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Chapter 19: situation in the West.


Before General Johnston's arrival at Richmond, deputations from the West had reached there, asking that he might be assigned to command on that line. General Polk had visited Richmond partly for that purpose, and had also written urgently; a committee from Memphis, and other delegations, had made the same request, and the public expectation hopefully awaited the announcement of his appointment. But the President needed no urging. It was evident that the general direction of affairs in the West should be intrusted to one chief, and that he must be a man to whom both President and people should give their entire confidence. Men of ability commanded the small [292] armies of observation stationed at intervals along the extended frontiers, from Virginia to Kansas; but no general plan of defense had been adopted, and each emergency was met as best it might be. Want of coherence and cooperation, not lack of vigor or valor, prevented efficient action, and combined movement seemed impossible.

Accordingly, on the 10th of September, General Johnston was assigned to command, under the following orders:

Extract. Sepcial orders no. 149.

Adjutant and Inspector-General's Office, Richmond, September 10, 1861.
... General Albert Sidney Johnston, Confederate States Army, is assigned to the command of Department No. 2, which will hereafter embrace the States of Tennessee and Arkansas, and that part of the State of Mississippi west of the New Orleans, Jackson & Great Northern and Central Railroad; also, the military operations in Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, and the Indian country immediately west of Missouri and Arkansas. He will repair to Memphis, Tennessee, and assume command, fixing his headquarters at such point as, in his judgment, will best secure the purposes of the command.

By command of the Secretary of War:

John Withers, Assistant Adjutant-General.

He was further directed to go by Nashville, confer with Governor Harris, and then decide upon the steps to be taken.

The rank of “general,” the highest in the Confederate army, had been created by law, and five officers had been appointed by the President and assigned to duty with the following relative rank: 1. S. Cooper (the adjutant-general); 2. A. S. Johnston; 3. R. E. Lee; 40 J. E. Johnston; 5. G. T. Beauregard. General J. E. Johnston regarded himself as entitled by law to the first place, and engaged in a controversy with the President relative thereto, the points of which he has perpetuated in his “Narrative” (pages 70-72). It is needless here to enter on a discussion of the merits of this question; but it is proper to say that it was one of no concern to General A. S. Johnston. President Davis has frequently told the writer that the question of rank was never mentioned in his conversations with General A. S, Johnston. It is not probable that he ever heard of this discussion: he certainly had no share in it. His relative rank was a matter to which he ascribed no importance, and his great responsibilities occupied his full attention. The subject is alluded to only to disclaim for him all connection with it.

The command to which General Johnston was called thus embraced all the northern frontier west of the Alleghanies, and a portion of that mountain-barrier. The interests confided to him were not only vast, [293] but often conflicting. The great Mississippi divided his department into two theatres of war with widely-separated bases, and it was penetrated by the solid wedge of the Northwest. A brief view of the situation of affairs in Kentucky and Missouri is necessary, in order to comprehend the campaign which General Johnston conducted against the powerful armies collected by the United States Government in the West.

The war in the West first fairly took shape in the State of Missouri. Here, a great debatable ground was occupied by able and well-matched antagonists, who executed a series of bold and striking enterprises, which were ended at last by the mere weight of the heaviest battalions. The lessons of this struggle would be entertaining and instructive to the student of American history, and its results were very important in determining the exact character of General Johnston's military operations; but the limits of this biography do not permit its narration here.

It may be briefly stated that Missouri was in political sentiment strongly Southern and Democratic, and, at the same time, equally opposed to a dissolution of the Union. Probably three-fourths of its citizens held these views. Though a very warlike people, they contemplated with horror the idea of civil or sectional war, and, according to preconceived opinions, looked on this or that party with aversion as the promoters of strife. When once engaged in it, however, they became relentless.

The two men who were most prominent in Missouri affairs, on the Federal side, were General Frank P. Blair and General Nathaniel Lyon. They were both Republicans, with fixed views and purposes to maintain an unconditional union of the States at all hazards, and to inaugurate a policy looking to the emancipation of the slaves. Their following was small and odious to the native white population of the State; but they were supported by the unlimited means of the Government at Washington, and, under its secret authority, Blair wielded the prerogatives of a dictator.

