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Chapter 8:

Kentucky, the eldest daughter of Virginia, had moved contemporaneously with her mother in the assertion of the cardinal principles announced in the resolutions of 1798-‘99. She then by the properly constituted authority did with due solemnity declare that the government of the United States was the result of a compact between the states to which each acceded as a state; that it possessed only delegated powers, of which it was not the exclusive or final judge; and that, as in all cases of compact among parties having no common judge, “each party has an equal right to judge for itself as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress.” Thus spoke Kentucky in the first years of her existence as a sovereign. The great truth announced in her series of resolutions was the sign under which the Democracy conquered in 1800, and which constituted the corner stone of the political edifice of which Jefferson was the architect, and which stood unshaken for sixty years from the time its foundation was laid. During this period the growth, prosperity, and happiness of the country seemed unmistakably to confirm the wisdom of the voluntary union of free sovereign states under a written compact confining the action of the general government to the expressly enumerated powers which had been delegated therein. When infractions of the compact had been deliberately and persistently made, when the intent was clearly manifested to pervert the powers of the general government from the purposes for which they had been conferred, and to use them for the injury of a portion of the states, which were the integral parties to the compact, some of them [333] resolved to judge for themselves of the “mode and measure of redress,” and to exercise the right, enunciated in the Declaration of Independence to be the unalienable endowment of every people, to alter or abolish any form of government, and to institute a new one, “laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.” By no rational mode of construction, in view of the history of the Declaration of Independence, or of the resolutions of Kentucky, can it be claimed that the word “people” had any other meaning than that of a distinct community, such as the people of each colony who by their delegates in the Congress declared themselves to be henceforth a state; that none other than the people of each state could, by the resolutions of 1798-‘99, have been referred to as the final judge of infractions of their compact, and of the remedy which should be applied.

Kentucky made no decision adverse to this right of a state, but she declared, in the impending conflict between the states seceding from and those adhering to the federal government, that she would hold the position of neutrality. If the question was to be settled by a war of words, that was feasible; if the conflict was to be one of arms, it was utterly impracticable. To maintain neutrality under such circumstances would have required a power greater than that of both the contestants, or a moral influence commanding such respect for her wishes as could hardly have been anticipated from that party which had, in violation of right, inflicted the wrongs which produced the withdrawal of some of the states, and had uttered multiplied threats of coercion if any state attempted to exercise the rights defined in the resolutions of 1798-‘99. If, however, any such hope may have been entertained, but few moons had filled and waned before the defiant occupation of her territory and the enrollment of her citizens as soldiers in the army of invasion must have dispelled the illusion.

The following correspondence took place in August between Governor Magoffin of Kentucky and President Lincoln—also between the governor and myself, as President of the Confederate States—relative to the neutrality of the state:

Commonwealth of Kentucky, Executive Department. Frankfort, August 19, 1861.
To his Excellency Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States.
sir: From the commencement of the unhappy hostilities now pending in this country, the people of Kentucky have indicated an earnest desire and purpose, as far as lay in their power, while maintaining their original political status, to do nothing by which to involve themselves in the war. Up to this time they have [334] succeeded in securing to themselves and to the State peace and tranquillity as the fruits of the policy they adopted. My single object now is to promote the continuance of these blessings to this State.

Until within a brief period the people of Kentucky were quiet and tranquil, free from domestic strife, and undisturbed by internal commotion. They have resisted no law, rebelled against no authority, engaged in no revolution, but constantly proclaimed their firm determination to pursue their peaceful avocations, earnestly hoping that their own soil would be spared the presence of armed troops, and that the scene of conflict would be kept removed beyond the border of their State. By thus avoiding all occasions for the introduction of bodies of armed soldiers, and offering no provocation for the presence of military force, the people of Kentucky have sincerely striven to preserve in their State domestic peace and avert the calamities of sanguinary engagements.

Recently a large body of soldiers have been enlisted in the United States army and collected in military camps in the central portion of Kentucky. This movement was preceded by the active organization of companies, regiments, etc., consisting of men sworn into the United States service, under officers holding commissions from yourself. Ordnance, arms, munitions, and supplies of war are being transported into the State, and placed in large quantities in these camps. In a word, an army is now being organized and quartered within the State, supplied with all the appliances of war, without the consent or advice of the authorities of the State, and without consultation with those most prominently known and recognized as loyal citizens. This movement now imperils that peace and tranquility which from the beginning of our pending difficulties have been the paramount desire of this people, and which, up to this time, they have so secured to the State.

Within Kentucky there has been, and is likely to be, no occasion for the presence of military force. The people are quiet and tranquil, feeling no apprehension of any occasion arising to invoke protection from the Federal arm. They have asked that their territory be left free from military occupation, and the present tranquillity of their communication left uninvaded by soldiers. They do not desire that Kentucky shall be required to supply the battle-field for the contending armies, or become the theatre of the war.

Now, therefore, as Governor of the State of Kentucky, and in the name of the people I have the honor to represent, and with the single and earnest desire to avert from their peaceful homes the horrors of war, I urge the removal from the limits of Kentucky of the military force now organized and in camp within the State. If such action as is here urged be promptly taken, I firmly believe the peace of the people of Kentucky will be preserved, and the horrors of a bloody war will be averted from a people now peaceful and tranquil.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Washington, August 24, 1861.
To his Excellency B. Magoffin, Governor of the State of Kentucky.
sir: Your letter of the 19th instant, in which you “urge the removal from the limits of Kentucky of the military force now organized and in camp within that State,” is received. [335]

I may not possess full and precisely accurate knowledge upon this subject; but I believe it is true that there is a military force in camp within Kentucky, acting by authority of the United States, which force is not very large, and is not now being augmented.

