty of inclement weather.  Miller returned to duty at the camp that night but travelled back to Nicholasville the next day to dig a grave and bury his son.[7] 

The New York Tribune published an article on November 28, 1864, “The Cruel Treatment of the Wives and Children of U.S. Colored Solders,” that offered broader insight to the expulsion.

“Over four hundred helpless human beings—frail women and delicate children—having been driven from their homes by United States soldiers, are now lying in barns and mule sheds, wandering through woods, languishing on the highway and literally starving, for no other crime  than their husbands and fathers having thrown aside the manacles of slavery to shoulder Union muskets.  The deluded creatures innocently supposed that freedom was better than bondage and were presumptuous enough to believe that the plighted protection of the Govern would be preserved inviolate.”[8]

The article explained that Camp Nelson had become a “recruiting rendezvous for slaves” since June 1864.  “Most of them left without their masters’ permission, and knowing their families would be subjected to the hands of their indignant masters.”  In numerous cases, the masters forced the families of the recruits off of their properties so wives and children routinely accompanied the men with the hopes of shelter and the opportunity to earn a living, cooking and washing, within the limits of the camp.  The families were harassed numerous times before camp officials “turned four hundred women and children from their dwellings to face the wintry blast, with light and tattered garments, no food, and no home!” After the “helpless women and sick children” were removed armed soldiers demolished their dilapidated dwellings.  

The northern press was appalled that United States soldiers executed cruel and immoral orders.  The Tribune reporter wrote, “Slavery is bad; but here is an act which transcends, in deliberate depravity and cool malignity, the darkest association of the slave mart.”  This action obviously complicated the enlistment process for African American men as their families faced a potential situation of “merciless prosecution, compared with Slavery or even death itself, would be a positive blessing.”  The reporter called for public demand of the authority at Washington to intervene and bring “responsible agents to stern account.”[9] 

General Fry was severely criticized by not only the northern press but also the U.S. Sanitary Commission and by missionary Rev. John G. Fee. In addition, Fry’s actions enraged the African American recruits and subsequently undermined the black recruitment process. As a result of the protests, Washington officials directed Fry to establish a camp for the refugees within Camp Nelson.[10]

In March 1865, a congressional act passed which freed the wives and children of these African American soldiers. This act was a direct result of the November 1864 expulsion of refugees at Camp Nelson. The act increased in the enlistment of enslaved African Americans in Kentucky and other border states.  A superintendent for the refugees was appointed and Rev. John G. Fee encouraged the building of duplex cottages.  By June 1865, the refugee camp consisted of 97 cottages and numerous tents and shacks providing housing for 3,060 people, primarily women and children. The refugee camp also included a school house, a hospital, a mess hall, a laundry, a lime kiln, teacher’s quarters and offices. In a collective effort, the American Missionary Association assisted the Army in caring for the refugee families. The AMA provided teachers for the school, ran church services, provided clothing and other supplies, and generally helped administer the camp.[11] 

The Camp Nelson expulsion was a tragic event that inadvertently led to an experiment in assisting former slaves.  The government along with the American Missionary Association had a critical role in helping in the transition to freedom and an opportunity to present a framework for effective public and private sector cooperation.  Furthermore, the expulsion was a glance at upcoming challenges regarding emancipation.  If the war-torn nation seriously intended to assist the former slaves, leaders had the Camp Nelson experience to look to for examples of errors and collective efforts of government and charitable agencies as the nation embarked on Reconstruction.    


[1] “Camp Nelson, Civil War Emancipation Center for Kentucky,”  W. Stephen McBride. Louisville.com. 08 Aug. 2013; (http://www.campnelson.org/history/african.htm)   “United States Colored Troops at Camp Nelson.” United States Colored Troops at Camp Nelson. 08 Aug. 2013.

[2] http://www.history.com/topics/african-american-soldiers-in-the-civil-war; http://www.civilwar.org/hallowed-ground-magazine/spring-2010/civil-war-kentucky.html; http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/blacks-civil-war/; http://www.nytimes.com/1865/08/10/news/black-soldiers-kentucky-over-twenty-thousand-negroes-furnished-armies-union-more.html; http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/191#.UfmPVFdS7uA   “Kentucky African American Civil War Memorial.” Omeka RSS. 08 Aug. 2013.

[3] Sears, Richard D. Camp Nelson, Kentucky: A Civil War History. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 2002. Print, Introduction page li.

[4] Sears, li.  

[5] Sears, li.  

[6] http://www.campnelson.org/history/african.htm

[7] (Affidavit of Joseph Miller, 26 Nov. 1864; M999. Roll 7, Frames 682-84; BRFAL 105.  The affidavit was sent to the Freedmen’s Bureau by Captain T.E. Hall). This document is found in the New York Tribune published an article on November 28, 1864, “The Cruel Treatment of the Wives and Children of U.S. Colored Solders,” and transcribed in Sears, Richard D. Camp Nelson, Kentucky: A Civil War History.

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid

[10] http://www.campnelson.org/history/african.htm

[11] Ibid; McBride.

Shaping the Medical Practice through the Civil War and Future Generations

Written by Tim Talbott. Posted in Uncategorized

YagerBy Julia Butz, Sunrise Elementary School, Rancho Cordova, CA, and Joseph Moneymaker, South Livingston Elementary, Smithland, KY

For some Civil War soldiers the surgical case of Confederate Doctor Orville Yager (catalog number 1999.43.15 in the Kentucky Historical Society digital objects collections) symbolized either “the angel of mercy” or “the angel of death” depending on one’s perspective.  During the Civil War, seventy-five percent of surgeries performed by doctors were amputations.  Taking into consideration both Union and Confederate, this totaled nearly 50,000 amputations.  The average time to complete an amputation was from ten to fifteen minutes.  One out of every four amputations did not survive the procedure, therefore some soldiers referred to their surgeons as “sawbones” or “butchers”.(source)

What would be found inside the case of a surgeon that would earn him such morbid nicknames?  Items used for amputation operations included: anesthetics, bone saw, tourniquet, probes, bandages, and suture needles and thread.  One of the most common anesthetics used in Civil War surgery was chloroform.  Chloroform was used to render the soldier-patient unconscious during an amputation or other surgical procedure.  Interestingly though, some soldiers refused the use of chloroform.(source)  Bone saws were hand saws used to amputate and cut through the bones during surgery.  Tourniquets served as a belt that went around the arm or leg to tighten and cut off the flow of blood for the amputation procedure.  Probes were used to dig out bullets from wounds the soldiers received in battle.  Bandages were made from cloth to help cover wounds and other injuries.  Suture thread included a needle and thread and was used to stitch cuts, wounds, and amputations.(source

One soldier who witnessed an amputation described the horrific scene: “Tables about breast high had been erected upon which the screaming victims were having legs and arms cut off. The surgeons and their assistants, stripped to the waist and bespattered with blood, stood around, some holding the poor fellows while others, armed with long, bloody knives and saws, cut and sawed away with frightful rapidity, throwing the mangled limbs on a pile nearby as soon as removed.”(source)

Why was there such a high rate of death from surgery?  In order to answer this question it is important to understand some of the medical conditions surgeons operated under at the time of the Civil War.  Most surgeries were performed away from the battlefield in tents, and only one percent of the doctors in the Civil War had prior experience in the medical field.   Some doctors, especially early in the war, had to learn how to perform medical surgeries such as amputations as they went.  Many doctors had to learn how to perform amputations by reading the book “The Practice of Surgery”, by Samuel Cooper, with notes by Dr. Alexander H. Stephens or other such period works.  Naturally, battlefield conditions caused many mistakes.  Other factors such as the enormous number of wounded soldiers from battle and the conditions of the field hospital did not help.(source)

Surgeons worked throughout the day performing amputations inside these field hospitals. Field hospital structures varied.  Some were private homes, buildings, barns, and churches; others were warehouses and outbuildings.  Most of these structures provided the minimum required shelter and a nearby water source.   “Houses and barns, but chiefly the woods were used as hospitals and the wounded, necessarily endured much suffering,” wrote Dr. Jonathan Letterman, describing a field hospital that was used during the Civil War.  

Often surgeons lacked enough medical supplies to attend and address the increased number of soldiers needing immediate medical attention due to the severity of their wounds.  One soldier stated:

 “In the operating tent, the amputation of a very bad looking leg was witnessed. The surgeons had been laboring since the battle to save the leg, but it was impossible. The patient, a delicate looking man, was put under the influence of chloroform, and the amputation was performed with great skill by a surgeon who appeared to be quite accustomed to the use of his instruments. After the arteries were tied, the amputator scraped the end and edge of the bone until they were quite smooth. While the scraping was going on, an attendant asked: ‘How do you feel, Thompson?’ ‘Awful!’ was the distinct and emphatic reply. This answer was returned, although the man was far more sensible of the effects of the chloroform than he was of the amputation.” (A Strange and Blighted Land, Gettysburg: The Aftermath of a Battle, by Gregory Coco, Thomas Publications, Gettysburg, 1995) 

At the end of the day, stacks of amputated limbs were found reaching up to five or more feet high.  Thus, the increased number of soldiers needing immediate medical attention, along with the lack of water, meant that surgeons lacked the time to properly wash hands or instruments between procedures.  At most battle sites, wounded soldiers lacked the benefit of proper shelter or were left to suffer under the sun or other battlefield conditions until they were taken to a medical tent.  The lack of hygiene and a clean sterile environment increased the chance of infection and contagious diseases.

