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.

A “Secret Inquisition” in Kentucky: General Stephen Burbridge, Abraham Lincoln, and Union War Policy

by Matthew C. Hulbert

At 4 p.m. on November 9, 1864, Governor Thomas E. Bramlette received an urgent letter from prominent Lexington political general and attorney John B. Huston. The message alarmed Kentucky’s chief executive, to say the very least. According to Huston, Union soldiers had arrived at his home shortly after midnight, arrested him in front of his wife and daughter, and had further plans to expel him “into the Rebel lines.” Huston freely admitted to Bramlette that he’d been campaigning for George McClellan in the upcoming presidential contest of 1864—but also noted that he had every right to do so as a “free man” and as a supporter of the Union “without conditions.” His detention and impending excommunication from Union territory, Huston concluded, had come on the orders of General Stephen Burbridge, commander of the District of Kentucky, in an effort to squelch pro-McClellan voices on the eve of the hotly-contested election.

Lacking the authority to free Huston from the custody of a federal commander, Bramlette immediately telegraphed President Lincoln. “General John B. Huston, a loyal man and prominent citizen” the wire read, “was arrested and yesterday started off by General Burbridge to be sent beyond our lines by way of Catlettsburg, for no other offense than opposition to your re-election … you are doubtless re-elected, but surely cannot sanction this ostracism of loyal men who honestly oppose you.” Lincoln responded almost immediately, signature sarcasm included: “I can scarcely believe that General John B. Huston has been arrested for no other offense than opposition to my re-election, if that had been deemed sufficient cause of arrest, should have heard of more than one arrest in Kentucky on election day.”

bramlette to lincolnLincoln sent an order to Burbridge ordering Huston’s release and assured Bramlette that the general had not yet been—and would not be—shipped south. As it turned out, Burbridge had also arrested Colonel Frank Wolford and Bramlette’s own Lieutenant Governor, Richard T. Jacob. “Lieutenant Governor Jacob is at Catlettsburg, and Colonel Wolford at Covington, both under arrest, and, by order of the Secret Inquisition, ordered into the rebel lines,” Bramlette fumed to Lincoln. “Will you either order their release at once, or a suspension of the order until you receive my communication of this date?” Lincoln’s response to this second request lacked the force of the first:

Yours of to-day is received. It seems that Lieutenant Governor Jacob and Colonel Wolford are stationary at present. General Suddarth and Mr. Hodges are here, and the Secretary of War and myself are trying to devise means of pacification and harmony for Kentucky, which we hope to effect soon, now that the passion induced by the exciting subject of the election is passing off. A. Lincoln

This wasn’t enough for the governor; the public outrage Burbridge had fomented with his crackdown on civil liberties was bad for Kentucky and bad for the war effort. Bramlette wired Lincoln again. “If the Headquarters of the Commandant in Kentucky were at Frankfort, where a free interchange of views could be had, it would avoid the evils which have resulted from Burbridge’s weakness.” “But,” he continued, “he [Burbridge] and I cannot hold personal converse after his bad conduct within the last few weeks. Our intercourse must be restricted to official correspondence in writing. It would therefore much facilitate matters to have some commandant with whom I could act on terms of social courtesy and equality.” In other words, Bramlette wanted Lincoln to replace Burbridge—and he wanted it done immediately.

Lincoln refused. Not because the president was loath to playing musical chairs with his top military commanders. McDowell, Pope, Burnside, Hooker, and McClellan (twice) were collective proof enough of that. Rather, Lincoln denied the removal request because at the end of the day, he was a wartime president, and he needed commanders in place who were willing to take bold action—even if those actions occasionally fell between the cracks of civil liberty or even flirted with illegality. Bramlette was no doubt disappointed to learn this hard lesson about Lincoln’s wartime priorities.

Months later, following the spectacular failure of a strategy for stamping out guerrilla violence (that involved executing POWs believed to be irregular combatants and ended up creating new bushwhackers faster than it could hang them), Major General Stephen Burbridge was stripped of his authority and never again reinstated to command. In this, he learned a hard lesson of his own: Lincoln was only willing to look past “secret inquisitions” or to bend the rules for the generals who orchestrated them if it brought the Union closer to ultimate victory. Burbridge failed—and thus took his place among the McDowells and Popes of the Union high command.

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

SOURCES: Thomas E. Bramlette, 1864, “Message to the General Assembly of Kentucky,” Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives (KDLA).

Between the Rock and the Hard Place: Sources on Guerrilla Violence in CWG-K

Click here to view this Subject Guide in the new Civil War Governors interface.


On June 14, 1864, John T. Smith penned a letter to Kentucky governor Thomas E. Bramlette. According to Smith, the County Court of Logan County had selected him to serve as a special messenger. His task: hashing out a solution for Logan County’s guerrilla infestation. “Our object,” Smith wrote, “is to fall upon some plan so as to have a company to act against Guerillas … the condition of most of us is such that we can not be spared long at a time from our families and therefore can not with propriety volunteer regularly and devote our whole time to the Service but we can raise a sufficient number to keep off guerillas and robbers by taking turn about with each others.”

Stationing troops in the area—an oft-used solution for localized outbreaks of irregular violence in Kentucky—wouldn’t do in this case; outside soldiers, the Logan County contingent argued, “are unacquainted with the country and its citizens and can do but little in catching guerillas who are well acquainted with both people and country.” Put another way, guerrillas had home field advantage against regular troops and it would take an insider to catch an insider. Smith and his comrades were willing to use their own intimate knowledge of Logan County to hunt pro-Confederate bushwhackers (on a part-time basis), so long as Governor Bramlette would provide them with supplies, firearms, and the state’s permission to wield them with lethal force.