I also believe that some arms have been furnished to this force by the United States.

I also believe this force consists exclusively of Kentuckians, having their camp in the immediate vicinity of their own homes, and not assailing or menacing any of the good people of Kentucky.

In all I have done in the premises, I have acted upon the urgent solicitation of many Kentuckians, and in accordance with what I believed, and still believe, to be the wish of a majority of all the Union-loving people in Kentucky.

While I have conversed on this subject with many of the eminent men of Kentucky, including a large majority of her members of Congress, I do not remember that any one of them, or any other person except your Excellency and the bearers of your Excellency's letter, has urged me to remove the military force from Kentucky, or to disband it. One very worthy citizen of Kentucky did solicit me to have the augmenting of the force suspended for a time.

Taking all the means within my reach to form a judgment, I do not believe it is the popular wish of Kentucky that this force shall be removed beyond her limits; and, with this impression, I must respectfully decline to so remove it.

I most cordially sympathize with your Excellency in the wish to preserve the peace of my own native State, Kentucky. It is with regret 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.

Your obedient servant,

Commonwealth of Kentucky, Executive Department, Frankfort, August 24, 1861.
Hon. Jefferson Davis, Richmond, Virginia.
sir: Since the commencement of the unhappy difficulties pending in the country, the people of Kentucky have indicated a steadfast desire and purpose to maintain a position of strict neutrality between the belligerent parties. They have earnestly striven by their policy to avert from themselves the calamity of war, and protect their own soil from the presence of contending armies. Up to this period they have enjoyed comparative tranquillity and entire domestic peace.

Recently a military force has been enlisted and quartered by the United States authorities within this State. I have on this day addressed a communication and dispatched commissioners to the President of the United States, urging the removal of these troops from the soil of Kentucky, and thus exerting myself to carry out the will of the people in the maintenance of a neutral position. The people of this State desire to be free from the presence of the soldiers of either belligerent, and to that end my efforts are now directed.

Although I have no reason to presume that the Government of the Confederate States contemplate or have ever proposed any violation of the neutral attitude thus assumed by Kentucky, there seems to be some uneasiness felt among the people of some portion of the State, occasioned by the collection of bodies of [336] troops along their southern frontier. In order to quiet this apprehension, and to secure to the people their cherished object of peace, this communication is to present these facts and elicit an authoritative assurance that the Government of the Confederate States will continue to respect and observe the position indicated as assumed by Kentucky.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Richmond, August 28, 1861.
To Hon. B. Magoffin, Governor of Kentucky, etc.
sir: I have received your letter informing me that “since the commencement of the unhappy difficulties pending in the country, the people of Kentucky have indicated a steadfast desire to maintain a position of strict neutrality between the belligerent parties.” In the same communication you express your desire to elicit “an authoritative assurance that the Government of the Confederate States will continue to respect and observe the neutral position of Kentucky.”

In reply to this request, I lose no time in assuring you that the Government of the Confederate States neither desires nor intends to disturb the neutrality of Kentucky. The assemblage of troops in Tennessee, to which you refer, had no other object than to repel the lawless invasion of that State by the forces of the United States, should their Government seek to approach it through Kentucky, without respect for its position of neutrality. That such apprehensions were not groundless has been proved by the course of that Government in the States of Maryland and Missouri, and more recently in Kentucky itself, in which, as you inform me, “a military force has been enlisted and quartered by the United States authorities.”

The Government of the Confederate States has not only respected most scrupulously the neutrality of Kentucky, but has continued to maintain the friendly relations of trade and intercourse which it has suspended with the United States generally.

In view of the history of the past, it can scarcely be necessary to assure your Excellency that the Government of the Confederate States will continue to respect the neutrality of Kentucky so long as her people will maintain it themselves.

But neutrality, to be entitled to respect, must be strictly maintained between both parties; or, if the door be opened on the one side for the aggressions of one of the belligerent parties upon the other, it ought not to be shut to the assailed when they seek to enter it for purposes of self-defense.

I do not, however, for a moment believe that your gallant State will suffer its soil to be used for the purpose of giving an advantage to those who violate its neutrality and disregard its rights, over others who respect both.

In conclusion, I tender to your Excellency the assurance of my high consideration and regard, and am, sir, very respectfully,

Yours, etc.,

Movements by the Federal forces in southwestern Kentucky revealed such designs as made it absolutely necessary that General, Polk, commanding the Confederate forces in that section, should immediately [337] occupy the town of Columbus, Kentucky—a position of much strategic importance on the shore of the Mississippi River.

That position was doubly important because it commanded the opposite shore in Missouri and was the gateway on the border of Tennessee.

Two states of the Confederacy were therefore threatened by the anticipated movement of the enemy to get possession of Columbus.

Major General Polk, therefore, crossed the state line, took possession of Hickman on September 3d, and on the 4th secured Columbus. General Grant, who took command at Cairo on September 2d, being thus anticipated, seized Paducah, at the mouth of the Tennessee River, and occupied it in force on the 5th and 6th.

