BY BASIL W. DUKE.
CINCINNATI: MIAMI PRINTING AND PUBLISHING COMPANY, CORNER BEDINGER STREET AND MIAMI CANAL. 1867.
Entered according to Act of Congress in the year eighteen hundred and sixty-six,
By MRS. HENRIETTA MORGAN,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Kentucky, at Covington.
TO THE WOMEN OF KENTUCKY,
FRIENDS AND RELATIVES
OF THE GALLANT MEN WHOSE HEROISM HAS BECOME PART OF THE HISTORIC HERITAGE OF THE STATE,
To the Noble Women of the South,
WHOSE KINDNESS ALLEVIATED THE HARDSHIPS WHICH THESE MEN SO LONG ENDURED, AND FOR WHOSE SAKE THEY WERE PROUD TO SUFFER AND BLEED,
THIS BOOK IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED.
The writer presents to the reading public the narrative of an arduous and adventurous military career, which, commencing at a period but little subsequent to the outbreak of the late civil war, continued through the four eventful years.
He has endeavored to make the work a correct and graphic representation of the kind of warfare of which MORGAN was the author, and in which his men won so much celebrity. Strict accuracy has been attempted in the description of the military operations of which the book is a record, and it is hoped that the incidents related of personal daring and adventure will be read with some interest.
The author regrets that, for reasons easily understood, the book is far less complete than he desired to make it. The very activity of the service performed by MORGAN'S CAVALRY prevented the preservation of data which would be very valuable, and a full account of many important operations is therefore impossible. Limited space, also, forbids the mention of many brave deeds. If many gallant and deserving men were noticed as they deserve, the book could not be readily finished.
To the friends whose contributions assisted the work, the author returns his warmest thanks.
To Mr. MEADE WOODSON, to whom he is indebted for the maps which so perfectly illustrate his narrative, he is especially grateful.
He regrets, too, that many of his old comrades have altogether failed to render him aid, confidently expected, and which would have been very valuable. B.W.D.
History of Morgan's Cavalry—Why written—First enlistments—Popularity of Morgan—Misrepresentation of the press—New uses of cavalry. 9
Early life of General Morgan—His qualities as a commander—His personal qualities. 18
Political condition of Kentucky in 1861—Bewilderment of the people—Camp Dick Robinson—First entrance of Confederate troops. 31
Military situation in the West—Advance to Bowlinggreen—Scarcity of arms—Organization of the army—Want of discipline—Qualities which compensated for its absence. 57
Morgan leaves Lexington—Roger W. Hanson—Service on Green River—Scouting—Our first skirmish—Narrow escape—Terry's Rangers. 88
Retreat from Bowlinggreen—Evacuation of Nashville—Our Fourth Ohio acquaintances—Scouting near Nashville—Morgan holds Murfreesboro'—Dash on Mitchell—Night attack—Capture of Gallatin—Stampede of our pickets—Promotion of Morgan—Concentration at Corinth. 110
Battle of Shiloh—Death of Sidney Johnson—Result of the battle—Expedition into Tennessee—Cotton turning and telegraphing—Defeat at Lebanon—Expedition to Cave City in Kentucky. 138
Reorganization at Chattanooga—First raid into Kentucky—Fight at Tompkinsville—Capture of Lebanon—Telegraphic strategy—Morgan master of the situation—Fight at Cynthiana—Evade the pursuing troops. 169
Capture of Gallatin—Active service near Nashville—Fights at Gallatin and Cairo—Destruction of the railroad—Sojourn at Hartsville—The videttes—Kentuckians running from the draft—"The Vidette." 208
Again on the march for Kentucky—Bushwhacking experience—The Confederate army enters the State—Service in front of Covington—Efforts to embarrass the retreat of the Federal General Morgan—Fight at Augusta—Retreat of the army from Kentucky—Morgan captures Lexington. 229
Morgan's retreat through Southwestern Kentucky—At Gallatin again—Scouting and ambuscades—Driven from Gallatin—A week's fighting around Lebanon—Battle of Hartsville. 282
December raid into Kentucky—Capture of Elizabethtown—Fighting at the Rolling Fork—Escape from the toils. 317
Service during the winter of '63 and '64—Cluke's raid into Kentucky—Battle of Milton—Defeat at Snow's Hill. 344
Service in Tennessee, and on the Cumberland in Kentucky—Fight at Greasy Creek—Active scouting—The division starts for the Ohio—Crossing of the Cumberland in the face of the enemy—Fights at Columbia, Green River and Lebanon—Crossing the Ohio—The militia objecting—Fight with the gunboats—March through Indiana and Ohio—Detour around Cincinnati—Defeat at Buffington. 388
Life in prison—Escape of Morgan from the Ohio Penitentiary—Exchange at Charleston. 463
Services of the remnant of Morgan's command while their General was in prison—Reception of General Morgan by the people of the South—He is assigned to command in Southwestern Virginia—Fight with Averill—Action at Dublin Depot—Last raid into Kentucky—Capture of Mt. Sterling—Severe engagement next day—Capture of Lexington—Success at Cynthiana—Defeat at Cynthiana—Retreat from Kentucky. 507
Death of Morgan—Grief of his men—Subsequent active service of his old command—Hard fight at Bull's Gap—A battle by moonlight, and a night-long chase—The Stoneman raid—Disaster at Kingsport—Fighting the enemy and the elements—Battle of Marion—Winter quarters at Abingdon—March to Charlotte after Lee's surrender—Escort to Jefferson Davis after Johnston's surrender—The last Council of War—Surrender at Woodstock. 529
In undertaking to write the history of General Morgan's services, and of the command which he created, it is but fair that I shall acknowledge myself influenced, in a great measure, by the feelings of the friend and the follower; that I desire, if I can do so by relating facts, of most of which I am personally cognizant, to perpetuate his fame, and, at the same time, establish the true character of a body of men, who recruited and inured to war by him, served bravely and faithfully to the close of the great struggle. It may be that credence will be given with hesitation to the statements of one, who thus candidly confesses that personal regard for his chief, and esprit-de-corps mainly induce him to attempt the task I propose to myself. To all works of this nature, nevertheless, the same objection will apply, or the more serious one, that they owe their production to the inspiration of hatred, and those who have witnessed and participated in the events which they describe, must (under this rule), for that very reason, be denied belief.
General Morgan's career during the late war was so remarkable, that it is not surprising that the public, accustomed to the contradictory newspaper versions of his exploits, should be disposed to receive all accounts of it with some incredulity.
It was so rapid, so crowded with exciting incidents, appealed so strongly to the passions and elicited so constantly the comments of both sides, that contemporary accounts of his operations were filled with mistakes and exaggerations, and it is natural that some should be expected in any history of his campaigns, although written after the strife is all over.
Convinced, however, that, if properly understood, his reputation will be greater in history than with his contemporaries, and believing that the story of his military life will be a contribution not altogether valueless to that record which the Southern people, in justice to themselves and their dead, must yet publish, I can permit no minor consideration to deter me from furnishing correct, and, I deem, important information, which my relations, personal and official, with General Morgan enabled me to obtain. A correct representation of a certain series of events sometimes leads to a correct understanding of many more, and if the vail which prejudice and deliberate unscrupulous falsification have thrown over some features of the contest be lifted, a truer appreciation may perhaps be had of others of greater moment and interest. I may add that, as no one has been more bitterly assailed, not only while living but even after death, than General Morgan, so no man's memory should be more peculiarly the subject of vindication and protection to his friends.
But there are also other and cogent reasons why this tribute should be rendered him by some one, who, devoted to the interests of the living chieftain, is sensitive regarding the reputation he has left. The cruel ingratitude which embittered the last days of his life, has made his memory all the dearer to the many who were true and constant in their love and esteem for him, and they feel that he should be justly depicted. The fame which he desired will be accorded him; the reward for which he strove is his already, in the affection of the people by whom he hoped and deserved that the kindest recollections of him should be cherished and the warmest eulogies pronounced. In the glory won, in the tremendous and unequal struggle, in the pride with which they speak the names of the dead heroes whose martyrdom illustrated it, the Southern people possess treasures of which no conqueror can deprive them.
