“Some of the officers of the regt held a mutiny:” Promotion, Popularity, and Politics in the 13th Kentucky Infantry

By Jon Tracey
(former CWGK intern)

While working through document transcription, we are sometimes lucky enough to find several documents all related to the same topic. Often, these new documents provide a glimpse at previously obscured narratives in the documentary record. In this case, a small collection of letters from the 13th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry Regiment (U.S.A.) details a politically inspired conflict within the ranks. In March 1863, Union officials promoted Colonel Edward H. Hobson, the 13th Kentucky’s commander, to the rank of brigadier general which left his post vacant. The regiment’s second in command, Lieutenant Colonel William E. Hobson, was the natural choice for the colonelcy, but his accession to command proved problematic and sparked a potential mutiny. 

Many factors surrounded the debate about who would be promoted. Age was one of William Hobson’s potential detriments. Other members of the regiment, including several officers, urged the promotion of Major Benjamin Estes, an older and more respected officer for promotion. Despite his youth, 17 at the time of recruitment, William Hobson had helped raise the regiment and secured an appointment as Major. Comparatively, Benjamin Estes, was a native of Bridgeport and a doctor who entered service with the regiment as a captain commanding Company D, and by the time of the promotion debate in 1863 was 31 years old, fourteen years William Hobson’s senior.[1]  Though most who preferred another candidate acknowledged William Hobson’s management skills, talent and ability were discussion points during debate as well. He had only been lieutenant colonel for about a month, as his predecessor John Carlisle had resigned in mid-February. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, William Hobson was the nephew of Edward Hobson, and appeared to share his Republican political views.

One major argument made against the younger Hobson’s promotion was his young age. Though it is debated who the youngest Union colonel really was, William was certainly one of the youngest considered for the position. In the same letter that Edward Hobson wrote the governor thanking him for the promotion to brigadier general, he immediately set forth his nephew William as the naturally successor to the position of colonel. Edward Hobson even attempted to head off criticism regarding age, stating “Some persons would and I understand have urged as an objection his age. I have never found it an objection and of course have had every opportunity of judging.”[2] To further bolster his argument, he mentioned two other colonels stating they were similar ages to William and had given satisfactory service.

Command ability was another factor considered during promotion. The elder Hobson explained he knew “of no one more Suitable to fill my place” and that William was “one of the best young men in the State possessing all the qualities of a true Soldier and Gentleman.”[3] Even the officers who advocated for Estes’ promotion admitted that Hobson was a good officer, calling him a “good disciplinarian, and has brought the Regt to what it is.”[4] Another letter stated, “you know Lieut Col. Hobson is the man to fill that place, and is entitled to it by seniorarty[sic] and is the best military officer in the Regt.”[5] A.G. Hobson took a more direct approach in his letter supporting William. He directly referenced that the “Revised Regulations USA Page 11 Article 4 Sect 19 reads ‘All vacancies in established regiments and Corps’ to the rank of Col Shall be filled by promotion ‘according to Seinority[sic] except in Case of disability’ or other incompitency.[sic]”[6] In addition to defenses of his age and quoting regulations, other letters praised William’s organizational ability and bravery at the battle of Shiloh as further justification. Age aside, William seems to have been effective at his work.

Perhaps more important than even age or ability were William Hobson’s family ties and political affiliation. Edward Hobson, a veteran of the U.S.-Mexican War, raised the 13th Kentucky Regiment in the fall of 1861 and commanded it through several engagements until his promotion to brigadier general in early 1863.[7] He was an influential man. William E. Hobson was his nephew, the son of Edward’s brother Atwood Gaines Hobson.[8] This family connection certainly helped William, and he had used this prominent connection to recruit men and secure the position of major as the regiment was raised.

As explored by Zachary Fry in his book, A Republic in the Ranks, national politics often influenced interactions and promotions within a regiment.[9] Edward Hobson later joined the ranks of the Radical wing of the Republican Party after the war, supporting the 13th and 14th  Amendments. Immediately after the war, he ran as the Radical Republican candidate for clerk of the state court of appeals, losing due to his support for the 13th and 14th Amendments, and later served in President Ulysses S. Grant’s administration as a district collector of internal revenue.[10] A biography of William Hobson published in the 1886 edition of Kentucky: A History of the State mentioned that after the war he began a Republican newspaper, indicating his wartime political affiliations.[11] This indicates that both uncle and nephew held similar views, and perhaps Estes was more politically conservative. Importantly, one of the newspapers that the “mutineer” officers sent their resolution to supporting Estes was to the “Journal & Democrat,” most likely the Louisville Daily Journal and the Louisville Daily Democrat, leading papers in the state’s largest city.[12] 

The timing of the debate is also important, as it emerged in the aftermath of the Emancipation Proclamation. As Jonathan White argued in Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln, the policy of emancipation often divided Union soldiers, especially those from border states.[13] Additionally, Fry explained that political views, especially those that supported the Republican Party’s national or state governments, could lead to promotion. Some who hoped for promotion “had learned that espousing Republican ideals was the quickest way to gain recognition.”[14] In another case, Fry noted that notably Democrat-leaning troops often found their promotions refused or delayed.[15] Though detractors tended to focus on the younger Hobson’s age as the primary reason he should not take command, political considerations also produced resentment against his promotion.

Interestingly, the material record sheds light on a surprising development that some considered a rebellion. On March 15, A. G. Hobson, likely Atwood Gaines Hobson (Edward’s brother and William’s father), sent a letter accusing several officers of conducting a “mutiny” by nominating Major Estes for the colonelcy.[16] See CWGK document KYR-0002-050-0013, which discusses this alleged mutiny. In it, several officers, led by Surgeon C.D. Moore and Lieutenant E.P. Allen, drew up numerous resolutions. They congratulated Edward on his promotion and requested to remain attached to his command. However, they also set forth Major Estes as successor, stating he held his “various positions with honor & ability and [is] one who is well worthy of the position.” [17] This resolution was signed by multiple officers, and copies were sent not only to Edward Hobson and Adjutant General John W. Finnell, but also to two newspapers for publication. Despite the resolution’s claim that they represented the officers of the regiment, several worked avidly to ensure William’s promotion. E.P. Allen wrote to Captain Patterson shortly after the meeting and complained that “Those men hold their meetings night and day for the purpose of forcing Maj Estes into that position.”[18] Clearly the section of the regiment that preferred Estes was both active and vocal.