After the occupation, under date of September 4th, I received the following dispatch from Major General Polk: “The enemy having descended the Mississippi River some three or four days since, and seated himself with cannon and intrenched lines opposite the town of Columbus, Kentucky, making such demonstrations as left no doubt upon the minds of any of their intention to seize and forcibly possess said town, I thought proper, under the plenary power delegated to me, to direct a sufficient portion of my command both by the river way and land to concentrate at Columbus, as well to offer to its citizens that protection they unite to a man in accepting, as also to prevent, in time, the occupation by the enemy of a point so necessary to the security of western Tennessee. The demonstration on my part has had the desired effect. The enemy has withdrawn his forces even before I had fortified my position. It is my intention to continue to occupy and hold this place.” On the same day I sent the following reply to Major General Polk: “Your telegram received; the necessity must justify the action.”

The legislature of Kentucky passed resolutions and appointed a committee to inquire into the action of General Polk, from which the annexed correspondence resulted:

Correspondence between Major General Polk and the authorities of Kentucky

Resolutions of the Kentucky Senate relative to the Violation of the Neutrality of Kentucky.

Resolved by the Senate, That the special committee of the Senate, raised for the purpose of considering the reported occupation of Hickman and other points in Kentucky by Confederate troops, take into consideration the occupation of Paducah and other places in Kentucky by the Federal authorities, and report thereon when the true state of the case shall have been ascertained. That the Speaker appoint three members of the Senate to visit southern Kentucky, who are directed to obtain all the facts they can in reference to the recent occupation of Kentucky [338] soil by Confederate and Federal forces, and report in writing at as early a day as practicable.

In Senate of Kentucky, Saturday, September 7, A. D. 1861.

Twice read and adopted.

Attest: (Signed) J. H. Johnson, S. S.
In accordance with the foregoing resolution, the Speaker appointed as said committee Messrs. John M. Johnson, William B. Read, and Thornton F. Marshall.

Attest: (Signed) J. H. Johnson, S. S.

Letter of Hon. J. M. Johnson, Chairman of the Committee of the Kentucky Senate, to General Polk.

To Major-General Polk, commanding forces, etc.
Columbus, Kentucky, September 9, 1861.
Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith a resolution of the Senate of Kentucky, adopted by that body upon the reception of the intelligence of the military occupation of Hickman, Chalk Bank, and Columbus, by the Confederate troops under your command. I need not say that the people of Kentucky are profoundly astonished that such an act should have been committed by the Confederates, and especially that they should have been the first to do so with an equipped and regularly organized army.

The people of Kentucky, having with great unanimity determined upon a position of neutrality in the unhappy war now being waged, and which they had tried in vain to prevent, had hoped that one place at least in this great nation might remain uninvaded by passion, and through whose good office something might be done to end the war, or at least to mitigate its horrors, or, if this were not possible, that she might be left to choose her destiny without disturbance from any quarter.

In obedience to the thrice-repeated will of the people, as expressed at the polls, and in their name, I ask you to withdraw your forces from the soil of Kentucky.

I will say, in conclusion, that all the people of the State await, in deep suspense, your action in the premises.

I have the honor to be, your obedient servant, etc.,

(Signed) John M. Johnson. Chairman of Committee.

Letter from General Polk to the Kentucky Commissioners.

Columbus, Kentucky, September 9, 1861.
To J. M. Johnson, Chairman of Committee, Senate of Kentucky.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of this date, conveying to me a copy of a resolution of the Senate of Kentucky, under which a committee (of which you are chairman) was raised “for the purpose of considering the reported occupation of Hickman and other points in Kentucky by the Confederate troops, and that they take into consideration the reported occupation of Paducah and other points in Kentucky by the Federal authorities, and report thereon”; also, that they be “directed to obtain all the facts they can in reference to the recent occupation of Kentucky soil by the Confederate and Federal forces, and report, in writing, at as early a day as practicable.” [339]

From the terms of the resolution, it appears your office, as committee-men, was restricted merely to collecting the facts in reference to the recent occupation of Kentucky soil by the Confederate and Federal forces, and to report thereon in writing, at as early a day as possible. In answer to these resolutions, I have respectfully to say that, so far as the Confederate forces are concerned, the facts are plain, and shortly stated. The Government which they represent, recognizing as a fundamental principle the right of sovereign States to take such a position as they choose in regard to their relations with other States, was compelled by that principle to concede to Kentucky the right to assume the position of neutrality, which she has chosen in the passing struggle. This it has done on all occasions, and without an exception. The cases alluded to by his Excellency, Governor Magoffin, in his recent message, as “raids,” I presume, are the cases of the steamers Cheney and Orr. The former was the unauthorized and unrecognized act of certain citizens of Alabama, and the latter the act of citizens of Tennessee and others, and was an act of reprisal. They can not, therefore, be charged, in any sense, as acts of the Confederate Government.

