Thursday, May 30, 2013

Col. Frank Wolford's Strident Opposition

I am not sure how I have managed to not previously post about Colonel Frank Wolford of the 1st Kentucky Cavalry (U.S.). But, running through microfilm this evening I came across an article published in the March 16, 1864, edition of the Frankfort Tri-Weekly Commonwealth, that explained the incident that got him kicked out of the army and exiled from the state for a period.

For a bit of background information - Wolford was born in Adair County, Kentucky, fought in the Mexican War, and maintained a career as lawyer and politician in the antebellum years. When the Civil War broke out, Wolford was one of the first Kentuckians to form a regiment to put down the rebellion and preserve the Union. As the presidential administration's war aims shifted to include emancipation and African American enlistments, Wolford, like many white Kentuckians, wanted their opposition to be heard.

This particular article covers one editor's opinion of that opposition:
"Colonel FRANK WOLFORD, a gallant soldier, was presented a sword and pistols [by the citizens of Garrard County] at Lexington last Thursday. After his acceptation speech, he launched out into a partizan 'conservative' stump speech, which is lauded to the skies by the rebels and rebel sympathizers, who hope they see in it a long step toward the consummation they are so devoutly praying for. These rejoicings of the traitors should convince the Colonel that he was decidedly wrong in his utterances; and that he was in very questionable company. We feel assured, that the gentlemen who was the organ presenting the sword to Col. WOLFORD, did not expect any such response for the Colonel, as he is reported to have made.

The conduct of Col. WOLFORD is regretted by every truly loyal man, and every reliable friend in the State. Let him, for his own sake, keep out of the ring of partizan controversies and conflicts, while he is in the army. It is the very fewest of men that can be a true, good soldier, and a prudent, wise statesman at the same time. Assuming to be so is the rock on which has foundered some of our best military men; and we fear that Col. WOLFORD will have to be numbered with the number. But, he may retrieve himself, if he will eschew every thing but his duty - his whole duty as a military man, until the rebellion and insurrection is crushed. Then let him retire to the civil walks of life, study political economy; and the people of his day, and posterity, may honor him as a hero, and a sage."

Wolford did not heed the editor's words. He continued to give speeches that disparaged the Lincoln administration and vehemently opposed African Americans serving as Union soldiers. Wolford was discharged from the army, then released, and arrested again when he failed to curb his expressions of opposition. He was eventually escorted from Kentucky, but was in time was allowed to return to the commonwealth.

Although this editor thought Wolford's stand against Lincoln was a poor decision, many Kentuckians appreciated his grit and agreed with his opposition. Wolford's popularity with his constituents was witnessed by his election to public offices after the war, including the Kentucky and U.S. House of Representatives.

Wolford photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Wolford presentation sword image courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society.


  1. Do you have any information on Colonel Wolford's children or descendants?

  2. I'm a descendant of Colonel Wolford's 1/2 brother, Dr. John Milton Wolford. Dr. John Milton is my 5 times Great Grandfather.

    1. John Wolford was my direct ancestor as well. Do you have any information of their grandfather either side?

    2. Yes, I do what would you like to know ?

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. You didn't mention that Lincoln and Wolford were contemporaries and Lincoln immediately had Wolford released when he found and and interceded on his behalf several times.

  5. And the attempt to Pass Wolford 'through the lines' was stopped by Lincoln.