Not only did the American Civil War reunite a country and end slavery, it also significantly changed America’s medical practices.  Before the war, many of the physicians received minimal training.  Many of the older doctors only worked as apprentices and had no formal education. The younger doctors usually only had two years of formal training, generally with no laboratory experience.(source)  Despite these obstacles, medical practices improved dramatically in the areas of triage, cleanliness, and neurosurgery.

Jonathan Letterman, Medical Director for the Union Army drastically changed the way triage was performed on the field.  He created a well-organized system that treated the wounded on the battlefield, followed by rapid transportation to clinics and hospitals for the patient to be examined by a specialist.  Civil War soldiers who returned home expected this same type of care for any type of accident they might encounter, which thus led to the beginning of the modern ambulance system (and much the later 911 system) we benefit from today.(source)

Due to the urgency of tending to the wounded and the gathering of people from different towns and rural areas, much was learned about medical hygiene and the spread of disease.  Twice as many soldiers died from infectious disease than did soldiers from wounds acquired on the battlefield.(source)  Doctors on the battlefields soon discovered that clean instruments and hands led to fewer infections among the wounded.  At the time, it was thought that diseases were spread via “miasmas” or “bad airs”.(source)  The doctors soon discovered through trial and error that cleaning instruments greatly reduced death from infection.  A greater understanding of the relationship between diet, cleanliness, and disease was gained not only by the medical community, but by the public at large. (source)

Understanding pain and neurosurgery also made great advances during the Civil War.  Anesthesia became a specialty during the war because of the sheer numbers of wounded.  Ether and chloroform became the common anesthetics used.(source)  Confederate surgeon F. E. Daniel described the effects he discovered using chloroform while performing an amputation, “He rallies from the sleep of the merciful anesthetic.  He slept all through the ordeal . . . He felt nothing, knew nothing.”(source)  Doctors developed new ways to treat the dramatic increase in nerve injuries and chronic pain, which was the beginning of modern neurosurgery.(source)

The medical advances that were acquired during the Civil War may not have come for many more years without the necessity of war to improve basic health care.  The practices started during the war are practices that were the beginning of what we now have in modern medicine.  The lessons learned about expediency of care and the comfort of the patient was a slight silver lining in the black cloud of the American Civil War.


Sources cited:

Gregory Coco, A Strange and Blighted Land, Gettysburg: The Aftermath of a Battle, Thomas Publications, Gettysburg, 1995.






A Cornet, the Player, and the Drummer Boy’s War

Written by Tim Talbott. Posted in Uncategorized

DudleyBy Vickie Kunau, Paragould High School, Paragould, AR

“I don’t believe we can have an army without music.”  General Robert E. Lee


“Presented to Adjt. Joe Dudley by the officers of the 16th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry.”  This sentiment is etched into the bell of a circular cornet residing in the collections of the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort.   As an avid and lifelong musician, the circular design of the cornet captured my attention because the instrument looks very much like a French Horn, and I have only been familiar with the customary and recent designs of cornets which resemble the trumpet.  In addition, the sentiment etched onto the side of the cornet bell made me wonder who this officer of the 16th Infantry was and what role he played in the Civil War.  

Joseph (Joe) Dudley, Jr., was born on June 23, 1836 in Flemingsburg, Fleming County, Kentucky, to Joseph Dudley and Harriet Hackley Bruce Dudley.[1]  He enlisted in December 1861 (at the age of 25), as a sergeant in Company H, where he served as a principal musician and chief bugler before being promoted to regimental staff as an Adjutant.[2]  During his time with the 16th, Dudley played in the regimental band.  While conjecture must be employed when discussing Dudley’s thoughts about music, the importance of music during the bitter and grief-filled Civil War, an examination of the cornet’s history, and the details of Dudley’s death, can be discussed with relative certainty.

The Cornet’s History

The development of the cornet has been traced to France where an inventor named Jean-Hilaire Asté(also known as Halary of Paris) added valves to the circular French Posthorn around 1825.  This instrument called the valve cornet was also known as the cornopean, stop horn, and small stop horn.[3] 

Three general cornet shapes became common: the circular ‘horn’ design, the ‘trumpet’ design, and the ‘bugle’ design.  The ‘horn’ design featured a funnel-type mouthpiece, circular configuration, conical bore and mellow, pleasing tone.  The ‘trumpet’ design featured a cup mouthpiece, forward-facing configuration, cylindrical bore, and strident, blaring tone.  The ‘bugle’ design featured a deep cup mouthpiece, forward-facing configuration, conical bore, and a more mellow and pleasing tone than the trumpet.[4]

Early horns were used for hunting and battle.  The bugle was primarily a military instrument because of its dexterity, its small, easy to carry size, and the way the sound carried through the riot and mayhem of battle.  The trumpet saw wide use as an instrument of heraldry, marking announcements, the arrival of dignitaries, and punctuating the pomp and bombast of the royal court.[5]   Cornets served as the brass solo instrument before the trumpet came along.  They were used in jazz and dance music and functioned as the treble brass voice in an orchestra.  Today they are primarily used in concert and marching bands.[6] 

Music and the Civil War

During the Civil War, soldiers from both sides enjoyed singing and making music. The war was often called America’s ‘great musical war,’ ‘the great singing war,’ and ‘the drummer boy’s war.’  It has been estimated that one in forty soldiers was a musician.[7] Musical instruments were common in both armies, and included fifes, drums, bugles, harmonicas, guitars, banjos, fiddles, and any other instrument that a soldier could purchase or create.  The 1850’s saw a brief flowering of brass band music, and the cornets and saxhorns that made up the all-brass bands remained popular during the Civil War, particularly as the hostilities wore on.[8]

At the beginning of the war every regiment had full brass bands, some of them numbering as many as fifty pieces.[9]   While drummers, buglers, and fifers regulated events in camp and served as major agents of communication on the battlefield, the brass bands performed in the trenches – during the heat of battle, during Regimental gatherings, and during down-time.  Music, very likely, served to bolster morale, entertain, and give bored musicians something to occupy their time, as the biggest portion of a soldier’s life was spent in camp.  At times, enemy bands engaged in a ‘play-off’ as described by Lieutenant Thompson of the 13th New Hampshire just after the battle of Cold Harbor, June 8, 1864:

“This evening the Band of the Thirteenth goes into the trenches at the front, and indulges in a ‘competition concert’ with a band that is playing over across in the enemy’s trenches.  The enemy’s Band renders Dixie, Bonnie Blue Flag, My Maryland, and other airs dear to the Southerner’s heart.  Our Band replies with America, Star Spangled Banner, Old John Brown, etc.  After a little time, the enemy’s band introduces another class of music, only to be joined almost instantly by our Band with the same tune.  All at once the band over there stops, and a rebel battery opens with grape.  Very few of our men are exposed, so the enemy wasted his ammunition; while our band continues its playing, all the more earnestly until all their shelling is over.”[10]

J.A. Leinbach, leader of the 26th North Carolina Regiment band, recalled another account of music played during the battle of Gettysburg:

“About 6 o’clock in the morning, the bands of the 26th and 11th North Carolina regiments played together for some time, heavy firing going on meanwhile…Our playing seemed to do the men good, for they cheered us lustily…We learned some time afterwards, from Northern papers, that our playing had been heard by the enemy, amid the noise of the cannon.”[11]

A British observer, J.L. Freemantle, poised in a tree near Lee’s headquarters on Seminary Ridge, also heard the music.

“When the cannonade was at its height a Confederate band of music between the cemetery and ourselves, began to play polkas and waltzes, which sounded very curious, accompanied by the hissing and bursting of shells.”[12]

At the battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, the Federal band was camped so close to their enemy that one Confederate soldier was able to request verbally that the Northern band play some of “our tunes.”  The Northern band obliged with a rendition of “Dixie’s Land” which brought cheers from both Union and Confederate soldiers.  Often these concerts were accompanied by exchanges of small gifts between rival bands such as tobacco, apples, and coffee.[13]

On a more solemn note, brass bands were also called upon to perform at funerals.  Not only were famous generals laid to rest by the mournful sounds of a regimental brass band, but also officers and common soldiers, such as Adjutant Joe Dudley, of the 16th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry.  In fact, the Cornet Band of the 104th Ohio attended and performed at Dudley’s burial.[14]

The Death of Joe Dudley

While Dudley served in the 16th Infantry, he saw action in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia (participating in Sherman’s March to the Sea Campaign).  He died just prior to the July 1864, Siege of Atlanta.[15]  His regiment lost a total of 188 men during service; 2 officers and 50 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded, and 5 officers and 131 enlisted men died of disease.[16]

It was a severe thunderstorm that claimed the life of 28-year-old Dudley.  On July 14, 1864, this storm toppled a large tree onto his tent near the Chattahoochie River in Georgia.  The words of Charles E. Johnson eloquently describe the last moments of Joe Dudley’s life.