The first and only instance in which the neutrality of Kentucky has been disregarded is that in which the troops under my command, and by my direction, took possession of the place I now hold, and so much of the territory between it and the Tennessee line as was necessary for me to pass over in order to reach it. This act finds abundant justification in the history of the concessions granted to the Federal Government by Kentucky ever since the war began, notwithstanding the position of neutrality which she had assumed, and the firmness with which she proclaimed her intention to maintain it. That history shows the following among other facts: In January, the House of Representatives of Kentucky passed anti-coercion resolutions—only four dissenting. The Governor, in May, issued his neutrality proclamation. The address of the Union Central Committee, including Mr. James Speed, Mr. Prentice, and other prominent Union men, in April, proclaimed neutrality as the policy of Kentucky, and claimed that an attempt to coerce the South should induce Kentucky to make common cause with her, and take part in the contest on her side, “without counting the cost.” The Union speakers and papers, with few exceptions, claimed, up to the last election, that the Union vote was strict neutrality and peace. These facts and events gave assurance of the integrity of the avowed purpose of your State, and we were content with the position she assumed.

Since the election, however, she has allowed the seizure in her port (Paducah) of property of citizens of the Confederate States; she has, by her members in the Congress of the United States, voted supplies of men and money to carry on the war against the Confederate States; she has allowed the Federal Government to cut timber from her forests for the purpose of building armed boats for the invasion of the Southern States; she is permitting to be enlisted in her territory, troops, not only of her own citizens, but of the citizens of other States, for the purpose of being armed and used in offensive warfare against the Confederate States. At Camp Robinson, in the county of Garrard, there are now ten thousand troops, if the newspapers can be relied upon, in which men from Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois are mustered with Kentuckians into the service of the United States, and armed by that Government for the avowed purpose of giving aid to [340] the disaffected in one of the Confederate States, and of carrying out the designs of that Government for their subjugation. Notwithstanding all these and other acts of a similar character, the Confederate States have continued to respect the attitude which Kentucky had assumed as a neutral, and forborne from reprisals, in the hope that Kentucky would yet enforce respect for her position on the part of the Government of the United States.

Our patient expectation has been disappointed, and it was only when we perceived that this continued indifference to our rights and our safety was about to culminate in the seizure of an important part of her territory by the United States forces for offensive operations against the Confederate States, that a regard for self-preservation demanded of us to seize it in advance. We are here, therefore, not by choice, but of necessity, and as I have had the honor to say, in a communication addressed to his Excellency Governor Magoffin, a copy of which is herewith inclosed and submitted as a part of my reply, so I now repeat in answer to your request, that I am prepared to agree to withdraw the Confederate troops from Kentucky, provided she will agree that the troops of the Federal Government be withdrawn simultaneously, with a guarantee (which I will give reciprocally for the Confederate Government) that the Federal troops shall not be allowed to enter nor occupy any part of Kentucky for the future.

In view of the facts thus submitted, I can not but think the world at large will find it difficult to appreciate the “profound astonishment” with which you say the people of Kentucky received the intelligence of the occupation of this place.

I have the honor to be, respectfully,

Your obedient servant, etc.,

Leonidas Polk, Major-General commanding.

Letter from General Polk to Governor Magoffin.

I should have dispatched to you immediately, as the troops under my command took possession of this position, the very few words I addressed to the people here; but my duties since that time have so preoccupied me, that I have but now the first leisure moment to communicate with you. It will be sufficient for me to inform you (as my short address herewith will do) that I had information, on which I could rely, that the Federal forces intended, and were preparing to seize Columbus. I need not describe to you the danger resulting to western Tennessee from such occupation.

My responsibility could not permit me quietly to lose to the command intrusted to me so important a position. In evidence of the accuracy of the information I possessed, I will state that, as the Confederate forces approached this place, the Federal troops were found in formidable numbers in position upon the opposite bank, with their cannon turned upon Columbus. The citizens of the town had fled with terror, and not a word of assurance of safety or protection had been addressed to them. Since I have taken possession of this place, I have been informed by highly respected citizens of your State that certain representatives of the Federal Government are seeking to take advantage of its own wrong, are setting up complaints against my acts of occupation, and are making it a pretext for [341] seizing other points. Upon this proceeding I have no comments to make. But I am prepared to say that I will agree to withdraw the Confederate troops from Kentucky, provided that she will agree that the troops of the Federal Government be withdrawn simultaneously, with a guarantee (which I will give reciprocally for the Confederate Government) that the Federal troops shall not be allowed to enter or occupy any part of Kentucky in the future.

I have the honor to be, respectfully, your obedient servant,

(Signed) Leonidas Polk, Major-General commanding.

However willing the government of Kentucky might have been to accede to the proposition of General Polk and which from his knowledge of the views of his own government he was fully justified in offering, the state of Kentucky had no power, moral or physical, to prevent the United States government from using her soil as best might suit is purposes in the war it was waging for the subjugation of the seceded states. President Lincoln, in his message of the previous July, had distinctly and reproachfully spoken of the idea of neutrality as existing in some of the border states. He said: “To prevent the Union forces passing one way, or the disunion the other, over their soil, would be disunion completed. . . . At a stroke it would take all the trouble off the hands of secession, except only what proceeds from the external blockade.”