A man who, like General Morgan, uninfluenced by the public opinion of the State in which he resided, yet surrendered fortune, home and friends to assist the people of the South when embarked in the desperate and vital strife which their action had provoked, because sharing their blood and their convictions, he thought that they had an imperative claim upon his services; who pledged his all to their cause, and identified his name with every phase of the contest, until his death became an event of the last and most bitter—such a man can never be forgotten by them. It is impossible that the memory of his services can ever fade from their minds.
In the beautiful land for which he fought and died, the traditions which will indicate the spots where he struck her foes, will also preserve his name in undying affection and honor. The men of the generation which knew him can forget him only when they forget the fate from which he strove to save them; his name belongs to the history of the race, and it can not die.
A narrative of the operations of a command composed, in great part, of Kentuckians, must possess some interest for the people of their own State. So general and intense was the interest which Morgan excited among the young men of the State, that he obtained recruits from every county, numbers running every risk to join him, when no other leader could enlist a man. The whole State was represented in his command. Many Kentuckians who had enlisted in regiments from other States procured transfers to his command, and it frequently happened that men, the bulk of whose regiments were in prison, or who had become irregularly detached from them by some of the many accidents by which the volunteer, weary of monotony, is prompt to take advantage, would attach themselves to and serve temporarily with it. Probably every native citizen of Kentucky who will read these lines, will think of some relative or friend who at some time served with Morgan. Men of even the strictest "Union principles," whose loyalty has always been unimpeachable, and whose integrity (as disinterested and as well assured as their patriotism) forbids all suspicion that they were inclined to serve two masters, have had to furnish aid in this way to the rebellion. Frequently after these gentlemen had placed in the Federal army substitutes, white or black, for loyal sons of unmilitary temperaments, other sons, rebellious, and more enterprising, would elect to represent the family in some one of Morgan's regiments. It is not unlikely, then, that a record of these men, written by one who has had every opportunity of learning the true story of every important and interesting event which he did not witness, may be favorably received by the people of Kentucky. The class of readers who will be gratified by an account of such adventures as will be herein related, will readily forgive any lack of embellishment. My practical countrymen prefer the recital of substantial facts, and the description of scenes which their own experience enables them to appreciate, to all the fictions of which the Northern war literature has been so prolific.
The popular taste in Kentucky and the South does not require the fabulous and romantic; less educated and more primitive than that of the North, it rejects even the beautiful, if also incredible, and is more readily satisfied with plain statements, supported by evidence, or intrinsically probable, than with the most fascinating legend, although illustrated with sketches by special artists.
There rests, too, upon some one identified with this command, the obligation of denying and disproving the frequent and grave charges of crime and outrage which have been preferred against General Morgan and his soldiers. So persistently have these accusations been made, that at one time an avowal of "belonging to Morgan" was thought, even in Kentucky, tantamount to a confession of murder and highway robbery. To this day, doubtless, the same impression prevails in the North, and yet, when it is considered how it was produced, it is surprising that it should or could last so long.
The newspapers are of course responsible for it, as for every other opinion entertained at any time by the Northern public.
It will repay any one who will take the trouble to examine the files of these papers printed during the war, if he desires a curious entertainment. Among many willful misrepresentations of Morgan's as well as of other Confederate commands, many statements palpably false, and regarding events of which the writers could not possibly have obtained correct information, will be found under the most astounding captions, proclaiming the commission of "unheard of atrocities" and "guerrilla outrages," accounts of Morgan having impressed horses or taken forage and provisions from Union men, while highly facetious descriptions of house-burning, jewelry snatching, and a thorough sacking of premises are chronicled, without one word of condemnation, under the heading of "frolics of the boys in blue." In thus referring to the manner in which the Northern newspapers mentioned the respective combatants whose deeds their reporters pretended to record, I have no wish to provoke a renewal of the wordy war.
The Southern journals were undoubtedly sufficiently denunciatory, although they did not always seem to consider a bad deed sanctified because done by their friends. Nor have I any intention of denying that inexcusable excesses were committed at various times by men of Morgan's command. I freely admit that we had men in our ranks whose talents and achievements could have commanded respect even among the "Bummers." There were others, too, whose homes had been destroyed and property "confiscated," whose families had been made to "feel the war," who were incited by an unholy spirit of revenge to commit acts as well worth relation, as any of those for which the "weekly" of his native township has duly lauded the most industrious Federal raider, actuated by a legitimate desire of pleasure or gain. It will not be difficult to prove that such practices met with rebuke from General Morgan and his officers, and that they were not characteristic of his command. There are other impressions about Morgan and "Morgan's men" which I shall endeavor to correct, as, although by no means so serious as those just mentioned, they are not at all just to the reputation of either leader or followers. It is a prevalent opinion that his troops were totally undisciplined and unaccustomed to the instruction and restraint which form the soldier. They were, to be sure, far below the standard of regular troops in these respects, and doubtless they were inferior in many particulars of drill and organization to some carefully-trained bodies of cavalry, Confederate and Federal, which were less constantly and actively engaged in service on the front.
But these essential requisites to efficiency were by no means neglected or in a great degree lacking. The utmost care was exercised in the organization of every regiment to place the best men in office—General Morgan frequently interfering, for that purpose, in a manner warranted neither by the regulations nor the acts of congress. No opportunity was neglected to attain proficiency in the tactics which experience had induced us to adopt, and among officers and men there was a perfect appreciation of the necessity of strict subordination, prompt unquestioning obedience to superiors, and an active, vigilant discharge of all the duties which devolve upon the soldier in the vicinity or presence of the enemy.
I do not hesitate to say that "Morgan's Division," in its best days, would have lost nothing (in points of discipline and instruction) by comparison with any of the fine cavalry commands, which did constant service, of the Confederate army, and the testimony of more than one inspecting officer can be cited to that effect. More credit, too, has been given General Morgan for qualities and ability which constitute a good spy, or successful partisan to lead a handful of men, than for the very decided military talents which he possessed. He is most generally thought to have been in truth, the "Guerrilla Chief," which the Northern press entitled and strove to prove him. It will not be difficult to disabuse the minds of military men (or, indeed, intelligent men of any class) of this impression. It will be only necessary to review his campaigns and give the reasons which induced his movements, to furnish an authentic and thorough statement of facts, and, as far as practicable, an explanation of attendant circumstances, and it will be seen that he had in an eminent degree many of the highest and most necessary qualities of the General.
An even cursory study of Morgan's record will convince the military reader, that the character he bore with those who served with him was deserved.
That while circumspect and neglectful of no precaution to insure success or avert disaster, he was extremely bold in thought and action. That using every means to obtain extensive and accurate information (attempting no enterprise of importance without it), and careful in the consideration of every contingency, he was yet marvelously quick to combine and to revolve, and so rapid and sudden in execution, as frequently to confound both friends and enemies.
And above all, once convinced, he never hesitated to act; he would back his judgment against every hazard, and with every resource at his command.
Whatever merit be allowed or denied General Morgan, he is beyond all question entitled to the credit of having discovered uses for cavalry, or rather mounted infantry, to which that arm was never applied before. While other cavalry officers were adhering to the traditions of former wars, and the systems of the schools, however inapplicable to the demands of their day and the nature of the struggle, he originated and perfected, not only a system of tactics, a method of fighting and handling men in the presence of the enemy, but also a strategy as effective as it was novel.
Totally ignorant of the art of war as learned from the books and in the academies; an imitator in nothing; self taught in all that he knew and did, his success was not more marked than his genius.
The creator and organizer of his own little army—with a force which at no time reached four thousand—he killed and wounded nearly as many of the enemy, and captured more than fifteen thousand. The author of the far-reaching "raid," so different from the mere cavalry dash, he accomplished with his handful of men results which would otherwise have required armies and the costly preparations of regular and extensive campaigns.
I shall endeavor to show the intimate connection between his operations and those of the main army in each department where he served, and the strategic importance of even his apparently rashest and most purposeless raids, when considered with reference to their bearing upon the grand campaigns of the West. When the means at his disposal, the difficulties with which he had to contend, and the results he effected are well understood, it will be conceded that his reputation with the Southern soldiery was not undeserved, and that to rank with the best of the many active and excellent cavalry officers of the West, to have had, confessedly, no equal among them except in Forrest, argues him to have possessed no common ability. The design of this work may in part fail, because of the inability of one so little accustomed to the labors of authorship to present his subject in the manner that it deserves; but the theme is one sure to be interesting and impressive however treated, and materials may, in this way be preserved for abler pens and more extensive works.
