citizens were deeply divided over the Civil War and the state tried to maintain
neutrality. President Lincoln viewed
Kentucky as a critical border state and felt that the Union could not allow it
to go Confederate. When Lincoln asked
Gov. Magoffin to send troops, Magoffin flatly refused, saying he would not
interfere with his Southern brethren from other states who were actively
engaged in defeating the Union. Both sides positioned themselves to take
advantage of any break in the neutrality.
Neutrality was broken in September of 1861 when Gen. Polk ordered Brig.
Gen. Pillow to occupy Columbus. Our
Confederate cavalryman has provided a finely detailed letter regarding the
occupation of Brownsville, KY, which was strongly Unionist in sentiment. The
move was part of Buckner’s occupation of Southern Kentucky.
4pp. 5 ½” x 7 ¼”, written by a member of Co. A, 2nd Tennessee Cavalry Battalion, Brownsville, Ky., Oct. 12, 1861.
He writes to his father: "We left camp at Bowling Green the 8th…marched the first day about sixteen miles & camped at Rock City Station on the N[ashville] & S[elm] R. R. & reached this place the next evening…about twenty miles from Bowling Green…The people in this immediate country are strongly Union & Lincoln, some few Southern men. There is a difference between a Kentucky Union man & a Lincoln or an abolitionist man [they] don't want to fight but if he has to fight will…for the South. The others as their names signifies are abolitionist in the strictest terms. We had an alarm the other night. As one of my men was going down to the river to water his horse he was either shot at or flashed at. He returned the fire emptying his six shooter. We thought we would be attacked & were ready…to receive them with a true Southern reception. We saddled our horses & got all our arms & were in line in about ten minutes…We are encamped on a little hill of considerable military point of view…We sleep in all places…some [in] a rock bluff eight or ten feet high…Brownsville is on the bank of the Green river. The court house about four hundred yards from the river. The place is about as large as Bigbyville [Tenn.]…This is the county set of Edmundson County…We are stationed here to guard a road coming from the west & crosses Green river…We've just raised our flag in camp. Capt. thought it best to have no demonstration. He is very cautious & prudent…There are a part of two Kentucky companies with us (infantry). Our whole force is not more than two hundred & twenty four. Capt. H. [possibly John B. Hamilton] is its commanding officer. The old United States flag was waving here when we came. Capt. gave the citizens a chance to take it down & they did so. There was no shouting when it fell for the Capt. had ingrained it upon us not to thinking it the best policy…We've got the best Capt. in the Confederate army…I am acting as orderly for this detail. It shows the confidence my captain has in me. I am proud of it…give my love to all."
Letter is in pencil. Folds, toning, light soiling, a few holes at the bottom left corner, affecting a few words. No signature as the cavalryman has written to his father. He concludes with “give my love to all.”
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