The acts of the federal government corresponded with the views announced by its President. Briefly, but conclusively, General Polk showed in his answer that the United States government paid no respect to the neutral position which Kentucky wished to maintain; that it was armed, but not neutral, for the arms and the troops assembled on her soil were for the invasion of the South; that he occupied Columbus to prevent the enemy from taking possession of it. When our troops first entered Columbus they found the inhabitants had been in alarm from demonstrations of the United States forces, but that they felt no dread of the Confederate troops. As far as the truth could be ascertained, a decided majority of the people of Kentucky, especially its southwestern portion, if left to a free choice, would have joined the Confederacy in preference to remaining in the Union. Could they have foreseen what in a short time was revealed, there can be little doubt that mule contracts, and other forms of bribery, would have proved unavailing to make her the passive observer of usurpations destructive of the personal and political rights of which she had always been a most earnest advocate. With the slow and sinuous approach of the serpent, the general government, little by little, gained power over Kentucky, and then, [342] throwing off the mask, proceeded to outrages so regardless of law and the usages of English-speaking people, as could not have been anticipated, and can only be remembered with shame by those who honor the constitutional government created by the states. While artfully urging the maintenance of the Union as a duty of patriotism, the Constitution which gave the Union birth was trampled under foot, and the excesses of the Reign of Terror which followed the French Revolution were reenacted in our land, once the vaunted home of law and liberty. Men who had been most honored by the state, and who had reflected most honor upon it, were seized without warrant, condemned without trial, because they had exercised the privilege of free speech, and for adhering to the principles which were the bed-rock on which our fathers builded our political temple. Members of the legislature vacated their seats and left the state to avoid arrest, the penalty hanging over them for opinion's sake. The venerable Judge Monroe, who had presided over the United States District Court for more than a generation, driven from the land of his birth, the state he had served so long and so well, with feeble step, but upright conscience and indomitable will, sought a resting place among those who did not regard it a crime to adhere to the principles of 1776 and 1787, and the declaratory affirmation of them in the resolutions of 1798-‘99. About the same time others of great worth and distinction, impelled by the feeling that “where liberty is there is my country,” left the land desecrated by despotic usurpation, to join the Confederacy in its struggle to maintain the personal and political liberties which the men of the Revolution had left as an inheritance to their posterity. Space would not suffice for a complete list of the refugees who became conspicuous in the military events of the Confederacy; let a few answer for the many: J. C. Breckinridge, the late Vice-President of the United States, and whose general and wellde-served popularity might have reasonably led him to expect in the Union the highest honors the states could bestow; William Preston, George W. Johnston, S. B. Buckner, John H. Morgan, and a host of others, alike meritorious and alike gratefully remembered. When the passions of the hour shall have subsided, and the past shall be reviewed with discrimination and justice, the question must arise in every reflecting mind. Why did such men as these expatriate themselves, and surrender all the advantages which they had won by a life of honorable effort in the land of their nativity? To such inquiry the answer must be, the usurpations of the general government foretold to them the wreck of constitutional liberty. The motives which governed them may best be learned [343] from the annexed extracts from the statement made in the address of Breckinridge to the people of Kentucky, whom he had represented in both houses of the United States Congress, with such distinguished ability and zeal for the general welfare as to place him in the front rank of the statesmen of his day:

Bowling Green, Kentucky, October 8, 1861.
In obedience, as I supposed, to your wishes, I proceeded to Washington, and at the special session of Congress, in July, spoke and voted against the whole war policy of the President and Congress; demanding, in addition, for Kentucky, the right to refuse, not men only, but money also, to the war, for I would have blushed to meet you with the confession that I had purchased for you exemption from the perils of the battle-field, and the shame of waging war against your Southern brethren, by hiring others to do the work you shrunk from performing. During that memorable session a very small body of Senators and Representatives, even beneath the shadow of a military despotism, resisted the usurpations of the Executive, and, with what degree of dignity and firmness, they willingly submit to the judgment of the world.

Their efforts were unavailing, yet they may prove valuable hereafter, as another added to former examples of manly protest against the progress of tyranny.

On my return to Kentucky, at the close of the late special session of Congress, it was my purpose immediately to resign the office of Senator. The verbal and written remonstrances of many friends in different parts of the State induced me to postpone the execution of my purpose; but the time has arrived to carry it into effect, and accordingly I now hereby return the trust into your hands. . . . In the House of Representatives it was declared that the South should be reduced to “abject submission,” or their institutions be overthrown. In the Senate it was said that, if necessary, the South should be depopulated and repeopled from the North; and an eminent Senator expressed a desire that the President should be made dictator. This was superfluous, since they had already clothed him with dictatorial powers. In the midst of these proceedings, no plea for the Constitution is listened to in the North; here and there a few heroic voices are feebly heard protesting against the progress of despotism, but, for the most part, beyond the military lines, mobs and anarchy rule the hour.

The great mass of the Northern people seem anxious to sunder every safeguard of freedom; they eagerly offer to the Government what no European monarch would dare to demand. The President and his generals are unable to pick up the liberties of the people as rapidly as they are thrown at their feet. . . . In every form by which you could give direct expression to your will, you declared for neutrality. A large majority of the people at the May and August elections voted for the neutrality and peace of Kentucky. The press, the public speakers, the candidates—with exceptions in favor of the Government at Washington so rare as not to need mention—planted themselves on this position. You voted for it, and you meant it. You were promised it, and you expected it. . . . Look now at the condition of Kentucky, and see how your expectations have been realized—how these promises have been redeemed. . . . General Anderson, the military [344] dictator of Kentucky, announces in one of his proclamations that he will arrest no one who does not act, write, or speak in opposition to Mr. Lincoln's Government. It would have completed the idea if he had added, or think in opposition to it. Look at the condition of our State under the rule of our new protectors. They have suppressed the freedom of speech and of the press. They seize people by military force upon mere suspicion, and impose on them oaths unknown to the laws. Other citizens they imprison without warrant, and carry them out of the State, so that the writ of habeas corpus can not reach them.

