Saturday, June 1, 2013

Dear Governor Bramlette - What the?

I found a letter in the November 27, 1863, edition of the Paris, Kentucky, Western Citizen that I thought I'd share. Unfortunately, it was made anonymous by the editor of the newspaper, so I am not able to verify its author, but it reads like one might expect by a Kentuckian writing to express his grievances. The writer brings up issues that were troubling white Kentuckians at that time.  He makes a solid logical point when you look at it from his perspective - that is, why continue fighting for the Union when that cause is at cross purposes to the slaveholder's interests.

Galt House, Louisville, Nov. 5, 1863
Hon. Thos. E. Bramlette:

Dear Sir; I see your call for volunteers this morning in the city papers.

It looks like patriotism, reads like it, and sounds like it, but are you not acting in concert with a dominant party more destructive to the Government and to the interests of the people of Kentucky than the armed rebels themselves.

I am a citizen of ***** county, Ky., and all I have to show for twenty years of hard labor and close economy is a piece of land and about 25 negroes.

Some days since nine of my men were induced by a Federal officer to leave me and go into ********** county, Tennessee, (the next county adjoining me,) and join one of the Government’s negro regiments. I followed them to this camp, and was quietly told to go home and mind my own business. Many of my neighbors are being daily treated in the same way, and we have no redress, either by our State or general Government.

It certainly must be apparent to you, as to every other man of common intelligence in Kentucky, that the object of the war is not for the purpose of restoring the Union, but for the overthrow of the institution of slavery, and with it the utter bankruptcy of all slaveholders.

Under such circumstances how do you suppose that it is possible for men to fight in a cause, which they know and believe will ruin themselves?

Any man in Kentucky, who will do so, is not actuated by any patriotism or love of country, but does so from love of money, or from ignorance of the true position of things.

I have always been a Union man, and am still, but I cannot and will never endorse the present programme of the war at present-which I think leads to the utter demolishment of the old Union,

Very respectfully,
******  *  ****

When I showed the letter to a colleague at work he provided me with some suggestions for the parts that have been made anonymous - other than the writer's name, of course.  The author says he lives on the Tennessee/Kentucky state line, and it seems the county has five letters since the editor put in a * for each letter.  That county could be Logan, Trigg, Allen or Wayne.  The writer also mentions that his slaves went to enlist in a ten letter Tennessee county on the border.  Using the previous logic, that could only be Montgomery County, Tennessee. Maybe eventually, I can locate the original letter in the governor's official papers and find out who the mystery writer was.

Governor Bramlette portrait courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society.

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