“Gloom and sorrow have thrown their dark shadows like a pail over our regiment, caused by a melancholy accident which occurred last evening by which we have lost a dear friend and noble officer.  At about 8 o’clock P.M. yesterday, while a violent storm was raging, a tree was blown across the tent in which Major White and Adjutant Dudley were lying, killing the Adjutant instantly, and severely wounding the Major.  Adjutant Dudley was endeared to every member of the regiment by the nobleness of his character and all feel that we have sustained a loss that cannot be repaired.  Poor Joe!  So full of life and health, having just fully entered upon the threshold of useful, active life, we can scarcely realize that he is now gone forever from the turmoil and trouble of earth, as we fondly hope, to a world in which there is no sorrow or death.

Just after the sad event of his death, the horrible storm died away – the vivid lightning ceased to flash – the roar of thunder was stilled – the clouds were folded up and drifted away – and the pale Empress of Night shone down with soft beauty, while the raindrops glistened in the green leaves, as though Nature was in tears for our noble dead.  May we not fondly hope that this calm was typical of the entrance of his noble spirit into the everlasting peace of ‘that house not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens,’ – He sleeps his last sleep.”[17]

Adjutant Joseph Dudley was buried with the honors of war at Marietta, Georgia, in grave number 4499.[18]  During the Drummer Boy’s War, military musicians dramatically affected the lives of both soldiers and civilians.  It is impossible to calculate just how valuable the musical actions of these men were in soothing the anxieties of homesickness, the miseries of campaigning and camp life, and the tragedies of war.  Adjutant Joseph Dudley, player of the circular cornet, was a musician who made a difference during his short tenure on earth.

[1] Kentucky Historical Society, http://kyhistory.pastperfect-online.com/35577cgi/mweb.exe?request=record;id=41FC1E62-218A-42E3AC23-211652950841;type=101  Found in the “Notes” section of the object record for Catalog Number 1976.142.03.

[2] A State Divided, Classroom Resources, http://www.ket.org/artstoolkit/statedivided/gallery/resources/cornet_r.htm  Found in the Background Information.

[3] http://www.music.vt.edu/musicdictionary/textc/cornet.html

[4] http://www.blackdiamondbrass.com/tpthist/trpthist.htm

[5] Ibid.

[6] http://www.musiced.about.com/od/windinstruments/p/cornet.htm

[7] Maureen Manjerovic & Michael J. Budds, “More Than A Drummer Boy’s War: A Historical View of Musicians in the American Civil War,” http://www.symposium.music.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=21…-historical-view-of-musicians-in-the-american-civil-war&ltemid=124

[8] http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/cwmhtml/cwmpres01.html

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Manjerovic & Budds, “More Than A Drummer Boy’s War”

[14] Kentucky Historical Society Library, Broadside, “In Memoriam,” 1864, Call #FF1.184.

[15] http://www.mt.net/~mtsysdev/civilwar/16thkyinf.htm

[16] Ibid.

[17] Kentucky Historical Society Library, Broadside, “In Memoriam.”

[18] Kentucky Historical Society, http://kyhistory.pastperfect-online.com/35577cgi/mweb.exe?request=record;id=41FC1E62-218A-42E3AC23-211652950841;type=101, “Notes” section.

Conflicted Loyalties: Kentucky Confederates in the Civil War

Written by Tim Talbott. Posted in Uncategorized

MagoffinBy Melissa C. Grant, Madison Southern High School, Berea, KY

Despite decades-long work of Kentucky’s favorite son, Henry Clay, the American Civil War came in 1861.  Its arrival, staved off for years through the compromises proposed or affected by statesmen like Clay, embroiled the passions, lives, and fortunes of many Kentuckians. Like many of his fellow Kentuckians, Governor Beriah Magoffin, hoped to limit the devastating effects of war on his homeland.  Promising that his state would “stand by the equality of the States, and the equality and rights of the people in the States,”[1] Magoffin hoped to strike a bargain with the warring factions on his borders.  However the threat that he and other Kentuckians faced was already being realized. Even as Magoffin worked to insure the neutrality of Kentucky, scores of men, young and old, were flocking to the banners of both the Union and the Confederacy.  Whether due to deep seated convictions, concepts of warfare’s chivalry, or a lingering wariness of Lincoln’s intentions regarding slavery, the allure of the Confederate army ensnared the minds of thousands of Kentuckians.

Throughout the summer of Kentucky’s neutrality, many men of conviction left to join the ranks of soldiers amassing in bordering states.  Many of those who fled were hoping to retain their rights as white men, property owners, or slave holders.  Unlike their governor, these men were willing to fight to insure that “slavery shall not be abolished . . . wherever it now exists in the union.”[2]  Their convictions about the necessity of slavery to the economy of Kentucky and the broader nation propelled them toward enlistment and warfare.  In late 1860, Kentucky’s wealth in slave property was estimated at $170 million, however, many claimed that with the war she was in danger of losing that wealth at an astonishing rate of over $200,000 per year.[3]  Into this tumultuous and disheartening state of affairs many welcomed a revolt, an opportunity to rebel, or someone to stand up for their way of life. Playing on that desire for preservation and a strong dose of pride, General E. Kirby Smith rallied Kentuckians to join the Confederacy and fight “FOR YOUR STATE”[4] in a recruitment handbill published in 1862.   When John Hunt Morgan and his men entered Georgetown, Kentucky, in 1863, they claimed to be acting as liberators and protectors of the good people of Kentucky who were caught under the control of Unionists.[5] 

Particularly strong among some men who enlisted in the Confederate army, was a desire to defend their home, land, and property rights just as medieval knights protected the honor of their lords and ladies.  This desire to protect and defend is particularly strong among some followers of the Kentuckian turned Confederate raider, John Hunt Morgan.  In his memoir, Kentucky Cavaliers in Dixie: the Reminiscence of a Confederate Cavalryman, George Dallas Mosgrove related that Morgan was “kind to prisoners” and more noble and magnanimous than any other commander he had ever known.[6]  Mosgrove furthered this notion of a righteous fighter in his depiction of his compatriots as “daring” young men; claiming that as they assembled, men cheered and women waved their handkerchiefs at the passing soldiers.[7]  While actively campaigning in Kentucky, Mosgrove said that many of the men were “spoiling for a fight” and “clamoring to be led to fields of gore” against men who shared their home and birthplace.[8]  The notions of fighting for those things that one finds most precious is not new, nor was it then.  These young men, as depicted by Mosgrove were modern knights on horseback fighting for the honor of their livelihoods much like the chivalrous tales of old.

As a slave state in the 1850s, Kentucky had witnessed the growing voice of the emancipation and abolition movement in northern cities.  States across the region passed laws that rendered the Fugitive Slave Act null and Kentucky saw herself as aggrieved by Ohio when the state refused to deport escaped slaves.[9]  Many Southern slave holders saw themselves under siege in an “unrelenting and fanatical war for the last quarter of a century.”[10]  The election of a Republican in November, 1860, only exacerbated the anxieties gripping slave holders within the state.  Abraham Lincoln, despite his personal goal of preserving the Union with or without slavery, was viewed by slave holders as the symbol of widespread emancipation and abolition; an end to life as they knew it.  In a letter written in Meadville, Pennsylvania to his brother Hal, George described a friend’s view of Lincoln as an usurper who would lay “aside the Constitution of the Country.”[11]  This view echoed the feelings of many Kentuckians who felt that Lincoln’s actions during the winter of 1861 and thereafter were in violation of the Constitution.  Magoffin himself claimed that Kentucky and other slave holding states would be in danger should Lincoln be allowed to act on his “principles.”[12]  Such distrust of the President of the United States in a time of national turmoil, and apparently lack of decision making on the part of state leaders, led many Kentucky men to take up arms against their nation.

During the American Civil War, Kentucky played an integral role.  Originally Kentucky found herself as alone – neutral, then loyal but conflicted, and finally treated as a defeated entity.  Throughout these various roles, Kentuckians served valiantly in both the Union and Confederate armies.  Those who chose to abandon the strong stream of nationalism, so much a part of Henry Clay’s legacy in the state, to fight on the side of the rebels did so for a variety of reasons.  Chief among these are strong convictions about the necessity and vitality of slavery, a desire to defend the honor of a lifestyle that had existed for years, and a strong distrust of the federal government as represented by the Republican Party and the president.  Despite their reasons, these men served admirably and many times sacrificed their lives for the cause of the Confederacy.  They are memorialized today across the state in numerous monuments and in several cemeteries that bear witness to their sacrifice.

[1] Magoffin, Beriah. Letter to S I M Major, Esq. Editor of the Yeoman.  Frankfort:  Printed at the Kentucky Yeoman Office, John B Major, State Printer, 1861. 

[2] Ibid.


[4] Kirby Smith, General E.  Recruitment Handbill.  1862.  Artifact.  Kentucky Historical Society Collections, Frankfort KY.

