To “Serve this Long Term at Home”: Robert Buffum, Mental Illness, and the Prison Trap

CWGK Project Director Patrick Lewis writes a new piece in Nursing Clio about troubled Civil War veteran Robert Buffum.

[I]f some veterans can never escape the battlefield, Robert Buffum could never leave his cell. He spent more time behind bars of one sort or the other than he did as a free man after leaving the army. … The man continually reached out for help. And even when his society tried to do right by him, those treatments had the unintentional effect of moving him from one subconscious nightmare to another, lived one.

What does his experience in asylums and prisons mean for contemporary American veterans? Visit Nursing Clio for the full story and check out the CWGK reader and discussion packet, “Where I Now Stand” to bring the conversation to your classroom or community group.

“But I don’t Regret My Service to My Country”: The Trials of Lt. Robert Buffum

Robert Buffum served his government bravely and received his nation’s highest military honor. Then he reached out to it for help when the burden of that service became too much for him to handle. But he received none, and that was a tragedy for him. And his family. And that of his victim.

Read more about this compelling and relevant story of military service, alcohol and opioid addiction, and mental health on the KHS Blog.

Rashomon, Bluegrass Style: The Shooting of Felix Beauchamp

by Matthew C. Hulbert

On July 4, 1857, gunfire interrupted an Independence Day celebration in Green County. A lead ball exploded from the barrel of a musket. A man named Robert Peace had pulled the trigger. The projectile slammed into the midsection of one Felix Beauchamp. As a result of his wound, Beauchamp died momentarily thereafter. Following a jury trial, Peace found himself convicted of voluntary manslaughter and took up involuntary residence at the state penitentiary. In 1860, petitioners asked Governor Beriah Magoffin to pardon Peace.

***

Despite twelve pages of handwritten testimony given under oath by nineteen eyewitnesses to the death of Felix Beauchamp—no, thine eyes do not deceive, nineteen eyewitnesses—the above items are the only objective facts of the case passed down to us in the historical record. We don’t know with certainty what provoked the altercation; how much alcohol had been consumed in the lead up; what the parties involved said to each other in the seconds preceding the shooting; exactly how many shots were fired, their sequence, or from what distances.

Here’s a brief summation of each witness statement:

According to William M. Skaggs, he and another man named John Warf, an out-of-towner as it were, argued over the results of a ten cent card game. Peace allegedly confronted Skaggs, admonished him for quarreling with a guest, and accused Skaggs of having a rock in his pocket—apparently hinting that he would use it to assault Warf. In Skaggs’s version of events, Beauchamp then attempted to defuse the situation; but in doing so, he only angered Peace more, who challenged Beauchamp to a fight. Beauchamp refused the brawl and backed away, pulling a pistol from his coat in the process. Skaggs testified that he heard the report of a pistol, then heard Beauchamp say “don’t shoot,” and then may or may not have actually seen Peace shoot Beauchamp with a rifle. Skaggs also claimed that after Beauchamp fired the pistol, some of the other men at the gathering unsuccessfully tried to restrain Peace from shooting back. Peace then shot and killed Beauchamp.

John Warf’s version of the story matched Skaggs’s up to the moment of confrontation between Skaggs and Peace. As Warf told it, Beauchamp came to break up the argument and “caught hold of Peace around the body with both hands,” at which point “Peace slung Beauchamp loose from him.” Warf heard Beauchamp say “don’t shoot” or “something like it”—but never heard Peace challenge Beauchamp to fisticuffs.

Dr. Terrill agreed with the first two statements (Skaggs and Warf) that an argument between Skaggs and Warf led to a confrontation between Peace and Skaggs, which led to the fighting of Peace and Beauchamp. But in Terrill’s testimony, he “saw Peace punch at Beauchamp with his gun before either shot” but “would not State that the gun touched Beauchamp.”

William J. Graham agreed with the account of Dr. Terrill up to Peace trying to punch Beauchamp. Then, Graham contended, Peace said to Beauchamp: “you have a pistol in your pocket.” At that moment, Beauchamp’s hand was in his pocket. Graham saw Wesley Thompson and Mitchell Warren try to stop Beauchamp from shooting.
Mitchell Warren agreed with most of Graham’s testimony, but “did not see Wesley Thompson attempt to take hold of the gun.”

Pascal Warren told much the same story; he did see Peace sling Beauchamp and added that Beauchamp, at some point in the argument before the shooting, said “Bob you are wrong.”

According to William P. Warren, Peace aimed his rifle at Beauchamp, who replied with “don’t shoot me.” That prompted Peace to say “put up your darn little pistol then.” Beauchamp then jumped to the side of Peace’s muzzle and fired his pistol at very close range.

Joseph Warren testified that “a lady came down to where Beauchamp was lying after he was shot, and asked Peace what he killed him for, and Peace said. Darn him, he came up to me, and drew his pistol right in my face at first and afterwards fired at me—and Beauchamp said, do you hear him telling a lie.”

James and Calvin Skaggs both said they saw Beauchamp draw a pistol following his initial argument with Peace, but did not narrate the murder itself. James Skaggs testified that Peace did not punch at Beauchamp before or after the shooting.

William Peace Sr. alleged that Beauchamp drew his pistol on Peace, which prompted Peace to aim his rifle at Beauchamp. When Mitchell Warren tried to stop Peace, Beauchamp took the opportunity to fire first but missed. “Peace then fired immediately, the shots in quick succession, in about such quick succession, as a man fireing a double shot gun.”

Jacob Peace told a similar—if vaguer—story, but concluded that “this was all I saw, or heard, there were many others much closer than I was, and had a much better opportunity of seeing and hearing than I did—“

Burks Davis also described the argument and shooting in similar detail—but rather than Beauchamp being slung or Mitchell Warren being pushed away, it was Wesley Elkins that Peace “threw from him.”
John Warren’s testimony mirrored that of William P. Warren—but notes that “other things were said during the fracas, but witness [John Warren] don’t remember them.”
Renditions given by Josiah and Otawa Skaggs each essentially matched that of William Peace Sr.

William Peace Jr. and Joseph Peace both testified that Beauchamp drew his pistol first after Robert Peace said, “let me alone, I am not pestering you” to Beauchamp.

James Akin did not see the fight, but heard it from the stable. He was the only witness to state that “he had heard two other shots that evening, an hour or two before, but they were not in as quick succession.”

So what new can we glean from all of this eyewitness testimony? Unfortunately, the answer is just the realization that we know even less about what happened now than before.

Beauchamp may or may not have grabbed Peace before the shooting, and Peace may or may not have slung Beauchamp to the ground. Beauchamp may have approached Peace in a friendly manner or he may have grabbed Peace from behind with a revolver already in his hand. Peace may have challenged Beauchamp to a fight or he may or may not have simply attacked Beauchamp before any of the shooting started. Beauchamp may or may not have tried to shoot Peace while other men were intervening on his behalf. Each man may have told the other not to shoot. Peace might have told Beauchamp to raise his “darn little pistol” or alternatively said “let me alone, I am not pestering you.” Peace may have been holding his rifle in three or four different ways; and, it may have been Mitchell Warren or Wesley Thompson or both or neither that tried to wrestle guns away from Beauchamp and Peace at different times. The slug fired from Peace’s rifle may have killed Beauchamp on the spot—or Beauchamp may have lived long enough to tell an unnamed female witness that Peace was lying about the incident. Furthermore, Peace did and did not attempt to strike Beauchamp’s corpse with the rifle post-shooting, depending on which accounts we believe.

It probably shouldn’t surprise us that so many different men recounted an incident that probably all happened within the span of two or three minutes so variously—especially with alcohol undoubtedly involved. After all, this isn’t an unprecedented phenomenon when numerous people witness the same traumatic event. Despite him being on a stage directly in front of them, an entire audience of Washington theatergoers had trouble deciding what exactly John Wilkes Booth screamed after gunning down Abraham Lincoln. And throngs of witnesses failed to agree on how many shots were fired during the Kennedy assassination—as well as whether a second shooter had been perched on the now-notorious grassy knoll. Even in large gatherings where heinous crimes aren’t committed, such as the Gettysburg Address, witnesses frequently walk away having heard different things.

