Page images



guise of neutrality it would tie the hands of the Union men, and freely pass supplies from among them to the insurrectionists, which could not be done if they were open enemies. At a stroke it would take all trouble off the hands of secession except only what proceeds from the external blockade. It would do for the Disunionists that which of all things they most desire-feed them well, and give them disunion without a struggle of their own. It recognizes no fidelity to the Constitution, no obligation to maintain the Union."



Armed neutrality found advocates among both the secessionists and the loyal. The former feared ted by secessionists that if open war should ensue, their slaves, and loyalists. for the retention of whom they were willing to sacrifice the Union, would escape. The latter, still retaining a deep attachment to the national government, were willing to adopt a course which they hoped would avoid any fatal collision with it.

Kentucky, both in a political and military point of view, was of the utmost importance to the Confederacy. Its slave interests were large, and must be protected. Columbus, a little below the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi, might be made to command the latter river and blockade it completely. From that point to Bowling Green there was railroad connection. Here, in the opinion of the Confederate engineers, must be established their outer line of defense. The occupation of Kentucky was correctly viewed by them as a military necessity.

Importance of

The Governor of Kentucky had been elected as a Democrat in 1859; he was thoroughly devoted to the secession cause. He denounced the policy of President Lincoln, and refused the state's quota of troops (p. 27).

Policy of its gov




An extra session of the Legislature had been summoned (January 18th, 1861) for the purpose of calling a State Convention. In his message to it the governor declared that the people of the United States are already effectively sundered, and that the Union exists only as an abstraction; that, in fact, it was dissolving into its original integral elements; that a bloody revolution, already commencing in South Carolina, was inevitable. He directed attention to the suc cessful establishment of the Southern Confederacy, and inquired in what attitude Kentucky should stand, and by what authority her external relations should be regu lated. But the Legislature refused to call a State Convention, preferring that there should be a National or Peace Conference at Washington. The intentions of the Unionists of Kentucky were exQualified loyalty of pressed at a meeting held in Louisville (April 18th) immediately after the capture of Fort Sumter. It was resolved that the sympathies of Kentucky are with those who have an interest in the protection of slavery, but that she acknowledges her fealty to the United States until its government becomes regardless of her rights in slave property. The use of coercive measures to bring back the seceded states was condemned, and the Kentucky State Guard was admonished to remember that its fidelity was pledged equally to the Union and the state.

the Unionists.

His message to the

which refuses to call a Convention.

[ocr errors]

The governor again summoned an extra session of the Legislature (April 28th). It refused once

Second extra ses


sion of the Legis- more to call a Convention, or to grant him three millions of dollars which he had required for arming the state. It even amended the militia law so as to require the State Guard to take an oath of allegiance to the Union. He then issued a proclamation of neutrality (May 20th), denouncing the war as horrid,



the Union.

and forbidding the United States and the Confederate States invading Kentucky. This the Legislature refused to indorse. The intention of the people was doubtless truly expressed by a resolution of their Senate, that the state "should not sever its connection with the national It inclines toward government, nor take up arms for either belligerent party, but arm herself for the preservation of peace on her borders." Her attitude was that of conditional Unionism. The loyalty of her people was shown at the election for delegates to the Peace Convention (May 4th). They gave a Union majority of fifty thousand votes, and the insincerity of those who would have forced her out of the Union was manifested by the fact that, though they had declared that allegiance and loyalty compelled them to go with their state, they did not consider themselves under any obligation to remain with their state.


Kentucky had thus, by very large majorities, refused to join in the secession movement; but her governor, like those of Virginia and Missouri, was not unwilling to make her a screen behind which the purposes of the insurgents in the Cotton States could be carried on. In a letter to President Lincoln (August 19), he ernor to the Pres- declared that her people earnestly desire to avoid being involved in the war; that they have rebelled against no authority, engaged in no revolution, and have done nothing to provoke the presence of a military force. He therefore urged that the national troops be removed.

Letter of the gov


In his reply, setting forth the reasons which compelled him to decline gratifying the governor in his request, since the troops in question consisted entirely of Kentuckians, Lincoln, in a very characteristic manner, remarks, "I most cordially sympathize with your excellency in the wish to preserve the peace of my own native state, Kentucky; but it is with regret

The President's reply.



I search for and can not find in your not very short letter any declaration or intimation that you entertain any desire for the preservation of the Federal Union."

Message of the


In a message to the Legislature which shortly afterward convened (September 3d), the gov ernor to the Legis- ernor again complained of the intrusive ag gression of the North, and declared his opinion that Kentucky would never renounce her sympathy with her aggrieved sister Southern States; but that body resolved that the neutrality of Kentucky had been violated by the Confederate forces, requested

The Legislature



protests against the the governor to call out the militia to expel them, and invoked the United States to give aid and assistance. The governor vetoed these resolutions. The Legislature at once passed them over his veto by very large majorities.

The Confederate authorities perceived that it was ab solutely necessary for them to take military possession of Kentucky, no matter what the wishes of its people might be. If it could not be used as a bulwark, it must be used as a battle-field. They therefore assigned General Polk to the command of a depart ment extending from the mouth of the Arkansas northward on both sides of the Mississippi. He had been the bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Diocese of Louisiana, but now, as far as it was possible for him to do so, had exchanged ecclesiastical for military life. Like some of the bishop-generals of the Middle Ages, he drew forth well-tried weapons from the spiritual armory, as well as those of a carnal kind, in his first general order, declar ing that "the invasion of the South by the Federal armies had brought with it a contempt for constitutional liberty, and the withering influences of the infidelity of New England and of Germany combined."

The Confederate
General Polk.




General Polk at once occupied Columbus and fortified it. Hereupon General Grant, who was in command of the national forces at Cairo, took possession of Paducah (September 16th), at the junction of the Tennessee and Ohio. It was about this time and in reference to these Confederate forces that the Legislature passed the resolution above referred to requiring their removal from the state.

The Confederate troops occupy Columbus.

The Confederates

Simultaneously with the invasion of Kentucky by General Polk on the west, General Zollikoffer invade East Ken- entered it on the east, declaring that this step was necessary for the safety of Tennes see; and to meet his forces, national troops were introduced from Indiana, Ohio, etc.


The seizure and fortifying of Columbus by Polk blockBlockade of the Mis- aded the Mississippi. The position was sissippi established. eventually made very strong, being defended by more than 120 heavy guns.


Opposite Columbus, on the Missouri side of the river, is Belmont, a steam-boat landing, at which a small Confederate force was encamped. On the 7th of November, Grant attacks Bel- General Grant, with 3114 men, attacked this force. He succeeded in destroying their camp and driving them down to the brink of the river. But, the place being commanded by Columbus, General Polk was able to bring several of his guns to bear on the national troops, and dispatched as quickly as he could a re-enforcement of 5000 men across the river. Discipline in the armies was at that time very lax. The national soldiers indulged themselves in plundering, the officers in making stump speeches glorifying the Union and magnifying themselves. While this was going on Polk's troops appeared. Grant, however, successfully cut his way through them, bringing off his own guns and some of those of the enemy. He lost 480 men in killed, wounded, and missing. Polk's loss was 642.

« PreviousContinue »