To this powerful and compact organization was opposed a vast majority of the people, under leaders of every shade of opinion and every degree of daring. There was no concert of views, organization, or action. The Governor, Claiborne F. Jackson, was a man of courage and capacity; but he deplored, while he recognized, the approach of war, and procrastinated when he should have struck a blow. But he was embarrassed by dissensions in the counsels of his own party. His policy might, nevertheless, have prevailed, had he been confronted by less able antagonists. General Sterling Price, subsequently so eminent as a Confederate leader, was at first a Unionist.

The Governor contemplated the capture of the St. Louis Arsenal; and the assemblage of the militia at Camp Jackson, in the suburbs of [294] St. Louis, was with some ulterior purpose of that sort. General D. M. Frost had established a militia camp there, some 1,200 strong, on the 3d of May. The radical secret clubs, on the other hand, had been for several months organized by Blair, into regiments, and armed with muskets from the United States Arsenal, so that Lyon was able suddenly, on the 10th of May, with these and his regulars from the arsenal, to surround Camp Jackson, which surrendered to him.

In the course of the turmoil the German volunteers fired on the people in the streets, and killed thirty-one, including women and children. This was the signal for war. The Southern party took up arms and began to organize, and Price was appointed their commander-in-chief by the State authorities. Lyon ended some fruitless negotiations, by declaring his unalterable purpose to make no terms with rebels; and, being now ready, by a rapid and aggressive movement, he took possession of the whole of Central Missouri, the heart of the Southern cause. On the 15th of June Lyon began operations by occupying Jefferson City, the seat of government. Two days later an insignificant skirmish at Boonville won him great reputation. Moving about with a few thousand men, he overawed the timid, secured the lukewarm and time-serving, and forced the unorganized Southern volunteers to seek refuge in the southwestern corner of the State.

The war had finally begun. Troops were poured in from other States by the United States Government, and recruits were enlisted in large numbers by both parties; the Federals acting under the authority of the United States Government and of a State Convention, the Southerners under that of the Governor and Legislature. There were many skirmishes, and in the swamps of the southeast a guerrilla, war was maintained by the Missourians. At Carthage there was an engagement, almost reaching the dignity of a battle in the numbers present, but in no other respect. The first occasion on which the opposing forces measured arms, under their leaders and with real purpose, was on the 10th of August, 1861, at the battle of Wilson's Creek or Oak Hills, near Springfield, Missouri.

Lyon had followed the Missourians to this remote quarter with a small, though well organized, drilled, and disciplined, army. According to the official report, he had 5,868 men, including 1,200 regulars, inured to war and strong in the mutual dependence of an exact discipline. He had sixteen guns, manned by experienced gunners. His officers were trained soldiers, and his army a compact machine.

The army confronting him was made up of 3,200 Confederate troops from Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas, under General Ben McCulloch, 1,800 Arkansas State troops under General N. B. Pearce, and 5,000 or 6,000 Missourians under General Price. McCulloch had command. McCulloch puts his force at “5,300 infantry, fifteen pieces of artillery, [295] and 6,000 horsemen,” poorly armed. The personnel of this army was excellent, and it was animated by a splendid martial enthusiasm; but it was little more than an aggregation of bands of raw recruits.

After some days of fruitless skirmishing and vacillation, Lyon's haughty and impatient spirit cast off the counsels that impeded it, and he resolved on the aggressive. Moving from Springfield in two columns by a night-march, he attacked the Confederate army at daylight on the 10th of August. An attack on the rear was led by General Sigel, with 1,500 men. He was at first successful, but was soon repulsed, routed, and pursued from the field, with the loss of his artillery. Lyon, who commanded in the front attack, had for a long time better fortune. The Confederate vanguard was surprised and routed. But now ensued a desperate conflict between Lyon's front line and the Missouri troops. It was a death-grapple of the fiercest and most relentless character. Pearce led his Arkansas troops to Price's aid, and McCulloch returned from the defeat of Sigel to join in the struggle. All of Lyon's troops were now engaged in the doubtful contest. In the crisis of the fight, Lyon, while leading a charge, was shot through the heart. The tide of battle rolled back, and after a little while the Federals sullenly left the field. The Confederates were unable to pursue. They slowly followed the Federals, who fell back to Springfield, and thence to Rolla. Major Sturgess reported the Federal loss at 1,235 men. The Southerners lost 265 killed, 800 wounded, and thirty missing; but it was a dear-bought victory, especially in officers.