At first glance, what does seem surprising about this case is that in a society so prone to let men who killed other men with firearms walk on claims of “he fired first,” temporary insanity, alcoholism, or jealousy, a jury decided to ignore Robert Peace’s self-defense argument when one of the very few—if not the only—point agreed upon by all of the eye witnesses was that Felix Beauchamp drew and shot first. Even though some of the witnesses portray Peace in worse light than others, collectively, the testimony is inconclusive at best and seems hardly solid enough to justify a conviction. So how did Robert Peace end up in prison?

The shortest explanation is that Peace fell victim to the logistics of local court in the nineteenth century. The slightly longer one is that we should always remember the historical record (read: the statements of all nineteen witnesses) appears very differently—that is, complete and linear—to contemporary scholars than it did to a jury in real-time. And the much longer answer is that while many of the aforementioned witnesses apparently gave sworn testimony on paper in the form of affidavits, they “failed to obey the summons of the court” and did not appear in person. The judge overseeing the trial refused Peace a continuance that would’ve given these witnesses additional time to show up. Moreover, Peace’s lead attorney, Aaron Harding, “was suddenly called away by the extreme sickness of his wife and the death of a child.” In other words, Robert Peace learned the hard way that all the eye witnesses in the world make for a fantastic document in the CWG-K database, but are worthless if they don’t come to court.

Matthew C. Hulbert is an Assistant Editor of the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition.

“Shall I order from Cuba”?: Kentucky’s Transnational Neutrality

Last week, Matt Hulbert explored the contradictions between the Jeffersonian, states’ rights rhetoric of the provisional Confederate government of Kentucky and its actual record of heavy-handed governance and suppression of civil liberties in the counties under its control in the winter of 1861-62. In his piece, we learned that provisional Confederate Governor George W. Johnson accused the Union party in Kentucky of polluting Kentucky’s declared neutrality (which lasted from May through September, 1861) from the outset, always intending to use neutrality to save the state from secession and deliver it to the Union cause. And they did. The problem was, Matt tells us, that the Confederates had precisely the same game plan going into the summer of 1861, but were politically outmaneuvered and, later, outvoted. The rebels lost the neutrality cold war and convened their rump secession convention when they lost their bid for the legitimate government in Frankfort.

I want to jump back to that cold war, to show just how the rebels used the cover of neutrality to prepare the state for secession and civil war. In the weeks after Fort Sumter, Magoffin rejected Lincoln’s request for troops and called a special session of the legislature to consider considering secession. As Magoffin’s famous exchange with Alabama Secession Commissioner Stephen F. Hale reveals, the governor was a conditional unionist, not an outright secessionist. Lincoln’s call for troops, though, proved the limit of Magoffin’s conditionalism, and like many Upper South politicians after Sumter, he seems to have been in favor of secession. To his credit, though, Magoffin genuinely respected the will of the electorate and knew that if Kentucky were not to devolve into a miniature civil war, it must secede legitimately – through a convention called by the legislature or direct legislative action. The closest he (and all the Kentucky secessionists) could get in the May 1861 special session was neutrality and the hope that the political winds would blow the majority of Kentuckians to their side as the year wore on.

With the special session yet to convene in Frankfort, Magoffin began to set the state’s military house in order for whatever decision – secession, Union, or neutrality – might result. As chief executive and commander in chief, Magofffin could take out loans and expend state funds for arms and ammunition that (theoretically) would be put to any purpose the people of Kentucky demanded. By working through fellow secessionists at home and across the Gulf South, though, Magoffin could covertly ensure that if the cold war between unionists and secessionists turned hot, his party would have the upper hand.

Magoffin tapped Luke Blackburn to coordinate buying the weapons. Blackburn, a postwar governor of Kentucky, is most famous for his unsuccessful 1864 plot to blight northern cities with yellow fever with infected blankets from Bermuda routed through Canada. Yet secret missions involving Britain, the Caribbean, and the Gulf South had been Blackburn’s forte since the very outset of the war.

Things began promisingly. On April 26, Blackburn wired that he had “purchased two pieces heavy Ordnance two thousand muskets six hundred Kegs powder” and asked for $30,000 to be transferred from a Kentucky bank to his credit. Blackburn’s preferred shipping company, commission merchants Hewitt, Norton, & Co., whose antebellum business had brokered southern cotton between New Orleans and Liverpool, put 1,500 guns costing approximately $14,000 on rail cars bound for Louisville on May 1, but warned that the frenzied buying from agents of other southern states meant that other supplies were drying up quickly. The firm had only secured $15 worth of percussion caps and could find no more powder. “Shall I order from Cuba”? asked Louisiana Secession Convention member M. O. H. Norton? “Blackburn cant be found.”

MOHN

KYR-0001-019-0023

No one knew where Luke Blackburn had gone, and no one could act on Magoffin’s behalf as the available supplies in the Gulf South dwindled. When Norton requested new instructions on May 2, Magoffin was more than happy to turn the operation over from Blackburn to Norton, with additional funding secured by Louisville pork merchant Benjamin J. Adams. Fellow Kentuckian and cotton broker in the Louisville-New Orleans firm of William T. Bartley & Co. Robert A. Johnson had notified Magoffin the day before in a private cable that “Luke Blackburn [was] intoxicated Since Saturday” and urged the Governor to “Withdraw powers authorize another Agent”.

LPB

KYR-0001-019-0029

Luke Blackburn was certainly neither the first nor the last Kentuckian to let the French Quarter get the better of him. But why had Magoffin trusted him for the mission?

Though a Kentucky native, Blackburn was living and practicing medicine in New Orleans in 1861. In fact, he had lived his adult life in the cotton kingdom along the banks of the Mississippi River. Blackburn had lived in Natchez, Mississippi, as a young man and had family ties to Helena, Arkansas, where his interests and kin overlapped with “The Family,” an early Arkansas Democratic political dynasty built on Kentucky connections to  provisional Confederate Governor George W. Johnson. Taken alongside Blackburn’s later experiments in biological warfare, the New Orleans arms deal raises important questions about how elite antebellum Kentuckians participated in a complex – yet surprisingly intimate and personal – international economy of slaves, cotton, liquid capital, and thoroughbred horses and how those economic connections encouraged them to address the question of secession. These kinship-political-business relationships are precisely the sorts of interconnections that the future social networking capability of  CWG-K is designed to document.

Little wonder, then, that when Magoffin needed arms for Kentucky, he tapped into the networks that funneled cotton, slaves, and capital up and down the river from Kentucky to New Orleans and out to the world. Magoffin’s fallback agents at Hewitt, Norton, & Co. fit precisely the same profile. Kentucky’s 1861 neutrality was not an inward facing, isolationist political posture. The way Magoffin managed arms procurement demonstrates that he understood the Civil War as a conflict over global agricultural and industrial markets, a war fought for the interests of the southern states in and on an international stage.

Patrick A. Lewis is project director of the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition.

CWG-K’s “Best of” – 2015 Edition

2015 was an eventful year for the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition. Numerous fellows utilized the power of the ever-growing database (you can apply to be one here), we are steadily approaching the launch of an Early Access edition of 10,000 documents and transcriptions and a Beta prototype. Governor’s Day — an interactive open house introducing the project to other departments at the Kentucky Historical Society — was a major success.

To recap the year, we’ve organized a series of “Best of” lists that chronicle everything from our individual takes on the most powerful people of Civil War Kentucky to the most memorable deaths to time travel (more on this anon). We hope you’ll enjoy reading these lists these as much as we enjoyed creating them.

POWER RANKINGS: Based on their own criteria, each member of the CWG-K editorial staff was asked to rank a “Power 5” group of figures found in the database.