Perhaps most interesting, though, is the postscript of Smith’s letter. It reads as follows:

P.S. We are troubled by all sorts of Guerillas. Since writing the above, I learn that a squad of federal guerillas or negro Soldiers from Clarksville Tenn. came into the neighborhood of Voleny last night (the place visited by rebel guerillas two nights before) and stripped the citizens of their negroes and horses. It is a perfect outrage upon our country. The Federal Soldiers at Clarksville are so busy recruiting negroes that they pay no more attention to guerillas and robbers than if they belonged to the same class of individuals. If we are permitted to raise our company give us instruction what is to be done with negro guerillas. I think we can raise from 150 to 200 men a portion of whom can always be in motion and when necessary all can act.

Aside from Smith’s views on black enlistment, this addendum reveals the extent to which Logan County residents were caught between a gray rock and a blue hard place: pro-Confederate guerrillas would raid a neighborhood and take what food and horseflesh they needed to operate in the bush. Then a group of Unionist guerrillas—sometimes even black Unionist guerrillas—would come through the same neighborhood, accusing the residents of having willingly supplied the Confederates. This cycle could repeat itself ad infinitum (and often in the reverse order), with local citizens trapped in the middle. And it was anything but limited to Logan County — this was a state-wide problem.

So if you’re interested in finding out how Governor Bramlette, private citizens like John Smith, and/or Kentucky’s military forces waged war against irregular combatants, check out this subject guide on Guerrilla Warfare — but be advised that it only represents the tip of the iceberg.

***

SUBJECT GUIDE: Guerrilla Warfare

KYR-0001-001-0008Thomas E. Bramlette, Proclamation by the Governor, Jan. 4, 1864

It is in the power of persons whose sympathies are with the rebellion to prevent guerrilla raids, almost invariably, by furnishing to Military Officers of the United States or State of Kentucky, the information which experience has proved them to be, as a general thing, possessed of.

If all would unite, as is their duty, in putting down guerrillas, we should soon cease to be troubled with their raids. A neglect to afford all assistance and information which may aid in defeating the designs of marauding parties, can but be construed as a culpable and active assistance to our enemies.

I, therefore, request that the various Military Commandants in the State of Kentucky will, in every instance where a loyal citizen is taken off by bands of guerrillas, immediately arrest at least five of the most prominent and active rebel sympathizers in the vicinity of such outrage for every loyal man taken by guerrillas. These sympathizers should be held as hostages for the safe and speedy return of the loyal citizens. Where there are disloyal relatives of guerrillas, they should be the chief sufferers. Let them learn that if they refuse to exert themselves actively for the assistance and protection of the loyal, they must expect to reap the just fruits of their complicity with the enemies of our State and people.

KYR-0001-002-0018Berry S. Young et al. to Thomas E. Bramlette, Feb. 16, 1864

The Undersigned citizens of Crittenden having been informed that by Legislative enactment and by the authority vested in you as Governor of said State that forces are to be Raised for the defense of the state against Guerrilla invasion if such be the fact We would Recommend to your favorable Consideration Lieut F S Loyd of Co H 20th Ky Regt as Col and J N Hughey 1st Sergt Co E 48th Ills Regt ^for Lt Col^ both Recruited from this (Crittenden) County both of them accomplished Gentlemen and Soldiers they Refer you to Col Edward of your Staff By promoting those Young Gentlemen you will greatly oblige the Undersigned and Reward merit gained by gallant service in their countrys cause

Berry S Young clk c c c

James M Steele

W C Carnahan

S L. R. Wilson

Robt F Haynes County Atty,,

J H Walker Clerk

Crittenden Circuit Court

D N Stinson Post Master at Marion Crittenden Co Ky

John N Woods

Alfred Armstrong

James W Wilson —

  1. E. Black

J C Henson

  1. L. Leigh

S U Elder

KYR-0001-004-0996George Shirley and E. Wilty, Affidavit, Jun. 13, 1864

State that John Branstetter an infirm old man of near 70- years has lived many years in this county (formerly Barren County) a respected & good citizen and up to the commencement of this Rebellion a Sober & discreet man- that the Guerrilas Robbed him of a great deal of his property. From the troubles consequent there to & the additional fact we suppose, that his two sons Joined an independent company called the “Metcalfe Tigers” for the purpose of hunting down guerrillas & were exposed to many dangers the Old man took to drink- While in one of his drinking sprees he was induced by some bad men to go into the woods & play a game of cards. The game was played on his land & money was bet & won as appears by the evidence Testimony of a credible witness- who chanced to come upon them & saw the game He has been indicted therefore tried & fined $200- which is the least the law provides in such cases This old man is often delirious & wild wherein these drinking sprees & has to be guarded sometimes We his neighbors & friends are candid in representing that we think this is one of the few cases which demand the interposition of the Governor and ask that his fine be remitted.

KYR-0001-004-1941Z. Wheats to Thomas E. Bramlette, Jun. 19, 1865

I called at your office to-day & left for your consideration, the Petition of Capt. Edwin Terrell of the Independent Ky Scouts. I hope you will grant the prayer of his petition. He is one of the bravest men I ever saw, & has done more to rid Kentucky of Guerrillas than any man I have heard of. The fact is, his little band have been more effective in this service, than some Brigades of Cavalry. His head quarters were in Shelbyville & they gave our town & county protection which we could not have obtained from any other source.