Fremont had 70,000 men in Missouri, with only some 20,000 opposed to him. But, by his harsh and arbitrary orders and conduct, he aroused such a feeling in the Southern party that it required all of his force to keep it down. Price, after a short delay, moved, with 5,000 men and seven pieces of artillery, upon Lexington, his old home, a town of about 8,000 inhabitants, on the Missouri River. General McCulloch did not accompany him, for reasons not necessary to discuss here. Price's expedition was short and brilliant. On the 4th of September he routed Lane and Montgomery's “Jayhawkers,” near Fort Scott. His force swelled as he advanced, until it reached some 12,000 men, before he arrived at Lexington. The garrison of 3,500 men, under Colonel Mulligan, had made good preparations for defense. But Price attacked his fortifications on the 12th of September, and so sharp and continuous were his assaults that, on the 20th of September, the garrison, after a very gallant defense, were worn out, and compelled to surrender. They were paroled. Price captured five cannon, 3,000 muskets, and $100,000 worth of commissary stores.

In the mean time Fremont had been concentrating his large army, and, to evade him, Price moved southward on the 27th of September. He skillfully eluded the enemy, and made good his retreat to Neosho, [296] where McCulloch held himself in reserve. Most of his new recruits returned to their homes, leaving him little stronger than when he set forward. But he had gained prestige and some material advantages, and had employed a large force of the enemy. Fremont then advanced slowly, with a numerous army, as far as Springfield, where he was relieved November 2d.

During General Price's operations, General Hardee had assembled six or seven thousand men, at Pocahontas, in Northeastern Arkansas. Some ineffectual attempts were made toward combined movements by this force with Price and with Pillow, who became otherwise employed. But virulent types of camp epidemics disabled his command, and nothing of importance was accomplished.

Thus, General Johnston had hardly assumed command when he found the Federal armies in possession of nearly the whole of Missouri, and continually menacing Columbus, the left flank of his line in Kentucky, with heavy forces massed at Cairo.

The war in Kentucky had been fought with different weapons. Here, diplomacy instead of arms had transferred a Commonwealth of strongly Southern feelings from its natural alliance with the other slaveholding States to the ranks of their invaders. Kentucky was the first State admitted to the Union by the original thirteen. Settled from Virginia, her people brought with them from that ancient Commonwealth its characteristics and traditions, with a greater vehemence and keener enterprise. The spirit of combat was fostered in the early Indian contests; and, in the wars with Great Britain and Mexico, no troops won a more enviable distinction for steadiness and valor.

Kentucky, along with Virginia, had, in 1798-99, taken the most advanced position in regard to the reserved rights of the States; nor did she recede from it for more than a generation. For nearly forty years previous to 1850 her destinies were guided by the commanding talents of one man. Henry Clay, by his oratory, his imperious will, and his skill in leadership, became not only the political chief of Kentucky, but the favorite of a national party, which blindly followed his personal fortunes. In the mutations of politics, it became the policy of this party to exalt and intensify the idea of the Union.

Much of Mr. Clay's great fame had been won as a leader in compromising sectional quarrels; and it was natural that the party which followed him should exalt the idea of the Union, even at the expense of the vital principle which gave to it its sanctity. Mr. Clay was a conservative, and it is not possible that he would have consented to the terms imposed upon their Southern adherents by the Lincoln Administration. He lived to witness the decay of his power, and the transfer of Kentucky to the Democratic party. When he died, his sceptre fell [297] to an unlineal hand. A youth, who had gathered his honors in opposition to Mr. Clay, succeeded to his unbounded influence.

