Saturday, January 21, 2017

Reaction to Lincoln's First Inaugural

I thought this article about Abraham Lincoln's First Inaugural Address, from 155 years ago was appropriate now.  It is from the Covington Journal of March 9, 1861.  

The Coercive Policy of the New Administration

The refusal of Mr. Lincoln to recognize the Southern movement as a revolution accomplished must inevitably involve the most deplorable results. It shuts out negotiation, and thus precludes all hope of amicable adjustment.

Now, whether Mr. Lincoln chooses to recognize the fact or not it is nevertheless true that seven sovereign States have severed their connection with the federal Union. They have not only declared their independence but have formed a confederacy of their own, elected a President and Vice President, appointed civil and military offices, and, in short, have assumed all the duties and responsibilities of an independent government. That the people of the Confederate States are in earnest cannot be doubted; that they have the ability to maintain their position admits of little doubt. Mr. Lincoln says they are not out of the Union and are subject to the laws of the United States. They say they are independent of the old Union, and have laws of their own for their government. Mr. Lincoln will undertake to enforce the laws. There is now but one way to do that, and that is at the point of the bayonet. The Confederate States will resist force by force. War follows, and after the expenditure of thousands of lives and millions of treasure, we come back to the starting point, and must settle the question by negotiation. 

Would it be better for the United States government at once to act upon the indisputable truth that freed governments are based upon the "consent of the governed," and acknowledging that the Southern government is beyond its control, treat with the authorities of the Confederate States for an amicable adjustment of all perplexing questions? 


The author used words and phrases like "revolution accomplished" and certainly took a pro-Southern view in claiming that the declarations of secession were enough to separate those states from the federal government, as though the administration should just take their words for it and not try to resist the breakup of the country. President Lincoln certainly proved to be more strong-willed than this author.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Introducing the Cynthiana Battlefields Foundation

2nd Battle of Cynthiana
As I mentioned in a previous post, I have joined a new group and will serve as secretary for it, the Cynthiana Battlefields Foundation.  (Click on that link for the group's website. You can also visit our Facebook page right here.) Memberships are already available through the website, with several options available, including a "Founders" level during 2017. Please consider signing up to support us. Other ways to help or become involved are also listed on the website.

This group will focus on publicizing and interpreting and the battles of Cynthiana and, hopefully, even preserving  the land where they took place. These battles were important to the Civil War in Kentucky, yet are not very well-known. We want to help change that and help others understand what took place on this ground and how it fits in the story of the war, nationally and locally. We as an organization are just getting started but are preparing to do what we can to bring attention to the fighting that occurred in and around this town. We do have become  meeting coming up soon and I'm sure we'll start making more  plans for 2017 and even beyond.

It is less than a year old, having been born in the spring of 2016. I learned of it a couple of months later and decided to become involved in it and see if I could contribute.

Exactly how and why this opportunity came to  my attention, I do not know. Location - it's about a one-hour drive from my house - is certainly important. If this was much further away, would I make the effort to be this involved? I don't know. I do know that I am very interested in Kentucky's role in the war, so this fits in extremely well with that interest. Being so close to home only increases that.

The green star marks the location of Cynthiana

Also, the involvement of Darryl Smith, operator of Walking With History, publisher of the Ohio at Perryville blog and whom I have met on various tours at Perryville impressed me. I'm certain he was the one who posted about it somewhere. Had I not read about it and found out it existed, I, of course, could  not have joined it. 

I also think my lack of great knowledge in the battles helped influence me to get involved. I knew of the battles and of the involvement of famous (perhaps legendary) Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, but this seemed like a good opportunity for personal growth in my knowledge and obsession about the Civil War.  I.have read a little bit about it since my involvement began (here is one very quick rundown of the contests), but still need to do much more. One book on my to-read list for this year is  Kentucky Rebel Town: The Civil War Battles of Cynthiana and Harrison County, by Bill Penn, who is also involved in the group. I've heard good things about this book and look forward to reading it for myself.

John Hunt Morgan
Another fascinating part of this was the idea of being involved at the very beginning of such a group. I have worked with a couple other historical organizations, but they were well-established before I started volunteering, so this is a potentially new experience for me. It's kind of exciting, but also makes me a bit nervous about trying to get this off the ground, as though I have more responsibility than with the other, older groups.