In the end, army regulations won out. William Hobson was promoted to the rank of colonel on March 24, and Benjamin Estes took his place as lieutenant colonel. Hobson took the oath to fulfill his duties as colonel on March 26th, a document that is now part of CWGK’s digital collection as KYR-0002-050-0003. Despite the debates, William’s promotion to colonel was backdated to March 13, meaning he had effectively served as lieutenant colonel for a total of less than a month. In The Gentlemen and the Roughs, Lorien Foote explored a similar, but decidedly more violent, case of promotion-related tensions in the 7th Kentucky Volunteer Cavalry Regiment (U.S.A.). Major William W. Bradley, a well-loved officer with Republican sympathies, and Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Vimont, who was vehemently anti-abolitionist, of that regiment were bitter rivals.[19] Inflamed by partisan discord, the two men also bristled over a promotion. When the position of lieutenant colonel was open in 1863, two-thirds of the regiment’s officers signed a petition supporting Bradley’s candidacy for promotion. Despite this, influential politicians in the state government ensured Vimont’s promotion. Yet, Vimont “could not accept the obvious preference nearly every man in the regiment had for Bradley.”[20] Bradley was court-martialed for killing Vimont in January 1864, following a series of increasingly aggressive actions by the lieutenant colonel. Ultimately, Bradley was found not guilty of murder, as Vimont’s verbal and political aggression, accusations, and threats meant Bradley had acted in self-defense.[21] In the 7th Kentucky Cavalry, politics and personal tension led to a much more violent conclusion than in the 13th Kentucky Infantry.

Most of the 7th Kentucky’s “mutineers” appear to have continued service with the regiment without much continued conflict. However, Surgeon C.D. Moore, one of the most vocal proponents of Estes, was dismissed from service in June “with loss of all pay and allowance, for giving certificates of disability for discharge in cases of enlisted men, on insufficient grounds.”[22] Oddly, he was reinstated roughly two months later on August 11.[23] Perhaps his removal had been arranged by those who opposed that faction, but although Moore lacked enough influence to have Estes promoted he apparently had enough influence for his reinstatement. In any case, it seems internal politics troubled the 13th Kentucky months after the tensions of mid-March. Though William Hobson’s promotion occurred quickly, Benjamin Estes’s was delayed. Estes’s promotion to lieutenant colonel came later, dated May 15 of that year, perhaps a holdover of the tensions regarding the events of that March.[24]

In June 1864, William Hobson took command of the brigade the regiment was serving with, and Estes finally had command of the regiment he had tried to lead. Edward was briefly captured by Confederate Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan before taking command of Lexington, Kentucky. Following brigade command, William took a post in Bowling Green, and both Hobsons finished the war behind the lines. Estes commanded the 13th Kentucky until it mustered out on January 12, 1865, but he never received a promotion to colonel.[25]  Perhaps this “mutiny” had doomed any chance of permanent promotion. The drama surrounding this promotion offers insight into the unusual internal politics within the Union Army. Whether driven by ambition, personal ambitions, or national politics, regiments seldom functioned as smoothly as might have been hoped.


[1] “Dr. Benjamin P Estes,” Find A Grave, November 2011, Accessed December 2020. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/80361096/benjamin-p-estes

[2] The documents used for this blog have only recently been transcribed and have not yet been processed onto the main website for CWGK. To find them, go to the FromThePage site for CWGK at https://fromthepage.com/khs/civil-war-governors-of-kentucky. From there, you can find the documents using the KYR numbers cited in these footnotes. KYR-0002-050-0001

[3] KYR-0002-050-0001

[4] KYR-0002-050-0011

[5] KYR-0002-050-0011

[6] KYR-0002-050-0005

[7] “Edward Henry Hobson,” Find A Grave, October 2001, Accessed December 2020. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/5894138/edward-henry-hobson

[8] “William Edward Hobson,” Find A Grave, July 2008, Accessed December 2020. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/28021515/william-edward-hobson

[9] Zachary A. Fry, A Republic in the Ranks: Loyalty and Dissent in the Army of the Potomac (Capel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2020).

[10] John E. Kleber, editor, The Kentucky Encyclopedia (Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 1992), 435.

[11] J.H. Battle, W.H. Perrin, and G.C. Kniffin, Kentucky: A History of the State, 1886 in M. Secrist, Warren County, Kentucky: History Revealed Through Biographical and Genealogical Sketches of its Ancestors (Morrisville, NC:Lulu Press, 2013). 

[12] KYR-0002-050-0013

[13] Jonathan W. White, Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 2014).

[14] Fry, 123.

[15] Fry, 145.

[16] KYR-0002-050-0005

[17] KYR-0002-050-0013

[18] KYR-0002-050-0011

[19] Lorien Foote, The Gentlemen and the Roughs: Violence, Honor, and Manhood in the Union Army (New York, NY: New York University Press, 2010), 59-60.

[20] Foote, 62

[21] Foote, 59-63.

[22] KYR-0002-050-0036

[23] KYR-0002-050-0038

[24] Daniel Lindsey, Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kentucky Volume I (Frankfort, KY: John H. Harney, Public Printer, 1866), 855.

[25] Ibid,.

CWGK GRAs for 2021

Map of CWG Graduate Research Associates (GRAs) from 2016 to 2021.

