Civil War Governors of Kentucky Editor Hosts Webinar for Kentucky’s Librarians and Archivists

Civil War Governors of Kentucky (CWGK) assistant editor Tony Curtis hosted a webinar on October 14, 2016 entitled “Researching the Civil War Governors of Kentucky” for Kentucky’s librarians and archivists as a part of the Continuing Education program offered through the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives (KDLA). The webinar focused on the launch of “Early Access“–the first stage of accessibility–in June 2016, allowing users to browse and keyword search over 10,000 documents. The next step–“Annotation Beta”–is to deliver approximately 1,500 documents, annotated and set within dense social and geographic networks. The presentation demonstrated how CWGK will shape the ways researchers, students, and teachers will explore the past in the future.

Click HERE to listen to the webinar.

Kentucky Ancestors Online Feature

Want to learn how to search the new Civil War Governors site? How to use its features to build a research project for class or for family or local history? Interested in applying these 10,000+ documents to your home town or family tree?

Read our new feature in Kentucky Ancestors Online, the KHS digital magazine devoted to Kentucky families, locations, stories, resources, and migration.

Project Director Patrick Lewis examines the historical roots of a local legend from Trigg County.

Closing Out Grant Year 2015-16

The Civil War Governors of Kentucky staff is wrapping up the grant year for both of our major federal grants, from the NEH and the NHPRC. This is a good time to reflect back on what we have accomplished.

And we are now poised to enter a new grant year. What will Civil War Governors be doing between now and next October?

Civil War Governors is also going live in 2017, hosting a major scholarly conference in Frankfort and presenting at professional organizations and community groups across Kentucky.

A Facet of Early Access: How do I search?

by Tony Curtis

This might seem like an obvious topic, but there are several ways to search the Early Access website. As a matter of fact, there are three ways: (1) Use the “Browse” function; (2) Use the “Search Collection” function; or (3) Use the “Advanced Search” function. It depends on the objective of your search, as to which function best suits your particular needs.

The “Browse” function is an appropriate choice for individuals who would like to search a particular repository and/or a particular collection. For example, say you are interested in researching the first Confederate provisional governor of Kentucky—George W. Johnson—and you know that the Kentucky Historical Society houses a collection of personal papers for George W. Johnson. You would click the “Browse” button on the main menu in the top right quadrant of the website. Then scroll down until you see the “Kentucky Historical Society” repository button. CLICK. Then scroll until you find the “George W. Johnson Papers” button. CLICK. And commence your browsing of the collection at the item level.

Browse

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If you would like to use the quickest search function, then you are in luck. The “Search Collection” function appears on the main screen—and every screen thereafter—for ease of user access. Just plug in your term or terms and commence your search of the entire collection. You can also narrow your search by using simple or Boolean search operators. For example, a search for Benjamin F. Buckner (no quotation marks) returns 180 search results, while “Benjamin F. Buckner” (with quotation marks) returns one search result. Searching Benjamin AND Buckner (with Boolean operators) returns sixteen search results. So try different combinations of words and operators when using the “Search Collection” function.

The most complex and most effective search function to use is the “Advanced Search” function. This is a faceted search, meaning that is allows the researcher to narrow search results by using many different criteria that have been built into the metadata by project editors. To use this search function, click the “Advanced Search” option underneath the “Search Collection” search box on any page. You will arrive at a page that allows you to target your search by using three specific keyword search fields. You can select from a list of eleven fields to narrow your search: Accession Number, Collection, Date of Creation, Dates Mentioned, Document Genre, Document Title, Editorial Note, Item Location, Place of Creation, Repository, and Transcription. Any combination of these fields will help you narrow your search. For example, say I wanted to find all documents sent to Thomas E. Bramlette from Covington, Kenton County, Kentucky, in 1865. I would conduct the following faceted search to Thomas E. Bramlette (Field: Document Title); 1865 (Field: Date of Creation); and Covington, Kenton County (Field: Place of Creation).