Tony

  1. George W. Johnston – Powerful Judge of the Louisville City Court, a Louisville/Jefferson County pardon application was never complete and rarely received a positive reply without his signature.
  2. John B. Huston – Besides competing for the worst handwriting award for Civil War Kentucky—stiff competition from James F. Robinson and James Guthrie—Huston was a power broker, attorney and state legislator from central Kentucky, whose endorsement of a pardon application carried a lot of weight with multiple Kentucky governors.
  3. John B. Temple – Attorney, banker, and president of the Kentucky Military Board—Temple exerted a lot of power in all Kentucky military matters. He and the Military Board of Kentucky were de facto Commander-in-chief of Kentucky, slowly whittling away Beriah Magoffin’s military authority with the aid of the Kentucky General Assembly.
  4. George W. Norton – President of the Southern Bank of Kentucky, he was a Magoffin ally, made sizable loans the Commonwealth of Kentucky to support Magoffin in his efforts to purchase arms early in the war. Other banks made similar investments, yet Norton appeared to have the ear of the governor.
  5. C. D. Pennebaker – Lawyer, politician, Colonel of the 27th Kentucky Infantry, and Kentucky Military Agent in Washington, DC. He served in the legislature, commanded troops in battle, and served in a civilian military post for Kentucky in DC. In addition to this he wrote the more thorough letters and reports. Kudos Mr. Pennebaker!

Matt

  1. W. T. Samuels – Not unlike Matt Damon’s character in The Good Shepherd, Samuels had the dirt on everyone following his stint as state auditory. Given his knowledge of everyone’s finances and his legal prowess, he was a potential kingmaker in the Blue Grass. (In other words, there’s a reason he’s one of the few through-and-through Unionists to remain powerful in state government post-1865.)
  2. D. W. Lindsay – He commanded a crew of paid guerrilla hunters under the heading of “secret police”; these men, like Edwin “Bad Ed’ Terrell, were paid to track down and kill Kentucky’s most notorious bushwhackers.
  3. Stephen Burbridge – Though he technically fell under the authority of Thomas Bramlette in Kentucky, Burbridge more or less did as he pleased, which included deeming other powerful Union officers (like Gen. John B. Huston) disloyal and having them arrested on behalf of President Lincoln.
  4. Thomas Bramlette – As governor he oversaw nearly all of the state’s wartime activities—and was still expected to keep civil government afloat.
  5. E. H. Taylor, Sr. – Taylor was a member of the influential Military Board (which oversaw military purchases for the state) at the same time he helped run one of the state’s major money-lenders. If you needed a loan—and Kentucky always needed a loan—this was the man to see.

Whitney

  1. Thomas Bramlette – He takes first place by virtue of holding the highest office for the longest amount of time, evidenced by almost 3,000 documents.
  2. John W. Finnell – As Adjutant General, principal military advisor to Gov. Bramlette while a war was raging, he was in a very influential role.
  3. Samuel Suddarth – Serving as Quarter Master General, Suddarth was tasked with keeping the troops supplied by managing the ordering & distributing of supplies essential to the war effort.
  4. James F. Robinson – Though he served as Governor for a short time, he was part of a compromise wherein the Confederate-leaning Magoffin agreed to step down and let Robinson, a moderate, take over. Interestingly, since he never resigned his Senate seat, he technically filled both rolls simultaneously.
  5. James Garrard – He served as State Treasurer throughout the war, and as Mayer Amschel Rothschild allegedly said, “Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who makes the laws.”

Patrick

  1. James F. Robinson – Don’t let his one-year term as Governor fool you, Robinson played state politics as adeptly as Frank Underwood could have done. While we can’t know if he pushed anyone in front of a train, Robinson adeptly turned down the senate speakership before having a cabal of Lexington friends arrange Magoffin’s resignation and his convoluted ascension to the Executive Mansion. As George Washington showed, the best way to accrue power is to look like you don’t want it. More astonishingly, Robinson refused to vacate his senate seat, leaving him free to return to harassing the Lincoln administration via the Committee on Federal Relations after Bramlette took office.
  2. Hamilton Pope – Louisville politics ran through Hamilton Pope. An old-Whig and former Know-Nothing, Pope was undoubtedly part of the closed-door decision that cut Louisville German and Irish immigrants out of independent regiments and elevated his brother, Curran Pope, to a Colonelcy. In addition to being an invaluable petition signature for anyone hoping for a pardon out of the Jefferson Circuit Court, Pope also runs point on using city government and the police department to enforce (increasingly irrelevant) fugitive slave laws.
  3. Rufus K. Williams – A fiercely Unionist circuit judge from the overwhelmingly Confederate Jackson Purchase, Williams raised a military unit and used his recruits to broker a deal for himself. When the time came to muster his troops into federal service, Williams traded a permanent military commission for a seat on the Kentucky Court of Appeals (the forerunner of the state supreme court) vacated by rebel sympathizer Alvin Duvall—ditching a hostile local electorate for a secure post backed by the statewide Unionist majority.
  4. Madison C. Johnson – His brother, rebel governor George W. Johnson, gets all the headlines in the family, but Madison Johnson controlled most of the available credit in the Bluegrass via the Northern Bank of Kentucky in Lexington. Johnson arranged hundreds of thousands of dollars in military loans to the Commonwealth in 1861-62—and was never hesitant to hold up the next installment to ease along a friend’s military commission. His loans to the state, backed by eventual federal repayment, helped his bank weather the collapse of many borrowers’ fortunes after slavery ended in 1865.
  5. Sherley & Woolfolk – This Louisville corporate duo of Zachariah M. Sherley and Richard H. Woolfolk often appear together in documents. Their firm ran a number of steamboats along the Ohio River and operated an outfitting business that sold supplies to others. Consequently, whether the state needed to move a battalion from Maysville to Paducah or buy a few barrels of ships biscuit to feed a hungry regiment, Sherley & Woolfolk were ready and willing to profit. That they signed insider political petitions under their corporate name shows an awareness of the importance of their business to the management of the war and, perhaps, some intuition for hammering home a branding message.

MOST MEMORABLE NAMES: Our editors have compiled a list of the most memorable names encountered in the CWG-K database in 2015.

  • Greenberry Tingle
  • Swift Raper
  • Wam Timbar (involved in a hatchet-throwing case, if you can believe it)
  • Green Forrest
  • August Worms

MOST MEMORABLE DEMISE: If you’ve followed the CWG-K blog over the past few months, it’s readily apparent that the database has no paucity of unusual and/or gruesome deaths. Each editor has selected the most memorable demise.

Tony

  • Jane Doe Murder Victim – In October 1865, evidence was presented concerning the corpse of a woman, approximately twenty-five years old, found on the outskirts of Louisville. The following is a description of her condition: “Her wounds are as follows a cut over each Eye one on forehand Forehead one just in front of Right Ear. Several Bruises on inside of right thigh and a wound which looked as though the flesh was twisted out her intestines was puled from her body through the Fundament Showing an act of the moste Diabolical rufianian the intestines cut or pulled loose from her body. Her cloths were all torn off of her not a Partickel remaining on her except one garter. Her right arm had been amputated just below the shoulder. the Evidences was plain of a sever strugle with some one from all I can learn I think a Negro did it.”

Matt

  • Ewing Litterell – An uninvited Litterell drunkenly barged into the home of James Savage, proclaimed himself “a stud horse” and boasted that he’d had sexual relations with all of the women in the house (and that he would do it again whenever he pleased). Savage let a full load of buckshot — which he fired into Litterell’s chest — serve as a “no you won’t.”

Whitney

  • Philip Medard – In January 1864, Philip Medard of Jefferson County died of cold and starvation after his son, Jacob Medard, “did confine & Starve his said father in an out house & kitchen & did starve and freeze him the said Philip by refusing to provide meat & food & clothing for him, & by thus exposing him to the weather.” There are definitely more violent deaths in the CWG-K database, but to date, only one happened in the out house.