[5] Morgan, John. Handbill.  1863.  Artifact.  Kentucky Historical Society Collections, Frankfort KY.

[6] Mosgrove, George Dallas.  Kentucky Cavaliers in Dixie:  the Reminiscences of a Confederate Cavalryman.  Louisville KY, Courier Journal Publishing Co. 1905

[7] Ibid, 16.

[8] Ibid, 43.

[9] Magoffin, Beriah.  Letter to S I M Major, Esq. Editor of the Yeoman.  Frankfort:  Printed at the Kentucky Yeoman Office, John B Major, State Printer, 1861. 

[10] Magoffin, Beriah.  Letter to Stephen F Hale, Commissioner from Alabama.  Frankfort:  Printed at the Kentucky Yeoman Office, John B Major, State Printer, 1861. 

[11] Meadville, Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln Letter. 1861.  Artifact.  Kentucky Historical Society Collections, Frankfort KY, page 3.

[12] Magoffin, Beriah

John Hunt Morgan: “The Thunderbolt of the South”

Written by Tim Talbott. Posted in Uncategorized


By Chase Goodman, Allen Central High School, Eastern, KY

For decades after his death the name John Hunt Morgan conjured thoughts in many Kentuckians’ minds as that of a dashing and charismatic Confederate character and defender of Southern virtue and ideals.  Many folks in Kentucky claim to have had a great-great-great grandfather or other past relative that served under Morgan.  However, for all of his admirers there are those in Kentucky that see him as nothing more than a reprobate, a man that lost his ideals and sense of direction and became more thief than hero.

I am left with a sense that for most Kentuckians you either love him or hate him; there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground.  Many historians have dismissed Morgan as more of a romantic figure than that of a man who had any real impact on the war.  For Kentuckians though, there is no doubt that he is one the Civil War’s most intriguing and fascinating characters whose name still brings up great debate a hundred and fifty years later within the state.

John Hunt Morgan was born on June 1, 1825 in Huntsville, Alabama to Calvin and Henrietta Morgan.Interesting though is that he should have been born Luther Morgan after his paternal grandfather as southern society dictated, but instead he was named John Hunt Morgan after his maternal grandfather.  The Morgans would have ten children in all.  His family had planned on staying in Huntsville but several economic factors forced Morgan and his family to move to Fayette County, Kentucky, where young John would spend his childhood. 

As a teenager John enrolled for a time at Transylvania University.John performed poorly in his studies and it wasn’t until he challenged William Blanchard, a fellow Adelphi fraternity brother, to a duel that he would taste popularity and the enticement of engagement.  Dueling was illegal in Kentucky, but on another level it was a way to demonstrate the virtues of a young man.  While neither party involved was hurt badly, it was enough for the Board of Trustees to suspend John for the remainder of the semester.  John would never return to TransylvaniaUniversity. 

John decided against college life and sought to seek out his fate. “In southern society the only activity equal in status to plantation ownership was military service”.1  John sought a commission at age twenty in the United States Marine Corps.  War was declared against Mexico and so started John’s service in the Mexican-American War where he fought bravely at the Battle of Buena Vista side by side with his brother Cal. He also served under another Kentuckian and future president General Zachary Taylor.

After the war and once back in Kentucky, John realized that a full military career was not possible, so he settled down in Lexington and met an eighteen year old girl named Rebecca Bruce.  Rebecca quickly won John’s heart and they were married in 1848.1 They had been married five years in 1853 when she gave birth to a stillborn son.  The pregnancy complicated Rebecca’s health and she would never fully recover.  Despite the Morgan’s not having children (which was expected in southern society) John became a very successful hemp manufacturer as well as a successful purchaser and seller of slaves in Kentucky. He also formed a group known as the Lexington Rifles, a Kentucky Militia unit that he paid for out of his own pocket.  They would often drill and put on shows in and around Lexington. 

The events that would change John Hunt Morgan’s life would happen in quick succession in 1861.  With the further crumbling of compromise and negotiation on the slavery issue the Confederacy was formed in February of 1861, FortSumter was attacked by the Confederates on April 12 of that year and it was time for Kentucky to decide which side to join.  Kentucky remained a divided state in many areas, but became largely pro-Union.John Morgan however flew a Confederate flag above his hemp mill to let his intentions be known.  This was an uneasy time in Kentucky, and people were choosing sides.  Morgan attended a speech made by John J. Crittenden on April 17, 1861 which called for peace and that Kentucky not be drawn into civil strife by either the North or the South.  This speech did little to put John at ease.  2His wife Rebecca died on July 21, 1861, the day after the first battle of Bull Run.  Already an outspoken Southern supporter, the events above did nothing more than give him the final push to commence military activity against the Union.  

In August of 1861, a Union Camp was set up about 25 miles out of Lexington.This infuriated many of the Confederate sympathizers including John Morgan.  With a Union gun shipment coming in John and a few of his Lexington Rifles planned to steal them.3 Receiving word of the proposed heist, Union General Nelson ordered the weapons escorted by Union troops.  A crowd gathered on Lexington’s main street and watched as the Union troops marched by, an onlooker shouted an obscenity at the troops and one soldier raised his rifle towards the crowd, women screamed and a Lexington Rifle lookout blew a bugle signaling the Lexington Rifles to assemble at the armory.  A short time later the church bells rang alerting the Union Home Guard to assemble.  With the possibility of open warfare on the streets of Lexington looming, Senator and Confederate sympathizer John C. Breckinridge rushed to the armory and talked John Morgan and his men down.3  With this the two opposing sides dispersed without bloodshed.  This engagement would seal John Hunt Morgan’s fate and lead to his moniker as the “thunderbolt” of the South.    

John Hunt Morgan had by all accounts found his place and success in the slave holding state of Kentucky.  It wasn’t until everything he had worked for and identified with was threatened that he took decisive action.  Personally, I neither embrace John Hunt Morgan nor turn him out as a rapscallion.  I simply view him as a man who worked hard to develop his self identity and self worth and once those things were threatened he was left with no choice but to join the Confederate cause in order to maintain his perceived way of life.  I believe that John Hunt Morgan and his contemporaries knew that if the South lost, no matter a border state, their prosperous way of life would end and that would mean financial ruin and desolation for them, their families, and friends.  In the end that is exactly what happened.


Works Cited 

  1. Ramage, James A. Rebel Raider: The Life of General John Hunt Morgan.Lexington. The University Press of Kentucky. 259.
  2. Thomas, Edison H. John Hunt Morgan and His Raiders.Lexington. The University Press of Kentucky. 119.
  3. Matthews, Gary Robert. Basil Wilson Duke, CSA: The Right Man in the Right Place. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 2005.

The Desertion of a Kentucky Private

Written by Tim Talbott. Posted in Uncategorized

WoodwardBy Sharon E. Farthing Graves, Clark-Moores Middle School, Richmond, KY

One can only imagine why Elijah Crow Woodward of Ohio County, Kentucky enlisted in the Confederate army in September 1861.   Maybe it was a sense of preserving a way of life, romantic notions of becoming a hero, or pressure from friends.  Whatever the reason he joined and became a member of Company C of the 9th Kentucky Infantry – part of the famous “Orphan Brigade”.[1]

Sometime before the Battle of Stones River/Murfreesboro, Tennessee on December 31, 1862, Private Woodward deserted his unit.[2]  Why would he desert?  The reasons were as varied for desertion as they were for enlisting. Perhaps as many as “one out of every nine men in the Confederate army left the ranks”.[3]

Private Woodward participated in the Battle of Shiloh in April, 1862, and saw the horrors of war first hand.  His unit attacked the Union line at the Peach Orchard and provided cover at the Hornet’s Nest as the southerners left the field.  This unit remained behind to help bury the dead for three days.[4]  Those horrendous sights and smells may have helped his decision.