The apparent egotism in the constant use of the first person will, I trust, be excused by the explanation that I write of matters and events known almost entirely from personal observation, reports of subordinate officers to myself, or personal knowledge of reports made directly to General Morgan, and that, serving for a considerable period as his second in command, it was necessarily my duty to see to the execution of his plans, and I enjoyed a large share of his confidence.
For the spirit in which it is written, I have only to say that I have striven to be candid and accurate; to that sort of impartiality which is acquired at the expense of a total divestiture of natural feeling, I can lay no claim.
A Southern man, once a Confederate soldier—always thoroughly Southern in sentiments and feeling, I can, of course, write only a Southern account of what I saw in the late war, and as such what is herein written must be received.
John Hunt Morgan was born at Huntsville, Alabama, on the first day of June, 1825. His father, Calvin C. Morgan, was a native of Virginia, and a distant relative of Daniel Morgan, the rebel general of revolutionary fame. In early manhood, Mr. Morgan followed the tide of emigration flowing from Virginia to the West, and commenced life as a merchant in Alabama. In 1823, he married the daughter of John W. Hunt, of Lexington, Kentucky, one of the wealthiest and most successful merchants of the State, and one whose influence did much to develope the prosperity of that portion of it in which he resided.
Mr. Morgan is described by all who knew him as a gentleman whom it was impossible to know and not to respect and esteem. His character was at once firm and attractive, but he possessed neither the robust constitution nor the adventurous and impetuous spirit which characterized other members of his family. He was quiet and studious in his habits, and although fond of the society of his friends, he shunned every species of excitement. When failing health, and, perhaps, a distaste for mercantile pursuits induced him to relinquish them, he removed with his family to Kentucky (his son John was then four years old), and purchased a farm near Lexington, upon which he lived until a few years before his death.
John H. Morgan was reared in Kentucky, and lived in Lexington from his eighteenth year until the fall of 1861, when he joined the Confederate army. There was nothing in his boyhood, of which any record has been preserved, to indicate the distinction he was to win, and neither friends nor enemies can deduce from anecdotes of his youthful life arguments of any value in support of the views which they respectively entertain of his character. In this respect, also, he displayed his singular originality of character, and he is about the only instance in modern times (if biographies are to be believed) of a distinguished man who had not, as a boy, some presentiment of his future, and did not conduct himself accordingly.
When nineteen he enlisted for the "Mexican War" and was elected First Lieutenant of Captain Beard's company, in Colonel Marshall's regiment of cavalry. He served in Mexico for eighteen months, but did not, he used to say, see much of "war" during that time. He was, however, at the battle of Buena Vista, in which fight Colonel Marshall's regiment was hotly engaged, and his company, which was ably led, suffered severely. Soon after his return home he married Miss Bruce, of Lexington, a sweet and lovely lady, who, almost from the day of her wedding, was a confirmed and patient invalid and sufferer. Immediately after his marriage, he entered energetically into business—was industrious, enterprising and prosperous, and at the breaking out of the war in 1861, he was conducting in Lexington two successful manufactories. Every speculation and business enterprise in which he engaged succeeded, and he had acquired a very handsome property. This he left, when he went South, to the mercy of his enemies, making no provision whatever for its protection, and apparently caring not at all what became of it. As he left some debts unsettled, his loyal creditors soon disposed of it with the aid of the catch-rebel attachment law.
When quite a young man he had two or three personal difficulties in Lexington, in one of which he was severely wounded. To those who recollect the tone of society in Kentucky at that day, it will be no matter of astonishment to learn that a young man of spirit became engaged in such affairs. His antagonists, however, became, subsequently, his warm friends. The stigmas upon General Morgan's social standing, so frequent in the Northern press, need not be noticed. Their falsity was always well known in Kentucky and the South.
The calumnies, so widely circulated regarding his private life, must be noticed, or the duty of the biographer would be neglected in an important particular. And yet, except to positively deny every thing which touched his integrity as a man and his honor as a gentleman, it would seem that there is nothing for his biographer to do in this respect. The wealth at the disposal of the Federal Government attracted into its service all the purchasable villainy of the press—North and South. It was not even necessary for the Government to bid for them—they volunteered to perform, gratis, in the hope of future reward. To undertake a refutation of every slander broached by this gang against a man, so constantly a theme for all tongues and pens, as was Morgan, would be an impossible, even if it were a necessary, task. It is enough to say that he was celebrated, and therefore he was belied. General Morgan was certainly no "saint"—his friends may claim that he had no right to that title and not the slightest pretension to it. While he respected true piety in other men, and, as those who knew him intimately will well remember, evinced on all occasions a profound and unaffected veneration for religion, he did not profess, nor did he regulate his life by religious convictions. Like the great majority of the men of his class—the gentlemen of the South—he lived freely, and the amusements he permitted himself would, doubtless, have shocked a New Englander almost as much as the money he spent in obtaining them. Even had the manners of the people among whom he lived have made it politic to conceal carefully every departure from straight-laced morality, he, of all men, would have been the least likely to do so, for he scorned hypocrisy as he did every species of meanness. To sum up, General Morgan, with the virtues, had some of the faults of his Southern blood and country, and he sought so little to extenuate the latter himself, that it may be presumed that he cared not the least whether or no they were recorded.
While no censure can, of course, be directed against those who slandered him, as they did others, for hire—and it would be as absurd in this age and country, to gravely denounce the lie-coiners of the press, as to waste time in impeaching the false witnesses that figure before military commissions—nevertheless, as justice ought to be done to all, it should be remarked that among the respectable people who furtively gave currency to every story to his injury were some who owed their power to harm him to the generosity of his grandfather, who loved to assist all sorts of merit, but was particularly partial to manual skill.
The qualities in General Morgan, which would have attracted most attention in private life, were an exceeding gentleness of disposition and unbounded generosity. His kindness and goodness of heart were proverbial. His manner, even after he had become accustomed to command, was gentle and kind, and no doubt greatly contributed to acquire him the singular popularity which he enjoyed long before he had made his military reputation. The strong will and energy which he always displayed might not have elicited much notice, had not the circumstances in which the war placed him developed and given them scope for exercise. But his affection for the members of his family and his friends, the generosity which prompted him to consult their wishes at the expense of any sacrifice of his own, his sensitive regard for the feelings of others, even of those in whom he felt least interest, and his rare charity for the failings of the weak, made up a character which, even without an uncommon destiny, would have been illustrious.
His benevolence was so well known in Lexington, that to "go to Captain Morgan" was the first thought of every one who wished to inaugurate a charitable enterprise, and his business house was a rendezvous for all the distressed, and a sort of "intelligence office" for the poor seeking employment. His temper was cheerful and frequently gay; no man more relished pleasantry and mirth in the society of his friends, with whom his manner was free and even at times jovial; but he never himself indulged in personal jests nor familiarities, nor did he permit them from his most intimate associates; to attempt them with him gave him certain and lasting offense. There was never a more sanguine man; with him to live was to hope and to dare. Yet while rarely feeling despondency and never despair, he did not deceive himself with false or impossible expectations. He was quick to perceive the real and the practical, and while enterprising in the extreme he was not in the least visionary. His nerve, his powers of discrimination, the readiness with which he could surrender schemes found to be impracticable, if by chance he became involved in them, and his energy and close attention to his affairs, made him very successful in business, and undoubtedly the same qualities, intensified by the demand that war made upon them, contributed greatly to his military success.
But it can not be denied that not only the reputation which he won, but the talent which he displayed, astonished none more than his old friends. He would, I think, have been regarded as a remarkable man under any circumstances, by all who would have intimately known him, but he was born to be great in the career in which he was so successful. It is true that war fully developed many qualities which had been observed in him previously, and (surest sign of real capacity) he to the last continued to grow with every call that was made upon him. But he manifested an aptitude for the peculiar service in which he acquired so much distinction, an instinctive appreciation of the requisites for success, and a genius for command, which made themselves immediately recognized, but which no one had expected. Nature had certainly endowed him with some gifts which she very rarely bestows, and which give the soldier who has them vast advantages; a quickness of perception and of thought, amounting almost to intuition, an almost unerring sagacity in foreseeing the operations of an adversary and in calculating the effect of his own movements upon him, wonderful control over men, as individuals and in masses, and moral courage and energy almost preternatural.
