Friday, April 13, 2012

Kentucky's Dueling Proclamations

With Kentucky being a border state, it's not all that surprising that each of the belligerents wanted to stake a claim to the Commonwealth. After all, the Bluegrass state was chocked full of important resources; men, crops of all kinds, cattle, hogs, mules and fast horses could help either side win the war. In addition, the state's strategic position was going to be the line of defense or jumping off point for invasion, depending on which side could claim it and the citizens' allegiance.

In the early fall of 1861, after Kentucky abandoned neutrality and declared for the Union, the hero of Fort Sumter, Robert Anderson, was placed in charge of the state and promptly issued a proclamation. It was printed in various periodicals including the famous Harper's Weekly.

It read, "Kentuckians! - Called by the Legislature of this, my native State, I hereby assume command of this department. I come to enforce, not to make laws, and, God willing, to protect your property and your lives. The enemies of the country have dared to invade our soil. Kentucky is in danger. She has vainly striven to keep peace with her neighbors. Our State is now invaded by those who professed to be her friends, but who now seek to conquer her. No true son of Kentucky can longer hesitate as to his duty to his State and country. The invaders must, and, God willing, will be expelled. The leader of the hostile forces who now approaches is, I regret to say a Kentuckian, [Simon Boliver Buckner] making war on Kentucky and Kentuckians. Let all past differences of opinion be overlooked. Every one who now rallies to the support of our Union and our State is a friend. Rally, then, my countrymen, around the flag our fathers loved, and which has shielded us so long! I call you to arms for self-defense, and for the protection of all that is dear to freemen! Let us trust in God, and do our duty as did our fathers.
Robert Anderson,
Brigadier-General United States Army."

Simon Buckner too had a proclamation for the citizens of the Commonwealth, but as one might imagine, with a different perspective. It was printed in the same issue and in the same column of Harper's Weekly as Anderson's proclamation.

"To the People of Kentucky.
The Legislature of Kentucky have been faithless to the will of the people. They have endeavored to make your gallant State a fortress, in which, under the guise of neutraility, the armed forces of the United States might secretly prepare to subjugate alike the people of Kentucky and the Southern States. It was not until after three months of covert and open violation of your neutrality with large encampments of Federal troops [Camp Dick Robinson] on your territory, and a recent official declaration of the President of the United States not to regard your neutral position, coupled with a well-prepared scheme to seize an additional point in your territory, which was of such vital importance to the safety and defense of Tennessee, that the troops of the Southern Confederacy, on the invitation of the people of Kentucky, occupied a defensive post in your State. In doing so the commander announced his purpose to evacuate your territory simultaneously with a similar movement on the part of the Federal forces, whenever the Legislature of Kentucky shall undertake to enforce against both belligerents the strict neutrality which they have so often declared. I return among you, citizens of Kentucky, at the head of a force, the advance of which is composed entirely of Kentuckians. We do not come to molest any citizens whatever may be his political opinion. Unlike the agents of the Northern despotism, who seek to reduce us to the condition of dependent vassals [slaves], we believe that the recognition of the civil rights of citizens is the foundation of constitutional liberty; and that the claim of the President of the United States to declare martial law, to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, and to convert every barrack and prison in the land into a Bastille is nothing but the claim which other tyrants have assumed to subjugate a free people. The Confederate States occupy Bowling Green as a defensive position. I renew the pledges of commanders of other columns of Confederate troops to retire from the territory of Kentucky on the same conditions which will govern their movements. I further give you my own assurance that the force under my command will be used as an aid to the government of Kentucky in carrying out the strict neutrality desired by its people, whenever they undertake to enforce it against the two belligerents alike.
S.B. Buckner, Brigadier-General, C.S.A.
Bowling Green, Sept. 18, 1861"

Images courtesy Library of Congress

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