Patrick

  • Colonel Francis M. Alexander – In what seems to have been an un-diagnosed case of post-traumatic stress disorder, Alexander drew a pistol on and killed a good friend without any motive or memory of the incident. His pardon petition is a moving account of a man coming to grips with his actions and his state of mind. “The exciting circumstances of the rebellion and its fearful consequences…which in rapid and mournful succession swept over his native, and beloved State, have Come upon his anxious and troubled mind with such force, that many events have transpired in his history during the last four years of his country’s trial, which appear to him almost as a dream.”

MOST OUTRAGEOUS PARDON: A major component of the CWG-K archive is requests for executive clemency. Each member of the editorial staff was tasked with identifying the most memorable pardon of 2015.

Tony

  • Otha Reynolds – In May 1862, Peter Gastell jumped bail and caused his bondholder, Reynolds, to forfeit $1000 to the court. That is, until Reynolds petitioned Governor Thomas Bramlette for clemency. Bramlette gave no legal justification for issuing Reynolds a remission, but said this: “Being in a merciful mood Ordered that this forfeiture except costs & fees be remitted.”

Matt

  • Michael Foley – An Irish rail worker and former Union vet, Foley believed that Merritt and Vardiman Dicken were pro-Confederate guerrillas on the run. In reality, the Dicken brothers were themselves fleeing from an attack by pro-Confederate bushwhackers. Foley attempted to detain the brothers and killed Merritt in the process. Governor Thomas E. Bramlette granted Foley a full pardon on the logic that it was better to accidentally kill men who might not have been guerrillas than to let any potential guerrillas escape unharmed.

Whitney

  • Garrett Whitson – Supporters of Garrett Whitson successfully requested his pardon for murdering violent melon thief, John Spikard. In the petition, they do not claim his innocence, but rather report that Whitson was convicted on the flimsy evidence of two notorious prostitutes, relatives of the deceased. That, combined with his ill health and large family, was enough to procure his release.

Patrick

  • Lawrence County Lynch Mob – In KYR-0001-004-3193, the members of a lynch mob on the Kentucky-West Virginia border preemptively write to Governor Bramlette late in 1865 after they have caught and summarily executed members of a pro-Confederate guerrilla band which had murdered many men in their community. “In getting Rid of them People Did not think that the act was unlawful & might get those Engaged in it in Trouble They only felt that Each man woman and child in our Valley was safer than before.”

TIME TRAVEL MEETING: Finally, we’ve asked each editor to select one character from the CWG-K archive that they would most like to spend an hour with when the Flux Capacitor becomes a reality.

Tony

  • Richard Hawes – Mostly to ask, where were you? What did you do for three years after you were installed as Provisional Governor of Kentucky?

Matt

  • Joseph Swigert – In a word: bourbon. The Swigert family owned the Leestown Distillery (which would later become E. H. Taylor’s O. F. C. Plant, then the George T. Stagg Distillery, and today Buffalo Trace).

Whitney

  • Sarah Bingham – It’s safe to say that upon moving to Grant County in 1866, Ms. Bingham did not receive a warm welcome from the neighbors. The women of the area “were of the opinion that the morals of the neighborhood would not be improved by having in their midst a common prostitute.”  When her cabin burned down, nine local men indicted for arson. The petitioners claim these men were honorable, respectable citizens who would never commit such a common crime and accuse Sarah Bingham of burning her own house down with the intent to disgrace these men. Their petition was refused by Bramlette, who, like myself, must have realized there was more to this story.

Patrick

 

 

The Moral of a “Christmas Frolic” in the Commonwealth

By Matthew C. Hulbert

(Thomas Nast, 1864)

Lincoln inviting Confederate soldiers to dinner on Christmas. (Thomas Nast, 1864)

Popular narratives of the Civil War—and of World War I and World War II, for that matter—are replete with stories of soldiers putting aside their martial differences to celebrate Christmas. We hear of men setting down their arms and leaving their breastworks to be “normal,” if only for a single, special day. Then, once the holy day has passed, they return to the business of killing each other with gruesome efficiency. A precious few of these tales are actually true, while many more still are wishful thinking at best and entirely apocryphal at worst. In either case, though, they illustrate how our most basic inclination is to understand wartime holidays in romantic fashion; that is, through the hearts and minds of gallant, civilized soldiers from the regular rank and file—men serving far from home and hearth, but still managing to muster a little holiday spirit.

How did we develop this inclination? In part, it was to forget episodes of Yuletide degeneracy like this one from the Civil War Governors of Kentucky DDE database:

On Christmas Eve, 1863, John Cole approached his friend R. E. Finch and, for reasons unexplained, “pulled Finches whiskers.” Seeing as both men were “considerably under the influence of Liquor,” this affront to Finch’s mustache quickly escalated and—not surprisingly in Civil War Kentucky—would end with an attempted homicide. After having his whiskers pulled, a stunned Finch attempted to retreat, but Cole followed him outside and threatened to cut his throat. Cole then allegedly reached into his pocket in a menacing fashion. Now fearing for his life, Finch remarked that “if Shoot is your game here goes” before drawing a concealed pistol of his own and shooting Cole in the groin. As Cole fell to the ground, he theatrically announced the obvious to onlookers: he’d been shot!

At first glance, the sad saga of Cole and Finch doesn’t make for a very festive or heartwarming vignette. But then again, is the mistake all ours to expect the homefront of a war-torn border state to have been festive or heartwarming in the first place? After all, Kentucky wasn’t just at the center of a broader struggle between civilizations—as a microcosm of that conflict, it was also a place seemingly at war with itself. Citizens on the homefront, men like Cole and Finch, were well armed. (Parents in the 1860s weren’t nearly as worried about children shooting an eye out…) They had easy access to copious amounts of alcohol. (Art Carney would approve...) Moreover, they seemed to have absorbed something of the explosive, violent temperament inherent to the guerrilla conflict that raged all around them. (If only guerrillas bounced like Bumbles…)

Despite all of these negative factors working against the passing of a Merry Christmas in Civil War Kentucky—and just when you thought all hope was lost and a visit from the Krampus imminent—Cole and Finch actually became the exception that helps prove the rule. When the pair had a chance to sober up and think about how they’d embarrassed themselves on one of the holiest days of the year, Cole apologized for pulling Finch’s whiskers, Finch apologized for shooting Cole in the crotch and agreed to pay his medical bills, and the two wrote their dispute off as nothing more than a “Chistmas Frolic.” In light of their return to friendly terms, Governor Thomas E. Bramlette remitted all fines associated with the case.

 (Gods and Generals, Turner Pictures, 2003)

Christmas pals? You betcha. (“Gods and Generals,” Turner Pictures, 2003)

So no, we shouldn’t have expected a happy holiday in a place where life was generally filled with bloodshed and terror. And yes, lives having been filled with bloodshed and terror is one of the major reasons we collectively choose to re-remember the war and focus on bright spots—like soldiers temporarily coming together to celebrate Christmas (whether it really happened or not). But Cole and Finch both survived their fight, they both learned a moral lesson, and both were rewarded with a remission of fines. In the archive of the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition, this is about as close to a Christmas Miracle as it gets.

 

Matthew C. Hulbert is an Assistant Editor of the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition.


SOURCES: R. S. Crumpton to Thomas E. Bramlette, 29 October 1864, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, Kentucky (hereafter KDLA); W. M. Fisher et al. to Thomas E. Bramlette, n. d., KDLA; C. D. Reeds et al. to Thomas E. Bramlette, 24 May 1865, KDLA; S. T. Crowdus to Thomas E. Bramlette, 13 July 1865, KDLA; B. R. Walker, Affidavit, n. d., KDLA; W. H. Roper et al. to Thomas E. Bramlette, n. d., KDLA.