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This faceted search returns twenty-eight search results, while a Boolean search conducted using the “Search Collection” returns fifty-six results. A simple search with all these terms and no operators returns 8,910 documents. Thus we see the benefit of the faceted search function. I would suggest experimenting with all the search functions and see which one fits your research objectives the best and it may change from search to search. Early Access currently contains just over 10,000 documents and this number is only going to continue to grow over time.

So what do you say, how about a few searches? Bet you can’t search just once.

Tony Curtis is an Assistant Editor of the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition.

Welcome to Early Access—Join us for a tour!

By Tony Curtis

The Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition (CWG-K) has launched Early Access, the first stage of accessibility, allowing users to browse and keyword search over 10,000 documents. The diversity of texts and the wide array of historical themes contained in Early Access documents places CWG-K alongside the most forward-looking documentary editing projects. There are several bells and whistles, so join us for a quick tour of the new website!

Home Page

The first stop is the Early Access homepage. No, that is not Santa Claus, it is Kentucky’s first Union Civil War Governor—Beriah Magoffin—a member of the Democratic Party and a supporter of Southern Rights. And there are more unidentified individuals at the top of the page showing you what to expect from these documents—a diverse collection of historical actors from Civil War-era Kentucky.

You can start to engage documents through the “Search Collection” and “Advanced Search” functions or by using the “Explore” function moving down the right side of the page. But more on the search capabilities in an upcoming blog post, as that will require more attention. Stay tuned!

Moving through the website, you can engage the documents and additional content through the “Featured Collection”, “Featured Exhibit”, or “News” icons at the bottom of the page:

Home Page_2

You can engage additional content through four drop down menus located in the top right quadrant of the website—“About”, “Reference”, “Browse”, and “Exhibits”. Let’s take a look at each of the drop down menus individually.

Clicking on the “About” menu will further introduce you to the project and the Early Access team. But there is more! The drop down menu also includes information about the document selection process, editorial processes, and what is beyond Early Access for the CWG-K team. Take some time to look through this information, as much of it documents the foundations of the CWG-K project—what it is and what it is not.

About

Moving along to the “Reference” menu, one can gain further intellectual access and historical understanding of Civil War-era Kentucky through rich governors’ biographies, detailed congressional & judicial district data, and a bibliography for further reading. The congressional & judicial data is particularly exciting! This data is the result of our original research project to map all civilian and military structures from Civil War Kentucky—the beautiful mind project drawn on large Post-it notes on our office walls. There is so much more data to share moving forward so keep visiting for future updates!

Reference

The next menu is the “Browse” function. Instead of conducting a keyword search, researchers may decide to browse our collection by repository and collection name. Click the name of the repository to start browsing our collections from the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Kentucky Department of Military Affairs Records and Research Branch, Kentucky Historical Society, Mary Todd Lincoln House, and Maker’s Mark Distillery.

Browse

And, finally, the “Exhibits” menu, which currently includes The Caroline Chronicles. Caroline’s is just one of the personally compelling and historically instructive stories that the Civil War Governors of Kentucky will help researchers and teachers tell. Hers is a story of race, slavery, emancipation; domestic service, motherhood, and gender; true crime, the law, and justice.

Exhibits

So where do we go from here? Early Access is the beginning of accessibility but not the end. The ultimate goal of CWG-K is to create a digital research environment within which a user can encounter the past multi-dimensionally through the documents and the powerful annotation network that links the documents together.

The next step is to deliver approximately 1,500 documents annotated and set within dense social and geographic networks. These documents, the first of a projected 40,000, will demonstrate how Civil War Governors will shape the ways researchers, students, and teachers will explore the past in the future.

To this end, Civil War Governors was awarded $62,400 in the May 2016 cycle of National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC) funding. This grant will run from October 2016 to September 2017, and will support that next phase of work: publishing an annotation interface of 1,500 fully edited and linked documents.

Tony Curtis is an Assistant Editor of the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition.

Civil War Governors Reviewed on HistoryNet

Ural Rev“Easily explored by browsing or keyword search, this superb site offers excellent resources for those whose reading, research and writing interests lay at the crossroads of the battlefield and the home front.”