John C. Breckinridge, who drew to himself much of the enthusiasm that had attached to Mr. Clay, was a man of widely different type. Though born to narrow means, he was the son of a public man whose early death alone cut him off from high distinction. His grandfather had been President Jefferson's attorney-general; his great-grandfather, a signer of the Declaration of Independence; and his lineage was traced to John Knox, the Reformer. Among his immediate and remoter kindred were many distinguished for oratory, in the pulpit, at the bar, and in legislative halls. Breckinridge, though never a severe student, had natural gifts that made him a vigorous writer, an agreeable talker, and a ready and impressive speaker. His person was commanding, his countenance striking, his address frank and gracious, his personal influence irresistible. His judgment and temper were calm and sober, and he had the poise of perfect moral and physical courage. Though somewhat indolent and fond of pleasure, he had the capacity for heroic deeds and under the pressure of great occasions was always found equal to them-at the bar, in the Senate, and on the battle-field. Though his genial manner awakened a contagious enthusiasm, he was singularly reticent and cautious in matters of import. He made few promises and broke none, and was truthful and magnanimous. It was difficult to move him to anger, impossible to provoke him to revenge. He did not strive for wealth or place, and, as a citizen and statesman, was stainless and incorrupt. He seemed born under a star, and greatness sought him out.

After a short military experience in Mexico, he was adopted by a State-rights coterie in Kentucky, by whom his fortunes were eagerly pushed. In 1851, and again in 1853, he was sent to Congress; and in 1856 was elected Vice-President, when only thirty-five years of age. He presided over the Senate with fairness and dignity in very troubled times. When the rupture took place in the Democratic party, he was selected at Baltimore as the nominee of the State-rights party for President. He continued until Lincoln's inauguration to preside over the Senate, when he took his seat in that body as Senator from Kentucky.

With Breckinridge's powerful hold on all classes in Kentucky, it was in his power, at any time before June 1st, by putting himself at the head of a party of movement, to have dictated the policy of the State. Events drifted so rapidly that, after that time, it was too late. He knew the tendency of public feeling, and thought it would carry the State with him, counting at too little the hundred-handed grasp that was throttling public opinion and binding the State hand and foot. Though he afterward proved a brave and able soldier, wise in counsel, able in administration, vigorous in action, it is no discredit [298] to him to say that his talents were not revolutionary. While his intellectual convictions carried him with the secessionists, his heart inclined him to peace and the hope of compromise. Thus the State-rights men of Kentucky lost the leadership of the only man then able to rally them into a compact organization. Though numerous, and ready for any enterprise, no name of acknowledged authority appeared at their head. Mr. Guthrie had renounced his place with them, and was openly acting with the unconditional submissionists. The Governor, Magoffin, was unequal to the difficulties by which he was surrounded. William Preston was absent, as minister to Spain. Humphrey Marshall, and some other men of ability, were hampered by their positions in Congress.

Under the circumstances, the situation seemed more in the hands of General Simon B. Buckner than of any other one man. Buckner was a native of Kentucky, and thirty-eight years of age. He was graduated at West Point, where he was subsequently an instructor in ethics and in tactics. In the Mexican War he was wounded at Churubusco, and brevetted for gallantry. After a varied service, he resigned in 1855, and in 1858 settled in Louisville. Though the care of a large estate occupied much of his time and attention, yet, being an enthusiast in his profession, he undertook, as a congenial pursuit, the organization of the militia of Kentucky. Of this, with the title of inspector-general and the rank of major-general, he became the virtual chief. Under his management, the old “cornstalk” militia was transformed into the State Guard; and the absurd levy en masse, whose reviews were a burlesque on military training, was replaced by a compact corps of 10,000 or 12,000 men, organized, uniformed, armed, drilled, and, to some extent, disciplined. It was not equaled in effectiveness by any military body in the United States, except the regular army. Composed of the flower of the people, it was a unit in its sympathy for the South, and was animated by a powerful esprit de corps.