Please continue to watch our web and Facebook pages for further updates. I'll try to post about it here as well.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

What will 2017 bring?

Yes, another post. Finally.

I am still here and thought the new year would be a good time to post again.

In 2016, my goal was to make at least one post per week. I actually kept that goal for most of the year,  but when I got a new job in August, my time to blog simply slipped away.

I am still at that job as 2017 begins and though I want to resume posting more regularly, I do not want to promise more than I deliver, so I am not setting any specific goals for this year. I will have to see how my time goes and how I adapt to my schedule.

I am currently reading another Civil War book, so I do want to finish it and offer a review. I have a few other books that I would like to read and review as well.

I am getting involved in a new local Civil War group and hope to offer updates on it right here. We have had a couple start-up meetings and have some big goals.  Our website is now open to the public at  I am excited to be involved with the beginning of such an organization and am anxious to see how it progresses. It has a great purpose and will fill a need, especially in Kentucky. My next post will likely be about it. 

I also plan at least one trip to Perryville (I still really hate that I did not make it to last October's re-enactment) and, hopefully at least one other Civil War site in Kentucky, whether it is Richmond, Mill Springs or another. Trips like those always provide good blog content and give me better perspective on what such sires represent. I hope I can schedule multiple trips this year.

I do have a couple projects I started researching and writing last year. Perhaps I can finish them this year, though I will have to double check for new information that might have shown up since I started them. 

I am also still involved at the James A. Ramage Civil War Museum and will try to post more about it this year.  Last year, I spearheaded a display of many Civil War flags, Union and Confederate. I was proud of it, as many people are not aware of several of these standards. 

I am honestly amazed that I have had this blog since 2009.  How has so much time passed so quickly? I know I have had some gaps in posting, but here I still am. It has truly been a fascinating project for me.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Commentary on Election Results, 1860 Style

Unhappiness with the results of a Presidential election is nothing new - far from it, in fact - and current discussions of divisiveness and how the country will face the consequences of electoral results are also not recent creations.

Here is an article from the Covington (Ky) Journal about the 1860 Presidential election, this time with commentary about the results of that contest. This story is from November 10, 1860.

I find it interesting, even disappointing, that this story associated Abraham Lincoln with the famous "irrepressible conflict" statement, since that comment was from William Henry Seward, not Lincoln. Lincoln's most controversial prewar statement was his 1858 declaration that "a house divided against itself cannot stand" and that the nation could not long maintain a split of slave and free states, but the writer apparently did not realize that.

Lincoln also served multiple terms in the Illinois legislature, not just one as this story suggests. (Also, his "spot resolutions" in Congress were somewhat memorable, though not in a good way for him.)

The Result
Tuesday last witnessed for the first time in a contest for the Presidency a triumph of a purely sectional party.

Lincoln and Hamlin, the Republican nominees, are elected  President and Vice-President of the United States. They are Northern men; they represent Northern principles, and they are elected by Northern votes exclusively.

Neither in Mr. Lincoln nor the party he represents do we see anything to alley the fears created by this sectional triumph.

Lincoln was made known to the people outside his own State by a contest with Douglas for a seat in the Senate of the U.S. The content just closed has brought to light these facts: That he has split rails; and that he is regarded as an honest man by his neighbors. Upon these barren considerations his election to the Presidency has been urged. If he possesses any other merit or claim his friends have failed to inform the country of it. He has served a session in the Legislature of his State and a term in Congress. It is his misfortune that as a Legislator he never said or did anything worth remembering.

He had, however, as an individual, given countenance to the infamous sentiment that there is an irrepressible sectional conflict. There is of necessity no such conflict; but a fearful conflict may be created by a President who believes there is or ought to be such a conflict.

If we look at the party that has placed "Old Abe" in power, the prospect is not less discouraging. It is composed of men holding all shades of opinion but bound together by a common feeling of hostility to the institutions of the South. This feeling, we fear, is not only spreading but becoming more intense. In this feeling the John Brown raid had its origin; this feeling leads to disregard of the Constitution and the nullification of laws of Congress. This feeling is the more dangerous because it is based upon prejudice and thrives by misrepresentation. Thousands of demagogues scattered over the North have an interest in keeping this feeling alive. It is the hobby upon which they hope to ride into office.