KYR-0001-004-1380Hill and Knott to Thomas E. Bramlette, Dec. 16, 1864

Sir: As you are doubtless aware this portion of our State has long been infested by a gang of Guerrillas whose depredations have been committed almost with impunity, in Spite of the utmost vigilence of the Military, whose efforts to capture or destroy them, they have constantly managed to elude. So frequent and successful have been their forays—characterized by murder robbery and plunder—that their presence has become a cause of extreme terror to the citizens of whatever portion of our community they may mark as their prey. Some three weeks ago they made a raid through a portion of this County murdering some, robbing others, and maltreating in some manner, nearly all with whom they met.

KYR-0002-225-0083M. E. Poynter to Thomas E. Bramlette, Feb. 15, 1865

I trouble you with a line in regard to the recruiting officer for the State Service at this place who professes to have authority— from you to raise a company &c. I refer to W. W. Harper— and as a citizen and a Union man in behalf of the cause—the community, your own good name and of common decency I protest against such an appointment—As badly as this service demands men and as much as we have suffered from guerrillas we as a community had rather Quantrell, would pay an occasional visit than be annoyed by this man in “brief authority”— all the time.

KYR-0001-003-0086E. H. Hobson to Thomas E. Bramlette, Mar. 5, 1864

The 37th Ky Mounted Inft has greatly improved, Since Col C J Hann took command this Regt has recd its Horse equipments and enfield rifles but to make them more efficient would most respectfully Suggest that you arm two or four compns of the regt with Ballard Carbines or muskatoons I am anxious to have the Regt mounted and send them to the Cumberland to protect the Border Counties. the notorious Gurilla Capt Richardson and nine of his men will arrive here to day as Prisoners, they Justly merit and I hope will be punished with death give Col Hansons wishes your favourable consideration.

KYR-0002-022-0062W. M. Allen to Thomas E. Bramlette, Dec. 23, 1864

The last raid resulted in the death of two of our best citizens, and the killing of three of the band, and the wounding of three others of them. It was at first supposed that two of them killed at Jeffersontown were Federal soldiers, taken prisoners by the gurillas but we are all satisfied that they were deserters & gurillas. Our people are now pretty thoroughly aroused, and are anxious to have them pursued and exterminated. When pursued, these cut throats flee to the Salt River hills and scatter about among their friends and cant be found. We know who many of their aiders and abettors are but have no power to punish. The Military Authorities give us but little protection. We want something of our own that will be more efficient. It is proposed by some to raise 100 men in our county at our own expense!

KYR-0002-225-0079John F. Lay to Thomas E. Bramlette, Mar. 11, 1865

I have the Honor to make aplication to you for authority to recruit a Company of State troops to Serve in the State of Ky for the period of twelve months I have Served over three years in the Fedral army and know Cannot remain at Home on account of Gurillas if you will favor me with authority please Send me Some Blank Enlistment papers

KYR-0002-225-0037W. H. H. Faris to Thomas E. Bramlette, Apr. 24, 1864

I have presumed to address your excellency on a matter of some importance. It is the method we should adopt as the most proper for the defence of our state. The two already provided, the state troops and militia, have not proved sufficiently available. It is as much as the state troops can do, to guard the frontier, so, as to prevent the greater inroads of bodies of five hundred men. And sometimes a thousand. While parties of from thirty to forty can slip in between the posts that establishes the military chain along the southern border, effect every species of robbery, and commit any depredations they wish, and pass out again with perfect impunity. This predatory warfare is to be made on Kentucky during the three seasons when the woods are thicker, so they (the guerrillas) can practice it with greater security. This mode of warfare is characterized by the guerilla chieftains as the scouting systems. All this the militia are intended to prevent, but in which they will most signally fail; as they have done as they have done already.
Because there is ^no^ method, no arrangement no anything about them that is calculated to intercept, or overtake one of those flying bands of guerillas that pass through one county, and into another (committing all the mischief they wish) before the one has been, or the other is aware of its approach.

KYR-0001-019-0156Bennett Spearger to D. E. Downing, Aug. 14, 1862

The guerrilla warfare is working its ruin as a cause produces its effect a few yesterday about 2. oclock. P.M. there were 2 Union Men Killed on the Road leading from my house to Thompson Arterberry’s Hamilton and a bout 30 other men came into Tompkinsville yesterday morning a bout 8. oclk a.m. and had Nathaniel Austin and ^a^ young Hefflin Prisenors they shot Austin through the head and lefthis Brains was scatered in the road and they shot Heflin in several places, you are acquaintd ^with^ Austin and Heflin Both neither of them you Know never belong to any army the man who stealthily takes deliborate aim at the husband and Father of a helpless family ^and^ because he is freind to his Country, sends the mesenger of death to drink his life blood and compells the heart stricken widow and helpless Orphans to seek protection and support at the hands of a cold unfeeling world. Could the hands of a cold grave’s dread monster enter claim to such a fiend in any form too horrid to mete out to them there just deserts

SOURCE: John T. Smith to Thomas E. Bramlette, 14 June 1864, Kentucky Department of Military Affairs (KDMA).

Translation: William Brockman

“William Brockman says that at the present term of the Jefferson Circuit Court he was tried on an Indictment for the murder of one Adolph Logel”

Two German immigrants got into a deadly fight over a pile of animal carcasses in the suburbs of Louisville. Read the full transcription of Brockman’s pardon petition here, or browse the highlights to see why this is one of the most fascinating documents in the Civil War Governors of Kentucky collection.