Every day foreign armed bands are making seizures among the people. Hundreds of citizens, old and young, venerable magistrates, whose lives have been distinguished by the love of the people, have been compelled to fly from their homes and families to escape imprisonment and exile at the hands of Northern and German soldiers, under the orders of Mr. Lincoln and his military subordinates. While yet holding an important political trust, confided by Kentucky, I was compelled to leave my home and family, or suffer imprisonment and exile. If it is asked why I did not meet the arrest and seek a trial, my answer is, that I would have welcomed an arrest to be followed by a judge and jury; but you well know that I could not have secured these constitutional rights. I would have been transported beyond the State, to languish in some Federal fortress during the pleasure of the oppressor. Witness the fate of Morehead and his Kentucky associates in their distant and gloomy prison.

The case of the gentleman just mentioned is an example of many others, and it meets every element in a definition of despotism. If it should occur in England it would be righted, or it would overturn the British Empire. He is a citizen and native of Kentucky. As a member of the Legislature, Speaker of the House, Representative in Congress from the Ashland district, and Governor of the State, you have known, trusted, and honored him during a public service of a quarter of a century. He is eminent for his ability, his amiable character, and his blameless life. Yet this man, without indictment, without warrant, without accusation, but by the order of President Lincoln, was seized at midnight, in his own house, and in the midst of his own family, and led through the streets of Louisville, as I am informed, with his hands crossed and pinioned before him—was carried out of the State and district, and now lies a prisoner in a fortress in New York Harbor, a thousand miles away. . . .

The Constitution of the United States, which these invaders unconstitutionally swear every citizen whom they unconstitutionally seize to support, has been wholly abolished. It is as much forgotten as if it lay away back in the twilight of history. The facts I have enumerated show that the very rights most carefully reserved by it to the States and to individuals have been most conspicuously violated.

. . . Your fellow-citizen,

Such was the “neutrality” suffered by the Confederacy from governments both at home and abroad.

The chivalric people of Kentucky showed their sympathy with the just cause of the people of the Southern states, by leaving the home where they could not serve the cause of right against might, and nobly [345] shared the fortunes of their Southern brethren on many a blood-dyed field. In like manner did the British people see with disapprobation their government, while proclaiming neutrality, make new rules, and give new constructions to old ones, so as to favor our enemy and embarrass us. The Englishman's sense of fair play, and the manly instinct which predisposes him to side with the weak, gave us hosts of friends, but all their good intentions were paralyzed or toiled by their wily Minister for Foreign Affairs, and his coadjutor on this side, the artful, unscrupulous United States Secretary of State.

I have thus presented the case of Kentucky, not because it was the only state where false promises lulled the people into delusive security until, by gradual approaches, usurpation had bound them hand and foot, and where despotic power crushed all the muniments of civil liberty which the Union was formed to secure, but because of the attempt, which has been noticed, to arraign the Confederacy for invasion of the state in disregard of her sovereignty.

The occupation of Columbus by the Confederate forces was only just soon enough to anticipate the predetermined purpose of the federal government, all of which was plainly set forth in the letter of General Polk to the governor of Kentucky, and his subsequent letter to the Kentucky commissioners.

Missouri, like Kentucky, had wished to preserve peaceful relations in the contest which it was foreseen would soon occur between the Northern and the Southern states. When the federal government denied to her the privilege of choosing her own position, which betokened no hostility to the general government, and she was driven to the necessity of deciding whether or not her citizens should be used for the subjugation of the Southern states, her people and their representative, the state government, repelled the arbitrary assumption of authority by military force to control her government and her people.

Among other acts of invasion, the Federal troops had occupied Belmont, a village in Missouri opposite to Columbus, and with artillery threatened that town, inspiring terror in its peaceful inhabitants. After the occupation of Columbus, under these circumstances of full justification, a small Confederate force, Colonel Tappan's Arkansas regiment, and Beltzhoover's battery, were thrown across the Mississippi to occupy and hold the village, in the state of Missouri, then an ally, and soon to become a member, of the Confederacy. On November 6th General Grant left his headquarters at Cairo with a land and naval force, and encamped on the Kentucky shore. This act and a demonstration made [346] by detachments from his force at Paducah were probably intended to induce the belief that he contemplated an attack on Columbus, thus concealing his real purpose to surprise the small garrison at Belmont. General Polk on the morning of the 7th discovered the landing of the Federal forces on the Missouri shore, some seven miles above Columbus, and, divining the real purpose of the enemy, detached General Pillow with four regiments of his division, say two thousand men, to reenforce the garrison at Belmont. Very soon after his arrival the enemy commenced an assault which was sternly resisted, and with varying fortune, for several hours. The enemy's front so far exceeded the length of our line as to enable him to attack on both flanks, and our troops were finally driven back to the bank of the river with the loss of their battery, which had been gallantly and efficiently served until nearly all its horses had been killed, and its ammunition had been expended. The enemy advanced to the bank of the river below the point to which our men had retreated, and opened an artillery fire upon the town of Columbus, to which our guns from the commanding height responded with such effect as to drive him from the river bank. In the meantime General Polk had at intervals sent three regiments to reenforce General Pillow. Upon the arrival of the first of these, General Pillow led it to a favorable position, where it for some time steadily resisted and checked the advance of the enemy. General Pillow, with great energy and gallantry, rallied his repulsed troops and brought them again into action. General Polk now proceeded in person with two other regiments. Whether from this or some other cause, the enemy commenced a retreat. General Pillow, whose activity and daring on the occasion were worthy of all praise, led the first and second detachments, by which he had been reenforced, to attack the enemy in the rear, and General Polk, landing further up the river, moved to cut off the enemy's retreat; some embarrassment and consequent delay which occurred in landing his troops caused him to be too late for the purpose for which he crossed, and to become only a part of the pursuing force.