It is ironic that the writer claimed the feelings of the North were based in prejudice and that they practiced "nullification" disregarding of Constitutional laws (and it does fit in with recent debates about  prejudices or criminal accusations.) It was, of course, in South Carolina where the concept of "nullification" became popular in the early 1800s and it is difficult to imagine supporters of slavery referring to the "prejudice"'of others without pondering their own views. The suspicion of ulterior motives on the part of the winning candidate is another similarity to the current situation, though I also must wonder if modern political commentators are any more accurate than this writer.  (I do admit a hint of presentism may have influenced my comments on the idea of prejudice.)

Many people on the losing side in this race went on to support secession and the attempt to create a new nation based on their disappointment in the election's outcome, leading, of course, to the long, costly and bloody Civil War. What, if anything, will current protests and dissatisfaction bring to this nation? Will time see things settle down? 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Rest in Peace, Jim Reis

Four years ago, I wrote a post about the passing of Bob Clements, whom I had met while volunteering at the James A. Ramage Civil War Museum and who had become a close friend of mine and an inspiration to how I explored my obsession with the Civil War, especially through collecting artifacts. Bob was a great guy and I still miss him, even after four years have somehow passed so quickly,

Today, I must write another sad post, about the passing of another inspiration and friend, Jim Reis, a long-time respected reporter, columnist and historian for the now-defunct Kentucky Post newspaper. In regards to Northern Kentucky history, Jim was a giant, absolutely one of the most influential and prolific historians of this region. Few people have contributed as much or more to local history than he did.

My relationship with Jim was a lot different than the one with Bob. I only met Jim about 5 or 6 years ago, when he had already retired and was starting to suffer from Parkinson's Disease. This awful disease had already started to affect him physically, as he was very skinny, had trouble walking or standing and even struggled to speak, but us mind was still sharp st the time, at least as far as I could tell as he asked questions at meetings. People had to strain to hear and understand him, but it was worth the effort. 

Of course, as the years passed, the diseases effects worsened , forcing hm to retire as Vice-President from the Campbell County Historical and Genealogical Society, where I also volunteer. He still attended membership meetings, where it was always nice to see him, though sometimes hard to see his condition.

Jim and I were friends and always said "hello" and shook hands when we met, but it was not as personal a relationship as I had with Nob. It was more professional, but was one of respect and friendship

His inspiration on my interest in the Civil War, however, started much earlier than my friendship with Bob. In 1983, one of his Pieces of the Past articles on local history was on the subject of a local incident from the Civil War, involving William Francis Corbin and Jefferson McGraw.

This article fascinated me. Some of it was because the newspaper included a picture of a cow standing Corbin's gravestone in the middle of a farm field. My mom told me this cow was my cousin's, as he was renting the land where he had been buried., Perhaps that tiny family connection caught my interest for some reason. McGraw was buried at a church that was just down the street from where I lived (out in the middle of the country), so that very local aspect of the story also attracted my attention

About 10 years later, when I was at college, I wanted to read that story again, and wen to the library and searched through many issues of the Post, until I found. Luckily, I guessed the year was 1983 and started there, so I did not need to search too long, even in those days before google and other Internet search engines.

I also purchased a booklet that the Historical Society sold, a reprint of an 1897 story that one of Corbin's friends had put together

When asked about how I became so interested in the Civil War, my first answer is usually that I, at some point in my elementary school years, learned that Abraham Lincoln was, like me, from Kentucky. This sparked my interest in Lincoln, which naturally led to a fascination about the war, but I do think the Corbin-McGraw story affected me and helped draw my interest to the war. It is probably the most relevant incident that involved anything very close to where I grew up (though the Siege of Cincinnati a few months prior did affect the entire region) so it always struck a chord with me. Had I not read Jim's story about them, would I have been as interested in history or the Civil War? I do not know, though I do know his story has remained with me even now, over 30 years later. It is part of My Civil War Obsession, and I will always remember that and thank Jim for writing about it, letting me know this fascination story. It will always be a part of me.

I will also always remember his funeral, which took place Thursday. The final song, as they moved his casket out of the church was Battle Hymn of the Republic. It is one of my favorite Civil War era songs, but I had never before thought about it as a funeral song. It somehow ended up being very fitting and appropriate, and added even more and more sincere feelings to this sad occasion, at least for me. That was memorable and just so fitting and proper.