CWGK is proud to announce the hiring of three new Graduate Research Associates (GRAs) who will complete editorial work on the project this year. This year’s GRAs are Daniele Celano (PhD Candidate, University of Virginia), Kevin McPartland (PhD Candidate, University of Cincinnati), and Rachael Nicholas (PhD Student, West Virginia University). Daniele, Kevin, and Rachael will each annotate 120 documents this coming year. Their work will take them across records pertaining to a widely documented murder case in Caldwell County, the bureaucratic paperwork of civil appointments, and an assortment of petitions that passed across the desk of Governor Bramlette between 1863 and 1865.

To learn more about these three scholars (as well as all the previous GRAs) check out the CWGK Graduate Research Associate page. You can also see the map at the top of this page for a quick reference of the home institutions for each of the past and present GRAs.

CWGK is able to hire graduate students through the support of the Publishing Historical Records in Documentary Editions Program administered by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). The generous support of the NHPRC has been crucial to the success and growth of CWGK. as their assistance has allowed the project to grow while preparing new generations of digital humanities scholars.

2021 Graduate Research Associates

Overview: The Kentucky Historical Society and its project the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition (CWGK) seek three graduate students who are passionate about the study of nineteenth-century America, the resurrection of marginalized voices, and are eager to learn more about digital history. With the generous support of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), a branch of the National Archives, CWGK will be able to hire three Graduate Research Associates (GRAs) to conduct editorial work for the project from over the period February 1, 2021 to January 31, 2022. GRAs are compensated with a production-based stipend of $4,000 and can work remotely from their home institutions.

Each GRA will annotate 120 assigned documents and spend approximately 250 hours on this work over the course of the year. All applicants must be a graduate student who have completed at least one semester of a M.A. program in history, or a related humanities discipline (doctoral students/candidates preferred, but not required). Experience with nineteenth-century United States history or documentary editing is also preferred, but not necessary. The new GRAs would continue a successful four-year program that has involved 14 other young scholars and digital humanists.

CWGK is an annotated, searchable, and freely-accessible online edition of documents associated with the chief executives of the Commonwealth from 1860 to 1865. However, CWGK is about more than the nominal governors; it is about reconstructing the lost lives and voices of tens of thousands of Kentuckians who interacted with the office of the governor during the war years. Collectively, the staff of CWGK identify, research, and link together every person, place, and organization found within its corpus of documents. To see the project’s work to date, visit discovery.civilwargovernors.org.

Each GRA will be responsible for researching and writing short entries on all of the individuals, places, organizations, and geographical features found in their assigned 120 documents. On average, each CWGK document contains fifteen entities and such documents require approximately two hours to complete.

The GRA position is more than just editorial work, it is an opportunity to diversify professional skills, engage with relevant digital humanities projects, and participate in a process that shapes how scholars and the public understand the Civil War era. Throughout their appointment, GRAs will meet weekly with the CWGK team, discussing editorial policy, working on document annotation, and studying the field of Civil War history more broadly.

Each GRA will work remotely. Interaction with the documents and the writing of annotations will take place in a web-based annotation tool developed for CWGK, which can be accessed from any location. CWGK will make use of online research databases to make its work efficient and uniform. Other archival sources may be of value but are not required by the research guidelines. Securing access to the paid databases required by CWGK (Ancestry.com, Fold3.com, and ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Louisville Courier Journal) is the responsibility of the GRA. If regular institutional access to these databases is not available to the GRA through a university or library, it is the responsibility of the GRA to purchase and use a subscription to these databases. KHS will not reimburse the GRA for any travel, copying, or other expenses incurred in CWGK research.

Application Materials and Evaluation: An application should consist of a narrative statement of professional ability and experience with digital history in the form of a cover letter, a CV, and two letters of recommendation. Additional supplementary materials that demonstrate capacity in the evaluation factors may also be included, these may include, but are not limited to: examples of other digital projects, writing samples, or proof of editorial experience.

Application materials should be submitted to Dr. Chuck Welsko, Project Director at charles.welsko@ky.gov by January 5, 2021. Any questions about the application or application process can also be directed to Dr. Welsko. 

The Kentucky Historical Society will evaluate the applicants based on the following factors, as demonstrated through their applications materials:

Research Experience (70 points): Describe your familiarity with research in nineteenth-century U.S. history. Describe some projects you have undertaken. What sources have you used? Have you been published? Have you interpreted historical research in forms other than a scholarly peer-reviewed publication? Discuss how a digital archival experience differs from your traditional archival experience.

Project Experience (30 points): Describe any work you have done in the editing of historical documents. Discuss how a project such as CWGK maintains balance between thorough research and production schedules. Have you worked on other collaborative projects in the field of history or otherwise? Describe the importance of time management and deadlines in your work. Describe your understanding of and/or experience with the Digital Humanities. From what you know of the CWGK project, how does it fit with current trends in the field? What do you hope to gain from working on the CWGK project?

African American Voices and CWGK

Introduction:

Emancipation Proclamation, by L. Lipman, Milwaukee, Wisconsin,
https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003671404/

On and around June 19, many African American communities across the United States will celebrate Juneteenth, the jubilant recollection of slavery’s destruction in the United States. Given the current intersection of race, politics, and Civil War Memory, the Civil War Governors of Kentucky (CWGK) team wanted to make its contribution to that discussion by doing what it does best: offering historical documents, perspective, and the opportunity for individuals to learn more about the nation’s past.

The CWGK staff support the Kentucky Historical Society’s message about the recent national conversations, protests, and debates regarding race and the lives of African Americans. Today’s events are part of a long, unbroken sequence of connections stemming from the institution of slavery and the earliest foundations of American History. It is impossible to divorce the lives of the formerly enslaved and the legacies of slavery from our memory about the Civil War and its aftermath.

Below are links to resources that CWGK has available on our site or that our staff members have helped create over the years. Where appropriate, I have provided interpretive context to help guide you through these documents and larger materials. This is not an inclusive list of what CWGK offers, but represents a starting point to broaden our interpretation and understanding of the Civil War, slavery, and the lives of African Americans in Kentucky.  