Read more from University of Southern Mississippi Professor Susannah J. Ural’s review of the new Early Access interface from her Ural on URL column on HistoryNet:

http://www.historynet.com/the-war-on-the-net.htm

A Caroline Chronicles Update: A Research Journey Through the Louisville Daily Journal

By Tony Curtis

Just when you think that you have gathered all of the available information on the Caroline Chronicles (read all the documents on Early Access) you stumble across a digitized collection of the Louisville Daily Journal on archive.org. I am particularly interested in how news of the Blanche Levi murder was revealed to the public and how the ensuing case was covered by a prominent Louisville newspaper. And what did a deep dive into this collection uncover about the Caroline Chronicles? I invite you—our readers—to join me on this research trip!

The Levi family appears at various points in the newspaper from August 1862 until September 1863. Willis Levi—a steamboat engineer—first appears listed as a survivor of the Steamer Acacia disaster on August 30, 1862:

Louisville Daily Journal, August 30, 1862

Louisville Daily Journal, August 30, 1862

And again with his brother Elias Levi in an auctioneer advertisement on January 30, 1863:

Louisville Daily Journal, January 30, 1863

Louisville Daily Journal, January 30, 1863

The Levi’s are being mentioned regularly with this advertisement for their auctioning services, and Elias is even covered anonymously through a printed Jefferson County Sheriff’s advertisement for the sale of John West(ly)—Caroline’s husband. We see the original in the Jefferson County Court books in previously discovered documents. Elias Levi bought John West(ly), aged 25, on April 27, 1863 for $245:

Louisville Daily Journal, April 18, 1863

Louisville Daily Journal, April 18, 1863

Louisville Daily Journal, April 28, 1863

Louisville Daily Journal, April 28, 1863

But what about the death of Blanche Levi—daughter of Willis and Anne Levi? The first mention of the death of Blanche occurs in the April 22, 1863 obituaries, her death occurring one day earlier. The obituary is brief, giving her age, when the funeral will occur, and a brief bible verse:

Louisville Daily Journal, April 22, 1863

Louisville Daily Journal, April 22, 1863

The newspaper then falls silent for ten days. Not one mention of Blanche, the Levis, or Caroline—until May 2, 1863, when the newspaper prints, “For two weeks past we have withheld giving publicity to one of the most horrible and treacherous deeds ever committed in this city, in order to give the officers ample time to ferret out the guilty parties.” They announce “the wretch”—Caroline—was arrested and faced arraignment that same morning. Showing the inherent racial bias of society, the newspaper supposes that Caroline could not have committed without accomplice, stating, “It was believed that the girl had been instigated to this deed by some fiend in human shape, but diligent investigation has been made, and no accessory has as yet been discovered. There is something very mysterious about the crime, from the fact that no cause whatever had been given to the girl to prompt her to wreak her vengeance in this horrible crime. If she has an accomplice we sincerely trust that the wretch will be brought to justice.”

Louisville Daily Journal, May 2, 1863

Louisville Daily Journal, May 2, 1863

This article also references Caroline’s status, they define her as “a contraband negro, from Tennessee, in the employ of Mr. Willis Levy.” Much like the previously discovered documents, Caroline’s status is constantly in flux. On May 2, 1863, the “Police Proceedings” section—the Civil War-era police blotter—announced “Caroline, a slave of James Deman, charged with poisoning a child of Willis Levi. The slave being too sick to be brought into court, the witnesses were recognized to go before the grand jury of the Circuit Court.” This gives us more insight into Caroline’s status, but it is also contradictory information. What was Caroline’s status—self-emancipated woman, contraband, slave, or a free woman of color (f.w.c.)? I am afraid newspaper coverage does not clarify Caroline’s status and as we concluded in prior research, her status remains inconclusive. It is unknown as to what the newspaper means by “too sick”.

Louisville Daily Journal, May 4, 1863

Louisville Daily Journal, May 4, 1863

On May 6, 1863, the grand jury of the Jefferson Circuit Court returned an indictment against “Caroline (a slave)”.

Louisville Daily Journal, May 7, 1863

Louisville Daily Journal, May 7, 1863

The June 10, 1863 Louisville Daily Journal announces the “Commonwealth vs Caroline (a slave)” case for trial as a part of the June 1863 docket of the Jefferson Circuit Court—the trial to be held on Wednesday, June 17, 1863.