Buckner obtained unbounded influence with this command by his attractive manners and by a genuine enthusiasm in military matters, shared by the young volunteers under his command. In personal appearance he was thought to bear a marked likeness to General A. S. Johnston. His decided though moderate views gave weight to his counsel; he was committed to resistance against coercion; and his course, from first to last, was open, manly, and consistent. His interests were in the North; but his heart and his sword were with the cause of constitutional liberty. With the great influence Buckner had acquired over the State Guard, he might, if he could have been induced to employ constraint, have compelled, under all the forms of law, the State government to act according to his own views. But he regarded himself as the servant of the Commonwealth; and, scrupulous [299] by nature and education, construed his rights and duties with legal strictness.

Everything tended to fasten the Federal authority on the people of Kentucky. The established government, even when regarded as a tyranny, has mighty advantages. In Kentucky the Union seemed panoplied; and, as lingering superstition paralyzes the arm of the recent convert who would cast down the idols of ancient gods, conviction of duty could not rouse the people to action till the time for action had passed, and chains were on every limb.

The State government had been elected by the State-rights party; but the Legislature suffered from all the dissensions which had produced the schisms in that opposition which had lately been vanquished by the solid minority that elected Lincoln. Under the urgent advice of veteran leaders, like Guthrie and Crittenden, entreating time for compromise, the trimmers and waverers got possession of the government and of the public confidence. It seemed so much better to trust those who promised peace than men who called for armament, expenditure, and action! One of the most potent agencies in lulling the spirit of resistance, until Kentucky found itself bound hand and foot, was the Louisville Journal, which for thirty years had struck the key-note of the Whig party. Its editor, George D. Prentice, a New-Englander by birth, was a pungent wit, a poet, a man of careless and convivial habits, an effective editor, and a politician who had grown gray in the service of his party. He displayed great tact in marshaling the ranks of the Unionists, and contributed more to their success than any other man in Kentucky. The--Louisville Courier was the advocate of the State-rights party. Its publisher, Walter N. Haldeman, was proscribed, plundered, and exiled. By a curious turn of fortune, he is now the proprietor of an establishment which unites in one concern — the Courier-Journal-all the interests of these two former rivals of the press; while above the main entrance, as the presiding genius of the place, sits the marble effigy of the gifted Prentice.

In the winter of 1860-61 the feeling in Kentucky against coercion was so general and decided that there were few men bold enough to approve it openly. The writer recollects only one of any consequence, Lovell H. Rousseau, who was fearless and sincere in his unconditional Unionism. Even those who secretly favored it pretended to reprobate and to be willing to resist it. It is not necessary, in this connection, to trace the modes by which they arrived at conclusions exactly opposite to their original professions, and perhaps to their convictions. We have here to deal with events rather than motives.

On the 8th of January a convention was held at Louisville by representative Unionists, which recommended certain amendments to the Constitution, and that the States agreeing to them “shall form a separate [300] Confederacy;” and resolved that “we deplore the existence of a Union to be held together by the sword.” This was a strange prelude to the stringent tests of later loyalty; but opinions, about that time, were very unfixed and drifting.

The Legislature met in extra session in February, 1861. The Governor recommended the call of a State Convention; and there is little doubt that, if such an authoritative body had convened, it would have occupied a position similar to that of Virginia, adhesion to the Union, except in the event of an attempt at coercion and subjugation, and then resistance. The Legislature refused to call a convention, and recommended the abortive Peace conference held at Washington, and also a National Convention. But it directed the Governor to reply to certain resolutions from Northern Legislatures:

That when those States should send armed forces to the South for the purpose indicated in said resolutions, the people of Kentucky, uniting with their brethren of the South, will, as one man, resist such invasion of the soil of the South, at all hazards, and to the last extremity.

It also resolved:

That we protest against the use of force or coercion by the General Government against the seceded States, as unwise and inexpedient, and tending to the destruction of our common country.