“[Brockman] lives in the suburbs of Louisville not far from the old Oakland Race Course at which point the general government Keeps stabled a large number of horses and mules &c the chief part of which have been worn out in the military service of the government”

Though Oakland, one of thoroughbred racing’s popular early venues, had ceased to hold meets by the beginning of the war, its old stable facilities were perfect for the U.S. Army’s program to refit broken down cavalry, artillery, and draft animals. As the map of the southern suburbs of Louisville shows, the course sat astride the Louisville & Nashville Railroad line, affording military transport trains easy access to the large complex of stables and corrals around the old track. LouisvilleDefenses1865Brockman zoom

“considerable numbers of these animals die daily and the persons having them in charge were in the habit of hauling them to a strip of woods near petitioner’s House and there leaving them to rot”

Using the 1860 census and city directories, we can determine that Brockman lived in the circled suburb near South Gate Street, just barely inside the expanded Louisville city limits. The carcass pile (understandably not marked on the map) was nearby, perhaps in the lot behind Fort St. Clair Morton or the stretch where the military road runs next to the creek near the Salt River Turnpike.

“Your Petitioner had obtained leave to take the skins off of these carcasses on the condition he would remove or burn the carcasses to avoid having a nusance to the detriment of the health of the neighborhood The deceased Logel without having obtained leave as petitioner did, to take the skins, was in the habit of taking the skins and leaving the carcasses on the ground neither removing or burning them This created a nusance for which petitioner was indicted and fined”

This tells us some important things about Civil War Louisville, specifically how it was a city spatially, demographically, and economically dominated by the war. Waves of German and Irish immigrants — presumably including  Brockman and Logel — had settled in suburban rings outside the core of the old river town in the decade before the war. So when the war brought U.S. soldiers posted to garrison duty and, later, African American refugees fleeing slavery, the human geography of the city pushed out to and beyond the ring of forts on the map.

Sanitary conditions, we might well expect, were horrible as tens of thousands of soldiers and freedpeople crowded together into hastily built barracks, tents, and improvised shelters on poorly drained stretches of Jefferson County farmland. As with laws concerning fugitive slaves, the Louisville civil authorities applied existing public health laws to a human crisis far beyond the reach of local and state legislation to manage. Brockman had been fined for Logel leaving the carcasses to rot, but could Brockman really be blamed for a pile of dead animals the army dumped on near a creek? Bringing charges shows that the city was aware and concerned about the water supply but had no way to do much about the situation.

But what about Brockman’s agreement with the army itself? Other documents in the CWG-K collection suggest that Brockman may have been related to a family of German tanners in the city, which explains his job skinning the dead animals. His “contract” was one of the smallest interactions between the army and merchants, railroad corporations, and river men in the boom-town military micro-economy that sprung up in wartime Louisville. Brockman got horse carcasses, while the L&N — which shipped the poor animals to their final stop — raked in millions in wartime profit and limitless infrastructure work on bridges and tunnels paid for at the expense of the U.S. taxpayer.

KYR-0001-004-0787 WB sig“All of which your petitioner would respectfully submit and implore the exercise in his behalf of your Excellency’s clemency
[signed]
translation William Brockman”

Even Brockman’s name needed to be translated and anglicized from its German fraktur script. Only at the end are we clued into the fact that while the petition is written in Brockman’s voice, these are far from his own words.

Moreover, while he is fascinating for scholars today, Brockman’s was probably one of the least important signatures on this petition to Governor Bramlette. William Brockman’s petition carried the weight of some of the leading former Whigs — and, therefore, former anti-immigrant Know Nothings — in Louisville politics and society. Stay tuned for a later post which will explore some of these men and why they would write on behalf of a German tanner’s assistant.

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.

Subject Guides: Military History

Click here to view this Subject Guide in the new Civil War Governors interface.


KYR-0001-003-0003William L. Hurst to Thomas E. Bramlette, Oct. 6, 1863
[W]e have just received information at this office that the military forces known as the 40th Kentucky Regt now Stationed at the Town of Grayson in Carter County, (distant about 25 miles from this place) are ordered to move immediately & Station at Mountsterling Ky, which when they are thus removed will leave this part of the Country exposed to the Raids of Rebel Guerrillas…. I find that they eighth & ninth Congressional Districts of Ky have furnished more Volunteers than any other part of the state & have received less Protection than any other part in fact a large section of each District have received no protection at all but the Government through an erroneous disposition of the forces intended for the protection of that part of the state have suffered those people to be robbed murdered and the Country almost desolated by the Rebel Guerrillas East Tennessee has not suffered worse than the People of Morgan, Wolfe Breathitt and adjoining Counties

KYR-0001-003-0050Brutus J. Clay to Thomas E. Bramlette, Jan. 15, 1864
The subject of recruiting Negro soldiers for U S service, in Kentucky. It is rumored here that Agents have been sent from other states for that purpose. This thing of plundering our people ought & should be stopped if possible, even recruiting for our own quota would be injurious & demoralizing to our Slave population by the consent and approval of the owner himself I think a firm stand taken by you against it, would have a good effect and even prevent the U. S. Government, from attempting it in our State.

KYR-0001-003-0077William S. King to Thomas E. Bramlette, Feb. 21, 1864
In view of the frequent applications made at this office, by the destitute families of volunteers in Kentucky regiments, for relief which the Federal Military Commanders have no authority to provide; and in asmuch as this destitution is caused by the neglect of soldiers to transmit much,—or, in most cases any part,—of their pay to their families for their support; I venture to suggest to Your Excellency, that enquiry be made whether the allotment system; whereby each soldier devotes a stated portion of his pay for the support of those dependent upon him, is carried out in the various regiments; or that such other action may be had, to prevent this needless pauperism and distress, as to Your Excellency may seem meet and proper.