He did not seem to reason like other men, at least no one could discover the logical process, if there was one, by which his conclusions were reached. His mind worked most accurately when it worked most rapidly, and sight or sound were scarcely so swift as were its operations in an emergency.
This peculiar faculty and habit of thought enabled him to plan with a rapidity almost inconceivable. Apparently his combinations were instantaneously commenced and perfected, and, if provided with the necessary information, he matured on enterprise almost as soon as he conceived it. His language and manner were often very expressive of this peculiar constitution of mind. In consultation with those whom he admitted to his confidence, he never cared to hear arguments, he would listen only to opinions. In stating his plans, he entered into no explanations, and his expressions of his views and declaration of his purposes sounded like predictions. At such times his speech would become hurried and vehement, and his manner excited but remarkably impressive.
He evidently felt the most thorough and intense conviction himself, and he seldom failed to convince his hearers. Advice volunteered, even by those he most liked and relied on, was never well received, and when he asked counsel of them he required that it should be concise and definite, and resented hesitation or evasion. Without being in the ordinary sense of the term an excellent judge of character, he possessed, in a greater degree than any of his military associates, the faculty of judging how various circumstances (especially the events and vicissitudes of war) would affect other men, and of anticipating in all contingencies their thoughts and action. He seemed, if I may use such expressions, capable of imagining himself exactly in the situations of other men, of identifying his own mind with theirs, and thinking what they thought. He could certainly, with more accuracy than any one, divine the plans and wishes of an enemy. This was universally remarked, and he exhibited it, not only in correctly surmising the intentions of his own immediate opponents, but also in the opinions which he gave regarding the movements of the grand armies. He sought all the information which could however remotely affect his interests and designs with untiring avidity, and the novel and ingenious expedients he sometimes resorted to in order to obtain it, would perhaps furnish materials for the most interesting chapter of his history. It was a common saying among his men, that "no lawyer can cross-examine like General Morgan," and indeed the skill with which he could elicit intelligence from the evasive or treacherous answers of men unwilling to aid, or seeking to deceive him, was only less astonishing than the confidence with which he would act upon information so acquired. In army phrase, he was a capital "judge of information," that is, he could almost infallibly detect the true from the false, and determine the precise value of all that he heard. His quickness and accuracy, in this respect, amounted almost to another sense; reports, which to others appeared meager and unsatisfactory, and circumstances devoid of meaning to all but himself, frequently afforded him a significant and lively understanding of the matters which he wished to know.
He had another faculty which is very essential to military success, indispensably necessary, at any rate, to a cavalry commander who acts independently and at such distances from any base or support as he almost constantly did. I believe the English term it, having "a good eye for a country." It is the faculty of rapidly acquiring a correct idea of the nature and peculiar features of any country in which military operations are to be conducted. He neglected nothing that a close study of maps and careful inquiry could furnish of this sort of knowledge, but after a brief investigation or experience, he generally had a better understanding of the subject than either map-makers or natives could give him.
However imperfect might be his acquaintance with a country, it was nearly impossible for a guide to deceive him. What he had once learned in this respect he never forgot. A road once traveled was always afterward familiar to him, with distances, localities and the adjacent country. Thus, always having in his mind a perfect idea of the region where he principally operated, he could move with as much facility and confidence (when there) without maps and guides as with them. His favorite strategy, in his important expeditions or "raids," was to place himself by long and swift marches—moving sometimes for days and nights without a halt except to feed the horses—in the very heart of the territory where were the objects of his enterprise. He relied upon this method to confuse if not to surprise his enemy, and prevent a concentration of his forces. He would then strike right and left. He rarely declined upon such expeditions to fight when advancing, for it was his theory that then, a concentration of superior forces against him was more difficult, and that the vigor of his enemy was to a certain extent paralyzed by the celerity of his own movements and the mystery which involved them. But after commencing his retreat, he would use every effort and stratagem to avoid battle, fearing that while fighting one enemy others might also overtake him, and believing that at such times the morale of his own troops was somewhat impaired. No leader could make more skillful use of detachments. He would throw them out to great distances, even when surrounded by superior and active forces, and yet in no instance was one of them (commanded by a competent officer and who obeyed instructions) overwhelmed or cut off. It very rarely happened that they failed to accomplish the purposes for which they were dispatched, or to rejoin the main body in time to assist in decisive action. He could widely separate and apparently scatter his forces, and yet maintain such a disposition of them as to have all well in hand. When pushing into the enemy's lines he would send these detachments in every direction, until it was impossible to conjecture his real intentions—causing, generally, the shifting of troops from point to point as each was threatened; until the one he wished to attack was weakened, when he would strike at it like lightning.
He was a better strategist than tactician. He excelled in the arts which enable a commander to make successful campaigns and gain advantages without much fighting, rather than in skillful maneuvering on the field.
He knew how to thoroughly confuse and deceive an enemy, and induce in him (as he desired) false confidence or undue caution; how to isolate and persuade or compel him to surrender without giving battle; and he could usually manage, although inferior to the aggregate of the hostile forces around him, to be stronger or as strong at the point and moment of encounter.
The tactics he preferred, when he chose to fight, were attempts at surprise and a concentration of his strength for headlong dashing attacks.
To this latter method there were some objections. These attacks were made with a vigor, and inspired in the men a reckless enthusiasm, which generally rendered them successful. But if the enemy was too strong, or holding defensible positions, was resolute and stubborn in resistance, and the first two or three rushes failed to drive him, the attack was apt to fail altogether, and the reaction was correspondent to the energy of the onset.
He did not display so much ability when operating immediately with the army, as when upon detached service. He would not hesitate to remain for days closely confronting the main forces of the enemy, keeping his videttes constantly in sight of his cantonments, observing his every movement, and attacking every detachment and foraging party which he could expect to defeat. But when a grand advance of the enemy was commenced he preferred making a timely and long retreat, followed by a dash in some quarter where he was not expected, rather than to stubbornly contest their progress.
He could actively and efficiently harass a retreating army, multiplying and continuing his assaults until he seemed ubiquitous; but he was not equally efficient in covering a retreat or retarding an advance in force. Upon one or two occasions, when the emergency was imminent, he performed this sort of service cheerfully and well, but he did not like it, nor was he eminently fitted for it. He had little of that peculiar skill with which Forrest would so wonderfully embarrass an enemy's advance, and contesting every inch of his march, and pressing upon him if he hesitated or receded, convert every mistake that he made into a disaster.
In attempting a delineation of General Morgan's character, mention ought not to be omitted of certain peculiarities, which to some extent, affected his military and official conduct.
Although by no means a capricious or inconsistent man, for he entertained profound convictions and adhered to opinions with a tenacity that often amounted to prejudice, he frequently acted very much like one.
Not even those who knew him best could calculate how unusual occurrences would affect him, or induce him to act.
It frequently happened that men for whose understandings and characters he had little respect, but who were much about his person, obtained a certain sort of influence with him, but they could keep it only by a complete acquiescence in his will when it became aroused. He sometimes permitted and even encouraged suggestions from all around him, listening to the most contradictory opinions with an air of thorough acquiescence in all. It was impossible, on such occasions, to determine whether this was done to flatter the speakers, to mislead as to his real intentions, or if he was in fact undecided.
He generally ended such moments of doubt by his most original and unexpected resolutions, which he would declare exactly as if they were suggestions just made by some one else, almost persuading the parties to whom they were attributed that they had really advanced them. In his judgment of the men with whom he had to deal, he showed a strange mixture of shrewdness and simplicity. He seldom failed to discern and to take advantage of the ruling characteristics of those who approached him, and he could subsidize the knowledge and talents of other men with rare skill. He especially excelled in judging men collectively. He knew exactly how to appeal to the feelings of his men, to excite their enthusiasm, and stimulate them to dare any danger and endure any fatigue and hardship. But he sometimes committed the gravest errors in his estimation of individual character. He more than once imposed implicit confidence in men whom no one else would have trusted, and suffered himself to be deceived by the shallowest imposters. He obtained credit for profound insight into character by his possession of another and very different quality. The unbounded influence he at once acquired over almost every one who approached him, enabled him to make men do the most uncharacteristic things, and created the impression that he discovered traits of character hidden from others.
