The Kentucky Historical Society is the administrative agency for the War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission, an 18-member body established by the Kentucky legislature in 2010. Why should Kentucky commemorate the War of 1812, a forgotten conflict that lasted from 1812 until 1815? The answers are found in several themes and outcomes approved by the Commission:
Commission Interpretive Themes
- Kentucky’s Sacrifice: approximately 60 percent of the war’s total casualties were Kentuckians. Kentucky suffered more casualties than any other state combined. Furthermore, nearly 25,000 Kentuckians, about one in six, had some type of military service. Therefore, the war also greatly impacted the Kentucky home front.
- Political Proving Ground: The War of 1812 was a proving ground for many of the state’s future political leaders, and military experience helped multiple governors, legislators and other leaders attain higher office.
- Forging the identity of Kentucky and the nation: the War of 1812 was the first major event after Kentucky’s statehood that coalesced Kentucky’s identity. The war also placed a national focus on Kentuckians, who were influential soldiers and political leaders during the conflict. Also, as the “Second American Revolution,” the War of 1812 provided a national identity for the United States, as evidenced by the “Star Spangled Banner.” Kentuckians played a key role in creating this national identity.
- Raise awareness about Kentucky’s impact on the War of 1812, and the impact of the war on Kentucky. Highlight to modern residents the massive number of Kentucky casualties, Kentuckians’ contributions to major battles and campaigns, the war’s impact on the Kentucky home front, and the war’s role as a proving ground for Kentucky’s early nineteenth century leaders. Ensure a broad commemoration that includes both history and the humanities, notably music from the period.
- Assist sites in discovering their War of 1812 story. Help local history organizations, including early 19th century house museums and local historical societies, determine how the War of 1812 impacted their sites and communities.
- Encourage statewide programming. Work with local history organizations, civic groups and public libraries to encourage educational programming related to the War of 1812. Help communities preserve, interpret and promote their own local history related to the conflict, and encourage Kentucky teachers to add War of 1812 programming to their Kentucky history or social studies classes.
- Recognize the role that Native Americans and African Americans played during the War of 1812, including the Native American soldiers and companies of runaway slaves who fought with Kentucky regiments during the conflict.
Plans and Activities
Following these themes and outcomes, the Kentucky Historical Society, the War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission and our many partners hope to plan an array of commemorative activities, including recognizing the more than 30 Kentucky counties named for War of 1812 casualties and veterans. The Commission also hopes to complete key heritage tourism initiatives, including working with Kentucky sites that have War of 1812 connections and highlighting the state historical markers that pertain to the war. We also are planning educational programs and outreach initiatives to educate Kentuckians about the commonwealth’s importance during this oft-forgotten conflict.
The 18 members of the War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission and the agencies or organizations they represent include:
Kent Whitworth, Chair, Kentucky Historical Society
John Trowbridge, Vice-Chair, at-large appointee
Rep. Tanya Pullin, Kentucky House of Representatives
Rep. Steve Riggs, Kentucky House of Representatives
Sen. Jimmy Higdon, Kentucky Senate
Sen.Tom Buford, Kentucky Senate
Adj. Gen. Edward Tonini, Kentucky Adjutant General
Karl Lietzenmayer, Education and Workforce Development Cabinet
Secretary Marcheta Sparrow, Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet
Ruth Korzenborn, Kentucky Historical Society
Roger Stapleton, Kentucky Heritage Council
The Rev. Kilen Gray, Kentucky African-American Heritage Commission
Mike Presnell, Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission
Virginia Carter, Kentucky Humanities Council
Dorothy A. Ledger, at-large appointee
Justice Bill Cunningham, at-large appointee
Matthew Bailey, at-large appointee
Lewis N. “Nicky” Hughes, at-large appointee
There is currently no state funding attached to the War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission. If you would like to donate funds to help the Bicentennial Commission, please contact commission administrator Stuart Sanders at 502-564-1792, ext. 4420.
Legislative Moments are 60 short essays on Kentucky’s connections to the War of 1812, one of which was presented each day of the 2012 General Assembly session. They are also published and distributed online as resources for the general public. (Each link will open a PDF in a new window).
Kentucky War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission | Gen. John Adair | Newport Barracks | Richard M. Johnson
Gov. George Madison | John B. Bibb | Capt. John Simpson | Capt. Isaac Cunningham | Ghent, Ky. | Solomon Brandenburg
Great Saltpeter Cave | Matthew H. Jouett | John Edward King | McCracken County | William Whitley | John P. Gaines
Ephraim Brank | Zachary Taylor | Bellevue, Ky. | Brownsville, Ky. | William O. Butler | Hopkins County | Joseph Winlock
Graves County | George Croghan | Edmonson County | John Littlejohn | Letcher County | William Bratton | Perryville
Metcalfe County | Samuel Brown | Shelby County | Hart County | Remember the Raisin | Olympian Springs | Allen County Ballard County | Leestown | Hickman County | Meade County | Owen County | Crittenden County | Gov. Joseph Desha
Tunstall Quarles | Out-of-state counties named for Kentucky veterans | Clay County | Daviess County | Jackson County
Lawrence County | McLean County | Pike County | Russell County | Spencer County | Gov. Charles A. Wickliffe
George Madison’s POW Letter | Burgoyne Cannon | Charles Stewart Todd | Martin D. Hardin’s Epaulets