KYR-0001-003-0083Volney Baker to Cicero Maxwell, Apr. 5, 1864
During last court, all the Judges presented to the Grand jury, which was Entirely secession; and two of the men, who presented the Judges were the, Circuit Judge, and the County Judge—The entire Court was one of treason, and numberd out with traitors; … The meanest set of secessionists that ever existed under the canopy of Heaven, live in this immediate section of Ky; and we must adopt means, & severe ones too, to prevent a resistance which is almost sure to take place sooner or later, unless prevented

KYR-0001-018-0019N. Wickliffe to Beriah Magoffin, Jun. 11, 1861
I have just resigned my position as an officer in the United States Army. I am impelled to this course for the reason that that army is being concentrated and used for the subjugation of the Southern people who have my entire sympathy. I believe it is proper for me, here, to add that the time has come to pass when Southern blood is sufficient to attaint officers of the army; and unless they subscribe to new oaths, join bond in denouncing their late comrades of the south (who were the best men of the Army) as traitors, and invoke a war of extermination on their own people, and kindred suspicion and proscription are put upon them. I am unable at this distance to understand the exact position that Kentucky occupies in the great struggle between the
two sections, but I cannot believe that she can or will remain long a neutral spectator

KYR-0001-028-0015 E. W. Hawkins to James F. Robinson, Aug. 23, 1862
At the time of the first call of the President for volunteers, several citizens of this city immediately volunteered in the famous Ninth Ohio Regiment under the lamented Robert L. McCook, there being no Kentucky regiments then in the field. … These men have shared all the dangers of the severe campaign of Western Virginia, and partook in the splendid Bayonet Charge, which decided the day at Mill Springs, where Kentuckians participated in the glory. They are “Military Men.”, the Lieutenant having served in Germany for a number of years, and the other two having acquired their knowledge during the present war. … The regiment would be exclusively German, who would flock under the banner of these well tried men with alacrity from all parts of our state.

KYR-0001-028-0040Rob Morris and S. W. Hunt to James F. Robinson, Sep. 9, 1862
The Undersigned have enjoyed many military opportunities for military experiences—the former in Texas during the guerilla warfare of 18436-40, the latter for more than 30 years in the organizing and governing militia corps in this Kentucky. … They therefore propose to raise a Regiment of militia for 3. months service … We will go wherever your Excellency directs and subsist on the country trusting on the bounty of Union men and the fears of disloyal men to feed us. If allowed to operate in the section above indicated we will guarantee to afford an efficient military police there—to restore the respect for State and Federal authority now so sadly shaken,—preserve the publlic records, overawe the disloyal and in all the hearts of true men.

KYR-0002-020-0022Julius H. Alexander to James F. Robinson, Apr. 24, 1863
Theare is a memorial sent to you by a few Officers of this Regt recomending Major Bradley to Lieut Colonel of this Regt permit me to say in this note to your Excellency that Major Bradly is not qualified to fill the office that he no hoalds, … and again he doo not know the first Lesson of a Trooper I have Privats in my Comp. that understands Military Tastics then the proposed Lieut Colonel. I have noting to say about myself & non have to say abut me as I am only a Foreigner by Birth, & have to du all the duty, & keept in the Dark.

KYR-0002-022-0077Isaac Fitzpatrick et al. to Thomas E. Bramlette, Jun. 27, 1864
Dear Sir we the undersigned citizens of Johnson County State of Ky Between the ages of eighteen and forty five and now in the Military service of Ky camped at Louisa Ky Respectfuly represents and showeth that we are not satisfied with our present colonel Burgess Preston who was appointed to said position we therefore ask that we have the privilege of exercising our Election Franchise and choosing from among our ranks at our next august Election a Colonel and Lieutenat Colonel … If these are our rights we Respectfully ask them If not we humbly acquiesse as loyal citizens to the laws of our country

KYR-0002-022-0121C. Brock to Thomas E. Bramlette, Aug. 16, 1864
Being Judge of this County, the people think it is proper & right that I should make inquiry & endevor to ascertain the number of negroes who are credited to this (Montgomery) County on the rolls in the state Military department at Frankfort. There ^were^ recruited here during the spring from 125 to perhaps 175 negroes, by the U. S. Military Authorities. Now I desire to know how many we have credit for.

KYR-0002-024-0065Curran Pope to James F. Robinson, Oct. 9, 1862
In consideration of the unanimous and strongly expressed wishes of the officers of this Regt who took part in the late battle of Chaplin Hills and of the very gallant conduct on that occasion of Capts Joseph. R. Snider Co “B” and Henry F Kalfus Co “D,” I earnestly recommend that the former be commissioned as Lieut Col and the latter as Major of the Regt, and urge that commissions be immediately forwarded to them to date from Oct 9. 1862, and withdraw any other recommendation made by me, and advise that if any other appointments have been made, they be immediately cancelled.

KYR-0002-036-0039Robert Brown, Affidavit, Aug. 12, 1865
Capt Bridgewater made the promise that when the men captured anything it should belong to them. The promise was made by the then Cap B that all money arising from the sale of these guns ^(some three or four)^ and pistols should be placed to the credit of the Battalion to be equally divided at a future time. states that he saw Capt B. take about $70 in money from a man killed by the command.