The Caroline Chronicles:

Without question, the most deeply utilized part of CWGK is our work on Caroline Dement. A self-emancipated woman from Tennessee, who made her way to Louisville with the United States Army, Caroline was placed in the house of the Levy family until her master could claim her. While in the Levy household, Blanche, a young child under Caroline’s care, died from strychnine poisoning. The family accused Caroline of intentionally poisoning the child and a jury agreed before influential Louisvillians petitioned Governor Thomas Bramlette and secured her pardon. Although she disappeared from the historical record after leaving the Jefferson County Jail, Caroline’s story appears in one of CWGK’s exhibits, a short documentary, and a journal article.

Blog Posts:

Over the years, CWGK staff have devoted their time and interpretive expertise to blog posts that address different aspects of African American history pulled from documents found on our site. Here are a handful of those posts, and in the future, please visit our blog for more:

Documents:

CWGK has more than 10,000 digitized and transcribed documents on our site. Below are a handful (but certainly not all) that pertain to African Americans, slavery, and emancipation. As you will note, most of these sources talk about, but rarely come from African Americans themselves. Furthermore, these documents often deal with African Americans in precarious positions—as freedom seekers trying to escape the cruelty of slavery, as suspects in violent crimes, or wrapped up in the punishments of white Kentuckians.

Despite all of the resources at our disposal, it is important to acknowledge that CWGK still knows more about white Kentuckians (especially white males) than their African American counterparts. A larger portion of this imbalance comes from realities of nineteenth-century life. Enslavement not only robbed African Americans of their personal freedom, rights, and personhood, but it also deprived countless enslaved men and women of an education. For every Frederick Douglass who learned to read and write while enslaved, innumerable other African Americans had no access to an education, as the practices of enslavers denied enslaved men, women, and children any semblance of humanity—monetarily, educationally, or personally.

CWGK attempts to tell the story of all ordinary Kentuckians, not just the nominal governors who frame our project’s temporal and administrative boundaries. We are, unfortunately, limited by the pervasive silence that dominates archival, political, and social spaces across an uncomfortable breadth of American history. CWGK, and this resource list, are an attempt to redress that imbalance. We have made good strides in drawing out the voices and experiences of black Kentuckians, but there is still much more work to do. We look forward to offering you that perspective in the future.

Teaching Guerrilla Warfare in Civil War Kentucky

In late 1863 George C. Hallet provided a prophetic statement on the future study of the Civil War in Kentucky. That November he appealed to state authorities in Frankfort for military assistance in order to counter pro-Confederate guerrillas operating nearby. More importantly, in his letter, Hallet noted that the “history of this stupendous rebellion is yet to be written and to be written in all truthfulness, the future historian must look to the public archives among which he will find the evidences of outrages committed on both sides” throughout the war.[1] For a digital humanities project such as CWGK, it would be difficult to locate a quote that better encapsulates the need for such a collection. Despite the contemporary utility of Hallet’s words, his appeal underscored the chaotic nature of wartime Kentucky.

Unlike other Border States or contested spaces in Civil War America, where irregular violence followed the presence of Union troops and emancipation, Kentucky offered a more chaotic, often unpredictable flurry of guerrilla warfare.[2] Part of that violence came from the operations of pro-Confederate guerrillas who resisted Union control and wartime policies. Another came from state-endorsed guerrilla hunters who pursued those irregular Confederates across the state.[3] If we take Hallet’s words seriously, little distinguished the guerrilla from the guerrilla-hunter. Both used murder, terror, and questionable (or openly defiant) interpretations of military law to achieve their own ends. The result was a violent landscape rife with unpredictability and something more akin to modern military conflicts in the Middle East, rather than the common battlefields and gallant soldiers of Civil War mythos.

How then should can we teach the chaos of Kentucky’s Civil War? This post offers suggestions on how educators might use CWGK to discuss guerrilla warfare in Kentucky (or the Civil War Era more broadly) with students in advanced high school or college settings.

1) The first step is provide students with a framework for what we traditionally understand the violence of the Civil War Era to represent. There are a few ways to approach this:

  • Provide primary sources that discuss military combat (Samuel R. Watkins’ memoir Co. “Aytch”: The First Tennessee Regiment or a Side Show to the Big Show and Percival Oldershaw’s report in the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion Vol. 16, page 1064, both discuss the Battle of Perryville from a Confederate and Union perspective).
    • Alternatively, you could look for a locally-based primary source, from a library, special collection, or a newspaper account like chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/
  • Show the students a video clip—either from a documentary (such as Ken Burns’ Civil War or the History Channels’ Civil War Journal) or from a film (such as Glory or Gettysburg).

Regardless of the route, the primary goal is to make sure that students have a base understanding that most of the Civil War involved sizable armies engaging in structured combat. Especially early in the war, this involved the armies marching onto a battlefield and engaging in organized ranks until one (or both) sides retired from the field of battle.

2) After establishing that baseline, have the students read documents from CWGK’s guerrilla documents (http://discovery.civilwargovernors.org/exhibits/show/subject-guides/guerrilla-warfare). Here are a few specific suggestions:

  • Richard J. Browne to Thomas E. Bramlette: Browne records how Confederate guerrillas attacked and terrorized Washington County, Kentucky in late 1864, robbing citizens and murdering former Union soldiers at home.
  • Thomas E. Bramlette, Proclamation by the Governor: This message from Governor Bramlette laid out an aggressive policy of hostage taking for Union forces to punish Kentuckians who supported or encourage pro-Confederate guerrillas in the region.
  • Commonwealth of Kentucky v. Susan Parker and W. Watkins, Judgment: In this note, Bramlette cited the struggles of William Watkins and his service to the state in the execution of James Keller (a Confederate guerrilla). In return for his deed, Bramlette remitted a fine against Watkins for operating a tippling house.
  • Z. Wheat to Thomas E. Bramlette: Wheat writes on behalf of Edwin Terrell. Hired by Union officials, Terrell was a guerrilla hunter who killed a several Confederates, but was arrested for murder late in teh war. Bramlette, one of the men possibly responsible for hiring Terrell, denies Wheat’s request for a pardon. (See Hulbert “The Rise and Fall of Edwin Terrell, Guerrilla Hunter, U.S.A.,” Ohio Valley History, for a discussion of Terrell’s career as a guerrilla hunter).