One would naturally suppose that the question about which there would be the greatest certainty would be the number of troops engaged in a battle, yet there is nothing in regard to which we have such conflicting accounts. It is fairly concluded, from the concurrent reports, that the enemy attacked us on both flanks, and that in the beginning of the action we were outnumbered; the obstinacy with which the conflict was maintained and the successive advances and retreats which occurred in the action indicate, however, that the disparity could not have been very [347] great, and therefore that after the arrival of our reenforcements our troops must have become numerically superior. The dead and wounded left by the enemy upon the field, the arms, ammunition, and military stores abandoned in his flight, so incontestably prove his defeat, that his claim to have achieved a victory is too preposterous for discussion. Though the forces engaged were comparatively small to those in subsequent battles of the war, six hours of incessant combat, with repeated bayonet charges, must place this in the rank of the most stubborn engagements, and the victors must accord to the vanquished the meed of having fought like Americans. One of the results of the battle, which is at least significant, is the fact that General Grant, who had superciliously refused to recognize General Polk as one with whom he could exchange prisoners, did after the battle, send a flag of truce to get such privileges as are recognized between armies acknowledging each other to be “foemen worthy of their steel.”

General Polk reported as follows: “We pursued them to their boats, seven miles, and then drove their boats before us. The road was strewed with their dead and wounded, guns, ammunition, and equipments. The number of prisoners taken by the enemy, as shown by their list furnished, was one hundred and six, all of whom have been returned by exchange. After making a liberal allowance to the enemy, a hundred of their prisoners still remain in my hands, one stand of colors, and a fraction over one thousand stand of arms, with knapsacks, ammunition, and other military stores. Our loss in killed, wounded, and missing, was six hundred and forty-one; that of the enemy was probably not less than twelve hundred.”

Meanwhile Albert Sidney Johnston, a soldier of great distinction in the United States army, where he had attained the rank of brigadier general by brevet, and was in command of the Department of California, resigned his commission, and came overland from San Francisco to Richmond, to tender his services to the Confederate States. Though he had been bred a soldier, and most of his life had been spent in the army, he had not neglected such study of political affairs as properly belongs to the citizen of a republic, and appreciated the issue made between states claiming the right to resume the powers they had delegated to a general agent and the claims set up by that agent to coerce states, his creators, and for whom he held a trust.

He was a native of Kentucky, but his first military appointment was from Louisiana, and he was a volunteer in the war for independence by Texas, and for a time resided in that state. Much of his military service [348] had been in the West, and he felt most identified with it. On September 10, 1861, he was assigned to command our Department of the West, which included the states of Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, the Indian country, and the western part of Mississippi.

General Johnston, on his arrival at Nashville, found that he lacked not only men, but the munitions of war and the means of obtaining them. Men were ready to be enlisted, but the arms and equipments had nearly all been required to fit out the first levies. Immediately on his survey of the situation, he determined to occupy Bowling Green in Kentucky, and ordered Brigadier General S. B. Buckner, with five thousand men, to take possession of the position. This invasion of Kentucky was an act of self-defense rendered necessary by the action of the government of Kentucky, and by the evidences of intended movements of the forces of the United States. It was not possible to withdraw the troops from Columbus in the west, nor from Cumberland Ford in the east, to which General Felix K. Zollicoffer had advanced with four thousand men. A compliance with the demands of Kentucky would have opened the frontiers of Tennessee and the Mississippi River to the enemy; besides, it was essential to the defense of Tennessee.

East of Columbus, Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, and Hopkinsville were garrisoned with small bodies of troops; and the territory between Columbus and Bowling Green was occupied by moving detachments which caused the supposition that a large military force was present and contemplated an advance. A fortified camp was established at Cumberland Gap, as the right of General Johnston's line and an important point for the protection of East Tennessee against invasion. Thus General Johnston located his line of defense, from Columbus on the west to the Cumberland Mountains on the east, with his center at Bowling Green, which was occupied and entrenched. It was a good base for military operations, was a proper depot for supplies, and, if fortified, could be held against largely superior numbers.

On October 28th General Johnston took command at Bowling Green. He states his force to have been twelve thousand men, and that the enemy's force at that time was estimated to be double his own, or twenty-four thousand. He says: “The enemy's force increased more rapidly than our own, so that by the last of November it numbered fifty thousand, and continued to increase until it ran up to between seventy-five and one hundred thousand. My force was kept down by disease, so that it numbered about twenty-two thousand.”