KYR-0002-038-0024George H. Travis to Thomas E. Bramlette, Aug. 22, 1864
I went to the “front.”—joined my Command, the 2nd Ky. Battery, and was wounded last April, in a skirmish, in the left arm. My arm was amputated. … Disiring my discharge, I made application for Commission in Colored Troops. in order to get out of the service as a Com. Officer, by resignation. Yet I do not approve the arming of negroes. … I request you to Commission me in some Ky. Regt. to enable me to resign—to get out of service. Will you do so? Having the gift of oratory, I desire to stump the States of Ill. and Ind. for the Candidate of the Chicago Convention. But I cannot do so, as I am now situated. You can enable me to do so. Will you? You can see what influence a Private soldier can have on the Stump who has lost a limb in the service.

KYR-0002-042-0023Daniel W. Lindsey to Edwin M. Stanton, Jul. 11, 1864
Owing to the unsettled state of affairs in Kentucky, his Excellency Gov. Bramlette, proposes to organize a State force to consist of three Battalions; one to be assigned to duty in East Ky, one in the vicinity of Paducah, and one at Frankfort. These forces are intended to aid and assist the Federal troops, and shall be held subject to the call of the District Commander for any service in the State. The Governor proposes to sustain this force at the expense of the State, but to avoid competition with the General Government in the market for supplies, he requests me to ask that you will order the proper United States officers in Kentucky to issue both Commissary and Quartermaster supplies to this force upon requisition, approved by him, to be paid for by the State in General Settlement.

KYR-0002-042-0087John W. Finnell, Receipt to William E. Cox, Sep. 4, 1862
Sept. 4.  To hire of men, drayage & c. & c., in in removing Books & furniture from Adjutant General, Military Boards & Quartermasters Department  $15 50

KYR-0002-042-0091 – Daniel W. Lindsey to John Boyle, Jun. 18, 1864
General: I have the honor to submit the following report, of the defense of the State Capital, against the recent attack of a detachment of Genl. John H. Morgan’s guerilla forces—… On the morning of the 9th the train containing the public property, with a guard composed of the clerks of the various offices, and volunteers from the Militia, and strangers in the City…started for Louisville. When nearing Pleasureville the road was discovered to be on fire. The engine was immediately reversed, and the train attacked by guerillas. … The enemy were found to be occupying all the roads leading into the city. Several attempts were made by them to approach the Arsenal through the Cemetery and by the Railroad, but the shells thrown from the guns at the Fort and a gun at the Arsenal kept them back. … The presence of his Excellency the Governor and Attorney General Harlan animated the men and contributed very materially to the defence of the Fort.

KYR-0002-042-0102Joshua F. Speed to Salmon P. Chase, Mar. 22, 1862
I have filed with the 3d Auditor, in the Treasury Department,—vouchers for money expended by the State of Kentucky, in and of the Govt. in suppressing the rebellion, amounting to Seven Hundred and Eighty six thousand, one Hundred and Ninety three 11/100 Dollars….I am also furnished, with a balance sheet, by our Military Board, showing that they have up to this time, expended in paying, subsisting, arming and equipping, the Kentucky Volunteers.— One Million Seven Hundred and Seventy-two thousand, Six hundred & Seventy-nine 55/100 Dollars…. What I desire, in behalf of the State, whose agent I am, is — that the Government will pay us forty per. cent. of our expenditures. — Out of the remainder, we desire to settle Kentucky’s proportion of the War tax:

KYR-0002-211-0027Samuel G. Suddarth, Receipt to Rutha R. Manion, Apr. 27, 1865
To Cooking and Washing for the State Military Hospital for the Month of December 1863 and month of January 1864 $24 00

KYR-0002-218-0266Thomas E. Bramlette to Daniel W. Lindsey, Nov. 5, 1864
It is of the utmost vital importance to the cause of our Country, that peace be preserved in Kentucky; and that there should be no semblance of Collision between the Civil and military authorities of the State and those of the Federal Government. … To my utter surprise Genl Burbridge without my being able to get a line from him in explanation or otherwise of his intentions has assumed a hostile position—menacing towards the State authorities and forces; and with no shadow of authority or just pretence has been threatening to disband them; and in various ^ways^ apparently sought to provoke collision. A collision with him would be a matter of small moment but I cannot and will not have a collision with the federal forces under his command…and for the additional reason that no folly of others shall make me collide with my Government.

KYR-0002-219-0010Madison C. Johnson to John B. Temple, Oct. 1, 1861
We have placed to the Credit of the Treasurer of Ky for the use of the Military Board the sum of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars—for which we received your certificate according to Law. At this time we have not more than about one hundred thousand dollars in Bank notes, having burnt our notes for safety. … Will you please advise me in what time & manner you expect to draw it out. I presume it will remain on deposit here until your Board disburses it.

KYR-0002-225-0041William R. Thompson to Thomas E. Bramlette, May 28, 1864
My son Lt John V. Thompson, has been trying to raise a company for the ten thousand troops you called for, but there seems not to be much disposition to volunteer the rebels & their sympathies do every thing they can to discourage it; & you have taken the right course, just make them walk right in, a man that wont fight for his country ought not to live in it. I have greatly more respect for the men who are in the field with Jeff. Davis, than for those who are among us plotting the overthrow and destruction of the Government that protects them & all they possess, for them I have no respect, they have been handled with gloves too long.


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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.