Louisville Daily Journal, June 10, 1863

Louisville Daily Journal, June 10, 1863

Further mention of Caroline’s case does not appear until June 19, 1863, when a guilty verdict is announced: “The negro woman who poisoned the family of Mr. Levi, of this city, some months since, from the effects of which one of his children, a sweet little girl, died, was yesterday convicted of murder in the first degree in the court now in session here. She will doubtless be hung.”

Louisville Daily Journal, June 19, 1863

Louisville Daily Journal, June 19, 1863

The next mention of Caroline is not until August 14, 1863—almost two months later—announcing when she is to be hanged “at the corner of Eighteenth and Broadway streets” in Louisville. And again on September 8, 1863, following a month long respite.

Louisville Daily Journal, August 14, 1863

Louisville Daily Journal, August 14, 1863

On September 11, 1863, Caroline is granted a second respite “for a few days” by Governor Thomas E. Bramlette “on account of some newly discovered testimony which may have some bearing on her case.”

Louisville Daily Journal, September 11, 1863

Louisville Daily Journal, September 11, 1863

And the new evidence convinced Governor Bramlette in favor of executive clemency, as the final mention of Caroline occurs on September 25, 1863, under the headline “Pardoned.”

Louisville Daily Journal, September 25, 1863

Louisville Daily Journal, September 25, 1863

So what have we learned from the Louisville Daily Journal coverage? The Levis were active members in the Louisville business community. We have more concrete dates on the death of Blanche Levi and the chronology of Caroline’s case. We know that the newspaper purposefully withheld any coverage of the case to allow for time to investigate the facts of the case and to arrest any suspects. The newspaper coverage further complicates Caroline’s status for us—Caroline inhabited many different worlds depending on time and place. We also learn that there is no additional coverage of “one of the most horrible and treacherous deeds ever committed in this city”—no editorials, no letters to the editor . . . Nothing. So once again, a set of research questions has led us to more research questions—some of the questions remain, others have been developed. The search continues and we will update you as new evidence is uncovered.

Tony Curtis is an Assistant Editor of the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition.

Marginalized Victims: Women and the Preservation of Honor in Civil War Kentucky

JURY, n. A number of persons appointed by a court to assist the attorneys in preventing law from degenerating into justice. – Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

***

By Matthew C. Hulbert

In July 1863, a Gallatin County man named Frank Story overpowered Jane Kelly, a local white woman. (This racial distinction is important because had Kelly been African American, a trial record would probably not exist.) He abducted his victim with one purpose in mind: “to have carnal knowledge with her.” Details are few and far between of the attack itself—but we do know that Story’s advances were unwanted (hence the abduction) and that he failed to complete his above stated purpose before being interrupted by multiple witnesses, who turned out to be children. A Grand Jury swiftly convened in Gallatin County and indicted Story for attempted rape (read the full document in Early Access). Not long after, a trial jury convicted him of a lesser charge; rather than attempted rape, these jurors found Story guilty of assault and battery and sentenced him to a measly four months in prison and a $100 fine.

Oftentimes we find examples in the CWG-K archive wherein a trial jury is compelled for one reason or another to produce a certain verdict and then immediately requests that the governor use his executive power to override the original decision. Put another way, the jury does what they feel the letter of the law obligated them to do before turning to the chief executive of the Commonwealth to ensure that justice is meted out. (The same jurors convicting Caroline Dennant of infanticide and then requesting her pardon is one such illustration.) In this case, a petition was sent to Governor Thomas Bramlette; it was signed by all twelve of the jurors who convicted Story along with the sheriff of Gallatin County, the attorney who prosecuted the case, and numerous other officeholders and private citizens. Given that Story’s sentence seems so short and the nature of his transgression so violent; contemporary readers might jump to the conclusion that the jurors were compelled to lessen his charges on a legal technicality. They might also assume that the governor, Thomas Bramlette—himself a former judge with a fire and brimstone reputation—will set things right based on the petition. Unfortunately for Jane Kelly, those assumptions would be wrong. The petitioners actually believed that her attempted rapist had been the party robbed of justice.