It’s a Hard Knock Life for… Everyone: The Laws of “Universal Adulthood” in Civil War Kentucky

By Matthew C. Hulbert

spencer1In 1865, a jury of Covington (KY) residents slapped William Spencer with a 3 ½ year sentence for stealing a pair of pants from a fellow boarder. Now, if you’re at all familiar with previous CWG-K bloggings, you know that convicted murderers, rapists, and rampaging guerrillas frequently found themselves on the business end of far lighter sentences than Spencer (and sometimes without any sentences at all). What makes this case all the more compelling, however, is that by modern standards—that is, by contemporary, western ones—William Spencer was still a child at the time of his trial. According to affidavits, he was “left an orphan at two years of age and was tenderly reared by his Grandparents who were worthy members of the Methodist Church.” His grandparents died soon after and, while living with an uncle, young William fell in with “bad associations.” At roughly fifteen years of age, he quit “Sabbath School,” ran away from home, found a job, lost it, and was induced by poverty to steal the aforementioned pair of trousers.

At first take, sending a fifteen year old boy to the state penitentiary—a facility brimming with much older, more violent inmates—for stealing a pair of pants seems unthinkable. Even more so when we recall that the pants weren’t even new and couldn’t have been worth more than a few dollars. In reality, though, this wasn’t all that unusual of an occurrence in Civil War Kentucky. To put things mildly, perceptions of adolescence and understandings of how the law should be applied to children was a combined mess.

turman1Take for example the legal woes of James L. Turman, a tavern owner in Boyd County, who was fined $50 for “selling liquor to an infant.” The legal drinking age in Kentucky was twenty-one, then as now, and Turman fully confessed to having sold spirits to Sobble Burgess in spring 1863. The barkeeper defended himself, however, owing to the facts that at the time of the sale, Burgess was twenty years old and representing himself as twenty-one, but was also “well grown,” “doing business for himself,” and had permission from his father to drink. Perhaps most strikingly of all, in May 1863 when he bought the drink, Burgess was a candidate in Catlettsburg’s mayoral election, which Turman assumed could only be so if Burgess was “in his majority.”

Then we have the case of John Watson, a fourteen year old boy who enlisted in the Provost Guard as a drummer in 1861. A couple of years later, when part of his battalion was mustered out of service, Watson “reenlisted in Capt Flares Mounted company 34th Ky Vols.” This move prompted Colonel W. Y. Dillard of the 34th Kentucky Infantry to write Governor Thomas E. Bramlette with a request to have John transferred to his command; apparently the Colonel had “promised his [Watson’s] widowed mother to take care of him So long as I remain in the service.” In other words, with the Union not facing troop shortages like the Confederacy, Dillard understood that Watson was still a child and believed that he didn’t belong in combat service. (Once under his purview, Dillard could have Watson put back into his role as a drummer boy.)

Around the same time Dillard was trying to secure a transfer for Watson, a “free man of color” named Peter Yager was being convicted of larceny. According to petitioners on his behalf, Peter “was charged with stealing Tobacco, which was tied up in large hands & handled indifferently, and upon the trial, the proof introduced established beyond a doubt, that said Boy Peter, raised & cured just such Tobacco.” They also argued that “the Boy Peter proved a good character from his youth up to said trial, for industry and honesty his age was also proven to be from 15 to 17 years.” Translation: Peter’s (white) defenders believed that a farmer had carelessly lost his own tobacco and then blamed Peter for stealing it to cover the loss, despite proof that the young man had raised his own crop. Even the town marshal who’d originally arrested Peter and the prosecutor who’d convicted him signed the plea for executive clemency.

akin1Finally, we come to the October 1863 saga of Graham Akin, a fourteen year old boy from Danville. Described as “very delicate & slender,” Akin was swinging in the gymnasium of the Frankfort-based Waterman School when Thomas Davenport, three or four years Akin’s senior and billed as “heavy & stout,” stood in front of the swing and refused to move. Akin tried to ignore the bully; “he continued his exercises and slightly brushed against Davenport, where-upon Davenport Choaked and otherwise maltreated Akin.” In response, Akin snapped: he “rushed into the house of Mr Waterman, sized his gun and shot Davenport with small shot.” A grand jury in Frankfort indicted Akin on a charge of “shooting, in sudden heat and passion … with intent to kill.” Despite being held on $6000 bond, when Akin pled guilty to the charges, he was found guilty and fined just $50.

So what happened to all of these “child criminals?” And more importantly, what sense can we make of their stories?

  1. In September 1863, John Turman had his fine remitted for selling liquor to a minor and, while it appears Sobble Burgess lost his bid for the mayor’s office, he was never legally disciplined for misleading Turman.
  2. In December 1863, William Spencer was pardoned after serving only about a month of his prison sentence; he went to live in New York with relatives and, as far as we can tell, stayed out of trouble.
  3. Unfortunately, we aren’t sure if John Watson was transferred to the care of Colonel Dillard—or if he survived the war.
  4. We do know, however, that freeman Peter Yager had served half of his prison term by the time his petition was rejected by Governor Thomas Bramlette and that he spent another six months in the state penitentiary. (This isn’t a major surprise: by 1863–64, Governor Bramlette did little to hide contempt for his African American constituents.)
  5. And, lastly, there’s Graham Akin, who pleaded guilty to attempted murder and was fined a whopping $50. Upon appeal to Governor Bramlette, his fine was remitted. Davenport, now sporting a nasty scar, presumably stopped picking on Akin.

As their cases collectively illustrate, from regulations on drinking and firearms to military service and everyday criminal offences, the law in Kentucky generally failed to take a consistent stance on children. On one hand, the state enforced a mandatory drinking age, which clearly transmitted the idea that some citizens (those under twenty one) were not yet considered “legal adults” by the law’s reckoning. But the state also allowed boys technically under the legal enlistment age to serve in the military, which immediately weakens the notion that mandatory age limits were strictly enforced across the board and calls into question how the state could justify not allowing a twenty year old citizen to drink whiskey on account of his age but saw no issue with handing him a rifle and sending him into Napoleonic combat. (A question many still ask of current drinking and enlistment laws in the United States.)

On the other hand, though, we see numerous instances of children either being punished as adults for petty crimes, such as stealing worthless pants, or being pardoned due to their youth and inexperience for very serious crimes, such as attempted murder. This indicates that to some extent, the legal code in Kentucky blanketed all of the state’s residents, regardless of age, with a “universal adulthood”—while at the very same time the people who supposedly made and maintained that legal code (the governor, judges, lawyers, town marshals, etc.) understood more often than not that children ought to have been afforded unique treatment by the justice system.

Why they didn’t take the time to update the books and infuse stability into the juvenile sector of the justice system is anyone’s guess, though being trapped in the middle of the bloodiest military conflict in American history probably had something to do with it. Regardless, Kentucky was the epitome of contradiction when it came to legally dealing with children in the 1860s. Then again, given the state’s penchant for Conservative Unionism, its self-injuring methods for combating irregular violence, and the peculiar, even counter-intuitive legal hoops it jumped through to protect slavery, when wasn’t Kentucky a contradiction during the Civil War?

Matthew C. Hulbert is an Assistant Editor of the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition.


SOURCES: Richard Areson, Affidavit, n. d., Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, Kentucky (hereafter KDLA); Richard Areson to Thomas E. Bramlette, 24 Nov 1865, KDLA; James L. Furman to James F. Robinson, 4 May 1863, KDLA; Charles B. Cotton to Thomas E. Bramlette, 6 Jan 1864, KDLA; P. U. Major, W. H. Sneed, and John M. Hewitt, Jr. to Thomas E. Bramlette, 23 Oct 1863, KDLA; S. D. Delaney et al. to Thomas E. Bramlette, n. d., KDLA; H. M. Pierce to Beriah Magoffin, 28 May 1861, KDLA; W. Y. Dillard to Thomas E. Bramlette, 9 March 1864, KDLA; W. L. Jermane to Thomas E. Bramlette, 28 Nov 1865; KDLA.