The Everly Brothers and Kentucky’s “malishia”

By Patrick A. Lewis

Ceralvo Ohio County Ky
April 22 1864
Govenear Bramlet

Sir we have a compney of 300 hundaret men and we have no armes,, and we have the malishia formed in a compney and I want to know what to do in the case Pleas give me Instructins in the undertaking,, soon

Yours truly
J. M. Everly
actin as Captin

KYR-0002-044-0040-001Jesse M. Everly, the author of this letter now housed at the Kentucky Military History Museum on the KHS campus, was a Union veteran, farmer, and father of five in his late thirties. His great-grandsons, the Everly Brothers, would make the family name famous in the mid-twentieth century with hits such as “Bye Bye Love,” “Wake Up Little Suzie,” and “All I Have to do is Dream.” The “most important vocal duo in rock” blended regional sounds from folk, country, and early rock in ways that typify Kentucky as a crossroads of national culture.

Don and Phil Everly’s grandfather, Isaac, wasn’t born born until 1869. Could the Civil War, spilling off of the battlefield into rural Kentucky communities in 1864 and 1865, have silenced the Everlys generations before they shaped modern music?

Jesse Everly’s famous descendants aside, this is a rich document for one so short. The small touches tell so much of the story here. Notice, for example, how Everly is “actin as Captin,” with the traditional leadership of the county off in the officer corps of units such as the 26th Kentucky Infantry—Everly’s unit until he was wounded and discharged after a skirmish at a Logan County railroad bridge in December 1861—Everly has taken it upon himself to organize a group for self defense from their rebel neighbors. What revealing sentence structure and punctuation, too, in “Pleas give me Instructins in the undertaking,, soon”. The double commas impatiently emphasize the vital urgency that Everly felt.

KYR-0002-044-0040-002On the reverse of Everly’s note is the clerk’s annotation when this letter was received and filed in Frankfort—in the very arsenal building where this document is housed today. By this time in the war, military filing procedures were standardized and predictable. The clerk (in order, down the page) noted the date and place of the letter, recorded the author and a brief summary, listed the date of response and the book where the outgoing letter was copied, and logged the date of reception at the office.

Fortunately, the Inspector General’s Letter book B from April 1864 survives and has been accessioned into the CWG-K collection. With just a few mouse clicks, future users of the CWG-K web interfaces will be able to move seamlessly from Everly’s initial inquiry to the Inspector General’s response, just one of the thousands of new connections between disparate collections and archives that this unique collection and research platform will help draw.

So, did Jesse Everly get his weapons to arm his militiamen? Stay tuned to the Civil War Governors news feed to find out!

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

The Conundrum of Gun Control in War-torn Kentucky

By Matthew C. Hulbert

Gun control—particularly when it concerns the ability of private citizens to carry concealed firearms in public—is one of the most controversial and hotly-contested political issues twenty-first-century America has to offer. Conceptions of the past often play a major role in how the debate is framed. When we imagine the United States in the mid-nineteenth century, there’s a tendency to envision everyone (minus slaves) legally carrying a weapon whenever, wherever, and perhaps most importantly, however, he or she wished. From frontiersmen (see Jeremiah Johnson [1972]) and quick-drawing shootists (see The Outlaw Josey Wales [1976]) to gamblers and their belly guns (see Maverick [1994]) or even Jim West’s spring-loaded Derringer (see The Wild West [1965-69]), pop culture has done much to reify that America was, in its “frontier days,” a gun-toting nation. What most observers don’t realize, however, is that this seemingly modern debate over the right to bear arms has actually been raging since the 1860s—and nowhere was it more intense than Civil War Kentucky.

In May 1866, John L. Peyton was indicted in the Hopkins Circuit Court for carrying “concealed deadly weapons,” which essentially meant that he’d left home with a revolver tucked under his coat or hidden in a pocket. The law in Kentucky that regulated concealed weapons dated back to March 1854:

Sec. I. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky: That if any person shall hereafter carry concealed any deadly weapons, other than an ordinary pocket knife, except as provided in the next section, he shall be fined on the first conviction not less than fifty nor more than one hundred dollars, and on any subsequent conviction not less than one hundred nor more than five hundred dollars.

Sec. II. That the carrying of concealed deadly weapons shall be legal in the following cases:

  1. Where the person has reasonable grounds to believe his person, or the person of some of big family, or his property, is in danger from violence or crime.
  2. Where sheriffs, constables, marshals, and policemen carry such weapons as are necessary to their protection in the efficient discharge of their duty.
  3. Where persons are required by their business or occupation to travel during the night, the carrying concealed deadly weapons during such travel.

Sec. III. This act shall be given in charge by the judges to the grand juries.

According to his supporters, Peyton had good reason not to travel in Hopkins County without a gun. In February 1866, he’d been appointed the Superintendent of Freedman’s Affairs there and charged with overseeing the transition from bondage to citizenship of the area’s African American population. Neither task nor title won Peyton many new friends among local Conservative Unionists (those who’d remained loyal to the Union for sake of protecting the institution of slavery) or among Rebel guerrilla bands (some of whom hadn’t yet called it quits in 1866).

Peyton’s defenders dispatched a petition to Governor Thomas E. Bramlette requesting that the charge be dropped. Their plea was based on two mitigating factors. First, that “being an officer of law, duly appointed, and acting and believing it to be his [Peyton’s] right and that the circumstances eminently justified it, did carrying a Colts Navy Revolver about the country for protection, during a part of his term of office.” And second, “that it would have been unsafe for said Peyton or any one else in the discharge of a similar office in said county, to have gone unarmed in the country, owing to the presence of late Guerrillas and lawless characters, who would have delighted to murder the ‘Nigger Bureau’ as he was decisively and maliciously called by them.” In other words, Peyton’s circumstances adhered to the letter of the law; carrying a concealed weapon was a de facto requirement of his job and to condemn a man in his line of work for doing so was like asking him to commit suicide.