According to the petition, which was spearheaded by Thomas Ritchey, the trial jury refused to convict Story of attempted rape based on the testimony of children—despite the fact that the Grand Jury had used the same testimony to indict. Moreover, the men writing on Story’s behalf believed Bramlette should grant a full pardon because 1) Story was only fifteen years old at the time of the crime; and, 2) because his father had been away in the Union army and as a result “had not that Control over his Son & could not govern his conduct as he would like to have done.” In other words, at fifteen years of age, Frank Story could not be expected to control himself in the manner of an adult and thus should not have been held responsible for attempting to rape Jane Kelly.

As past readers of the CWG-K blog will note, the law in Kentucky generally failed to take a consistent stance on the convicting and sentencing of minors. For instance, William Spencer, himself fifteen years old, was initially sentenced to 3.5 years in the state pen for stealing a pair of used trousers before having the punishment commuted to one month. Also recall the case of Graham Akin, a fourteen year old from Danville who was convicted of attempted homicide but only fined $50. So, it really should not surprise anyone that Kentuckians in 1863-64 tried to use Frank Story’s age to get him out of an already truncated prison sentence. Nor should it stun you to learn that Thomas Bramlette did, in fact, exercise clemency—freeing Story halfway through his prison term and remitting the $100 fine.

Kentucky’s legal system in the 1860s had little idea how to define childhood and thus struggled mightily to sentence minors. That much has been established already. The more revealing line of inquiry raised by the Story-Lane encounter has to do with the way male jurors and court officers reconciled their own conceptions of self-honor with gender, age, and the weight of one’s word. Unlike in the aforementioned case of William Spencer—who was convicted based on the testimony of an adult male victim/witness and received a relatively harsh sentence—the main witnesses against Frank Story were a mix of minor and adult, but neither was the magic combination of adult male. So on one hand, the jurors in The Commonwealth vs. Frank Story would have been willing to punish children as adults under certain circumstances, while not considering the testimony of children on equal terms with that of an adult (even when the defendant himself was a child).

What jumps out here is that the testimony of Jane Kelly hadn’t mattered from the start. The petition specifically stated that, “His [Story’s] guilt was proven by children only” (my emphasis). This wasn’t a case of accidental oversight—it’s where the honor component comes into the story. Despite her being both an adult and a firsthand witness to the crime, Kelly’s word wasn’t valued enough to land a full conviction. Not because male jurors believed she was untrustworthy—because a female voice was never supposed to be an integral part of the process at all.

In 1850s and 1860s, southern men liked to believe their lives were structured around a paternalistic, hyper-masculine code of honor in which dependents—women and children—required their protection. At the same time, within the gendered confines of this system those same women were not considered competent enough as witnesses to describe to their would-be protectors from what or from whom they actually required defense. Therein, at least in theory, women were fundamentally no different than their children. With this in mind, Jane Kelly was only supposed to play the role of damsel in distress and then of grateful ward. But the logistics of the crime and subsequent trial didn’t work out that way. No men could take the stand to testify, so it was either a woman or children whose voices would have to be lent authority in court. Faced with this decision, the jurors begrudgingly chose to prioritize the children’s testimony, which kept Jane Kelly in her proper role.

What this hiccup in the system ultimately confirms is that the “code of honor” undergirding it was never actually based on protecting dependents. It was designed to appear that way to advance a patriarchal agenda. As such, it was laden with loopholes designed to give men a way to protect themselves and their status/authority first, even at the expense of a sexual assault victim like Jane Kelly.

 

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

SCWH Cross-Post: So, You Want to Create a Digital Project

CWG-K XMLHave you found a hidden gem of a collection that you want to share with the world? Thinking of creative ways to actively engage your students in the work of history? Want to attract students to your department and develop diverse career skills for history majors?

If you have answered “yes” to any of these questions, a digital project might be in your future. But how exactly do you do start?

From the earliest conceptual stages through our Early Access web development, Civil War Governors has learned quite a bit about designing and launching a digital history project—sometimes the hard way.