Protecting Slavery in a Union State: The Letter vs. the Spirit of the Law

By Matthew C. Hulbert

In October 1863, the Mason Circuit Court (based in Mason County, Kentucky) hit Peter Miller, a legally licensed tavern owner, with maximum fine of $50 for tippling. If this strikes you as odd, it’s because by its very definition in 1863, tippling meant selling alcohol or operating a tavern in which said spirits were sold without a license. Miller balked at the ruling. “I have kept a Bar in Maysville for a number of years,” he noted confidently, “and have always endeavored to comply with the strict letter and spirit of the law.” The fundamental hang-up in the Commonwealth v. Peter Miller, however, was that in this case the letter and spirit of the law actually veered in wildly different directions at the crossroads of slavery.

Chapter 212 of the Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Passed, Volume I, published in 1856, dealt specifically with the sale of spirituous, malt, or vinous liquors to both slaves and “free negroes.” (Note: the law more or less assumed that all slaves would be African American and thus did not label them “enslaved negroes.”) The statute read as follows:

It shall not be lawful for any person or persons in this commonwealth, either with or without a license, to sell, give, or loan to any slave or slaves, not under his or her control, any spirituous, malt, or vinous liquors, unless it is done upon the written order of the owner or person having the legal control of the service, for the time being, of such slave or slaves; and the written order here meant shall clearly specify the quantity to be sold, given, or loaned, and name the slave or slaves, and shall be dated and signed; and such order shall only be good for the one sale, loan, or gift; and the persons violating the provisions of this act shall be liable to pay the owner not less than twenty nor more than fifty dollars, or to be confined in the jail of the county, where such conviction is had, not less than thirty days nor more than six months, or may be both fined and imprisoned, at the discretion of a jury, for each offense, and also be liable for any actual damage sustained, to be recovered by suit in any court having jurisdiction.

The circumstances of Miller’s case aren’t all that complicated. In fall 1863, a “free negro barber,” Nathaniel Oldham, rented “the negro boy Ed” from a local slave-owner named Samuel W. Wood. And, according to undisputed court testimony, “while thus hired to Oldham, the boy and Oldham his master for the time, drank at Peter Millers bar and purchased from him at the County of Mason upon one occasion, the whiskey & beer drank having been furnished for & paid for by him in the presence of and at the instance of Oldham the free negro to whom he was hired.” So Miller was charged with tippling not for selling without a license, but for selling to someone who wasn’t allowed to be drinking alcohol, licensed or not. The bartender had a sturdy defense: Oldham temporarily owned Ed by virtue of the labor deal with Wood and that as Ed’s temporary master, Oldham held final authority over his chattel’s ability to consume alcoholic beverages. Miller further contended that Ed’s permanent owner, Samuel Wood, “cared nothing about the matter” and that the conviction had only been delivered because “political excitement was bitter at the time.”

Peter Miller on his Indictment

“Political excitement was bitter at the time and I was indicted…”

The law clearly favored Miller, especially on two points. First, As Ed’s temporary master, Oldham had legal control of Ed’s services and was in a position to legally purchase him liquor (re: “unless it is done upon the written order of the owner or person having the legal control of the service”); and, second, Miller clearly stated that the drinking only occurred once and it doesn’t appear that anyone disputed the assertion in court (re: “and such order shall only be good for the one sale, loan, or gift”).

The elephant in the room, then, is how Peter Miller was ever convicted of anything in the first place?

Our answer here lies not with the letter of the law—but with its spirit. The “political excitement” Miller referenced revolved around the increasingly-tenuous position of slavery in Kentucky. Lincoln’s war aims were changing; the demise of the Peculiar Institution had become a real possibility if the Confederacy faltered now and Conservative Unionists in Kentucky weren’t particularly pleased about it. (If slavery in the Confederacy went, what chance did it have in the nominally-loyal Border States?) So while he’d technically broken no laws in the Commonwealth, by serving two black men in his tavern—one free and openly exhibiting mastery over a slave, just like his white counterparts might do—Miller had violated the social and cultural mores that governed his own local, white community. In turn, the offended members of that community chose to ignore (that is, completely misappropriate) the particulars of the statute and punished Miller for his breeching of racial protocol.

Upon receiving Miller’s petition for executive clemency, Governor Thomas E. Bramlette quickly reversed the decision and remitted the $50 fine. In the process of interpreting the law, Bramlette exposed an ironic weakness within the institution’s white supremacist foundation: the spirit of slavery in Kentucky was unquestionably based on race (white > black) and constituted a pillar of the state’s social hierarchy (white slaveholders > white non-slaveholders > any African Americans).

But to protect the integrity of the legal codes which were intended to govern the behavior of slaves and how white Kentuckians interacted with them, Bramlette was forced to concede that, according to the letter of the law, a black master (albeit a temporary one in Nathaniel Oldham) could exert the same authority and claim the same legal rights as a white master. In short, Bramlette was forced to reckon with an unanswerable question: which was a higher priority, maintaining the racial hierarchy, or maintaining the institution (slavery) that enforced the racial hierarchy? Luckily, for thousands of men and women like Ed, before Governor Bramlette left office, President Lincoln and the Union army made his decision a moot point.

Matthew C. Hulbert is an Assistant Editor of the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition.


SOURCES: Peter Miller to Thomas E. Bramlette, 12 Nov 1863, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, Kentucky (hereafter KDLA); Commonwealth of Kentucky v. Peter Miller, Judgment, n.d., KDLA; Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Passed, Volume I (Frankfort, KY: A. G. Hodges, State Printer, 1856), 42-44.

Subject Guides: Food

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KYR-0001-002-0010 T. J. McGibben to J. G. Foster, Jan. 26, 1864.
I am a loyal citizen of the state of Kentucky, residing in Harrison County, five miles from Cynthiana in said county. I am a farmer having about three hundred and seventy acres of land. I have a distillery and have for several years past distilled the grain of my own product on my farm, and fed and fatted my stock hogs upon the swill. I have about 400 barrels of Corn and 5000 bushels of wheat on hand. I produced most of this grain on my farm, and purchased a part of it, before any military order was issued restricting distillation. I have 900 hogs purchased and raised by me before any order was issued against distilling grain. It will require more grain than I have on hand to feed and keep said hogs. I will ^suffer^ great loss, almost total loss of my hogs if the grain is taken from me. The swill from the corn, in distilling it, will feed and fatten the same ^or greater^ number of hogs, being fed when warm, than the grain itself would feed and keep.

KYR-0001-003-0116William DeB. Morrill to Unknown, Aug. 8, 1865.
At this place there came into the Coach a woman with four small children. The children were crying with hunger. The Mother said that neither she nor her children had tasted a mouthful of food that day (past noon) I bought some food before we started, when we got to the hotel, had them stop & gave them all a dinner, I gave her ten dollars in money. She was entirely destitute. This woman was the widow of John White of the 3d Ky,, Cavly,, Govr Bramlette’s regiment. He, White died in the Service. The rebels had destroyed evrything at Mt Vernon, her home & even shot her cow, while she was milking it. some of the balls passing through her dress, & one wounding her little girl in the shoulder as I could see by the scar.

