Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Introduction of US Arms into Kentucky (long)

Map of KY Civil War sites, courtesy of
Here is a long piece found in the Covington Journal of May 25, 1861. This story expresses some of the tension in the state as Kentucky tried to remain neutral while stuck in the middle of two factions just starting a war, with both sides having much influence and interest within the Bluegrass State.

The  Journal (and the Yeoman of Frankfort) appear again to have been overly optimistic about Confederate support in Kentucky or maybe just a bit naive about how much support for the Union cause remained in the state. The description of "true and loyal men" in the next-to-last line of the story makes me wonder if the paper knew to whom or what these men were actually true and loyal. Even if this optimism was a bit much, however, sentiment in the state was divided and the thoughts and hopes expressed here are probably not too far off base from what many others believed at the time

The Introduction of U.S. Arms Into Kentucky
The clandestine introduction of U.S. arms into Kentucky has, naturally enough, created a good deal of excitement.

For six weeks past the leading men as well as the masses of both political parties in Kentucky have been of one mind as to the necessity of arming the State - this is to be done by the State, and as was especially insisted upon by the leaders of the Union Democratic party, by "due course of law,"  - not to assail the United States or Confederate States, but solely for defense.

Gov. Magoffin, in obedience of the unmistakable demand of the people, made an effort to get arms for the State. In this effort his success was indifferent; the arms were not to be had; and although there is a law, with safe and well-defined provisions for the distributions of arms, our Union Democratic friends seemed very uneasy lest the few that were obtained should get into the hands of improper persons.

A short time since a motion was made in the City Council of Cincinnati to provide arms for the police force of that city. Mr. Eggleston, a member of the Council, and a leading business man and politician of the city, said the arms could not be had either of the Government or of individuals in the Northern States or in Canada

Gov. Magoffin, in his message to the Legislature of Kentucky, informed that body that no arms could be had in the North.

When these facts are kept in view it is not surprising that the sudden and clandestine introduction of a large number of Northern  muskets into Kentucky should create considerable excitement.

It is certain that these muskets have been sent in considerable numbers to Greenupsburg, Carlisle, Maysville, to Bath County, to Paris, Georgetown, Lexington and Winchester. The Paris consignment reached that place in the middle of the night, by a special train. Armed men were in waiting to take charge of them. Those for Lexington (accompanied by a note from Garrett Davis) were consigned to Mr. Hiram Shaw. Mr. Shaw declined taking charge of them and passed them over to Dr. Dudley, commander of the Lexington Home Guards.

The arrival of the arms in Bath County created great indignation as well as excitement, and at one time an outbreak was feared.

In the interior the recipients of the muskets are required to pay fifty cents a piece, and on the strength of this the plea is set up that they are private property, bought and paid for by the money of individuals, and that it is nobody's business where they came from or how they are to be used. As prices for arms now range, the muskets are worth $25 each.

The Lexington Statesman says:
"Certainly there should be a full and fair understanding between the Administration men of Kentucky and those who will not sustain the Lincoln Government. If citizens for this state are arming for civil war, let it not be done steathily and secretly. Kentuckians, whatever their differences, should never resort to secret measures of domestic strife. In a word, if we are to be plunged into a fratricidal war, let all understand it and prepare for it."

The Frankfort Yeoman, in the course of some reflections on the strange proceeding, says: 
"Thank God, however, the attempt of this infuriate madman [Lincoln] will be frustrated by the good sense, the loyalty and fraternity of the great mass of men who have received these arms. Very far the largest numbers of these musket will be pointed at the breasts of the invader's forces, rather than at the Kentucky brethren of those who may ever pull their triggers. The alarm of the Cincinnati Gazette on this prospect is not groundless. The whole policy of Lincoln in the matter was atrocious; and the execution of it was a  palpable blunder on both sides."

It is said that the guns sent to the interior were delivered only to men sworn to support the Federal Administration. We believe, however, that the Yeoman is about right. We happen to know that many of the guns distributed to the Citizen Guards of Covington are in the hands of as true and loyal men as are to be found on the face of the earth. In no event will these guns be pointed at the breasts of Kentuckians.

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