3) This should build toward a discussion that compares and contrasts the traditional perceptions of warfare during the Civil War (step 1) and Kentucky’s guerrilla warfare (step 2). Here are some questions (with some of my own thoughts) that you can use to guide a conversation about irregular warfare.

  • How does the war appear different on the traditional battlefield and on an irregular front?
    • This is a simple question to initiate the conversation so that students can formulate thoughts on the different forms of combat during the war. I would use this question for students to summarize their thoughts on the materials they had read and draw comparisons.
  • Who participated in these different forms of military action?
    • The key here is to lead students to the realization that guerrilla warfare guerrilla violence could strike anywhere and at anyone, bringing civilians in as targets of both the Union and Confederate armies on the battlefield. In contrast, traditional military engagements mainly brought armies into conflict. While those traditional engagements can and did intersect with civilian populations, by and large, civilians were not the targets. Civilians who were especially vulnerable were those who aided Confederate guerrillas, Union soldiers returned from the front lines, as well as African Americans both enslaved and free.
  • What forms of violence are justified during war?
    • Any answer to this question is complicated as students might argue vastly different perspectives built off their personal experiences and beliefs. Some might say that war itself is immoral, while others could argue that any action that defeats the enemy is justified by victory. I would use this question to evaluate how contemporaries discussed what was acceptable in wartime: D. H. Dilbeck’s A More Civil War: How the Union Waged a Just War (UNC Press, 2020) is a good place to look for a recent discussion on this topic.
  • What differentiates soldiers from guerrillas/guerrilla-hunters?
    • This question touches on the earlier questions. While some guerrillas and guerrilla-hunters were supported by state or national governments, most operated well outside the confines of military law. Soldiers participated in a chain of command and acted as an extension of their government. Guerrillas could do the same, but also integrated personal and pecuniary motives into their actions. (Of course, if we look at the Fort Pillow Massacre, where Confederate soldiers brutally executed African American Union troops, guerrillas/guerrilla-hunters were not the only individuals who operated outside of normal, acceptable warfare).

Ultimately, these resources and questions offer a loose framework to use in a classroom setting. Feel free to substitute your own sources, readings, or questions. Hopefully, in these difficult times, this presents ideas for how educators can complicate how students understand military action in Civil War Kentucky.


[1] George C. Hallet to Daniel W. Lindsey,  24 November 1863,  37th – 76th Regiments Enrolled Militia Primary Source Documents (1861-1866),  Box 80, Folder 863-64 FULTON COUNTY Recruiting and Raising Company 40th Rgt. Ky. Militia,  Kentucky Department of Military Affairs,  Frankfort,  KY.  Accessed via the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition, discovery.civilwargovernors.org/document/KYR-0002-022-0011, (accessed May 13, 2020).

[2] Andrew Fialka, “Guerrillas in the Archive: Kentucky’s Irregular War through the Governor’s Eyes,” The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society Vol. 116, No. 2 (Spring 2018), 209-36.

[3] Joseph M. Beilein Jr., “The Terror of Kentucky: Sue Mundy’s Highly Gendered War against Convention,” The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Vol. 116, No. 2 (Spring 2018), 157-82; Matthew Christopher Hulbert “The Rise and Fall of Edwin Terrell, Guerrilla Hunter, U.S.A.,” Ohio Valley History, Vol. 18, No. 3 (Fall 2018), 42-61. See also The Civil War Guerrilla: Unfolding the Black Flag in History, Memory, and
Myth. Edited by Joseph M. Beilein Jr. and Matthew C. Hulbert (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2015).

The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society and the CWGK Special Issue


Front cover of the CWGK special issue Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 
Volume 117, No. 2 (Spring 2019)

In June of 2017 over a dozen eminent historians of the Nineteenth Century South and Civil War Era made their way to Frankfort as part of the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Symposium. The Kentucky Historical Society, along with guest convener Amy Murrell Taylor, organized a series of presentations based on research from the CWGK archive. Last summer, with the assistance of Amy Taylor as guest editor, Stephanie Lang (and over the years, former editors of the Register, David Turpie and Patrick Lewis), arranged those presentations into a special issue of The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society. Those essays probed the depths of CWGK and offered valuable insight into wartime Kentucky, as well as the means through which digital platforms offer new interpretive possibilities for the study of mid-nineteenth century America.

As COVID-19 compels Americans to adapt to new social practices and realities, academic presses, journals, and sites of discourse have gladly opened their founts of knowledge to eager readers. The Kentucky Historical Society happily joined in that scholastic endeavor by making all our digital issues of the Register, dating back to 2010, available on ProjectMuse. If you have not looked at those issues, click right here. In addition, as a means to fill the void of the delayed Kentucky Derby (at least partially that is), KHS launched a derby-themed competition for select issues of the Register available online (take a look at this round of contestants from the most recent issue and vote here).

To compliment that larger institutional endeavor, I reached out to Amy Taylor and Stephanie Lang (then Associate Editor, turned Editor of the Register) so they could share their experiences and ponder deeper reflections of their work on that issue. With hearty thanks to both Amy and Stephanie for their contributions, here are their thoughts on the CWGK special issue of the Register. I provided them with a handful of questions, below each of which, I have provided their response (AMT or SML).