The Union leaders and journals denounced secession and coercion with the same breath. On the 18th of April they first shadowed forth, in a meeting at Louisville, that sham “neutrality” policy in whose tangled web the State was ensnared. It declared:

That, as we oppose the call of the President for volunteers for the purpose of coercing the seceded States, so we oppose the raising of troops in this State to cooperate with the Southern Confederacy; that the present duty of Kentucky is to maintain her present independent position, taking sides not with the Administration, nor with the seceding States, but with the Union against them both, declaring her soil to be sacred from the hostile tread of either, and, if necessary, to make the declaration good with her strong right arm.

It is true that no one ought to have been deceived by such fraudulent pretenses, but they answered for the moment; and thousands willingly lent themselves to the delusion, who were unable to face the consequences of decided action in either direction. The unconditional Unionists, comparatively few, but compact, thoroughly organized, and backed by the Federal Government, wanted time to rally a following; the Southern party, numerous, but without leaders or definite purpose, were content that time should develop a course of action for them; the uncertain multitude hailed it as a verbal breakwater for the tides and storms of an ocean. After all, this “neutrality” was a sad [301] thinga false pretense that served for some months as the cloak of irresolution and all its consequent ills. Horace Greeley, in his “American conflict,” says that this “astounding drivel” “insulted the common-sense and nauseated the loyal stomach of the nation;” but it was the opiate that stupefied both the common-sense and the moral sense, and unnerved the arm of the people of Kentucky.

When Mr. Lincoln made his first call for troops, Governor Magoffin replied in the same spirit with the other Southern Executives:

Your dispatch is received. In answer, I say emphatically, Kentucky will furnish no troops for the wicked purpose of subduing her sister Southern States.

And on the 24th of April, in a proclamation convening the General Assembly, the Governor said:

The tread of armies is the response which is being made to the measures of pacification which are being discussed before our people; while up to this moment we are comparatively in a defenseless attitude. Whatever else should be done, it is, in my judgment, the duty of Kentucky, without delay, to place herself in a complete position for defense.

On May 16th the General Assembly, which had convened May 6th, Resolved, That this State and the citizens thereof should take no part in the civil war now waged, except as mediators and friends to the belligerent parties, and that Kentucky should, during the contest, occupy the position of strict neutrality. Resolved, further, That the act of the Governor in refusing to furnish troops or military force, upon the call of the Executive authority of the United States, under existing circumstances, is approved.

The Unionists, however, secured the passage of an act compelling the State Guard to take the oath of allegiance to the United States, as well as to the State of Kentucky. The Governor issued a proclamation of neutrality on the 20th of May; and on the 24th of May, just before its adjournment, the Senate Resolved, Kentucky will not sever her connection with the national Government, nor take up arms for either belligerent party; but arm herself for the preservation of peace within her borders.

It also passed laws for arming.

Garrett Davis visited Washington, and engaged Mr. Lincoln to respect this neutrality. He not only avouched the fact of Lincoln's promise, but his own belief that it would be faithfully kept. Davis was highly respected in Kentucky as an honorable man, and his declaration carried great weight; but Mr. Lincoln subsequently denied and repudiated the arrangement.

The same issue arose between General Buckner and General McClellan, [302] in regard to the terms of an oral agreement made between them June 8th, resulting, it is to be presumed, from such misunderstanding as all oral communications are liable to. General Buckner took active measures to carry out his part of the convention. On the 10th of June he advised Governor Magoffin of its stipulations, and, on the 11th, engaged Governor Harris, of Tennessee, to consent to the same terms, and give assurances on the part of the South that the neutrality of Kentucky should be respected. This agreement enabled General Buckner to arrest a movement of General Pillow, who was about to seize Columbus, Kentucky, with Tennessee troops. The inhabitants of this commanding site were strongly Southern in feeling, and, under a violent apprehension that their town was in danger, had induced General Pillow to consent to occupy it. He now suspended his movement, and General Buckner placed Colonel Tilghman there, with six companies of the State Guard, with orders to enforce neutrality, give protection to all citizens claiming it, and “restrain our own citizens from all acts of lawless aggression.”

The active partisans on either side were not deceived by the pretense of neutrality. The Federal faction organized the “Union Club,” a secret society, with ramifications throughout the State, which, backed by the money and patronage of the Government, made converts rapidly; and, to quote Van Home, in his “Army of the Cumberland,” “was potent, if not decisive, in saving Kentucky from secession.” It reached the Legislature with its influence. At the election for Congressmen, July 1st, the Union candidates were elected by an overwhelming majority, by denouncing and pretending to abhor abolitionism, Republicanism, coercion, and war. And so with those elected to the Legislature. Their commission from the people was to keep the peace. They executed it by an immediate and unconditional surrender to the war party of the North.

Immediately after Lincoln's first call for volunteers, two regiments were recruited in Ohio, near Cincinnati, known as the First and Second Kentucky Regiments. Early in June, Lovell H. Rousseau established Camp “Joe Holt,” in Indiana, opposite Louisville, and began to recruit the Louisville Legion. The first overt attempt to organize Federal troops on Kentucky soil was on the 2d of July, when 2,000 men assembled at Camp “Dick Robinson,” near the centre of the State. Lieutenant William Nelson, of the Navy, afterward a major-general, was the secret agent through whom the Union men were organized and armed.

Seeing the drift of public sentiment and the popularity of neutrality in Kentucky, the more ardent secessionists left the State and entered the Confederate army. Camp Boone was established in Tennessee, near the State line, not far from Clarksville. The Southern party in Kentucky were careless as to the abstract right of secession. Their [303] distinctive struggle was for constitutional liberty, and, regarding the Administration as a revolutionary propaganda and the State authorities as traitors to their trust, they left the soil of the Commonwealth without hesitation, certain that the march of events and the voice of the people would speedily demand their return.

Events now began to move very rapidly. The crisis had arrived when Buckner was compelled to decide whether he would inaugurate revolution with the State Guard, or leave the solution of the tangled maze to destiny. He would not cut the Gordian knot, nor yet consent to become the tool of party managers. He resigned July 20th. The State Guard elected Colonel Thomas L. Crittenden to succeed him; but, when it was found that they could not be used to carry out the purposes of the North, they were disbanded, and their arms and equipments were turned over to the loyal “Home Guard,” which harassed the State for the next four years. Most of the soldiers of the State Guard found their way into the Southern army during the first year or two of the war, singly or in squads; but all the advantages of their excellent organization were lost. Nevertheless, under other names, the heroic men who composed it made for their State a record of surpassing brilliancy, even in the peerless annals of Confederate achievement.

Governor Magoffin, on the 19th of August, addressed letters to the Presidents of the rival sections, endeavoring to secure the promised neutrality. Mr. Davis expressed a willingness to leave Kentucky untrammeled, but Mr. Lincoln's reply intimated somewhat superciliously that the farce of neutrality had ended.

While the United States Government had been secretly perfecting its military preparations in Kentucky, it had anxiously postponed a collision. On the 28th of May, Major Robert Anderson, promoted to brigadier-general, had been assigned to the “Department of Kentucky,” with his headquarters at Cincinnati. He was a native of Kentucky, conservative in opinions, and had conducted himself with dignity at the surrender of Fort Sumter. He did not directly interfere with the affairs of the State, and this, together with his absence, seemed a confirmation of the neutrality policy. Meanwhile, Nelson, Rousseau, and the Union committees were secretly enlisting troops and introducing arms and ammunition.

Those who had been indulging in dreams of peace were now rudely awakened. On the 1st of September, Anderson removed his headquarters to Louisville, and Nelson was made a brigadier-general and began to organize a force at Maysville to operate in Eastern Kentucky. He was replaced at Camp Dick Robinson by Brigadier-General George H. Thomas, a soldier of ability, vigor, and experience. Thomas was a native of Southampton County, Virginia, a West-Pointer, and a man of mark in the old army. He was the junior major of the Second [304] Cavalry, General Johnston's regiment; and, having decided to adhere to the Federal cause in the civil war, was rapidly promoted to the rank of brigadier-general. His position at Camp Dick Robinson was central and important. The country east of him was friendly to the Union; and that in his rear, Northwestern Kentucky, greatly divided in sentiment, was now nearly surrounded by a cordon of Federal encampments, ready, at any moment, to be drawn in upon it. Camp Dick Robinson, which had until now been regarded as a threat rather than a real peril, at once assumed its true character of a military stronghold. It dominated the political centre at Frankfort, where an obsequious Legislature eagerly registered the decrees of the military commander, while the State sank to the condition of a subjugated province.

The reproach which fell upon Kentucky that it suffered such a body to make sport of its destiny was due to the division of sentiment in the State, and to a laudable unwillingness to begin a civil war. The consequent hesitation accrued to the advantage of the party in actual possession of the government, and the United States used this advantage with energy and skill.

An examination of the map will show the great peril of the situation to the Southern sympathizers in the State. The people of its eastern section, from the Ohio River to the Tennessee line, Democratic at the opening of the contest, and Southern in their sympathies, though non-slaveholding like their neighbors of West Virginia and East Tennessee, had been won over to the Unionists. Hence the Southern party was chiefly prevalent in the western half of the State, in a district projecting like a peninsula, and surrounded by non-slaveholding and hostile regions. It may, also, be said in a word, what might be proved in a volume, that, while the centralizing Lincoln Administration spared no efforts or means of influence to control the action of the State, the Confederate Government, either from inability to assist, or on some extreme theory of independent State action, or regarding Kentucky, for political reasons, as a better boundary than the Ohio River, did not turn its hand either for aid or counsel to the secessionists in that Commonwealth. Without the power to revolutionize the State, they were compelled to stand fast and see her bound to the car of conquest. Henceforth her people were treated as a conquered population, and pillaged, oppressed, and insulted, at the will of every lawless officer.

To rehearse the story of those times is, at best, a melancholy duty, in which no Kentuckian can find satisfaction. The humiliation of a proud people is a painful spectacle; but it was the inevitable result of their own political folly in clinging to faithless leaders, instead of following the generous impulses that would have placed them in the van of battle. There was a time when her resolute demand for peace, in armed conjunction with the other border States, might have stayed the [305] hand of war; but the vacillation and imbecility of her counsels reduced her to the condition of an unwilling auxiliary in the abolition crusade. Providence protected the people of Kentucky from degradation, by subjecting them to a purgation of fire; “for there was not a house where there was not one dead.” But despoiled, outraged, and bewailing their sons slain in battle, they remembered the traditions of State-rights and constitutional Democracy, and have since testified thereto, through good and evil report.

This rapid sketch of the condition of Kentucky will serve to show the causes that paralyzed her action, humbled her people, and ultimately duped the leaders who were employed by the Federal Government to secure her unnatural adhesion to the side of the North.

The mock neutrality of Kentucky was ended early in September. Major-General Polk, the Confederate commander in West Tennessee, having information that the Federal force at Cairo was about to seize Columbus, a strategic point of great importance in Southwestern Kentucky, crossed the State line, occupied Hickman on the 5th of September, and on the 7th secured Columbus. General Grant, who had just taken command at Cairo, where he had arrived on the 2d of September, thus anticipated and foiled in that quarter, promptly seized Paducah, at the mouth of the Tennessee River, September 6th, with a detachment, following it with additional forces next day. General Polk made a respectful representation of the facts to Governor Magoffin, offering at the same time to withdraw the Confederate forces from Kentucky provided the Federal forces also withdrew simultaneously, with a mutual guarantee not to enter or occupy any point in Kentucky in the future. He was warned by the proclamation of the Governor, September 13th, in obedience to a resolution of the General Assembly, “that Kentucky expects the Confederate or Tennessee troops to be withdrawn from her soil unconditionally.” This defiance was thrown at the Confederate general, under the dishonest pretext that “Kentucky's peace and neutrality have been wantonly violated,” etc., “by the so-called Southern Confederate forces.” Thus Kentucky formally threw down the gage of battle, and arrayed herself with the North.

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