Families pulled men back home through letters sharing their suffering – hunger, hardships, guerillas.  Soldiers, whose requested furloughs were denied, sometimes furloughed themselves.  “. . . there is a heap of men gone home and a heap says if their families get to suffering they will go [too]”.[5]  If soldiers were near their homes they felt no guilt in checking on their families without permission.[6]

Confederate troops felt that they should stay near their homes to provide protection.  “As soon as it was suspected by some Kentucky troops that they were to be led from their own state, they began to desert. . .”[7]  Men preferred to remain close to their families in order to be able to provide some means of assistance and protection and when they were transferred to distant places they simply chose to go home.[8]

Hardships (including the lack of necessary equipment) suffered by the troops caused many to give up and go home.  Lieutenant Colonel S. H. Walkup’s letter to North Carolina governor Zebulon Vance of October 11, 1862, explained his troop’s deficiencies.  “In truth there is one Compy (I) having 66 men and only Eleven Blankets in the whole company – The pants are generally ragged and out at the seats – and there are less than three cooking utensils to each Company – This sir is the condition of our Regt. upon the eve of winter here among the mountains of Va. cut off from all supplies from home and worn down and thinned with incessant marchings, fighting and diseases – can any one wonder that our Regt. numbering over 1250 rank and file has more than half its no. absent from camp, and not much over one third 449 of them fit for duty?”[9] In November of 1862, General James Longstreet sent a report that 6000 men in his corps had no shoes.  When shoes were received, soldiers had difficulty wearing them due the poor conditions of their feet.[10]   

Lack of reliable weapons or any weapons presented a problem too.  In a report issued October 29, 1862, by Bob Johnson, the 2nd Kentucky had 832 men with 131 of them having no guns.  “. . . 63 had unreliable weapons, 94 others carried flintlocks, 270 men had guns that were “totally useless” and a few even carried guns made of scrap iron.”  The remaining 250 soldiers had what was determined to be “good muskets”.  Johnson went on to describe the weapons as “shot guns, single barreled, double barreled, old and new, flintlock, percussion, or no lock at all;  carbines of every character, pistols of every patent, . . .”[11]                   

Camp life was arduous and prolonged.  For most Rebels, who were used to an active rural life and freedom of choice, the rigors of incessant military drill and regulations were unbearable.[12] Conditions in camp made for a miserable existence.  Deep mud and muck with damp bed rolls and musty smells were in abundance when it rained.[13]   Sunburns and sweltering nights with mosquitoes, and no water during droughts; lack of warmth due to the non-existence of clothing and shoes in the winter tried hearts and minds.

The role of the commanding officers is not to be overlooked as a cause for desertion.  The loss of an officer during battle, as happened to Captain William Mitchell of Company C, was a factor [14] Favorite officers were dismissed or reassigned.  Offices were disliked.  Each caused dissention in the ranks.[15] The Orphan Brigade was broken up and reassigned.  The 4th and 9th Infantries were put into a brigade with two Alabama regiments. Men had a sense of pride for their home unit.  Reassignment wreaked havoc in the ranks and disavowed them of their loyalty.[16]

“Rich man’s war, poor man’s fight”, [17] cowardice before or during a major battle[18] and a lack of devotion to the “cause” were contributing factors to desertion.[19]

Private Elijah Crow Woodward was 25 years old when he deserted from the Confederate army.  Was it one the reasons listed above, a combination of them or one that was not covered?


  1.  http://kyhistory.pastperfect-online.com/35577cgi/mweb.exe?request=image;hex=1972310.JPG, accessed July 17, 2013.
  2. http://kyhistory.pastperfect-online.com/35577cgi/mweb.exe?request=image;hex=197239.JPG, accessed July 17, 2013.
  3. Ella Lonn. Desertion During the Civil War. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998, vi.
  4. Gray Jackets with Blue Collars or The Orphan Brigade [Clippings from the “Messenger & Times –Argus” newspapers. Central City, KY (Muhlenburg Co.) Kentucky Historical Society.
  5.  Mike Wright. What They Didn’t Teach You About the Civil War. New York, Ballantine Books. 271.
  6. Lonn, 17.
  7. Lonn, 16.
  8. Bell Irvin Wiley. The Life of Johnny Reb:  The Common Soldier of the Confederacy. Baton Rouge. Louisiana State University Press. 137.
  9. www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-civilwar/4692, accessed July 30, 2013.
  10. Wiley, 120.
  11. William C. Davis. The Orphan Brigade:  The Kentucky Confederates Who Couldn’t Go Home.  Baton Rouge. Louisiana State University Press. 48.
  12. Wiley, 140.
  13. Lonn, 11.
  14. Ed Porter Thompson. History of the Orphan Brigade 1861-1865. Dayton. The Press of Morningside Bookshop. 830.
  15. Lonn, 16.
  16. Diary of a Confederate Soldier:  John S. Jackson of the Orphan Brigade. 28. Kentucky Historical Society.
  17. Lonn, 14.
  18. Lonn, 33.
  19. Lonn, 19.

Kentucky’s Switch

Written by Tim Talbott. Posted in Uncategorized

MarshallBy Jack Runion, Hurrican Middle School, Hurricane, WV

Kentucky’s brief but failed attempt to remain neutral in the Civil War was something that affected all of her citizens, from the poor farmers, to the wealthy plantation owners, and even businessmen.  Inside the borders of the state, while neutrality may have been the official stance of the commonwealth in Frankfort, the majority of Kentuckians sympathized with southern ideals.  They had prospered and grown accustomed to a way of life that they believed could best be maintained by remaining in the Union.  However, ultimately, many Kentuckians ended up supporting the defeated Confederacy and its ideals following the Civil War.

While attending the Kentucky Historical Society/National Endowment for the Humanities Civil War Workshop in Frankfort, and while having the opportunity to study some of the artifacts and letters they have accumulated from this time in American history, I was intrigued by a letter written by Humphrey Marshall. The letter was identified as a spy report from Marshall to a Confederate colonel.  What I could not help but notice in reading the letter – as well as biographical information I came across regarding Marshall – was that he was a native Kentuckian, who attended West Point, yet surrendered his military commissions to serve in politics initially. Then once the Civil War began in 1861 he became a brigadier general for the Confederate States of America.1

When I was searching the Kentucky Historical Society’s archives for something to use as the basis of this essay, I was drawn to the “spy report”.  I initially thought that the report would contain some major military information that had been obtained unscrupulously by a Confederate spy that may have changed the outcome of a pending skirmish or battle. In actuality that really was not the case. What I did realize, however, is that 150 years ago any information that could be passed along must have been valuable to some degree. I had to step back and remind myself that there were no satellite images for the generals to rely on, nor were there any intercepted phone calls that had been listened to between military leaders.

This being the first and only spy report that I had read, I found it interesting that Marshall opens his report by saying that the information contained within was obtained by a “reliable man.”2 I would have thought that Marshall’s rank as general would have been sufficient justification of the report, but he clarifies that what I was about to be read was in fact given to him by a trusted source. He goes on to say at the beginning of the report that there were 13 regiments concentrated at Mt. Sterling. I felt that the report was somewhat late in being delivered. It was stated that the regiments would be there about five weeks, and that they had already been there three or four weeks. The regiments were from Kentucky, Illinois, and Indiana among other places, but I couldn’t help but note that he specifically identifies five regiments as being “Abolitionist”. Marshall does not clarify where from the North those five regiments originated, but clearly the spy found out that they were in fact abolitionist in nature. 3

Further in the report, Marshall writes about a speech that Colonel Wolford was to make in Mt. Sterling. He sounded as if he supported Wolford’s prior remarks against President Abraham Lincoln’s order to enroll blacks in the Army.  However, that speech did not happen because Wolford had already been arrested in Lexington for speaking out against the President and his policies not only in regard to the Union Army and the enlistment of African Americans, but even President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. What is interesting to note is that Wolford was a Union soldier. And yet the fact that Camp Nelson became one of the largest Negro enlistment or training camps in Kentucky also speaks to the internal conflict within Kentucky’s borders among her own citizens.

To me the fact that Marshall was commenting on Wolford’s speech draws attention to this clash that was going on in the hearts and minds of Kentuckians at the time. Like Wolford, Marshall was a native Kentuckian.  However, Marshall openly sided with the Confederacy after the War began.  In reading the books for this workshop, one of the many things I learned was that Kentuckians were set on maintaining their way of life and that included the treatment and social status of slaves.  Anne Marshall’s book, Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State, explains how after the Civil War, many people in Kentucky did their best to maintain the antebellum status quo of life.  And even though Kentucky officially fought for the Union and never seceded, the Commonwealth’s heart was not really in that decision.4  The actions of many Kentuckians lend credit to that argument.  The pro-Confederate monuments around the state speak to its reverence of the Confederate soldier and the ideals he fought for during the Civil War.  It also bears mentioning the disproportionate amount of Confederate monuments found in Kentucky to the miniscule number of pro-Union monuments.

I would argue that Kentucky realized in order to maintain her place within the United States she needed to fight as a Union state, however the people in the Commonwealth wanted to maintain their antebellum lives, which included slavery and the sub-status of African Americans. To that end, Kentucky embraced the Confederacy once the Civil War ended as the state tried its best to maintain “The Lost Cause.”  One of the most impactful statements I recall hearing during this week was from E. Merton Coulter’s 1925 book, The Civil War and Readjustment in Kentucky, where he states that “Kentucky was the only state to secede after the war.”5

As a classroom teacher, I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to attend this workshop. The books, discussions, and lectures by the many impressive experts in the field of Kentucky history, as well as the history of the Civil War, opened my eyes to the  incredible story that took place 150 years ago and that literally tore this country apart for a brief time.  I love history and that is one of the reasons why I chose to become a Social Studies teacher.  This week reignited my desire to not just “teach” history to my students, but to “share” history with them and do my best to realize all that can be learned when we study where we have been.