Lastly, you can access all twelve articles from the CWGK special issue here. Here’s a quick list of those authors and articles (who I also extend my thanks to for their work with CWGK in the past):

  • Stephen Berry, “Dwelling in the Digital Archive”
  • Lesley J. Gordon, “Deeds of Brave Suffering and Loft Heroism”
  • David Gleeson, “An Unfortunate Son of Erin”
  • Anne Sarah Rubin, “Literally Destroyed as a Housekeeper”
  • Amy Murrell Taylor, “Texts and Textiles in Civil War Kentucky”
  • Mark Wahlgren Summers, “The First Refuge of a Scoundrel”
  • Kenneth Noe, “Disturbers of the Peace”
  • Diane Miller Summerville, “The Exciting Circumstances of the Rebellion”
  • Crystal Feimster, “Keeping a Disorderly House in Civil War Kentucky”
  • Luther Adams, “Tipling Toward Freedom”
  • Carole Emberton, “Searching for Caroline”
  • Patrick A. Lewis, “The “Most Notorious” Mr. Jennings”

How did you get involved with the CWGK special edition of the Register?

AMT: I was invited by the editor, David Turpie, as well as Patrick Lewis, who was managing the CWGK project at the time. I remember we had an initial brainstorming session in which we decided to aim big and invite some of the most innovative Civil War-era scholars around to contribute to the issue. And fortunately, those scholars were receptive.

Between the Register staff (Editors David Turpie and later Patrick Lewis) and the two of you how did you all divide the editorial work on the issue and what was your involvement with the issue?

AMT: We quickly decided that the special issue would be stronger if we pulled the contributors into a dialogue with one another. They were all working with the same body of primary sources to write their pieces – so there was potentially a lot to be gained from encouraging an exchange of ideas in the middle of the process. We then decided to hold a symposium at the KHS in Frankfort during the summer of 2017 and to invite the scholars to present the preliminary results of their research in the CWGK archive. The event was every bit as stimulating as we had hoped.

I focused initially on inviting the scholars and connecting them to the CWGK and encouraging their work. The wonderful KHS staff—from the Register editors, to the CWGK staff, to the folks involved in education and community engagement—took care of the details of putting the symposium together. They did a fantastic job, and we spent two days in the Old State Capitol talking, sharing, and ultimately pushing one another to think more creatively. We also had great meals and a stop at Buffalo Trace!

After the symposium, my editorial work involved giving each article draft an in-depth reading on matters of interpretation, while the Register staff took care of the rest.  And that was a lot. We never would have gotten to the finish line without the care and consideration that the staff gave to each and every article. I am especially grateful to Stephanie for bringing to the task both an eye for detail and an appreciation of each author’s purpose. It was wonderful to work with such a dedicated editor.

SML: Amy and Patrick played major roles in the very early conceptualization of the CWGK issue. My first involvement with the issue was shortly after I started working at KHS with the CWGK symposium Patrick organized, which brought together all of the authors in one room to explore the use and importance of digital humanities and share initial findings. As the issue developed, I worked with Amy and the authors on revisions, providing them with feedback and suggestions, and with the CWGK staff on sources. Once past the conceptualization and initial review stage, honestly the less glamorous and long day-to-day fact-checking, copyedits, correspondence and final questions, going through proofs fell to me – as it should be, in order to maintain the Register’s own editorial policies and overall direction. Working with guest editors is a partnership and certainly in this case, the collaboration with Amy not only allowed me (as an Appalachian historian) to learn more about the era but also sharpen my own skills and knowledge of digital humanities. But, most importantly for me, Amy was wonderful to work with and I feel I gained a colleague on many projects to come.

What are some of the benefits (and challenges) of joint editorial work and how does that issue from working on individual scholarship?

AMT: From my perspective, the greatest payoff from this partnership came at the beginning, at the point of conceptualization. Our initial brainstorming prompted us to imagine this as a collective enterprise rather than a series of individual projects. And in the end, I think each and every article benefitted from the exchange and collaboration we put in place through the symposium.

SML: For this particular issue, working jointly with Amy was extremely beneficial for the project. As a Civil War historian, researcher, and writer, she has strong command of the field and historiography which allowed us to move the content of the issue into new areas. She also has a strong network of connections which not only brought new scholars to the project, but the whole editing experience on my end was very collaborative and conversational – I enjoyed revising and editing with Amy and the authors, working together to craft articles that highlight the strength of digital humanities in research. 

The main challenge of the issue for everyone involved was thinking about how to use, research, and write about the ever-growing Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Project. Thinking more broadly about how and where to research, the CWGK project become the primary digital archive for the authors, which pushed everyone into new modes of research and also editing. Amy’s openness, along with all of the authors, to dive into the project, pick a topic and use the CWGK digital archive, not knowing what they might find (or not find), and craft an article from that was at first a large unknown. But, the different areas of interest and different questions the authors asked, the end result remains one of the top Register issues and illustrates KHS’s strength in digital projects.

The CWGK issue is a large issue, covering twelve articles from a range of historians on an equally diverse set of topics about Civil War Era Kentucky and digital humanities. What is one thing that you hope readers should come away with after reading this issue?

AMT: I hope they will see that Civil War-era Kentucky is still fairly “unknown” – that there is a lot to be learned, a lot to be discovered, and definitely a lot to be rethought. And maybe it will prompt readers to explore the CWGK on their own and take on new research projects themselves.

SML: That is honestly a big part of it – how we think about and use archives is changing, not only as more resources are digitalized and available online but now as we shelter in place and physical archives are not open. It allows us to be creative in accessing materials and how we define collections. Each author in this issue brought their own set of interests and focus to bear and their use of this new digital realm illuminated new voices and new stories from everyday people like us. And that is a strength of the CWGK issue – although the title seems to highlight the governors themselves, the archive actually gives a voice to thousands of Kentuckians writing in during the Civil War. Their letters, military records, legal correspondence, etc. are deftly woven together in the articles. Whether pleading for a pardon, communicating the anguish of a guerrilla raid, calling attention to hunger, grappling with what we today call PTSD – all of these articles brutally punctuate the human experience of the Civil War and how the war was experienced in a tumultuous border state. The articles in this issue ignite new conversations and a call-to-research for future projects.