General Morgan had more of those personal qualities which make a man's friends devoted to him, than any one I have ever known.
He was himself very warm and constant in the friendships which he formed. It seemed impossible for him to do enough for those to whom he was attached, or to ever give them up. His manner when he wished, prepossessed every one in his favor. He was generally more courteous and attentive to his inferiors than to his equals and superiors. This may have proceeded in a great measure from his jealousy of dictation and impatience of restraint, but was the result also of warm and generous feelings. His greatest faults, arose out of his kindness and easiness of disposition, which rendered it impossible for him to say or do unpleasant things, unless when under the influence of strong prejudice or resentment. This temperament made him a too lax disciplinarian, and caused him to be frequently imposed upon. He was exceedingly and unfeignedly modest. For a long time he sought, in every way, to avoid the applause and ovations which met him every where in the South, and he never learned to keep a bold countenance when receiving them.
It was distressing to see him called on (as was of course often the case) for a speech—nature certainly never intended that he should win either fame or bread by oratory.
When complimented for any achievement he always gave the credit of it to some favorite officer, or attributed it to the excellence of his troops. Nothing seemed to give him more sincere pleasure than to publicly acknowledge meritorious service in a subaltern officer or private, and he would do it in a manner that made it a life long remembrance with the recipient of the compliment.
When displeased, he rarely reprimanded, but expressed his displeasure by satirically complimenting the offender; frequently the only evidence of dissatisfaction which he would show was a peculiar smile, which was exceeding significant, and any thing but agreeable to the individual conscious of having offended him.
His personal appearance and carriage were striking and graceful. His features were eminently handsome and adapted to the most pleasing expressions. His eyes were small, of a grayish blue color, and their glances keen and thoughtful. His figure on foot or on horseback was superb.
He was exactly six feet in hight, and although not at all corpulent, weighed one hundred and eighty-five pounds.
His form was perfect and the rarest combination of strength, activity and grace. His constitution seemed impervious to the effects of privation and exposure, and it was scarcely possible to perceive that he suffered from fatigue or lack of sleep. After marching for days and nights without intermission, until the hardiest men in his division were exhausted, I have known him, as soon as a halt was called, and he could safely leave his command, ride fifty miles to see his wife. Although a most practical man in all of his ideas, he irresistibly reminded one of the heroes of romance. He seemed the Fra-Moreale come to life again, and, doubtless, was as much feared and as bitterly denounced as was that distinguished officer.
Men are not often born who can wield such an influence as he exerted, apparently without an effort—who can so win men's hearts and stir their blood. He will, at least, be remembered until the Western cavalrymen and their children have all died. The bold riders who live in the border-land, whose every acre he made historic, will leave many a story of his audacity and wily skill. They will name but one man as his equal, "The wizard of the saddle," the man of revolutionary force and fire, strong, sagacious, indomitable Forrest, and the two will go down in tradition together, twin-brothers in arms and in fame.
The position assumed by Kentucky, at the inception of the late struggle, and her conduct throughout, excited the surprise, and, in no small degree, incurred for her the dislike of both the contending sections.
But while both North and South, at some time, doubted her good faith and complained of her action, all such sentiments have been entirely forgotten by the latter, and have become intensified into bitter and undisguised animosity upon the part of a large share of the population of the former.
The reason is patent. It is the same which, during the war, influenced the Confederates to hope confidently for large assistance from Kentucky, if once enabled to obtain a foothold upon her territory, and caused the Federals, on the other hand, to regard even the loudest and most zealous professors of loyalty as Secessionists in disguise, or, at best, Unionists only to save their property. It is the instinctive feeling that the people of Kentucky, on account of kindred blood, common interests, and identity of ideas in all that relates to political rights and the objects of political institutions, may be supposed likely to sympathize and to act with the people of the South. But a variety of causes and influences combined to prevent Kentucky from taking a decided stand with either of the combatants, and produced the vacillation and inconsistency which so notably characterized her councils and paralyzed her efforts in either direction, and, alas, it may be added, so seriously affected her fair fame.
Her geographical situation, presenting a frontier accessible for several hundreds of miles to an assailant coming either from the North or South, caused her people great apprehension, especially as it was accounted an absolute certainty that her territory (if she took part with the South) would be made the battle-ground and subjected to the last horrors and desolation of war. The political education of the Kentuckians, also, disposed them to enter upon such a contest with extreme reluctance and hesitation.
Originally a portion of Virginia, settled chiefly by emigration from that State, her population partook of the characteristics and were imbued with the feelings which so strongly prevailed in the mother commonwealth.
From Virginia, the first generation of Kentucky statesmen derived those opinions which became the political creed of the Southern people, and were promulgated in the celebrated resolutions of '98, which gave shape and consistency to the doctrine of States' Rights, and popular expression to that construction of the relations of the several States to the General Government (under the Federal Constitution), so earnestly insisted upon by the master-minds of Virginia. The earlier population of Kentucky was peculiarly inclined to adopt and cherish such opinions, by the promptings of that nature which seems common to all men descended from the stock of the "Old Dominion," that craving for the largest individual independence, and disposition to assert and maintain in full measure every personal right, which has always made the people of the Southern and Western States so jealous of outside interference with their local affairs. It was natural that a people, animated by such a spirit, should push their preference for self-government even to extremes; that they should esteem their most valued franchises only safe when under their own entire custody and control; that they should prefer that their peculiar institutions should be submitted only to domestic regulation, and that the personal liberty, which they prized above all their possessions, should be restrained only by laws enacted by legislators chosen from among themselves, and executed by magistrates equally identified with themselves and appreciative of their instincts.
In short, they were strongly attached to their State Governments, and were not inclined to regard as beneficent, nor, even exactly legitimate, any interference with them, upon the part of the General Government, and desired to see the powers of the latter exercised only for the "common defense and general welfare."
Without presuming to declare them correct or erroneous, it may be safely asserted that such were the views which prevailed in Kentucky at a period a little subsequent to her settlement.
This decided and almost universal sentiment was first shaken, and the minds of the people began to undergo some change, about the time of, and doubtless in consequence of, the detection of the Burr conspiracy. Burr had been identified with the party which advocated the extreme State Rights doctrines, and his principal confederates were men of the same political complexion.
The utter uselessness of his scheme, even if successful, and the little prospect of any benefit accruing from it, unless to the leading adventurers, had disposed all the more sober minded to regard it with distrust. And when it became apparent that it had been concocted for the gratification of one man's ambition, the very people whom it had been part of the plan to flatter with hopes of the most brilliant advantages, immediately conceived for it the most intense aversion.
The odium into which Burr and his associates immediately fell, became, in some measure, attached to the political school to which they had belonged, and men's minds began to be unsettled upon the very political tenets, in the propriety and validity of which they had previously so implicitly believed. The able Federalist leaders in the State, pursued and improved the advantage thus offered them, and for the first time in the history of Kentucky, that party showed evidence of ability to cope with its rival. Doubtless, also, the effect of Mr. Madison's attempt to explain away the marrow and substance of the famous resolutions, which told so injuriously against the State Rights party every where, contributed, at a still later day, to weaken that party in Kentucky; but the vital change in the political faith of Kentucky, was wrought by Henry Clay. All previous interruptions to the opinions which she had acquired as her birthright from Virginia, were but partial, and would have been ephemeral, but the spell which the great magician cast over his people was like the glamour of mediaeval enchantment. It bound them in helpless but delighted acquiescence in the will of the master. Their vision informed them, not of objects as they were, but as he willed that they should seem, and his patients received, at his pleasure and with equal confidence, the true or the unreal. In fact, the undoubted patriotism and spotless integrity of Mr. Clay, so aided the effect of his haughty will and superb genius, that his influence amounted to fascination. Although himself, in early life, an advocate of the principles of (what has been since styled) the Jeffersonian school of Democracy, he became gradually, but thoroughly, weaned from his first opinions, and a convert to the dogmas of the school of politics which he had once so ably combatted. The author of the American System, the advocate of the United States Bank, the champion of the New England manufacturing and commercial interests, with their appropriate and necessary train of protective tariffs, bounties and monopolies, could have little sympathy with the ideas that the several States could, and should, protect and develope their own interests without Federal assistance, that the General Government was the servant of all the States and not the guardian and dry nurse of a few—the doctrine, in short, of "State Sovereignty and Federal Agency." Mr. Clay fairly and emphatically announced his political faith in word and deed. He declared that he "owed a paramount allegiance to the whole Union: a subordinate one to his own State," and, throughout the best part of his long political life, he wrought faithfully for interests distinct from, if not adverse to, those of his own State and section. His influence, however, in his own State, has determined, perhaps forever, her destiny. If he did not educate the people of Kentucky (as has been so often charged) to "defer principle to expediency," he at least taught them to study the immediate policy rather than the ultimate effect of every measure that they were called to consider, and to seek the material prosperity of the hour at the expense, even, of future safety. He taught his generation to love the Union, not as an "agency" through which certain benefits were to be derived, but as an "end" which was to be adhered to, no matter what results flowed from it.