KYR-0001-004-0131James R. Dupuy, Affidavit, date unknown.
About two months before the death of the child (which occurred sometime in Feb 1863.) Levis who had purchased some strychnine for the purpose of killing some cats and pigeons that had been annoying him asked his wife for the poison…. He called Caroline & had her to bring him some beef which he took & cut into three peices, small peices, about 1 1/2 inches square & on each peice put some of the poison saying at the time that “here is enough strychnine (or poison) to kill a regiment of men”. Caroline standing near by with the remainder of the beef in her hand & hearing the remark Levi put these peices of meat under the house (the adjacent house) of a neighbor (a plank being off next the ground), placing the beef as far under the house as he could reach with his arm

KYR-0001-004-0441Merie G. Banks to Thomas E. Bramlette, Jan. 25, 1864.
my Husband was only a common Soldier his pay as you know was only $13, per month— which was not enough to support us. the duties which he had to perform were that of being guard at Barracks no 1. So his times was not occupied all the time, So he would Sell various articles of necesities to Soldiers at the Barrack and Hospitals, Such as fruits tobacco and cigars the profits of which in addition to his regular pay enabled us to live tolerably comfortable, But when he got these two packages of tobacco from the Boys, he though he would Sell it at wholesale. hence he offered it ^to^ the grocerymen Saying to the groceryman to Say nothing about it, the reason that he wished him to keep it a Secrect was that he knew that the Police would arrest him for Pedling without licens if they became conizant of the fact, So doing Such a small business he could not afford to take out license hence they requested Secrecy.

KYR-0001-004-0544 John G. Brookover to Maggie, Mar. 15, 1864.
I have had to Spend Some money in buying butter and vetetables that we cannot draw from the commissary department. These things are all very high in the army butter is worth 75cts and and one dollar per pound Green apples have been worth twenty and twenty five dollars per Bbl and have been Since last fall, and other things as high in proportion Whisky Sells for fifty cents a drink and from eight to twenty five dollars per gallon. I have not bot any of it in no form Since our army left Helena We could ^get^ a little there from the commisary department for Sixty cents per gal= Potatoes are worth ten and twelve dollars per Bushel and none Scarcly to be had at that price. We have had a little fight at South bend bend forty mile below us on this river the Rebels captured one of our boats loaded with commisary supplies: but our forces recaptured the boat and took one one hundred Rebel Prisoners

KYR-0001-004-2416 David Schroeder to Thomas E. Bramlette, Sep. 7, 1865.
I David Shroeder would respectfully state that in the month of November 1861 I purchased a cow of Joseph Nicholas on Market streret near 6th ^street^ in Louisville Ky in open market & in presence of Joseph Kramer & my son John then about 13 years old. On the following day I killed the cow and sent the hide to a tanner. One Geo F. Huber on the same day having lost his cow as he said, went to the tanner and there among about 20 green skins found one which he claimed as the hide of his cow. I was arrested & gave bail for my appearance at the next term of the Jefferson Circuit Court.

KYR-0001-004-2738 John Rice to Thomas E. Bramlette, Jun. 14, 1865.
The Grand Jury at that Term Indicted him for Tipling (that is for two acts of selling sprituous Liquor. …we have been Living for several years without Courts or Law & it was a very hard matter for Union men who remained her to sell any way—I am no Grocer or Tavern Keeper I had a small quantity of Apples which I distilled & had some little apple Brandy on hand this selling that I have Confessed is all that I Sold by the Small have no more on hand—& will not again be caught I am a Poor man & have a wife & several children to support a small mountain farm to make a Living on for them & if I am Compelled to pay the Judmt it will deprive my family of actual Comforts of Life & it will not be felt by the State hence I verry Respectfully ask your Excellency to Remit said Fine

KYR-0001-004-3439 John S. McGrew to Unknown, date unknown.
I beg leave to report that I have made a thorough examination of the Western Military Asylum at Harrodsburg Ky and found the grounds & buildings greatly delapidated, Yet they are intrinsically very valuable to the Government & it can be made one of the most beautiful and delightful Soldiers Homes in the United States. … there are ample out buildings of every kind including also fine green houses full of flowers grasseries & vineyards. and especially a very large amount of valuable fruit trees of every new and improved vaieties. There are two large vegetable gardens of about five acres each in a high state of cultivation handsomely laid out one of which alone was sold, last Year about $1000 of marketing after supplying the large family of the occupant. The vineyards are now yielding their crops and a good many barrels of wine are made from them annually … The tillable land would raise all the Corn Oats Hay &c necessary for the Establishment. The grass lands would sustain all the stock necessary to carry it on indeed all the necessary Beef & Pork could be raised upon it and the “House” could be made in a few years self sustaining from the labor of the Soldiers which could be performed by them merely as a healthy recreation

KYR-0001-009-0065 J. A. Cook et al. to Thomas E. Bramlette, date unknown.
[Your Petitioners] state that they grain they have is nearly all of their own product, and that it is necessary to feed the stock they have on hand. Beside a large number of hogs to be fed by them, there cattle and some mules are kept and fed upon the swill. The grain is absolutely necessary to sustain and keep their stock. The hogs, mules and cattle are necessary for the country and for the army and the use they make of it must inure to the general and public benefit. And the taking the grain from them will inflict a serious and unpardonable loss and injury to them
and to their families, and they ask to be allowed to distil their grain—grain of their own product and that your Excellency procur permission to this effect and protectiion to them against molestation in distilling—They state that they are licensed distillers, have paid to the Collector of Internal Revnew the tax or license fees, as required by act of Congress.

KYR-0001-017-0163 John B. McIlvain & Son et al. to Beriah Magoffin, May 1861.
We the undersigned Manufacturers and dealers in flour in this City, have pititioned the Legislature. to pass a Law giving your honor the power to appoint an Inspector of flour in our City independent of the two that is appointed by our City Council, the cause which leads to this is set forth in our petition to the Legislature to which we refer you, Having a deep interest in the Commercial prosperity of our City, and knowing that the flour trade is rapidly increasing this point becoming one of vast importance and having had the benefit of W.G. Timberlakes services as an Inspector of Flour for the last three Years and having entire Confidence in his Judgment capacity and Integrity most earnestly recommend him to your Excellency for the appointment as Flour Inspector.

KYR-0001-020-0190John G. Carlisle and Joe G. Kennedy to Beriah Magoffin, Jul. 27, 1860.
Baker was tried for stealing a parcel of fruit trees; the evidence was altogether circumstantial, and it was the prevailing opinion among those who heard it the evidence, that he was innocent- He was himself a dealer in fruit trees and had on hand a large number at the time of his arrest-The owner of the lost trees examined those of Baker, and thought he identified some of his among them- Baker proved that he had for some time been purchasing trees in the Cincinnati market, but he could not prove that these identical trees had been bought there.

KYR-0001-020-1423H. Berlin to Beriah Magoffin, Jan. 20, 1860.
Now your petitoner Solemly avers that the true facts of the Case and these, He says that he Keeps a Tavern, near the Pork house of A. S. White & Co, at the head of Jefferson Street in the City of Louisville Ky, and that said slave was hired by his owner to work at sd pork house, and that on the day named in said in said indictment a white man came into the Tavern of the undersigned, with said slave, and represented that he was one of the managers of said pork house—that the slave was in his Employ & directed me to let him have a Dram of whisky, I done so, never thinking but that the white man was authorized to Call for the Drink

KYR-0001-029-0179 E. B. Davis et al. to James F. Robinson, date unknown.
Rebels passed through this county and stoled all of the horses he had which was one in number they took and destroyed all of his beading and clothes for himself and family destroyed all of his cupboard ware such as tea cups saucers plates knives and forks and all of his cooking utencels besides salt Bacon & Beef and fed out a quantity of corn &c and upon the whole he was Litterally destroyed as a house Keeper; and he was taken a prisoner by the Rebels and taken away from home at the same time.

KYR-0002-204-0044Military Board, Receipt to Foster Ray, Dec. 16, 1861.
The State of Kentucky
To Foster Ray Dr

Date of Purchase                                                                                             Dollars Cents
Oct 30th 1861 to Nov. 20

To 21107 lbs of Beef at 3½ cts pr. lb                           738      74
To 1199 lbs of Bacon 10 cts pr. lb                              119      90
” 66 Bushels potatoes at 25 cts pr. b                           16        50
” 2 Bags ground coffee at 22½ pr. lb                          51        75
” 500 loaves bread (of Shirley & Woolfork 3½          17        50
Louisville Ky) Freight on same                                   2          50
” 19 lbs ground coffee sent from home 22½                4          28
” 191 lbs green Coffee @ 19c                                      36        29
” 10 Chickens, 12½ Qts butter                                     1          50
” ½ Bushl Red Pepper in pods –                                 1          00
” 107 lb Sugar 13 cts                                                    13        91
” 1 Barrell Vinegar 5. 50                                             5          50
1009    37
for one thousand and nine Dollars & 37 cents –

I certify that the above account is correct and just, and that the articles have been accounted for on my property return for the [gap] ending the [gap] of [gap] 186[gap].