This was a problem Noah Allen faced a county away while defending himself against an identical charge in the Crittenden Circuit Court. Though not an agent of the Freedman’s Bureau, Allen was a discharged Federal soldier (formerly of the 17th Kentucky Cavalry) and, like many of his ilk, had been allowed to retain his sidearm for purposes of personal protection. Petitioners on his behalf noted that the “country was filled with desperate men, and Union soldiers were being murdered everywhere.” Worse still, while the law appeared to favor Allen’s case, the men doing the murdering seemed to control the justice system. “Our Rebel jury,” Allen’s supporters continued, “were not satisfied until he [Allen] was indicted” even though “Rebels carry their arms every where and not one have they ever been indicted.”

A few years prior to the petitions from Peyton and Allen, Bramlette had been asked to intervene in the legal proceedings against Richard Murray (1863) and Brutus J. Clay (1864). Murray, of Munfordville, Kentucky, was convicted of possessing a concealed deadly weapon and fined $100 when a revolver he was apparently hiding in his pants discharged and resulted in a serious injury. According to a petition penned on Murray’s behalf, he was unable to pay the $100 penalty for carrying the weapon because “he is now a cripple and will be for life” as a result of his self-inflicted wound.

skein imageClay, the son of noted Kentuckian Cassius M. Clay (and the namesake of Cassius’s brother, Brutus), was walking along the road one afternoon and stopped to throw a rock at a pigeon; he missed, and the stone projectile struck a bridge house. The bridge keeper, a Mr. Gale, became enraged and threatened to assault Clay—but retreated when the young man produced a revolver that had been concealed in his clothing. While their situations seem far more trivial than former Union soldiers being hunted by pro-Confederate guerrillas or a man accidentally shooting himself in the leg—and while neither seemed to meet the justifications for concealed carry as stipulated by state law—Bramlette granted each a pardon because he believed that “in a time of Civil War when every loyal man ought to be armed for defense; I think none should be fined for being armed.”

The cases of Peyton, Allen, Murray, and Clay underscored a set of deep, interconnected problems that plagued Kentucky—and its governors—during the war and its immediate aftermath. Though the state had remained loyal to the Union, many Kentuckians had only done so to protect their hold on slave labor and white supremacy. When war broke out in 1861, they couldn’t have imagined Lincoln or his Republican allies in Washington D. C. punishing their loyalty; even so, the Peculiar Institution was eradicated and, in response, violence against newly-freed African Americans and their supporters—that is, men like Peyton—exploded. (So much so that Kentucky became one of only two non-Confederate states to elicit the presence of Freedman’s Bureau agents.)

And then there were the guerrillas. Bramlette and his top commanders had struggled mightily to control them during the war and fared little better during Reconstruction, as irregular activity took on a decidedly pro-white, as opposed to anti-American hue. In turn, ex-guerrillas found more generalized support among white former Unionists. This alliance, combined with restrictive gun laws in the Commonwealth, made life exceedingly precarious for the likes of Peyton and Allen. On one hand, statutes against concealed weapons existed to protect civilians from guerrillas and outlaws—but did little to help former soldiers and current government agents when those civilians turned on them, formed terror organizations, and became guerrillas and outlaws. On the other hand, the “shenanigans” performed by Murray and Clay underscored that even in times of war, loyal men with concealed weapons could often do more harm than good—and made it difficult to justify officially loosening the reins on concealed carry during the war or afterward.

At first glance, the solution seems so obvious: to openly carry a sidearm. It was, after all, perfectly legal to do so in Kentucky during and after the war. In reality, though, there wasn’t a solution outside of carrying concealed weapons for Peyton and Allen, and both seem to have known it. To go totally unarmed meant certain harassment and potential assassination. To go armed so brazenly, however, essentially invited a fight; more to the point, it invited a fight with men who’d spent the war perfecting the art of killing and evading capture—and who had the ability to influence when and how juries enforced the 1854 statute. For lack of a better, more formal description, this scenario was simply a “lose-lose” for Peyton and Allen, a direct and unavoidable consequence of Kentucky’s unique Civil War and Reconstruction experience.

In the bigger picture, it was also a systemic problem for Thomas Bramlette and the state’s pro-Union government. Bramlette’s chief task as governor was to protect his loyal constituents—but as the nature of Kentucky’s war created a necessity for citizens to arm themselves in self-defense from guerrillas run amok on the homefront, it simultaneously created a necessity for Bramlette to more strictly enforce extant guns laws to protect certain citizens (read: Richard “the leg shooter” Murray) from themselves. It simply wasn’t possible for Bramlette to assuage both needs at once and the consequences of this inability continue to echo: the conundrum of self-protection vs. protection from self has been debated for 150 years since and shows no signs of abatement.

 

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


SOURCES: J. A. Skein to Thomas E. Bramlette, 6 Nov 1863, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, Kentucky (hereafter KDLA); G. T. Wood et al. to Thomas E. Bramlette, 10 Nov 1863, KDLA; Brutus J. Clay Affidavit, 19 March 1864, KDLA; R. J. Littlepage et al. to Thomas E. Bramlette, n.d., KDLA; Richard H. Stanton, The Revised Statutes of Kentucky, Volume I (Cincinnati: Robert Clarke & Co., 1867), 414.