Mr. Clay sincerely believed that in the union of the States resided the surest guarantees of the safety, honor, and prosperity of each, and he contemplated with horror and aversion any thought of disunion. His own lofty and heroic nature could harbor no feeling which was not manly and brave, but, in striving to stimulate and fortify in his people the same love of union which he entertained himself, he taught many Kentuckians to so dread the evils of war, as to lose all fear of other and as great evils, and to be willing to purchase exemption from civil strife by facile and voluntary submission. After the death of Mr. Clay, Kentucky, no longer subjected to his personal influence, began to forget it.
In 1851, John C. Breckinridge had been elected to Congress from Mr. Clay's district, while the latter still lived, and beating one of his warmest friends and supporters. Under the leadership of Mr. Breckinridge, the Democratic party in Kentucky rallied and rapidly gained ground. During the "Know-nothing" excitement, the old Whigs, who had nearly all joined the Know-nothing or American party, seemed about to regain their ascendency, but that excitement ebbing as suddenly as it had arisen, left the Democracy in indisputable power. In 1856, Kentucky cast her Presidential vote for Buchanan and Breckinridge by nearly seven thousand majority. Mr. Breckinridge's influence had, by this time, become predominant in the State, and was felt in every election. The troubles in Kansas and the agitation in Congress had rendered the Democratic element in Kentucky more determined, and inclined them more strongly to take a Southern view of all the debated questions. The John Brown affair exasperated her people in common with that of every other slaveholding community, and led to the organization of the State-guard.
Created because of the strong belief that similar attempts would be repeated, and upon a larger scale, and that, quite likely, Kentucky would be selected as a field of operations, it is not surprising that the State-guard should have expected an enemy only from the North, whence, alone, would come the aggressions it was organized to resist, and that it should have conceived a feeling of antagonism for the Northern, and an instinctive sympathy for the Southern, people.
These sentiments were intensified by the language of the Northern press and pulpit, and the commendation and encouragement of such enterprises as the Harper's Ferry raid, which were to be heard throughout the North.
In the Presidential election of 1860, the Kentucky Democracy divided on Douglas and Breckinridge, thereby losing the State. After the election of Mr. Lincoln and the passage of ordinances of secession by several Southern States, when the most important question which the people of Kentucky had ever been required to determine, was presented for their consideration, their sentiments and wishes were so various and conflicting, as to render its decision by themselves impossible, and it was finally settled for them by the Federal Government.
The Breckinridge wing of the Democracy was decidedly Southern in feelings and opinions, and anxious to espouse the Southern cause.
The Douglas wing strongly sympathized with the South, but opposed secession and disunion.
The Bell-Everett party, composed chiefly of old Clay Whigs, was decidedly in favor of Union. Such was the attitude of parties, with occasional individual exceptions. The very young men of the State were generally intense Southern sympathizers, and were, with few exceptions, connected with the State-guard. Indeed, divided as were the people of Kentucky at that time, sympathy with the Southern people was prevalent among all classes of them, and the conviction seemed to be strong, even in the most determined opponents of secession, that an attack upon the Southern people was an attack upon themselves. Among the Union men it was common to hear such declarations as that "When it becomes a direct conflict between North and South, we will take part with the South," "The Northern troops shall not march over our soil to invade the South," "When it becomes apparent that the war is an abolition crusade, and waged for the destruction of slavery, Kentucky will arm against the Government," etc.; each man had some saving clause with his Unionism. It is no hazardous assertion that the Union party, in Kentucky, condemned the secession of the Southern States, more because it was undertaken without consultation with them, and because they regarded it as a blow at Kentucky's dignity and comfort, than because it endangered "the national life." Certainly not one of the leading politicians of that party would have dared, in the winter and spring of 1861, to have openly advocated coercion, no matter what were his secret views of its propriety.
Upon the 17th February, 1861, the Legislature met in extra session at the summons of Governor Magoffin. Seven Southern States had seceded, the Confederate Government had been inaugurated, and it was time for the people of Kentucky to understand what they were going to do. The Governor addressed a message to the Legislature advising the call of a State Convention. This the Legislature declined to do, but suggested the propriety of the assembling of a National Convention to revise and correct the Federal Constitution, and recommended the "Peace Conference," which was subsequently held at Washington. In certain resolutions passed by this Legislature, in reference to resolutions passed by the States of Maine, New York and Massachusetts, this language occurs: "The Governor of the State of Kentucky is hereby requested to inform the executives of said States, that it is the opinion of this General Assembly that whenever the authorities of these States shall 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." Rather strong language for "Union" men and a "loyal" legislature to use. It would seem that Kentucky, at that time, supposed herself a "sovereign" State addressing other "sovereign" States, and that she entirely ignored the "Nation." Her Legislature paid as little attention to the "proper channel of communication" as a militia Captain would have done. The Union men who voted for the resolutions in which this language was embodied, would be justly liable to censure, if it were not positively certain that they were insincere; and that they were insincere is abundantly proven by their subsequent action, and the fact that many of them held commissions in the "armed forces" sent to invade the South. On the 11th of February the Legislature 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."
At the Union State Convention, held at Louisville on the 8th of January, certain amendments to the Constitution of the United States were "recommended," and it was resolved, "that, if the disorganization of the present Union is not arrested, that the States agreeing to these amendments of the Federal Constitution shall form a separate Confederacy, with power to admit new States under our glorious Constitution thus amended;" it was resolved also that it was "expedient to call a convention of the border free and slave States," and that "we deplore the existence of a Union to be held together by the sword."
It almost takes a man's breath away to write such things about the most loyal men of the loyal State of Kentucky. For a Union Convention to have passed them, and Union men to have indorsed them, the resolutions whose substance has been just given, have rather a strange sound. They ring mightily like secession.
"If the disorganization of the present Union is not arrested," the Union men of Kentucky would also help it along. A modified phrase much in vogue with them, "separate State action" expressed their "conservative" plan of seceding. Unless the proper distinctions are drawn, however, the action of this class of politicians will always be misunderstood. They indignantly condemned the secession of South Carolina and Georgia. No language was strong enough to express their abhorrence and condemnation of the wickedness of those who would inaugurate "the disorganization of the present Union." But they did not, with ordinary consistency,
"Compound for sins they were inclined to By damning those they had no mind to!"
They committed the same sin under another name, and advocated the "separate Confederacy" of "the border free and slave States," under our glorious Constitution thus amended.
"Orthodoxy," was their "doxy;" "Heterodoxy," was "another man's doxy." Every candid man, who remembers the political status of Kentucky at that period, will admit that the Union party propounded no definite and positive creed, and that its leaders frequently gave formal expression to views which strangely resembled the "damnable heresies of secession." Indeed, the neglect of the seceding States to "consult Kentucky," previously to having gone out, seemed to be, in the eyes of these gentlemen, not so much an aggravation of the crime of secession, as, in itself, a crime infinitely graver. There were many who would condemn secession, and in the same breath indicate the propriety of "co-operation." These subtle distinctions, satisfactory, doubtless, to the intellects which generated them, were not aptly received by common minds, and their promulgation induced, perhaps very unjustly, a very general belief that the Union party was actuated not more by a love of the Union, than by a salutary regard for personal security and comfort. It seemed that the crime was not in "breaking up the Union," but in going about it in the wrong way.