1 Warner, Generals in Grey, 212-213

2 H. Marshall Spy Report, SC1087, Kentucky Historical Society Archives

3 H. Marshall Spy Report, SC1087, Kentucky Historical Society Archives

4Anne Marshall, Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State

5 E. Merton Coulter, The Civil War and Readjustment in Kentucky

William S. Bailey: Abolitionist Editor in the Slave State of Kentucky

Written by Tim Talbott. Posted in Uncategorized

PikeBy Doug Logan, Ockerman Middle School, Florence, KY

Well-known is the account of Elijah P. Lovejoy’s tragic death in Alton, Illinois, in 1837.  Editor of the abolitionist newspaper, the Alton Observer, Lovejoy—the “patron saint of American journalists”—was shot and killed by a pro-slavery mob intent on destroying his press.  In response to Lovejoy’s murder, a thirty-seven-year-old tanner named John Brown swore publically:  “Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, from this time, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery!”  That vow, which ultimately led to Brown’s daring raid on the arsenal at Harpers Ferry in 1859, caused the lesser-known strife faced by a Kentucky editor whose abolitionist press was destroyed in a fashion strikingly similar to Lovejoy’s.[1]

Born in Centerville, Ohio, in 1806, William Shreve Bailey moved to Newport, Kentucky, in 1839.  A cotton machinist and steam engine builder, he established a machine shop in this industrial city ideally located just south of the Ohio River from Cincinnati and east of the Licking River from Covington.  Noted as an “infidel” in religion, Bailey—a Democrat—was a staunch abolitionist; in 1850, the mechanic began contributing articles to the Newport News, calling for the immediate abolition of slavery.  Shortly thereafter, the proprietor of the News—a Mr. Ryan—was harassed for publishing Bailey’s writing, commentary that some Northern Kentuckians felt was “too radically liberal for a slave state.”  At Ryan’s urging, Bailey bought out the beleaguered publisher, purchasing the News’ type and press for $650.  The ambitious mechanic-turned-journalist utilized the second story of his machine shop to support his new endeavor, and he issued his first paper on March 7, 1850, with the motto, “Liberty and Equality.”[2] 

“From the mastheads,” historian Will Frank Steely notes, “Bailey proclaimed that his papers stood for…‘The Rights & Interests of the People—True Democracy—The Freedom of Kentucky & the Downfall of Slavery.’”  Interestingly, though, Bailey opposed slavery for economic reasons.  A member himself of the laboring class, Bailey maintained that the abolition of slavery would lead to an increase in wages for white workers.  His newspaper—aptly renamed the Free South in 1858—appealed not to Newport’s wealthy, influential citizens but to its working class.  Of the Kentucky legislature, Bailey wrote in 1858:  “They are all either slaveholders or those who are known to favor the institution of slavery, and those whose interest it is to encourage slavery and accumulate slaves can have no sympathy for the masses whose wages they reduce by forcing them to compete with the unpaid labor of black men and women.”  Bailey labeled slavery as “a system that required whites to oppress blacks,” and he chastised slaveholders for not only shackling their laborers physically, but intellectually:  “It is for the want of a better education among the laboring masses that this state of things exist[s], and for the same reason [my newspaper] is hated.”  These charges, historian Lowell Harrison contends, allowed Bailey to “continue the journalistic assault” initiated in Kentucky by Cassius Marcellus Clay in 1845.[3] 

Bailey was the father of eleven children.  Eventually, his entire family was involved with the production of his newspaper, a situation that led to the termination of nearly a dozen employees.  When four of Bailey’s daughters learned to set type, several employees objected, stating that “it would injure the trade and bring its members into contempt.”  The employees were dismissed, Bailey began writing all of the articles himself, his daughters continued to set type, and his sons learned to make the forms and work the press.  One of his daughters, at age ten, was responsible for obtaining advertisements.  Bailey claimed that opponents from other newspapers in Northern Kentucky would “watch the advertisements every morning…, and then go to Cincinnati, and state to the advertisers that they…would purchase nothing from any house that advertised in the Newport News.”  These “boycotts” crippled the family’s enterprise.[4]

Making matters worse, on October, 6, 1851, in the wee hours of the morning, Bailey’s machine shop and all of its contents—including his type and press—were destroyed by fire.  Friends managed to raise $517 with which Bailey procured two new presses valued at $2,000.  Forced to sell his house, Bailey moved his family into upstairs quarters over a new printing shop; publication resumed within six weeks of the fire.  In dire financial straits, Bailey sought to capitalize on his ties to radical political abolitionists in the Northeast.  Historian Stanley Harrold notes that northern abolitionists “lavished praise, criticism, and money on southern advocates of emancipation because they regarded them as crucial” to their cause.  Bailey—publisher of the sole antislavery newspaper in Kentucky in the 1850s—was among the few individuals, Harrold asserts, whom northern radicals believed embodied the “thrust of abolitionism” in the slave states.  Bailey began traveling to the Northeast throughout the 1850s to obtain funding for his weekly in Newport.  His success in procuring donations underlines what Harrold calls the “high regard” in which northern political abolitionists held their antislavery allies in the South.[5]

A blow to his opponents in Northern Kentucky, Bailey’s financial backing from northern radicals did nothing to enhance his status among Newport’s elite; nor did hosting parties for slaves in his new home.  Though the slaves who attended these parties did so with the permission of their masters, Bailey was forced to pay a fine for promoting such activity.  Unyielding in his determination to wave the antislavery banner, Bailey devoted most of the space in his newspaper to coverage of national events, advocating the tenets of the newly-formed Republican Party.  Though he represented Kentucky at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in 1856, Bailey criticized his party over time for merely opposing the expansion of slavery and not pursuing its abolition where it currently existed.  This line of attack won him praise from his northern supporters and solidified his stance as an immediatist.[6]

Within days of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, the pro-slavery Covington Journal published an article on October 22, 1859, which called the raid an example of “practical abolitionism.”  Historian Lawrence F. Barmann notes that newspapers across the nation leaped at the chance to characterize Brown and his men as practical abolitionists—“fanatics [who] were fully capable of organizing a military crusade and leading a servile insurrection against the South.”  Infuriated, Bailey published an article in the Free South, replying to the Journal’s assertion:  “The Journal says [Brown’s raid] is ‘practical Abolitionism,’ but we say the cause is practical Pro-Slaveryism.”  Bailey claimed that the principle cause for the riot was “the dissatisfaction of the workmen in regard to their treatment and pay;” secondary was “to secure their right of suffrage at the polls. . . .They were merely preparing for defense, not for aggression.”  The abolitionist editor stated that the raid was “founded upon the actions of slaveholders and the depressing effects of the system of slavery upon free white men.”  In response to the Journal’s claim that the raid was “villainously fearful,” Bailey countered that Brown—who “seems to have acted from an internal sense of justice and duty, in obedience to Christian principle”—could not “in justice be called a ‘villain.’”  This retort would cost the abolitionist editor dearly.[7] 

Rumors circulated that Bailey was in correspondence with John Brown immediately prior to the raid on Harpers Ferry.  Bailey denied such accusations:  “I never saw Mr. Brown—never wrote to or received a line from him in my life, nor knew anything about his movements until the difficulty was published in the newspapers.  Falsehoods have been thrown into circulation,” alleging “that I contemplated the capture of the [Newport] Barracks…to arm the negroes…and commence war upon…slaveholders in [Kentucky].”  Bailey concluded, “[H]ow any person could…believe such…stor[ies] is [difficult] to conceive.”  Whether they believed the rumors or not, a mob of about thirty men approached Bailey’s print shop at about half-past seven on the evening of October 28, 1859, determined to “abolish [his] incendiary sheet,” the Cincinnati Commercial reported.  They “pied a considerable quantity of type, broke one of the presses, and carried of[f the forms] on which the outside of the paper was being printed.”  Bailey and his family, who lived above the print shop, were present at the time.  They “begged without avail” for their property to be spared but were cursed by the mob.  The two presses were carried into the street, and the type was thrown into the gutter.  The Commercial noted that “police were present, and, if they did not positively aid in the destruction of property, they certainly did not attempt to do their duty, but were passive spectators of the lawless scene.”  Bailey was warned to leave town immediately.[8]

A group of concerned citizens met the next morning at the courthouse to discuss the matter.  The Cincinnati Gazette reported that J. R. Hallam and C. W. Cavanaugh were chosen to serve as the assembly’s president and secretary, respectively.  A resolution was offered, stating that “whilst we condemn the publication of [the Free South] in our midst…we would advise our fellow citizens not to precipitate any further action in the premises;” the resolution was opposed.  The citizens agreed that Bailey’s print shop should be relocated to Cincinnati.  The meeting adjourned to Bailey’s shop—a mere three blocks from the courthouse—to deliver its edict.  Numbering over 150, the mob assured Bailey that no harm would come to him or his family if he would simply allow them to remove his press.  Because Bailey refused to admit them, a piece of scantling was used to batter in his door.  “The house was then entered, and all the printing material carried down stairs and placed in a wagon,” the Gazette reported.  The mob “proceeded to [a] ferry-boat, with the view of transporting” the goods across the Ohio River to Cincinnati.  When they reached the wharf, however, “they changed their mind and threw everything into the river.”  The citizens reassembled briefly and appointed a vigilance committee “to see that the Free South shall not be reestablished in Newport.”  Later that night, a mob returned to Bailey’s home.  They stole more items—including Bailey’s pocketbook with $150—and “left the house a perfect wreck.”  Again, Bailey was warned to leave Kentucky.[9]

