Early in the fall of 1862, an African American woman named Caroline Dennant arrived in Louisville. This wasn’t a happy homecoming, for she had no family in the city. Nor was it the endpoint of a successful escape from bondage. Because despite its official pro-Union position, Kentucky remained a slave state that would honor its obligations to the Fugitive Slave Law if at all possible. So at approximately twenty years old, she’d come in with General Don Carlos Buell’s army, from Tennessee, not as a newly-made freeperson, but as contraband. She was homeless, completely alone, and without a penny in her pocket. Even Caroline’s surname had been borrowed from the planter who still technically owned her—and who could, at any moment, arrive in Louisville to claim her as one might any other piece of lost property.
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.
See Caroline on the page. Read the primary documents that tell her story at Civil War Governors of Kentucky: Early Access.
Hear the Civil War Governors team tell Caroline’s story on the Long Story Short podcast.
Teaching The Caroline Chronicles
Do you want to engage your students in an active learning experience, have them explore primary documents, and debate campus and community issues including race and policing, war refugees, and human trafficking in the context of the past? Consider teaching The Caroline Chronicles in your next U.S. History course.
Want to know more about Caroline? Read the popular six-part series that tells her story, her backstory, and investigates the legal and cultural world she inhabited in 1862-63 Louisville
Part I: Incidents in the Life of a Contraband
Part II: The Prosecution’s Case
Part III: The Defense’s Case
Part IV: The Decision
Part V: The Husband
Part VI: Poison, Infanticide, and Female Slave Resistance
Let @KyHistSoc hear your reactions to the #CarolineChronicles on Twitter. Are you #TeamJusticeForBlanche or #TeamPardonCaroline?