Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Edmund Ruffin's 1860 Visit to Kentucky: Part II

Edmund Ruffin began his Sunday, September 9, 1860, by attending the Episcopal church in Frankfort. Most assuredly this was Ascension Episcopal on Washington Street (built in 1850), only about a half block away from Senator Crittenden's house where he had attended a get-together the evening before.

After church Ruffin had dinner with a Major Carneal, who Ruffin described as "a very wealthy & kind-hearted man," but "somewhat peculiar, & often rough in his manners..." And although Carneal apparently opposed Ruffin's politics, he seemed "to have taken a fancy" to the Virginia secessionist. They were soon joined by a number of other prominent men in the community of diverse political and religious backgrounds, but as Ruffin explained, "we conversed pleasantly, & with apparent freedom, & even grazed sundry subjects on which we differed, but without going at all too far."

On Monday, September 10, Ruffin received a couple of advanced copies of his book Anticipations of the Future (see November 8, 2010 post) and complained of the typographical errors and the binding. Ruffin explained that, "I cannot help sanguinely hoping that the book, as an argument & incentive to defense & resistance by the South, & for disunion, will have noted & good effect.

September 11 found Ruffin working on a draft of an article of some sort and reading "a volume of [William Gilmore] Simms' tales." In the afternoon he and daughter Mildred walked "over some of the beautiful grass covered hills which surround Frankfort..." and enjoyed pleasant conversation. Ruffin had read an article about Texas and the rising sympathy for secession in that state caused by perceived atrocities by abolitionists. Ruffin wrote that if any other deplorable acts should happen, he hoped they would occur in Georgia. "If the dull spirit & lethargic body of that great central southern state could be thus thoroughly aroused to self-defense against the north, & would take the step of secession, every adjoining state (except N.C.) would immediately follow, & the movement would be secure & effective-& necessarily soon to be followed by all the more northern slaveholding states." Ruffin seemed pleased with the interrogations that Northern visitors were receiving in their Southern travels. "I trust that it may come to this that no northerner will dare come upon southern ground, without being known as of good character, & conduct or brining unquestionable evidence of his deserving such recommendation."

On Sept. 12 Ruffin had planned on attending the "Show and Fair of the Agricultural Society" in Lexington, but held off a day after receiving an invitation to attend with ex-Governor Letcher the next day. The following day Ruffin, along with son-in-law Burwell Sayre and Letcher, took the train to Lexington. Ruffin and Letcher (who served as minister to Mexico under Presidents Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore) discussed the current situation south of the border. At the agricultural show Ruffin met Vice President and Kentuckian John C. Breckinridge. On the train ride back to Frankfort Ruffin was introduced to Kentucky Governor Beriah Magoffin. Their conversation quickly turned political, but Ruffin explained, "I took care, in respect to his official position, to ask no questions, & not even by suggestion to endeavor to lead the conversation to these points." Ruffin learned from Magoffin that Ohio governor Dennison had refused to extradite to Kentucky an "abductor of slaves," as he had refused "to deliver the murderer Owen Brown" to Governor Wise of Virginia after the Harpers Ferry raid. Magoffin told Ruffin that if any Southern states seceded, and that if the North attempts to send troops to conquer them, "if that army attempted to march through Kentucky while he was still governor, every night's encampment should be made a grave-yard." In summing up his views of Magoffin, Ruffin "found Gov. Magoffin to be decidedly the most southern man in his avowed opinions, of all the Kentuckians or residents" with whom he had conversed.

On September 15 Ruffin worked on article to the Charleston Mercury about Kentucky politics and ate with one of Sayre's former pupils who was "an avowed disunionist." After a long conversation it was not surprising to learn that Ruffin thought that, "he & I were well pleased with each other..." On Monday, September 18, Ruffin "walked to town (across the [Kentucky] river) & read the newspapers at the office of the 'Yeoman,' whose editor was also a former pupil of son-in-law Sayre. The following day he read John C. Calhoun's Disquisition on Government and again went to the Yeoman offices to read the newspapers.

Dr. Theobald drove Ruffin out into Woodford County on the Versailles Road on September 21 "to see samples of the most fertile & beautiful lands of the 'blue grass country.'" On the next day Ruffin commented on the recent actions in Greece and Garibaldi's march on Naples. It amazes me how closely Ruffin followed world affairs and how well read he was on a diverse set of subjects. He mentioned that the Prince of Wales was to be in Cincinnati on September 28th and 29th, and explained how glad he was to miss him and the crowds, as they planned to pass through the Queen City on the 24th on their return to Virginia.

On Sunday, September 23, Ruffin again attended church in Frankfort, and later, back at the Sayre's house, the "family choir of four parts" sang as daughter Mildred played the melodeon to all the "favorite anthems." Ruffin and Nanny left on the morning train to Lexington on September 24. There they switched trains to Covington and then Cincinnati. On they went to Columbus, then Zanesville, and finally to Bellaire on the Ohio River.

In Ohio Ruffin compared the lands and farming to what he had observed in Kentucky and found them inferior. "I saw no neat, or apparently good farming in Ohio." He wrote, "Yet the denouncers of slavery have boldly claimed greatly superior industry & good farming for Ohio over Kentucky, & ascribed these falsely claimed results to the system of free labor in Ohio, & of slavery in Kentucky." They traveled on the rails of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to Cumberland, Maryland and then stopped in Harpers Ferry on Sept. 26 for "some 2o minutes." Ruffin "gave Nannie some opportunity to see the sublime and natural scenery, & the beautiful structures of the Armory &c., & also see the remaining momentoes of the battle with John Brown's marauding & murdering party." They took the Washington Railroad to a steamboat and then went down the Potomac River to Aquia Landing. There they took the Fredericksburg Railroad to Richmond and then rode the rail cars on to Petersburg. On September 27 they hired a carriage and took it home, to Beechwood plantation.

Of course Ruffin's interesting career would not end in 1860. He would continue to be a force in the secession movement and would largely be remembered as being one of the first, if not the first, to fire on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861.

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