Swearing to “only go dead,” Bailey vowed to reestablish himself in Newport.  Sympathizers from Ohio visited Bailey and offered financial assistance and physical aid if necessary—“reminiscent,” Steely notes, “of Cassius Clay’s action in arming the True American.”  Taking advantage of his close proximity to Cincinnati, Bailey filed a lawsuit in the Queen City against the Campbell County citizens who destroyed his property.  These citizens reiterated their previous warnings to Bailey to leave the commonwealth.  Undaunted, the editor was committed to publishing his anti-slavery newspaper “in spite of tyrants,” writing, “I hope to not be forgotten by free men who are not in danger of life, and who can sleep without molestation from howling desperadoes.”  When publication of the Free South did, indeed, resume, Bailey was imprisoned for incendiarism.  Antislavery allies helped him post bail and encouraged him to travel to England to lecture and procure additional funding. [10] 

By the time Bailey returned to Kentucky from Europe, the Civil War was under way.  His case never came to trial, and financial contributions from influential northern abolitionists—the likes of which included Massachusetts governor John Albion Andrew, Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society leader Samuel E. Sewell, and “Secret Six” members George Luther Stearns and Gerrit Smith—kept his newspaper in production.  Coverage of the Lincoln administration and antislavery developments dominated its pages until the war’s end.  Bailey’s wife, Caroline, died of dropsy in 1867.  Later that year, Judge J. R. Hallam—who served as “president” of the assembly that ultimately destroyed the Free South’s press in October, 1859—filed a lawsuit in the Campbell County Circuit Court against Bailey for libel.  The editor printed a retraction and agreed to pay Hallam’s legal fees.  By 1870, Bailey had relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, where he resided until his death on February 20, 1886.  His remains were interred at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Nashville.[11]  

Though the life and contributions of William S. Bailey may not be as well-known as those of Elijah P. Lovejoy or John Brown, they stand virtually unrivaled as the most significant example of the promotion of antislavery action in Kentucky in the 1850s.  An exemplary model of resilience and dedication, William S. Bailey undeniably fulfilled his desire to never be forgotten amongst the free men of his nation.

[1] Robert M. Sutton, “Illinois’ Year of Decision, 1837,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 46 (1965):  65; The Nation, 12 February 1914.

[2] The Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky, s.v. “Bailey, William S.,” by Theodore H. H. Harris; William S. Bailey, “A Short Sketch of Our Troubles in the Anti-Slavery Cause,” (Newport, KY:  Office of the Daily and Weekly News, 1858); Will Frank Steely, “William Shreve Bailey:  Kentucky Abolitionist,” Filson Club History Quarterly 31 (1957):  274; Stanley Harrold, The Abolitionists and the South, 1831-1861 (Lexington, KY:  The University Press of Kentucky, 1995), 30; Lowell Harrison, The Antislavery Movement in Kentucky (Lexington, KY:  The University Press of Kentucky, 1978), 65.

[3] Steely, 274-75 (Kentucky Weekly News, 8 January 1858; Kentucky Weekly News, 22 January 1858); Harrison, 64-65; Harrold, 30, 134 (Bailey to Francis Jackson, June 29, 1857).  Bailey labeled slavery as “the great curse of our general prosperity” (“A Short Sketch”).  Steely writes that “Bailey, as an abolitionist, was particularly obnoxious to some Southern ‘gentlemen,’ who disdained manual labor and manual laborers.”  The author notes that after Bailey took over production of the daily Newport News, he began publishing the Kentucky Weekly News in 1851.  The Newport News was eventually discontinued, and the Kentucky Weekly News was renamed the Free South in 1858.  Clay began publishing his anti-slavery newspaper, The True American, in Lexington in 1845; in the same year, he was forced out of Kentucky by a pro-slavery mob.  Clay resumed publication of The True American in Cincinnati.

[4] “William Shreve and Caroline Ann Bailey,” http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~kycampbe/baileyfamily.htm; “A Short Sketch;” Cincinnati Commercial, 29 October 1859; Harrison, 65.  Information in “William Shreve and Caroline Ann Bailey” comes from the family files at the Campbell County Historical and Genealogical Society (Alexandria, KY).  Bailey’s wife, Caroline, nearly seven years his junior, was a native of New York.  The two were married in Washington, Ohio, in 1827.

[5] “A Short Sketch;” Steely, 274, 278; Harrold, 27, 30, 43.  The Cincinnati Atlas reported that “some cowardly villain set fire to the building in which Mr. Bailey resided, part of which also served as a printing office” (Cincinnati Atlas, 10 October 1851).  Coincidentally—later on the morning of October 6—Samuel Pike, editor of the pro-slavery Daily Maysville Kentucky Flag, appeared in Newport, offering $1,000 to bring his press from Maysville and build himself upon Bailey’s ruins.  Bailey, of course, refused Pike’s offer.  In 1852, Bailey wrote to the American Missionary Association, seeking funds for his newspaper.  The AMA, Steely notes, was “the most important antislavery organization in the West in the decade of the 1850’s.”  The AMA was active in Kentucky prior to 1852 and vigorously supported John G. Fee and the establishment of Berea College.  Consequently, upon Bailey’s appeal, the AMA dispatched Fee to Newport to appraise the situation.  Fee was “not impressed” and wrote in a letter to the AMA that Bailey “will not do.  He has neither intelligence nor correct principles for the work—no correct motives of reform” (Fee to the American Missionary Association, Cabin Creek, Kentucky, October 22, 1852).  Steely suggests that because “Bailey’s abolitionism was not of the religious sort,” Fee did not wish to be associated with him.  Interestingly, however, some of the Bereans contributed articles to Bailey’s paper in spite of Fee’s disapproval (Steely, 275-276; Harrison, 65).

[6] Steely, 278; Harrison, 65; Harrold, 30, 39-40, 44, 131, 147; Charles W. Johnson,Proceedings of the First Three Republican National Conventions of 1856, 1860 and 1864 (Minneapolis, MN:  Harrison & Smith, 1893), 24, 41.  When “a man whose campaign for the legislature Bailey opposed” approached the editor’s shop in 1855 and attempted to cane him, Bailey was fined for defending himself against the assailant (“A Short Sketch”).  Penned by Bailey and published in William Goodell’s Principia on March 31, 1860, read the following:  “If we disclaim the right of [federal government] interference with slavery in the States where it exists, we virtually acknowledge that it exists there of right, and if we admit this, then the Republican party ceases to meet the views of those who have labored through long years to arouse the people of the slave states to a true appreciation of their degraded condition” (quoted in Harrold, 148).  Vehement in his attacks on the Buchanan administration, Bailey “blamed [Buchanan for] attempting to force slavery upon the [Kansas Territory]” (Steely, 278).  Buchanan won over fifty percent of Kentucky’s votes for president in 1856; Fillmore won approximately forty-seven percent, but no ballots were cast in the Bluegrass State for the Republican candidate, Frémont.

[7] Harrison, 65; Lawrence F. Barmann, “John Brown at Harpers Ferry:  A Contemporary Analysis,” West Virginia History 22, no. 3 (April 1961):  141-158; Tri-Weekly Yeoman (Frankfort, KY), 5 November 1859.  The Clinton Republican (Wilmington, OH) reported that “the ‘Chivalry’ of Newport took it into their heads that…if old Brown, with 16 white men…and 5 negroes, could capture a town in Virginia of 2,000 inhabitants, including the United States Armory, there is no knowing what amount of mischief old Bailey could do with a printing office in Newport, where there is nothing but the U. S. Barracks with a few hundred soldier[s] in it” (Clinton Republican, 4 November 1859).  The Yeoman published Bailey’s reply to the Covington Journal which first appeared in the Free South.  The Yeoman noted that “the citizens of Newport [were] justly indignant at [its] tone,” and added that “the Free South[‘s] attemp[t] to explain and justify the motives of old Brown will cause many to justify the…destruction” of Bailey’s press.

[8] Victor B. Howard, The Evangelical War Against Slavery and Caste:  The Life and Times of John G. Fee (Selinsgrove, PA:  Susquehanna University Press, 1996), 125; Bailey to Garrison, 1860 (quoted in William Lloyd Garrison, ed., The New Reign of Terror in the Slaveholding States for 1859-1860 [New York:  The American Anti-Slavery Society, 1860], 65); Cincinnati Commercial, 29 October 1859; Steely, 279.  Howard notes that even Beriah Magoffin—elected governor of Kentucky in 1859—suggested that abolitionists and Republicans “had knowledge” of Brown’s plans to raid Harpers Ferry (127).  The Commercial noted:  “The press[es] would probably have been entirely destroyed, but those who undertook the job found it dirty work, the ink soiling their hands and clothes.”

[9] Cincinnati Gazette, 31 October 1859; Kentucky Yeoman (Frankfort, KY), 30 October 1859; Garrison, 66; Steely, 279.