Read some distilled tips from project director Patrick Lewis at the Society of Civil War Historians blog.

Making Connections to the Past

By Stefanie King

Civil War Governors‘ new Early Access web interface provides researchers access to thousands of transcribed Civil War-era documents that bring new voices into conversation with historians. But how does the project move beyond the texts to provide researchers new levels of access to the lives of 1860s Kentuckians? Early Access is an important achievement for the project, more than five years in the making. Yet the next phase of work will push the boundaries of digital scholarship by using these documents to map the social network of Civil War-era Kentucky.

This summer, Civil War Governors is trying to understand how dense and interconnected a network the documents will allow us to construct. So we chose 21 documents to be our laboratory experiment before moving on to the 23,000 identified so far.

Caroline Chron Connections

Visualizing Caroline’s Social World

Those 21 documents contained 440 identifiable entities (IDs), including people, places, and organizations. Some of the people mentioned in the documents are easy to identify, such as the governors or other prominent members of society. Others are harder. Caroline Dennant, from The Caroline Chronicles, is is difficult to research due to the biases of the historical record, stemming from her life as an enslaved woman and then as a contraband. Most of what we know about Caroline comes from the context of the documents in which she is mentioned.

Other people are difficult to identify because of how they appear in a document—for example, the “german woman” referred to in Caroline’s court case will be tough to identify because the information about her is vague (KYR-0001-004-0131). Similarly, many of the people mentioned in the documents are difficult to identify because their full name is not included. A Kenton County petition signed by “R Mann” is a start. But is he Robert Mann or Richard Mann, both of whom lived in the county at the time? (KYR-0001-020-1405). As frustrating as it can be, though, the process of identifying little-known historical actors includes some interesting discoveries as well, such as Willis Levy’s neighbor and brother, James, who was a lightning-rod maker.

Understanding how the people are connected is a challenging task as well.  One obstacle, again, stems from the limitations of the historical record. For example, we know Rev. John L. McKee met with Caroline Dennant on multiple occasions, primarily providing her with religious counsel. But were they close friends, or merely acquaintances? Without further information from the people themselves, we can only determine the nature of that relationship as revealed in the extant documents. Furthermore, the documents do not tell us why Rev. McKee decided to help Caroline. Did Caroline seek out his counsel? Did a member of Rev. McKee’s congregation request that he become involved in Caroline’s case? Did McKee and Caroline already know each other somehow? Although we know there was a relationship between Rev. McKee and Caroline Dennant, we do not know how the relationship began, or what became of that relationship.

This leads to the second step in understanding the social network in Civil War-era Kentucky, which is categorizing types of relationships. Some relationships are easy to understand: Willis and Anne Levy were married; Blanche Levy was the child of Willis and Anne Levy; Anne Levy and Josephine Lynch were sisters.

Other relationships are not as easy to categorize. For example, numerous concerned citizens petition Governor Bramlette, asking that he pardon Caroline Dennant. But what is the nature of the relationship between these petitioners and Caroline? Are the petitioners friends of Caroline? Acquaintances? Some of the petitioners, such as John G. Barret, did not even know Caroline, and Caroline may not have known all of the people who petitioned the governor on her behalf (KYR-0001-004-0129). To complicate things further, nine of the jurors involved in Caroline’s case petitioned Governor Bramlette to pardon Caroline. The jurors who convicted Caroline of murder, then petitioned that she be pardoned. What type of relationship does that indicate? “Juror” or “petitioner” may not constitute a relationship, but the action of serving on the jury or signing a petition does establish a connection between them.

Deciding how to classify a huge range of human relationships into a handful of regularized relationship types is a tricky process that balances usability and nuance, generality and specificity. If Civil War Governors gets it right, researchers will be able to discover new patterns that would otherwise not be apparent, as well as have access to a new biographical encyclopedia of everyday people of all walks of life in Kentucky history. The project will allow researchers to visualize Civil War-era Kentucky by revealing the connections that underpinned this nineteenth-century world.

Stefanie King is a Ph.D. student at the University of Kentucky and a summer 2016 intern at the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition.