Doc. 44. General Buckner's address September 12, 1861.The following address to the “freemen of Kentucky” was picked up by a Union soldier on the late battle field near Mill Spring:
To the Freemen of Kentucky:The condition of the country renders it unnecessary that I should offer any apology for addressing you. An issue has been forced upon every citizen of Kentucky by the edict of Abraham Lincoln. We are told that we must be for or against him. We must give our active support to his arbitrary acts, or we must oppose them. We must aid him in overthrowing the Constitution of the United States, or we must oppose his usurpations. We must aid him in building upon the ruins of the fair fabric of constitutional liberty a despotic authority as arbitrary as that of an Oriental despot, or we must battle like men for the preservation of the principles of liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. We must be his instruments to drag from their homes, and immure in his numerous dungeons, all who have enough of independence in their natures to express disapprobation of his policy, or we must actively oppose that policy. We must consent, in order that his imperial will shall have undisputed sway, that the judicial ermine shall be trampled beneath his unhallowed feet, or we must determine to maintain the principles of liberty as expounded by the judicial tribunals. We must aid him in reviving the lettre de cachet, that instrument of tyranny which banishes his political victims to the prisons of his numerous Bastiles; or, like the men of another day, we must wipe away these relics of barbarism which the advocate of free speech has revived as a means of enslaving us. We must sustain an usurped tyranny which has no affiliation with the Constitution or with justice, or we must resist the application of the fetters with which he seeks to bind us. We must lay our lives, our fortunes, our honor, our liberty at his feet, in order that he may consent to be the master of willing slaves, or, like men who at least are descended from freemen, we must with our own arms make good our claim to a legitimate parentage. These, freemen of Kentucky, are the issues which have been forced upon us. Hitherto Kentucky has been, to a great extent, exempt from the evils with which the President has sought to afflict our sister Southern States. We have been lulled with the syren song of peace into a lethargy from which it was hoped we would not awake. We have been told that the armies of despotism which are to encamp upon our soil will not crush a petal of the most delicate flower, or bruise a blade of grass that decorates our fields; yet wherever they have gone, though in some instances commanded by soldiers unsurpassed in the best qualities of men, their course is marked by desolation, and lighted by the flames of burning fields and houses. It might rather be said of them, as of the hosts of Attila, that where they once pass the grass never grows. The President promised peace to our mother, Virginia; he promised peace to our daughter, Missouri; he now sings in our ears the delusive sound. It is the peace which reigns in his water-girt Bastiles; it is the peace which is found in the graves of his victims. Freemen of Kentucky! we have been slow to oppose the usurpations of Abraham Lincoln. We have heard his promises that he would observe the neutrality of Kentucky, and we have heard the echoed reassurances of his chosen instruments. We have seen the lawless military organizations which for months he has been engaged in introducing among us, to overawe the true sentiment of Kentucky. We have witnessed the clandestine introduction among us of arms and munitions, and the establishment, in defiance of the Constitution, of his military camps to subjugate us to the will of a Northern fanaticism. We have seen a portion of our own people, while preaching peace and good — will toward  ourselves and our brethren of the South, drawing from beneath the cloak of neutrality the assassin dagger, which is aimed to pierce our hearts. When its point is already at our breast, this mask is at last thrown aside, and we suddenly find a son of Kentucky, a gentleman distinguished in history, but now a willing servant to execute the will of his master, coming among us to direct the blow which other slaves have prepared. When our own Legislature, disregarding every obligation imposed.upon them by justice, humanity, and the Constitution, have stripped us of the defences which they were bound to throw around us; when the gold of Philip has opened the gates of Athens; when her guardians, equally influenced by craven fear and by venal avarice, have, as they think, exposed the fair form of Kentucky an easy prey to the ravisher, this gentleman now steps forward from his chosen place in history to rivet the chains which are intended to make her the victim and the slave of lustful ambition. Men of Kentucky! are we indeed slaves, that we are thus to be dragged in chains at the feet of despotic power? Are the virtues of our ancestors buried with them in their graves? Must our loyalty to constitutional liberty be measured only by our servility to the tools of acknowledged enemies? Shall we bend our trembling knees before this modern Gesler, and bow to the tyrant's cap, which is held up as the object of our worship? Were our liberties given us but to be trampled beneath the feet of Abraham Lincoln? Has God so stamped his ignoble brow and meagre intellect with his special seal, that we are fit for no higher uses than to obey his mandates and to fill his dungeons? Let us rise, freemen of Kentucky! and show that we are worthy of our sires. Let us show the matrons of Kentucky that they are still the mothers of men. Let our wives still regard us as their protectors from the atrocities with which they are threatened. Let the fair maidens of our beautiful land be convinced by your deeds that the youth of the “dark and bloody ground” are worthy alike of the smiles which they bestow upon you living and of the tears with which they may water your patriot graves. Though we may ignobly bend our necks to receive the galling yoke of a Northern despotism, shall we not raise an arm to defend the proud women of Kentucky from the fate which is impending over them? For one, I will enter the lists of freedom. I love the wild hills and beautiful valleys of my native land. Your sires and mine won them from the savage. It devolves on us to defend them from the invasions of a scarcely less merciless foe, whose hyena-like yells call for the extermination of our people. We will not yield without a struggle our lovely land to be despoiled by the fanatical hordes of the north. With the help of God, whose aid we implore in our holy cause, we will beat back the invaders from our shores, as our fathers beat back the savage from the homes of those whose sons now show their gratitude by returning to enslave us. Citizens of Kentucky! we who are now contending for freedom and for constitutional liberty, have been true and loyal in our observance of the Constitution. It is not we who have trampled its principles beneath our feet, and called into being a military despotism which threatens the existence of civil liberty. We revered the Constitution as the ark of civil liberty. We loved the Union as the means of perpetuating its principles. When the Union ceases to accomplish that end, and instead, serves only as the means of founding a military despotism, it is the destruction of the Constitution. The Constitution being destroyed by those whose tyranny we resist, we adhere still to the immutable principles on which it is based. We have compromised these principles only to preserve peace in Kentucky. The apologists of Abraham Lincoln have construed our love of peace into cowardice, and have brought to bear upon us the hand of despotic power. With the poignard at our breast, they expect us to caress the hand of the assassin, and to lick the dust from the iron heel of tyranny, which is raised to crush us. Freemen of Kentucky! whatever our former opinions, let us unite on the principles of civil liberty. Though an infuriated North--in order to reduce our land to the condition of a subject Roman province — may rear above the ruins of the Constitution the rude fabric of military despotism, let us recognize still as paramount the holy principles of civil liberty which God and our fathers have given us. We recognize in no body the right to oppress us. Neither the President of the United States, nor the servile Congress which assembled to register his edicts, nor the Legislature of Kentucky, which has sold for gold and executive favor the birthright of our freedom, have the authority to snatch from us our God-given heritage of liberty. Freemen of Kentucky! let our objects be distinctly known. We make no war upon the Union. We defend the principles of the Constitution against the fanatics who have destroyed the Union. We make no war upon our brethren of Kentucky who have been seduced into alliance with that fanaticism. We defend ourselves only from the assaults of those who would tear from us the holy principles of liberty, without which there can be no Union. We make no war upon our brethren of the North. We seek only to repel their efforts to subjugate us to the condition of their political serfs and vassals. The Federal forces were already encamped upon our soil, threatening not only our liberty, but the liberty of the South. As a matter purely of self-defence, the Confederates now occupy a few points in our Southern border. They offer no molestation to our people. They will withdraw whenever the Federal forces withdraw, or whenever the State of Kentucky takes it upon herself to keep out both parties equally.  The people of Kentucky have been honest in their professions of neutrality. Political adventurers who control the Legislature have alone used neutrality as the cup from which they might pour their deadly distillation of Northern hatred, which, like the poison of the upas, was to infect our land with death and disaster. Let us commend the ingredients of their poisoned chalice to their own lips. Let the people of Kentucky take their fate in their own hands. Let us unite as one man to expel from our land the Northern forces who refuse to retire. Our people do not want them here. Let them leave us to the peace which they promised us, and the Confederate forces will likewise leave us. For one, I have alike refused office from the North or from the South, because the position of my State was respected. But when a revolutionary and despotic faction invade our soil to aid in the destruction of our liberties by the minions of a Northern race who have no interest and no sympathy in common with Kentucky, let us seek friends and allies among those of common blood and sympathies, and interests and institutions. Freemen of Kentucky, let us stand by our own lovely land. Join with me in expelling from our firesides the armies which an insane despotism sends among us to subjugate us to the iron rule of Puritanical New England. Let the sons of Kentucky--the descendants of those gallant men whose names adorn the brightest pages of our history — decide the fate of our own State. Our banner has floated proudly wherever it has been displayed. Under it we have fought the battles of the country in the North and in the South. Under its folds our fathers drove back the savage from the homes of infant Indiana and Ohio. In gratitude, the sons of those whose fathers were rescued by ours from the tomahawk and the scalping knife return to drag us in chains at the feet of a relentless despotism, which is already pressing heavily upon themselves. When in the hour of our country's peril the extreme North slunk away from the raging contest, thousands of Kentuckians poured into the frozen North to fight on British soil the battles of New England. In return she sends us her hosts of fanatics to despoil us of our homes and of our liberties, and through William H. Seward she invites the outcasts of all nations to join in the carnival of blood. Let us once more fling to the breeze the proud standard of Kentucky. In every valley and on every hill-top let its folds be kissed by the breezes of Heaven. Let our lone star shine, an emblem of hope, from the deep sky-blue of our banner, over the brothers who join in the grasp of friendship; and let the soldier's motto of our State bespeak, under the Providence of God, the strength of the cause which He commits to our hands.