[10] Harrison, 65-66; Kentucky Yeoman (Frankfort, KY), 30 October 1859; Steely, 279; Harris, 52; Harrison, 66.  In yet another appeal to the American Missionary Association for funding, Bailey wrote, “Arms are more respected here than law…and I find that those who use them are more esteemed than non resistants” (AMK, 66).  In nearby Covington for the Republican State Convention in November, 1859, Cassius Clay and George D. Blakely—Clay’s running mate for governor in 1851—addressed a public gathering in Newport from the very steps of the Free South’s office; Clay “insisted that [John] Brown’s uprising was nothing but the fruit of the invasion of Kansas by the proslavery party” (Howard, 125; Harrison, 67).

[11] Harris, 53; Harrold, 167; “William Shreve and Caroline Ann Bailey;” Casper L. Jordan, “Library Records and Research,” in Ethnic Genealogy:  A Research Guide, ed. Jessie Carney Smith (Westport, Connecticut:  Greenwood Press, 1983), 64.  Bailey was in England as late as May of 1861—a letter written by Anna H. Richardson from Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, to William Still on May 2, 1861, states that “Our worthy friend, W.S. Bailey, has lately been here” (William Still, Still’s Underground Railroad Records [Philadelphia:  William Still, 1886], 607).  The “Secret Six” were six wealthy abolitionists who agreed to secretly fund John Brown.  The New York Times reported in December, 1863, that Bailey “has come to the East to procure a press and other necessary material.  He has just been released from an old indictment…and is now free to devote himself to his work.  His boldness and persistency in advocating the doctrines of Free-soil in bygone years deserve recognition now and, as he will be for some time in this City, those who would assist him may address him through the Post-office” (New York Times, 18 December 1863).  Jordan notes that the monument at Bailey’s grave “was erected…by his life-long anti-slavery friend, Rev. Photius Fisk of Boston.”  It reads:  “One of the bravest pioneers of abolitionism for chattel slavery and of free thought for mental slavery.  Though often outraged and martyred for his principles he was never conquered, suppressed, nor discouraged.  It was through the efforts of such heroes that the world has been made fit for the abode of humanity.  He rests in the peace and honor so nobly won.”

“Their Hearts Were With Us…..”: The Difficulty of Recruiting in Kentucky in the Civil War

Written by Tim Talbott. Posted in Uncategorized

SmithBy Lili Van Zanten, H.C. Crittenden Middle School, Armonk, NY

In 1862, a Confederate recruiting handbill was tacked to a tree in Cynthiana, Kentucky.  (1)  The handbill, sponsored by General Edmund Kirby Smith, offers a revealing look at the particular, complex, vexing and dangerous terrain that Kentuckians had to negotiate when choosing sides during the Civil War.

Although a Floridian by birth and a West Pointer by training, Smith made a specific appeal to Kentuckians, exhorting them to organize troops and muster “for your principles, for your institutions, and FOR YOUR STATE.” Yet in 1862, many Kentuckians had reason to hesitate in responding to the recruitment handbill.    

Principles and institutions were not really in question.  Although located squarely between the North and the South, Kentucky was a committed slave state.  In the years before the Civil War, Kentucky’s healthy economy focused on cash crops of hemp, tobacco, and wheat – all bolstered by slave labor.  In fact, Kentucky was the eighth biggest state at the time, and one of every five Kentuckians was a slave.  The great majority of citizens did not question the future of slavery in the Commonwealth.  A devotion to the “peculiar institution” was not at stake, but the soul of Kentucky was.   Who would best safeguard the principles and institutions of the Commonwealth, the Union or the Confederacy?

In fact, the question was so difficult and sensitive, that Kentucky, at least at first, attempted to stay neutral.  Many Kentuckians took Lincoln at his word when he said in his Inaugural Address of March 1861: “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”  In fact, many believed that staying within the jurisdiction of the Federal Constitution offered the best protection for slavery.    

However, many other Kentuckians were stirred by the words on General Smith’s recruitment handbill: “Make one effort, strike one blow, and your State will be saved from Yankee thralldom.”  Kentucky had been, after all, in its famous Resolutions of 1798, one of the first to fully articulate the concept of states’ rights.  Furthermore, much of the state’s harvest was sent downriver, tying it into the economy of the Deep South. (2 )  But neither of these connections fully explains the fear of “Yankee thralldom.”  To read between the lines is to understand the widespread fear that Lincoln, despite his claims otherwise, really did mean to put an end to slavery. 

Kentucky managed to stay neutral until the fall of 1861, by which time the Union sentiment of the majority of the state’s populace had time to gel. At that point, both Union and Confederate army organizers pounced, hoping to win a military advantage over the divided state.  Much Union recruiting of Kentucky men was done at camps north of the Ohio River, and after the Union victories in Congressional and state elections, at Camp Dick Robinson in Garrard County.  Camp Boone, just inside the Tennessee border, likewise processed many Kentuckians for the Confederate army.(2)

Yet despite the heady rush of unfolding state and national events, Union and Confederate recruiters alike were plagued with a common frustration: both sides had difficulty in meeting their recruitment goals in Kentucky.  By the end of 1861, Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston, in command of Confederate Department No. 2, complained: “There are thousands of ardent friends to the South in the state, but there is apparently among them no concert of action.”  Around the same time, General William T. Sherman wrote in frustration:  “…young men were generally secessionists and had joined the Confederates, while the Union men, the aged and conservatives, would not enroll themselves to engage in conflict with their relations on the other side.”(3)

Certainly Sherman’s explanation for the enlistment shortages of 1861 makes sense for both Union and Confederate forces in Kentucky.  South Carolina and Massachusetts certainly did not share the geographical precariousness faced by Kentucky where the Civil War truly was a brother’s war.  In Smith’s recruitment poster, he wrote:  “Breckenridge, Buckner and their brave Kentuckians are on their way to join you.”    Smith referred to two men who had cause for divided loyalty.  Simon Bolivar Buckner graduated from West Point and lived in Chicago.  After returning to his home state of Kentucky, Buckner was charged with enforcing Kentucky’s neutrality policy, was offered a position in the Union army, but ultimately threw in his lot with the Confederacy.    John C. Breckinridge had served as the Vice President of the United States under Buchanan, but in 1861 he slipped away from Kentucky to serve in the Confederate army.      Both Buckner and Breckinridge were able to make a stand despite deeply divided loyalties, but it is understandable that many Kentuckians at this point in the war chose to “sit it out” rather than take the more dangerous course of choosing sides.(5)

After Kentucky had officially shed its neutrality by the late summer, siding with the Confederacy in particular could have serious consequences.  The newly pro-Union legislature passed through the so-called “Bloody [House] Bill #36” on September 12, 1861.  Anyone tempted to respond to Smith’s recruitment poster, would have to weigh his decision with new law which stated: 

“That any citizen, or resident of this State, who shall, in this State, enlist, or agree to enlist, or take service, as soldier, officer, or otherwise, in the army of the so-called Confederate States, or who shall join or parade in any military company, with the intent to aid said Confederate States, or either of them, shall be guilty of felony, and, on conviction thereof, be punished by confinement in the penitentiary not less than one more than five years….”(6)  Some Kentuckians standing before that tree in Cynthiania might have thought twice about enrolling in the face of prospective jail time and family hardships. 

Confederate recruiters had hoped for 20,000 to 30,000 volunteers.  Ultimately, only 2,500 Kentuckians responded to Confederate pleas to fight, as Smith announced, “for your principles, for your institutions, and FOR YOUR STATE.”(7)  Though their efforts were not exacerbated by the threats of a “Bloody Bill”,  Union recruiters likewise had their share of difficulties.  While they had hoped for 42,000 Kentucky enlistments, they ultimately tallied just 29,203.(8)

Despite the delayed start and the flaccid enlistments, war did, of course, come to Kentucky.  Though fighting that fall of 1861 was sporadic, Confederate troops, some led by General Edmund Kirby Smith, made a major inroad into the state in the summer of 1862, eventually taking over Frankfort and Lexington for a time.  However, with a divided leadership and without the expected rush of volunteers, Smith and the other Confederate leaders ultimately abandoned the state.  Meanwhile, poorly manned Union troops were unable to prevent the state from sliding into two years of brutal and horrific guerrilla warfare, pitting neighbor against neighbor.  Kentuckians may have given their hearts to either the Union or the Confederacy, but in the face of the very precarious and complex state of affairs in this border state, many chose to wait and see when it came to giving more. 


1. Kirby Smith recruiting handbill, 1862. http://www.kyhistory.com/cdm/ref/collection/MS/id/1070, KHS. 

2. Harris, William C.  Lincoln and the Border States:  Preserving the Union. Lawrence:  The University Press of Kansas, 2011, p. 3.

3.  Harrison, Lowell H.  The Civil War in Kentucky.  Lexington:  The University Press of Kentucky, 2009, p. 15. 

4.  Harrison, p. 15.

5. Harrison, p. 17.

6.  Bloody Bill  #36, September 12, 1861.  <ahref=’http://www.kyhistory.com/cdm/ref/collection/MS/id/1066′>Side 1</a>, KHS. 

7.  Harrison,  p. 54.

8.  Harrison,  p. 15.