Following up on that question, in what ways does the CWGK issue of the Register alter or complicate our understanding of Civil War Kentucky and Kentucky history in general?

AMT: I’d prefer to focus on how it “complicates” – because that, in the end, is what results from this special issue. The interpretation of Civil War Kentucky, like Civil War history all over the place, has suffered from simplistic and one-dimensional mythmaking over time. The pieces in the Register shatter those myths in a big way—no one can walk away from it assuming that Kentucky remained “neutral” and somehow aloof from the violent struggle over slavery; no one can assume that Kentucky slavery itself was somehow more moderate than the rest. Hopefully issues like this will help open up readers’ minds by disturbing comfortable assumptions and raising new questions about the state’s history. There is a lot of work that remains to be done, and maybe this issue can help inspire more of it.

How do you think that digital documentary projects like CWGK will change the landscape of writing articles and producing academic journals over the next several years?

AMT: I think that projects like the CWGK most obviously change things by opening up access to materials that many historians had not, or could not, examine easily before. When I say “access,” though, I don’t just mean that historians at a distance no longer need to travel to Frankfort, Kentucky, to see the governors’ papers, and can instead pop them up on their computer screen in San Francisco, California. That is true, of course, but what I really mean is that users can now read and absorb and analyze the materials in ways that could not be done in their traditional, analog format. For starters, the CWGK has a wonderful search engine that enables a user to see patterns across thousands of documents that remained nearly invisible before. And its mapping of the social networks underlying this vast set of documents enables users to see how people maneuvered through the very complex political landscape that was Civil War Kentucky. All of this holds the potential to produce truly pathbreaking scholarship.

What else would you want readers to know about the CWGK issue and the Register?

AMT: That I was greatly honored to play a role in bringing this issue to publication, and I thank the staff of the Register, past and present, for allowing me to play in their sandbox.

CWGK Educational Resources During COVID-19

As COVID-19 forces schools to close or shift to online teaching, I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight some of those thematic lessons and educational resource that CWGK has made available over the past few years. With generous support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), CWGK has hired a research associate that developed many of these educational resources over the past two years. They pulled together activities and thematic lessons inspired by the 10,000 documents on the CWGK site to highlight the interpretive possibilities of our digital documentary edition. Given the current situation, these resources offer opportunities for educators to design larger lessons, inform conversations about mid-nineteenth century Kentucky, or fill the seemingly endless void between Netflix binges.

CWGK’s For Teacher’s Page includes both themes and classroom packets. The themes are short surveys of documents on CWGK connected to particular topics like women’s history, crime, agriculture, or religion with some suggestions for activities. The classroom packets survey slavery and murder, mental health, and the 1864 Presidential Election, while providing broader interpretation and activities. Given the transition to remote education across the country, here are two activities that educators could incorporate into their now virtual classrooms, with some suggestions on how they might do so.

CWGK Agriculture Activity: CWGK’s agricultural activity asks participants to envision themselves as farmers in Civil War Era Kentucky.  The activity has students assign points (representing the working hours of a day) to different agricultural pursuits on their fictional farms. Over the course of four phases (representing the four years of the Civil War) players draw event cards (developed from real events as discussed in CWGK documents) that represent the hardships brought on by everyday life and war. This includes everything from the requisition of supplies by either army, marauding guerrillas ransacking smokehouses, environmental challenges or disasters, droughts, freedom-seeking enslaved people, or requisitions from the army.

Converting to a digital experience:  CWGK designed this activity to function as a board game, with students moving their pieces around, drawing cards, and simulating agriculture and life in wartime Kentucky. Yet, it is possible to use the game remotely.

  • Use a video-conferencing platform (such as Zoom, Blackboard, Collaborate, or another video platform) to run the game live with students with your camera facing the game board and have them roll dice (or you roll for them to eliminate the possibility of cheating), and then move their pieces and read the event cards accordingly.
  • Use a virtual tabletop platforms (such as Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, Beyond Tabletop, or other systems) to upload a copy of the map, have students join, and operate the game digitally.  
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress,
https://www.loc.gov/item/2016869254/

The Election of 1864: Our second activity deals with the Presidential Election in 1864 that pitted incumbent Abraham Lincoln against former Union general, George McClellan. Kentuckians divided deeply over the election. Although a largely (but not exclusively) Union state, many slaveholding Kentuckians disdained the erosion of slavery and violation of civil liberties brought on by the Lincoln Administration. Further, questions of loyalty in a slaveholding border state, racial as well as gender influences, and political differences further prevented substantial portions of Kentuckians from voting.

  • Converting to a digital experience: To take this digital, I would suggest assigning roles to the students, having them read the documents particular to their role, and discussing (either live or through a chat function) how their character would vote in the 1864 or if they could.  
  • Alternatively, it would be possible to connect this event to questions of political access in the 2020 election and the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment. Students could research the evolution of political access or current questions of political participation to inform a larger discussion of voting rights in a longer scope of American history.

These are just suggestions to spark creativity—educators know their students and curriculums far better than I do, so I am sure that there are other opportunities to use these resources to educate students. If you have recommendations, suggestions, or wish to talk further about this, please feel free to contact me at charles.welsko@ky.gov or the CWGK team at civilwargovernorsofkentucky@gmail.com.  

Stay safe and healthy, and I hope these resources might make teaching in these trying times just a little bit easier!

The CWGK Blog in 2020

Greetings fellow scholars and enthusiasts of Kentucky history!

We hope this post finds you well given the current state of local, national, and global affairs. The Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition (CWGK) team realizes that there is a great demand for online resources among educators scrambling to assemble online classes, parents looking to entertain children on an extended stay at home, and researchers separated from the archive. CWGK is here to help as best we can.