The people of Kentucky heard, it is true, from these leaders indignant and patriotic denunciations of "secession," and, yet, they could listen to suggestions amounting almost to advocacy, from the same lips, of "central confederacies" or "co-operations."
Is it surprising, then, that no very holy horror of disunion should have prevailed in Kentucky?
But any inclination to tax these gentlemen with inconsistency should be checked by the reflection that they were surrounded by peculiar circumstances. It appeared to be by no means certain, just then, that an attempt would be made to coerce the seceding States, or that the Southern Confederacy would not be established without a war. In that event, Kentucky would have glided naturally and certainly into it, and Kentucky politicians who had approved coercion, would have felt uncomfortable as Confederate citizens. The leaders of the Union party were men of fine ability, but they were not endowed with prescience, nor could they in the political chaos then ruling, instinctively detect the strong side. Let it be remembered that, just so soon as they discerned it, they enthusiastically embraced it and clave to it, with a few immaterial oscillations, through much tribulation. As was explained by one of the most distinguished among them (in the United States Senate), it was necessary to "educate the people of Kentucky to loyalty." It is true that in this educational process, which was decidedly novel and peculiar, many Kentuckians, not clearly seeing the object in view, were made rebels, and even Confederate soldiers, although not originally inclined that way.
But it is seldom that a perfectly new and original system works smoothly, and the "educators" made amends for all their errors by inflexible severity toward the rebels who staid at home, and by "expatriating" and confiscating the property of those who fled. A "States Rights Convention" was called to assemble at Frankfort on the 22nd of March, 1861, but adjourned, having accomplished nothing.
After the fall of Fort Sumpter and the issuing of the proclamation of April 15, 1861, Governor Magoffin responded to President Lincoln's call for troops from Kentucky in the following language:
"FRANKFORT, April 16, 1861.
"Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War;
"Your dispatch is received. In answer, I say, emphatically, that Kentucky will furnish no troops for the wicked purpose of subduing her sister Southern States.
"B. MAGOFFIN, Governor of Kentucky."
Governor Magoffin then a second time convened the Legislature in extra session, to consider means for putting the State in a position for defense. When the Legislature met, it resolved,
"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." Yeas, eighty-nine; nays, four.
On the 18th of April a large Union meeting was held at Louisville, at which the most prominent and influential Union men of the State assisted. Resolutions were adopted,
"That as the Confederate States have, by overt acts, commenced war against the United States, without consultation with Kentucky and their sister Southern States, Kentucky reserves to herself the right to choose her own position; and that while her natural sympathies are with those who have a common interest in the protection of slavery, she still acknowledges her loyalty and fealty to the Government of the United States, which she will cheerfully render until that Government becomes aggressive, tyrannical, and regardless of our rights in slave property;" Resolved,
"That the National Government should be tried by its acts, and that the several States, as its peers in their appropriate spheres, will hold it to a rigid accountability, and require that its acts should be fraternal in their efforts to bring back the seceded States, and not sanguinary or coercive."
The Senate resolved, just before the adjournment of the Legislature, that "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."
This was the first authoritative declaration of the policy of "Neutrality," which, however, had been previously indicated at a Union meeting held at Louisville on the 10th of April, in the following resolutions:
"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 co-operate 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."
In other words, Kentucky would remain in the Union, but would refuse obedience to the Government of the United States, and would fight its armies if they came into her territory. Was it much less "criminal" and "heretical" to do this than to "take sides with the seceding States?"
What is the exact shade of difference between the guilt of a State which transfers its fealty from the Union to a Confederacy, and that of a State which declares her positive and absolute independence, entering into no new compacts, but setting at defiance the old one? Where was the boasted "loyalty" of the Union men of Kentucky when they indorsed the above given resolutions?
In May of that year, the Louisville Journal, the organ of the Union party of Kentucky, said, in reference to the response which it was proper for Kentucky to make to the President's call for troops: "In our judgment, the people of Kentucky have answered this question in advance, and the answer expressed in every conceivable form of popular expression, and finally, clinched by the glorious vote of Saturday, is; arm Kentucky efficiently, but rightfully, and fairly, with the clear declaration that the arming is not for offense against either the Government or the seceding States, but purely for defense against whatever power sets hostile foot upon the actual soil of the Commonwealth. In other words, the Legislature, according to the manifest will of the people, should declare the neutrality of Kentucky in this unnatural and accursed war of brothers, and equip the State for the successful maintenance of her position at all hazards?"
It is well known that loyalty means unqualified, unconditional, eternal devotion and adherence to the Union, with a prompt and decorous acquiescence in the will and action of the Administration. Although a definition of the term has been frequently asked, and many have affected not to understand it, it is positively settled that every man is a traitor who doubts that this definition is the correct one. It is impossible, then, to avoid the conviction that in the year 1861, there was really no loyalty in the State of Kentucky. A good deal was subsequently contracted for, and a superior article was furnished the Government a few months later.
Had their been during the winter and spring of 1861, a resolute and definite purpose upon the part of the Southern men of Kentucky, to take the State out of the Union; had those men adopted, organized and determined action, at any time previously to the adjournment of the Legislature, on the 24th of April, the Union party of Kentucky would have proven no material obstacle.
The difficulty which was felt to be insuperable by all who approved the secession of Kentucky, was her isolated position. Not only did the long hesitation of Virginia and Tennessee effectually abate the ardor and resolution of the Kentuckians who desired to unite their State to the Southern Confederacy, but while it lasted it was an insurmountable, physical barrier in the way of such an undertaking. With those States antagonistic to the Southern movement, it would have been madness for Kentucky to have attempted to join it. When at length, Virginia and Tennessee passed their ordinances of secession, Kentucky had become infatuated with the policy of "neutrality." With the leaders of the Union party, it had already been determined upon as part of their system for the "education" of the people. The Secessionists, who were without organization and leaders, regarded it as something infinitely better than unconditional obedience to the orders and coercive policy of the Federal Government; and the large class of the timid and irresolute of men, who are by nature "neutral" in times of trouble and danger, accepted it joyfully, as such men always accept a compromise which promises to relieve them of immediate responsibility and the necessity of hazardous decision. Disconnected from the views and intentions of those who consented to it, this "neutrality" will scarcely admit of serious discussion. Such a position is certainly little else than rebellion, and the principle or conditions which will justify it, will also justify secession. If a State has the legal and constitutional right to oppose the action, and to refuse compliance with the requisitions of the Federal Government, to disobey the laws of Congress, and set at defiance the proclamations of the Executive, to decide for herself her proper policy in periods of war and insurrection, and levy armed forces to prevent the occupation of her territory by the forces of the United States, then she can quit the Union when she pleases, and is competent to contract any alliance which accords, with her wishes. If, however, it be a revolutionary right which she may justly exercise in a certain condition of affairs, then the same condition of affairs will justify any other phase or manner of revolution.
The practical effects of such a position, had it been stubbornly maintained, would have been to involve Kentucky in more danger than she would have incurred by secession and admission into the Confederacy. A declaration of neutrality in such a contest was almost equivalent to a declaration of war against both sides; at any rate it was a proclamation of opposition to the Government, while it discarded the friendship of the South, and seemed at once to invite every assailant. The Government of the United States, which was arming to coerce seceded States, would certainly not permit its designs to be frustrated by this attitude of Kentucky, and it was not likely that the States, about to be attacked, would respect a neutrality, which they very well knew would be no hindrance to their adversary. But few men reason clearly in periods of great excitement, or, in situations of peril, look steadfastly and understandingly at the dangers which surround them. Nor, it may be added, do the few who possess the presence of mind to study and the faculty of appreciating the signs of such a political tempest, always honestly interpret them. As has been said, a large class eagerly welcomed the decision that Kentucky should remain neutral in the great struggle impending, as a relief, however temporary, from the harassing consideration of dangers at which they shuddered. Nine men out of ten, will shrink from making up their minds upon a difficult question, and yet will accept, with joy, a determination of it, however paltry and inconclusive, from any one who has the nerve to urge it. A great many Union men, who would have earnestly opposed a concurrence of Kentucky in the action of the seceding States, if for no other reason than that they regarded it as "a trick of the Democratic party," and yet as obstinately opposed the policy and action of the Government, thought they perceived in "neutrality" a solution of all the difficulties which embarrassed them. A few of the more sagacious and resolute of the leaders of the Union party, who were perhaps not incommoded with a devotion to their State, their section, or to the "flag," but who realized that they could get into power only by crushing the Democratic party, and knew that in the event of Kentucky's going South, the Democratic party would dominate in the State, these men saw in this policy of neutrality the means of holding Kentucky quiet, until the Government could prepare and pour into her midst an overwhelming force. They trusted, and as the sequel showed, with reason, that they would be able to demoralize their opponents after having once reduced them to inaction. The Kentuckians who wished that their State should become a member of the Confederacy, but who saw no immediate hope of it, consented to neutrality as the best arrangement that they could make under the circumstances. They knew that if the neutrality of Kentucky were respected—a vital portion of the Confederacy, a border of four or five hundred miles would be safe from attack and invasion—that the forces of the Confederacy could be concentrated for the defense of the other and threatened lines, and that individual Kentuckians could flock to the Southern army. They believed that in such a condition of affairs, more men would leave Kentucky to take part with the South than to enlist in the service of the Government.