Thank you Jim, and rest in peace my friend.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Temper of the Southern Mind, as the 1860 Election Aporoached

As the pundits currently ponder what the results of the upcoming Presidential election will mean, it is  noteworthy that this is nothing new for Americans, as people were wondering the same thing about the contest of 1860, though perhaps with more dire consequences in mind.

Here is an article from the Covington Journal of October 27, 1860 with some discussion of possible meanings of potential outcomes of the race then taking place. (This story does quote the Charleston Mercury, though some questioned that paper's credibility.)

The  Temper of the Southern Mind

The following we copy from the Charleston Mercury of the 15th:

The Minute Men - We are glad to see the people of our State everywhere preparing for the crisis which is at hand. As an offset to the "Wide Awakes" of the North, "Minute Men" are organizing in the principal districts of South Carolina. Their object is to form an armed body of men, and to join with our fellow-citizens, now forming in this and our sister States as "Minute Men," whose duty it is to arm, equip and drill, and be ready for any emergency that may arise in the present perilous position of the Southern States. The badge adopted is a blue rosette - two and a half inches in diameter, with a military button in the centre, to be worn on the side of the hat. Let the important work go bravely on, and let every son of Carolina prepare to mount the blue cockade.

The Richmond Enquirer, in an article on the contingency of Lincoln's election, uses the following language:

"Virginia can no more prevent the dissolution of the Union after Lincoln's election than she can prevent that election. She will be powerless to prevent civil war, with all its attendant horrors. Any of the Southern States can, and some of them will involve the whole country, North as well as South, in the internecine strife of bloody and desolating civil war. Virginia will, by a majority of her people, decide upon resistance, while a large minority may desire to postpone resistance for the 'overt act;' but, hitched as she is to the Southern States, she will be dragged into a common destiny with them, no matter what may be the decree of her people. We believe that a large majority of the people of Virginia, if the opportunity of a State Convention was allowed them, would vote for immediate resistance and for a common destiny with the Southern State; and with this belief we would advise the slave States not to hesitate to strike an early blow from fear that Virginia may hesitate in her duty to the South."

The Lynchburg Virginian (Breckenridge,) says:

"They who suppose that the election of Lincoln will not result in the dissolution of the Union are entirely deluded. The Cotton States will go out, and Virginia will be compelled to go along with them. Besides - discarding all party feeling, as our people will do after this election - a large and determined majority of the people of Virginia will be for dissolution, rather than submit to the humiliation and disgrace which the election of Lincoln will entail upon the country."

We copy the following from the Vicksburg Whig:

"The Yazoo Banner reports Gov. Pettus as having said upon the streets of Yazoo City, that he had not only drawn from the State Treasury the two hundred thousand dollars appropriated by the last Legislature to purchase arms and ammunition, but he had ordered more than they could purchase, giving his receipts as Governor of the State for the amount overdrawn. Will any body with these facts before them, maintain that the Government of Mississippi is not preparing to go out of the Union?"


Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Noble Stand of the Union Men

Students of the Civil War generally associate the term "Union Men" with those who supported the United States government against the Confederacy, including those who joined the "Union" army, but in the days before the war that term had a different meaning, at least to some people.

This brief article comes from the Covington Journal of October 27, 1860, shortly before the Presidential election of that year took place. This newspaper supported the John Bell - Edward Everett ticket, the "Constitutional Union Party" and used the term "Union" with that meaning in mind.

The Noble Stand of the Union Men

Whilst the leaders of the Republican party frantically appeal to Northern prejudices in behalf of "Northern men with Northern principles," and the Secessionists loudly call for a "united South" to resist the North, the Union men of the South make no idle threats, appeal to no national prejudices.

They repel with indignity the unjust assaults that are made upon their section, and earnestly demand their constitutional rights. In conjunction with their friends in the North they present as a candidate for the Presidency a man of great experience in public affairs and of undoubted conservative national opinions - a man who if elected will labor to repress sectional agitation and restore the administration of the general government to the broad basis of the Constitution.

If, after all, the Union men fail, if the majority no longer heed appeals to their sense of justice and love of country, and the dark days come upon us, when the collision of sectional opinion shall be "quickly followed by the clash of arms," they will  have the consolation of knowing that they labored to the last and did their utmost to prevent the dire result.

Bell - Everett poster courtesy