To that end, CWGK plans on rolling out new blog posts in the weeks to come that will include connections to current events (see Deborah Thompon’s posts on civilian emergency responses after the Battle of Shiloh); interpretation of our documents; and educational resources or activities for teachers and students.

Also, if you are looking for other ways to study Civil War Kentucky, visit the CWGK site to access our 10,000 digitized and transcribed documents. You can also visit our For Teachers page that includes educational activities or subject guides that highlight the variety of documents in our collection.

In the days and weeks to come, check back with us as the CWGK team, along with guest authors, add to our blog and offer you ways to make it through this, to borrow liberally from one of documents, “vortex of perplexing [despondency],” while learning more about Civil War era Kentucky. We’ll make sure to keep you posted through social media about new posts and other news from our site.

Lastly, we encourage you to be smart and safe—stay home as you can, read some more about Kentucky history, and as always, check out the Kentucky Historical Society’s Virtual Visitor page: https://history.ky.gov/virtualvisitor/.

Sincerely,
Chuck Welsko (@cwelsko on Twitter)
Project Director

2020 Graduate Research Associates

Overview: The Kentucky Historical Society anticipates the ability to hire two Graduate Research Associates (GRAs) familiar with 19th century United States history to write short informational entries for the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition (CWGK). Each GRA will receive a production-based stipend of $5,000 each and can work remotely from their home institutions.

Each GRA will annotate 150 assigned documents. Each GRA must be a graduate student in at least the second year of a M.A. program in history or a related humanities discipline. These positions are funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), a branch of the National Archives. As of this posting, these positions are conditional, anticipating that the NHPRC will fund these two positions next year. The new GRAs would continue a successful three-year program that has involved 12 GRAs.

CWGK is an annotated, searchable, and freely-accessible online edition of documents associated with the chief executives of the Commonwealth, 1860-1865. Yet CWGK is not solely about the five governors; it is about reconstructing the lost lives and voices of tens of thousands of Kentuckians who interacted with the office of the governor during the war years. CWGK will identify, research, and link together every person, place, and organization found in its documents. This web of hundreds of thousands of networked nodes will dramatically expand the number of actors in Kentucky and U.S. history, show scholars new patterns and hidden relationships, and recognize the humanity and agency of historically marginalized people. To see the project’s work to date, visit discovery.civilwargovernors.org.

Scope of Work: Each GRA will be responsible for researching and writing short entries on named persons, places, organizations, and geographical features in 150 documents. Each document contains an average of fifteen such entities. This work will be completed and submitted to CWGK for fact-checking in sets throughout the year, but no later than
December 31, 2020.

Research and writing will proceed according to project guidelines concerning research sources and methods, editorial information desired, and adherence to house style. This will ensure 1) that due diligence is done to the research of each entity and 2) that information is recorded for each item in uniform ways which are easy to encode and search.

All research for the entries must be based in primary or credible secondary sources, and each GRA is expected to keep a virtual research file with notes and digital images of documents related to each entry. These will be examined regularly by the CWGK team as they fact check the GRA output and turned over to CWGK at the completion of the work. CWGK will fact-check all entries for research quality and adherence to house style. CWGK projects an average rate of one document annotated per two hours of work. Each GRA may expect their workload to be similar to adding on another class for the semester. They should expect to complete an average of 4 to 5 documents per week, though this may vary.

Each GRA will work remotely. Interaction with the documents and the writing of annotations will take place in a web-based annotation tool developed for CWGK, which can be accessed from any location. CWGK will make use of online research databases to make its work efficient and uniform. Other archival sources may be of value but are not required by the research guidelines. Securing access to the paid databases required by CWGK (Ancestry.com, Fold3.com, and ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Louisville Courier Journal) is the responsibility of the GRA. If regular institutional access to these databases is not available to the GRA through a university or library, it is the responsibility of the GRA to purchase and use a subscription to these databases. KHS will not reimburse the GRA for any travel, copying, or other expenses incurred in CWGK research.

In order to maintain quality and consistency as well as to foster a collegial and collaborative work culture, CWGK will conduct weekly virtual “office hours” via Zoom, during which GRAs are required to dial in, ask questions of staff, share expertise and research methods, and make connections with their peers. Virtual attendance at these office hours is mandatory, and multiple sessions may be offered to accommodate schedules. Pending successful funding, CWGK anticipates the GRAs to begin in early to mid-February.

The Kentucky Historical Society will hold copyright for all annotation research as work for hire.

Evaluation Criteria: An application should consist of a narrative statement of professional ability in the form of a cover letter, a CV, and two letters of recommendation. Additional supplementary materials that demonstrate capacity in the evaluation factors may also be included, these may include, but are not limited to: examples of other digital projects, writing samples, or proof of editorial experience.

Proposal materials should be submitted to Chuck Welsko at charles.welsko@ky.gov  no later than January 9, 2020. Should you have any questions about CWGK, the position, or the Kentucky Historical Society, please feel free to contact Dr. Welsko.

The Kentucky Historical Society will evaluate the applicants based on the following factors, as demonstrated through their applications materials:

Research Experience (70 points): Describe your familiarity with research in 19th century U.S. history. Describe some projects you have undertaken. What sources have you used? Have you been published? Have you interpreted historical research in forms other than a scholarly peer-reviewed publication? Discuss how a digital archival experience differs from your traditional archival experience.

Project Experience (30 points): Describe any work you have done in the editing of historical documents. Discuss how a project such as CWGK maintains balance between thorough research and production schedules. Have you worked on other collaborative projects in the field of history or otherwise? Describe the importance of time management and deadlines in your work. Describe your understanding of and/or experience with the Digital Humanities. From what you know of the CWGK project, how does it fit with current trends in the field? What do you hope to gain from working on the CWGK project?