The chief anxiety of the commander of the department was to [349]

General A. S. Johnston

[350] procure arms and men. On the next day after his arrival at Nashville, he wrote to the Governor of Alabama, “I shall beg to rely on your Excellency to furnish us as rapidly as possible, at this point, with every arm it may be in your power to provide—I mean small-arms for infantry and cavalry.” The governor replied, “It is out of the power of Alabama to afford you any assistance in the way of arms.” The governor of Georgia replied to the same request on September 18th, “It is utterly impossible for me to comply with your request.” General Bragg, in command at Pensacola, writes in reply on September 27th: “The mission of Colonel Buckner will not be successful, I fear, as our extreme Southern country has been stripped of both arms and men. We started early in this matter, and have well nigh exhausted our resources.” On September 19th General Johnston telegraphed to me: “Thirty thousand stand of arms are a necessity to my command. I beg you to order them, or as many as can be got, to be instantly procured and sent with dispatch.” The Secretary of War replied: “The whole number received by us, by that steamer, was eighteen hundred, and we purchased of the owners seventeen hundred and eighty, making in all thirty-five hundred Enfield rifles, of which we have been compelled to allow the governor of Georgia to have one thousand for arming troops to repel an attack now hourly threatened at Brunswick. Of the remaining twenty-five hundred, I have ordered one thousand sent to you, leaving us but fifteen hundred for arming several regiments now encamped here, and who have been awaiting their arms for several months. . . . We have not an engineer to send you. The whole engineer corps comprises only six captains together with three majors, of whom one is on bureau duty. You will be compelled to employ the best material within your reach, by detailing officers from other corps, and by employing civil engineers.”

These details are given to serve as an illustration of the deficiencies existing in every department of the military service in the first years of the war. In this respect much relief came from the well-directed efforts of Governor Harris and the legislature of Tennessee. A cap factory, ordnance shops, and workshops were established. The powder mills at Nashville turned out about four hundred pounds a day. Twelve or fourteen batteries were fitted out at Memphis. Laws were passed to impress and pay for the private arms scattered throughout the state, and the utmost efforts were made to collect and adapt them to military uses. The returns make it evident that, during most of the autumn of 1861, fully one half of General Johnston's troops were imperfectly armed, and whole brigades remained without weapons for months. [351]

No less energetic were the measures taken to concentrate and recruit his forces. General Hardee's command was moved from northeastern Arkansas and sent to Bowling Green, which added four thousand men to the troops there. The regiment of Texan rangers was brought from Louisiana, and supplied with horses and sent to the front. Five hundred Kentuckians joined General Buckner on his advance, and five regiments were gradually formed and filled up. A cavalry company under John H. Morgan was also added. At this time (September, 1861), General Johnston, under the authority granted to him by the government, made a requisition for thirty thousand men from Tennessee, ten thousand from Mississippi, and ten thousand from Arkansas. The Arkansas troops were directed to be sent to General McCulloch for the defense of their own frontier. The governor of Mississippi sent four regiments, when this source of supply was closed.

Up to the middle of November only three regiments were mustered in under this call from Tennessee, but by the close of December the number of men who joined was from twelve to fifteen thousand. Two regiments, fifteen hundred strong, had joined General Polk.

In Arkansas five companies and a battalion had been organized, and were ready to join General McCulloch.

A speedy advance of the enemy was now indicated, and an increase of force was so necessary that further delay was impossible. General Johnston, therefore, determined upon a levy en masse in his department. He made a requisition on the governors of Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi, to call out every able-bodied member of the militia into whose hands arms could be placed, or to provide a volunteer force large enough to use all the arms that could be procured. In his letters to these governors, he plainly presents his view of the posture of affairs on December 24th, points out impending dangers, and shows that to his applications the response had not been such as the emergency demanded. He says:

It was apprehended by me that the enemy would attempt to assail the South, not only by boats and troops moving down the river, to be assembled during the fall and winter, but by columns marching inland, threatening Tennessee, by endeavoring to turn the defenses of Columbus. Further observation confirms me in this opinion; but I think the means employed for the defense of the river will probably render it comparatively secure. The enemy will energetically push toward Nashville the heavy masses. of troops now assembled between Louisville and Bowling Green. The general position of Bowling Green is good and commanding; but the peculiar topography of the place and the length of the line of the Barren River as a line of defense, though strong, require a large force to defend it. There is no position equally defensive as Bowling Green, nor line of defense as [352] good as the Barren River, between the Barren and the Cumberland at Nashville; so that it can not be abandoned without exposing Tennessee, and giving vastly the vantage-ground to the enemy. It is manifest that the Northern generals appreciate this; and, by withdrawing their forces from western Virginia and east Kentucky, they have managed to add them to the new levies from Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, and to concentrate a force in front of me variously estimated at from sixty to one hundred thousand men, and which I believe will number seventy-five thousand. To maintain my position, I have only about seventeen thousand men in this neighborhood. It is impossible for me to obtain additions to my strength from Columbus; the generals in command in that quarter consider that it would imperil that point to diminish their force, and open Tennessee to the enemy. General Zollicoffer can not join me, as he guards the Cumberland, and prevents the invasion and possible revolt of East Tennessee.

On June 5th General Johnston was reenforced by the brigades of Floyd and Maney from western Virginia. He also sent a messenger to Richmond to ask that a few regiments might be detached from the several armies in the field, and sent to him to be replaced by new levies. He said: “I do not ask that my force shall be made equal to that of the enemy; but, if possible, it should be raised to fifty thousand men.” Meantime such an appearance of menace had been maintained as led the enemy to believe that our force was large, and that he might be attacked at any time. Frequent and rapid expeditions through the sparsely settled country gave rise to rumors which kept alive this apprehension.

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