Sunday, October 2, 2016

A House Divided: Kentucky during the Civil War

Senator Judge Milton Pope Buster (1824-1864)
When the next senator did not want to replace the void in the Kentucky senate house, Milton, who was already a judge, stepped-up and was sworn in by autumn of 1861, just six months after his father's death. (His father was Joshua Buster, who also was a senator of Kentucky during the 1830's-1850's, and according to the 1860 census, he had 7 people still enslaved.)  Although having Union loyalties during this period, Milton had 3 children enslaved—ages of 4-11 and he served the senate until his death in 1864.  He was only 30 years old at the time of his death.  In the Journal of the Senate, he was mentioned as such: "we are called to mourn the loss of another friend and companion—Judge Milton P. Buster, Senator from Wayne county, departed this life yesterday morning.  In respect for his memory—therefore... the death of Judge Buster the legislator has lost one of its most valuable members and the State a patriotic and enlightened citizen."  The legislature in June 3, 1865, appropriated money to erect a headstone at the grave of Milton Buster.

Private John David Buster (1826-1909) 6th Company Calvary, 3rd Regiment
John was shot in his left foot and received a pension of $12 per month beginning in 1889. The 3rd Regiment Kentucky Volunteer Infantry was an infantry regiment that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. It was organized at Camp Dick Robinson and mustered in for a three-year enlistment on October 8, 1861 under the command of Colonel Thomas Elliott Bramlette. The regiments that were part of the Orphan Brigade, the name came from how the Confederacy viewed its soldiers from Kentucky (which remained in the Union, but was represented by a star in both countries' flags). The term was not in widespread use during the war, but it became popular afterwards among the veterans. The regiment lost a total of 301 men during service; 6 officers and 103 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded, 192 enlisted men died of disease. It mustered out of service at Louisville, Kentucky by company beginning October 13, 1864 and ending January 10, 1865.  After the war, John did not return to Kentucky, moving to Illinois, Missouri, and finally to Kansas where he was finally laid to rest.

BY GARRY ADELMAN WITH MARY BAYS WOODSIDE; HALLOWED GROUND MAGAZINE, SPRING 2010

As one southern state after another seceded between December 1860 and May 1861, Kentucky was torn between loyalty to her sister slave states and its national Union. One month after the opening shots at Fort Sumter in April 1861, Gov. Beriah Magoffin issued a formal proclamation of neutrality and advised Kentuckians to remain at home and away from the fight. Although Magoffin did not believe slavery was a “moral, social, or political evil,” he opposed immediate secession on two fronts. First, he believed the sectional differences could be worked out through mediation. Second, he feared an invasion of Kentucky if the state seceded.

 At the individual level, Kentucky Unionists, largely those who supported Bell and Douglas in the 1860 election, favored neutrality because they disapproved of both southern secession and northern coercion of southern states. Confederate sympathizers backed neutrality because they feared that if Kentucky chose a side, she would choose the Union.

But neutrality in principle was much less complicated than neutrality in practice. Army recruiters from both sides entered Kentucky to enlist volunteers, and each army amassed troops along the state’s borders. Within Kentucky, the rival factions organized militias — Confederate sympathizers called themselves the State Guards, while Unionists became the Home Guards.

The Ohio-Mississippi Connection.
Lincoln, meanwhile, governed Kentucky with a light hand during her neutrality. He worried that any demonstration of force would prompt her secession. For a time, Lincoln even turned a blind eye as Kentucky allowed horses, food and other military supplies and munitions to enter the Confederacy. But just a month after Magoffin proclaimed neutrality, Kentuckians delivered important political victories to the Unionists, when those candidates won nine out 10 of the state’s congressional seats. Later, on August 5, Unionists also won control of the state legislature. Their success was partially due to outspoken claims that the South only wanted Kentucky to stand between it and danger. However, the success was also bolstered by a boycott by pro-Confederates, who refused to participate in elections for a government they did not recognize.

In response to the Unionists’ growing political power, the state’s Southern sympathizers formed a rival Confederate government. On November 18, 200 delegates passed an Ordinance of Secession and established Confederate Kentucky; the following December it was admitted to the Confederacy as a 13th state. The state capital was at Bowling Green, and George W. Johnson — who only supported Kentucky’s secession because he hoped the new balance of power would end the war — became governor. Governor Magoffin eventually resigned and cast his lot with Confederate Kentucky, as did John C. Breckinridge.

Kentucky’s dual governments and military forces caused many divisions between Kentucky families. Kentucky-born statesman John J. Crittenden’s son George was a general in the Confederate Army; his son Thomas was a general for the Union. Robert Breckinridge, John C. Breckinridge’s uncle, had two sons fighting for the North and two for the South. Three grandsons of the late Kentucky statesman Henry Clay fought in Union blue while four fought in Confederate gray.

In total, about 100,000 Kentuckians served in the Union Army. After April 1864, when the Union Army began recruiting African American soldiers in Kentucky, almost 24,000 joined to fight for their freedom. For the Confederacy, between 25,000 and 40,000 Kentuckians answered the call of duty. Their most celebrated unit was the First Kentucky “Orphan” Brigade. The Orphans fought hard on many western battlefields, and their heavy losses — especially in commanders — may have led to their nickname. In mid-1862, Benjamin H. Helm took command of the brigade and led it until his death the following year at the Battle of Chickamauga. Helm was President Lincoln’s brother-in-law.

Invasions, raids and guerrilla warfare worsened toward the war’s end as defiant Confederates rebelled against the Union presence in their state. When Confederate armies finally surrendered in April 1865, one Kentuckian recalled that “pandemonium broke loose and everyone acted as if the world was coming to an end.” But the South’s surrender did not unite a divided Kentucky. Many Kentuckians balked at freedom for blacks, and hatred often prevailed. For the first five months after the Confederate surrender, U.S. troops imposed martial law in Kentucky. Even after the military left, the state was a violent place through the 1860's and beyond. The war’s political aftermath also left the state deeply divided as former Unionists, former Confederates and former Whigs fought bitterly for power.

Post-war Kentucky needed healing. Families, communities and entire regions of the state had been ripped apart by the war, and more than simple animosity was prevalent throughout. Yet as the North and South healed their wounds and settled their differences, surely Kentucky would, as well. For in Kentucky, where such division had resulted from North and South’s convergence, there was also great promise, because, as historian Bruce Catton wrote, “where North and South touched one another most intimately” was also where they “came closest to a mutual understanding.”

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