Introducing the Proceedings of the ‘Shadowy Government of Kentucky’
“This shadowy government of Kentucky, never completely organized, had a chequered career. A little over four months after its formation it was a fugitive from the territory it was supposed to be governing . . .” – E. Merton Coulter, The Civil War and Readjustment in Kentucky
The Civil War Governors of Kentucky (CWGK) visited the Filson Historical Society in Louisville, Kentucky, from late 2015 into early 2016, to search all of the Civil War-era collections for documents related to Kentucky’s five Civil War governors—three Union, two Confederate. And what a remarkable collection and collections staff—a shout out to Aaron, Heather, Jana, Jennie, Jim H., Jim P., and Johna! One of the collections we discovered, within the scope of the CWGK project, was a ledger of the Proceedings of the Russellville Convention and the Journal of the Council of the Provisional Government of the State of Kentucky. The Provisional Government, the Confederate state organization created in Russellville, Kentucky, in November 1861, is somewhat elusive to historians. Many challenges surround efforts to document the history of the organization that met in Bowling Green, Kentucky, from Nov. 21, 1861 to Jan. 1, 1862. These journals are an important resource for historians to consult in their quest to understand this shadowy government of Kentucky.
The CWGK project has transcribed and twice proofed the text of the proceedings, and we have published this authoritative transcription on the CWGK website. The Proceedings of the Russellville Convention give great insight into the attending county representatives, an attempted declaration of separation, the drafting of an alternative Kentucky constitution, and the election of the Council of Ten and other officials. Council members also vote to move the proceedings for the Provisional Government to Bowling Green, where the council convened the following day—Nov. 21, 1861.
The Journal of the Council of the Provisional Government of the State of Kentucky is a treasure trove of information as to the day-to-day operations of the Provisional Government. The journal is inclusive of official appointments, committee reports, legislation (including a vote to purchase a chair with arms), and the inaugural address of Provisional Gov. George W. Johnson. I encourage you to read the entire address on the CWGK website.
So, what are the next steps in the editing process? CWGK editors will fully annotate and fact-check all names, organizations, places, and geographic features throughout the journals. This will give historians and other researchers a great deal of context for the Russellville Convention, the Council of the Provisional Government of Kentucky, and all of the individuals who participated in these organizations. We also will fully integrate the journal into the CWGK project social network, providing another layer of context and understanding to Civil War-era Kentucky. We are hard at work on this and we will make an announcement when that process is completed.
In the meantime, take a dive into the 10,000-plus documents already on the CWGK website, including more than 500 fully annotated documents.