Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Did a Bramlette Proclamation Set Precedent for General Orders 59?

Governor Thomas E. Bramlette and Gen. Stephen G. Burbridge, the commander of the Department of Kentucky in 1864, had a strained relationship to say the least. The friction between the two men was often due to Bramlette's belief that Burbridge abused his military power and caused Kentucky citizens to fear his forces. 

One of Burbridge's perceived outrages was General Orders No. 59, issued in July 1864. The order promised to execute four Confederate guerrillas whenever a Union man was killed. Or, at the least, to deport any Southern sympathizer who lived within five miles of any outrage on a Unionist.

But, did Burbridge perhaps get his ideas for General Orders No. 59 from Bramlette? The above document issued by the governor on January 4, 1864, stated that "I, therefore, request that the various Military Commanders in the State of Kentucky will, in every instance when a loyal citizen is taken off by bands of guerrillas immediately arrest at least five of the most prominent and active rebel sympathizers in the vicinity of such outrages for every loyal man taken by guerrillas. These sympathizers should be held as hostages for the safe and speedy return of the loyal citizens." I would say that it is pretty similar in many respects. Bramlette, with ambiguous punishment suggestions continued, "Where there are disloyal relatives of guerrillas  they should be the chief sufferers." And, although he doesn't specify how they should suffer, he warned, "Let them learn that if they refuse to exert themselves actively for the assistance and protection of the loyal, they must expect to reap the just fruits of their complicity with the enemies of our State and people." 

Certainly, Bramlette's proclamation is not as explicit as Burbridge's order, but to me, there is a similarity that seems more than coincidental.

Image courtesy of the National Archives.

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