Jno M Harlan Col Ky Vols


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One Time in Civil War Kentucky…: Intemperance and Crime on the Homefront

By Matthew C. Hulbert

Within the database of the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition, cases abound of alcohol-related crimes: gambling, vandalism, larceny, tippling, rape, and even murder. This shouldn’t land as much of a surprise: law enforcement distracted by a war on the homefront, hard economic times, easy access to deadly weapons, and even easier access to liquor all tended to mix as poorly in the mid-nineteenth century as in the present. In the simplest terms, as the following four cases will underscore, Civil War Kentucky was a stage set for tragic—and oft-times bizarre—intersections of intemperance and crime.

The last words of an inebriated Ewing Litterell.

The last words of an inebriated Ewing Litterell.

We begin with the booze-fueled demise of Ewing Litterell. On a spring evening in 1858, he arrived—intoxicated and uninvited—at the Savage household. There, James Savage lived and cared for his elderly parents, while also providing for his younger sisters. According to court testimony, Litterell burst into the house “with a pale of whiskey” in hand and “declared his intention to have a frolic.” James vehemently protested the intrusion and commanded Litterell to leave. In response, Litterell “exposed his person in the presence of the family” and proclaimed that “he was a stud horse and had had intercourse with all the family both mother and sisters and would do so again when it suited his convenience.” To this final insult, James Savage responded not with his mouth, but with his rifle; Litterell fell dead in his tracks. Savage was charged with manslaughter and imprisoned for five years before receiving a pardon in September 1863.

Now consider the plight of 70-year-old John Branstetter, once an upstanding citizen, but by June 1864, a virulent alcoholic. As described by men petitioning Governor Thomas Bramlette to remit a gambling fine on his behalf, Branstetter had generally been known as a “sober & discreet man.” That is, until an encounter with Confederate guerrillas derailed his life. In addition to being robbed of “a great deal of his property,” Branstetter’s two sons “joined an independent company called the ‘Metcalfe Tigers’ for the purpose of hunting down guerrillas & were exposed to many dangers.” The thought of his boys gunned down in the bush by heartless marauders drove John Branstetter straight into the bottle. To be fair, he certainly wouldn’t have been the only father to cope with a son’s military service by drinking. But, as the petitioners also revealed, Branstetter wasn’t your average drunk—liquor made him “delirious and wild.” He became so untamed, in fact, that he literally had to be “guarded” by neighbors once a drinking spree ensued. His plea for clemency was rejected.

Next, we have the account of Mary Doolin, who was “shot & died from Effects of same, by a gun in hands of one Thomas Kinsloe.” Supporters of Kinsloe alleged that he’d come home one day in October 1864 to find Doolin drunk in his house. The two had always been friends, but on this day, for reasons unexplained, “he & her had a fuss” in which “she tried to scald him.” Kinsloe grabbed and aimed a shotgun at Doolin, though, if we believe his side of the story, he believed the gun unloaded and only intended to scare her. Regardless of what Kinsloe believed, when he pulled the trigger, smoke and lead shot erupted from the barrel, the latter striking his stunned target in the hip. The wound proved quite serious and the rest of Mary Doolin’s life would not be pleasant. “She was taken to the hospital” where, after several days of agony, a group of “unskillful surgeons amputated her leg.” Doolin died soon after and Kinsloe went to prison—though he always claimed the surgeons had done more to kill Doolin than he had.

And, finally, we come to the legal troubles of Lafayatte Brafford and John Mullins. In spring 1862, a Kenton County jury found both men guilty of manslaughter following their roles in the death of a man named David McCullough. Everything had started a few weeks earlier when Brafford and Mullins, both “having indulged in drink too freely,” jumped into the carriage of a passing meat wagon. In the process, “Brafford by accident sat down in a bowl of sausage meat.” The wagon’s owner, the aforementioned McCullough, briefly scolded Brafford and Mullins. The pair of drunkards then followed McCullough back to his butcher’s shop, where a general melee ensued. Mullins attempted to enter the shop, but McCullough refused to let him in and blocked the doorway. In turn, Mullins shouted “You won’t do me that way!” to which McCullough responded by hitting him in the face with a two pound weight. Though staggered by the blow, Mullins managed to drag McCullough to the floor with him—at which time Brafford ran forward and stabbed McCullough three times with a small pocketknife. According to testimony, the wounds were only superficial, which explains how McCullough kept fighting.

A few minutes later, all three men were winded; they sat staring at each other on the steps of McCullough’s shop. Mullins asked McCullough if his nose was bleeding. McCullough informed Mullins that it was, in fact, and Mullins retorted that McCullough’s nose was also bleeding—just as he landed a brutal sucker punch to McCullough’s jaw. This ended the fight, but not for sake of the punch itself. Almost at once, all three men realized that their brawling had splintered a barrel and that one of the shards had punctured McCullough’s abdomen. The wound bled profusely and the butcher died twelve days later, almost certainly from infection. Despite their initial convictions, both Brafford and Mullins requested pardons from Governor Beriah Magoffin after only a few months in the state penitentiary. Their supporters alleged that “both Brafford & Mullins were intoxicated greatly” at the time of the assault and could not, therefore, truly be held responsible. (In other words, the liquor made them do it.) Moreover, Mullins apparently promised that “after the lesson of the past few months”—in which he’d drunkenly vandalized a man’s property and then helped kill him—he would “forever abandon intoxicating drink, & adhere to those habits of industry & sobriety for which he has been so uniformly noted during the years of his youth & early manhood.” Magoffin granted both pardons.

The sagas of Ewing Litterell, John Branstetter, and Mary Doolin are not recounted here to suggest that good things didn’t happen to people who drank excessively in Civil War Kentucky. (After all, it’s no great secret that the same booze that got Brafford and Mullins into trouble in the first place also formulated the grounds for the clemency they received from Magoffin. Occasionally, it seems, drunkenly committing a crime trumped committing it soberly.) However, it would also be incorrect to assume that bad things didn’t happen to non-drinkers. On that issue, look no further than James Savage, Thomas Kinsloe, or the unfortunate David McCullough who, when all was said and done, had essentially died over a man sitting in a bowl of sausage meat.

In the end, the flood of intemperance-related paperwork that crossed their respective desks should have made one thing abundantly clear to each of the state’s Civil War governors: between 1861 and 1865, the odds of finding oneself wild and delirious, arrested and fined, assaulted, stabbed, imprisoned, under the knife of incompetent surgeons, impaled by a barrel stave, or otherwise dying an unimaginably horrible death increased exponentially when distilled spirits entered the equation. But learning that lesson was one matter; attempting to force sobriety on a populace equal parts armed, enraged, and skeptical of government was another altogether. The smartest play any of the Civil War governors could make was probably to stick with the devil they knew—to let the people drink. And drink they did.

Matthew C. Hulbert is an Assistant Editor of the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition.


SOURCES: M. P. Buster to Unknown, 28 Sep 1863, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, Kentucky (hereafter cited as KDLA); Robert Miller et al. to Thomas E. Bramlette, n. d., KDLA; Affidavit of George Shirley and E. Wilty, 13 June 1864, KDLA; John L. Sallee to James F. Robinson, 20 May 1863, KDLA; Benjamin Fink et al. to Beriah Magoffin, 30 July 1862, KDLA; A. J. Gray to Beriah Magoffin, n.d., KDLA.