Some time in the early part of the summer, General S.B. Buckner, commanding the Kentucky State-guard, had an interview with General Geo. B. McClellan, who commanded a department embracing territory contiguous to Kentucky—if, indeed, Kentucky was not included by the commission given him in his department. General Buckner obtained, as he supposed, a guarantee that the neutrality of Kentucky would be observed by the military authorities of the United States. He communicated the result of this interview to Governor Magoffin, and, immediately, it became a matter of official as well as popular belief that the neutrality of Kentucky was safe for all time to come.
The dream, however, was a short one, and very soon afterward the Federal Government commenced to recruit in Kentucky, to establish camps and organize armed forces in the State.
"Camp Dick Robinson," some twenty-six miles from Lexington, was the largest, first formed, and most noted of these establishments. For many weeks the Kentuckians were in a high state of excitement about "Camp Dick," as it was called. They used the name as if it were synonymous with the Federal army, and spoke of the rumors that "Camp Dick" was to be moved from point to point, as glibly as if the ground it occupied had possessed the properties of the flying carpet of the fairy tale.
The Legislature, notwithstanding its high-sounding resolutions about neutrality, stood this very quietly, although many citizens (Union men) endeavored to have these camps broken up and the troops removed. Others, again, professed to desire that the Federal troops should be removed, but clandestinely advised President Lincoln to rather increase than withdraw the forces, and offered their services to introduce into Kentucky guns for the armament of the loyal Home-guards. These men were of the class of "Educators." But the game required two to play it. On the 4th of September, in anticipation of a Federal movement upon that point, General Polk, of the Confederate army, occupied Columbus, in Kentucky.
In the midst of the excitement created by the information of the occupation of Columbus, Governor Magoffin sent in the following message:
"EX. DEP'T, FRANKFORT, Sept. 9, 1861. "Gentlemen of the Senate and House of Representatives:
"I have received the following dispatches by telegraph from General Leonidas Polk, which I deem proper to lay before you,
[If any answer were needed to the outcries of those who so strongly condemned his action, General Polk certainly furnished it. His first dispatch was a simple intimation to Governor Magoffin of his presence upon the soil of Kentucky, and of the authority by which he remained.]
"COLUMBUS, KENTUCKY, Sept. 9, 1861. "Governor B. Magoffin:
A military necessity having required me to occupy this town, I have taken possession of it by the forces under my command. The circumstances leading to this act we reported promptly to the President of the Confederate States. His reply was, the necessity justified the action. A copy of my proclamation I have the honor to transmit you by mail.
"Respectfully, "LEONIDAS POLK, Major-General Commanding."
In a letter of the same date, inclosing his proclamation, General Polk said, after explaining the cause of his delay in writing:
"It will be sufficient to inform you, which my short address here 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 the danger resulting to West Tennessee from such success, nor say that I could not permit the loss of so important a position, while holding the command intrusted to me by my government. In evidence of the information I possessed, I will state that as the Confederate forces occupied this place, the Federal troops were formed, 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."
General Polk concluded with this language:
"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 Federals shall not be allowed to enter, or occupy any point of Kentucky in the future.
"I have the honor to be "Your obedient servant, respectfully, "LEONIDAS POLK, Major-Gen, Com."
General Folk's proclamation was as follows:
"COLUMBUS, Sept. 14, 1861.
"The Federal Government having in defiance of the wishes of the people of Kentucky, disregarded their neutrality, by establishing camps and depots of arms, and by organizing military companies within their territory, and by constructing a military work, on the Missouri shore, immediately opposite, and commanding Columbus, evidently intended to cover the landing of troops for the seizure of the town, it has become a military necessity, worth the defense of the territory of the Confederate States, that the Confederate forces occupy Columbus in advance. The Major-General commanding has, therefore, not felt himself at liberty to risk the loss of so important a position, but has decided to occupy it. In pursuance of this decision, he has thrown a sufficient force into the town and ordered fortifying it. It is gratifying to know that the presence of his troops is acceptable to the people of Columbus, and on this occasion they assure them that every precaution will be taken to insure their quiet, the protection of their property, with their personal and corporate rights.
Dispatches, concerning the peculiar manner in which Kentucky observed her neutrality and permitted it to be observed by her Federal friends, began to pour in on the Governor about this time. He had already received, on the 7th, a dispatch from Lieutenant Governor Reynolds, of Missouri, on the subject. Governor Reynolds stated that, "The Mississippi river below the mouth of the Ohio, is the property of Kentucky and Missouri conjointly." He then alluded to the "presence of United States gunboats in the river at Columbus, Kentucky, to protect the forces engaged in fortifying the Missouri shore immediately opposite." "This," he went on to say, "appears to me to be a clear violation of the neutrality Kentucky proposes to observe in the present war." And then again on the 14th came a dispatch from Knoxville, Tennessee, as follows:
"To his Excellency B. Magoffin:
SIR: The safety of Tennessee requiring, I occupy the mountain passes at Cumberland, and the three long mountains in Kentucky. For weeks I have known that the Federal commander at Hoskin's Cross Roads was threatening the invasion of East Tennessee, and ruthlessly urging our own people to destroy their own road bridges. I postponed this precaution until the despotic Government at Washington, refusing to recognize the neutrality of Kentucky, has established formidable camps in the center and other parts of the State, with the view first to subjugate our gallant sister, then ourselves. Tennessee feels, and has ever felt, toward Kentucky as a twin sister; their people, are as our people in kindred, sympathy, valor, and patriotism; we have felt and still feel a religious respect for Kentucky's neutrality; we will respect it as along as our safety will permit. If the Federal forces will now withdraw from their menacing positions, the forces under my command shall be immediately withdrawn.
Very respectfully, F.K. ZOLLICOFFER, Brigadier General Commanding."
It would seem that each one of these communications put the case very clearly, and that, Kentucky having permitted her neutrality to be violated by the one side, after her emphatic and definite declaration that it was meant to be good against both, could consistently take no action, unless it should be such as Generals Polk and Zollicoffer suggested, viz: to provide for a simultaneous withdrawal of both Federal and Confederate forces. Certainly Kentucky meant that neither of the combatants should occupy her soil—as has been shown, her declarations upon that head were clear and vigorous. If she intended that troops of the United States should come into her territory, for any purpose whatever, while the Confederate forces should be excluded, it is unnecessary to say that she selected in "neutrality" a word, which very inaccurately and lamely expressed her meaning. The people of Kentucky had long since—two months at least, a long time in such a period, before this correspondence between their Governor and the Confederate Generals—ceased to do anything but blindly look to certain leaders, and blindly follow their dictation. The Southern men of the State, and their peculiar leaders, were sullen and inert; the mass of the people were bewildered, utterly incompetent to arrive at a decision, and were implicitly led by the Legislature to which all the politicians, who aspired to influence, now resorted. In view of the history of this neutrality, of the professions made, only a few weeks previously, by the same men who returned an answer from the Capital of Kentucky to the propositions of the Confederate authorities that Kentucky should act fairly, and not declare one policy and clandestinely pursue another—in view of the facts which are fastened in the record—what sort of men does that answer prove them to have been? This was the answer: