Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Comments on Kentucky's Condition

On December 7, 1864, Assistant Inspector General E. H. Ludington wrote to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton (pictured at right) giving his honest opinion of the situation in Kentucky.

Ludington explained, that as he penned, a Kentucky delegation was on the way to suggest a change in the state's military administration. At that time Stephen Gano Burbridge was in charge of the Bluegrass State and the native Kentuckian had stirred up a hornet's nest of animosity among the citizenry.

The assistant inspector general first commented on the "condition of the state."  It's dangerous nature stood out. He wrote, "There is scarcely any security for person or property. In nearly every county guerrillas are destroying the property and taking the lives of all who have been, or now are, in the U.S. armies."  The divided nature of the commonwealth also came in for mention. "The citizens are so bitterly arrayed against each other as to afford immunity, if not assistance, to these desperadoes, for each party is glad to see men of the other murdered. From this intestine hatred guerrillas have their origin and maintenance," he wrote.

Ludington's thoughts on the "temper of the people" came next. He contended (and rightly so in my humble opinion) that "Kentucky remained in the Union to preserve slavery and avoid becoming the theater of war, although strongly in sympathy with the rebellious States. Being humored and favored for the first two years, many people avowed their devotion to the Union; but the moment that Government attempted to draft men or enlist negroes, the true feeling of these people was evinced. They resisted our officers, and became more violent in their denunciations of the administration than the original rebels. A large majority of Kentuckians are to-day undoubtedly disloyal."

The troops found in Kentucky, Ludington believed, were without "drill nor discipline," and were more of "a unformed mob" than an military force. He claimed the home-grown troops were more concerned for the state than the nation and that they were more effective in persecuting "personal enemies" than the guerrillas. Ludington advised that "Not a regiment raised in Kentucky ought to serve in the State."

Kentucky's civil government also came in for comment. He claimed that Governor Bramlette's aspiration for higher office (senate) "qualifies his Unionism." He maintained that "The Governor's policy is simply self first, State second, Union last." However, in Ludington's eye's the governor did not have the backbone to stand up to the Lincoln administration, and "therefore its policy need not be affected in any way by his views."

As far as military administration of the state, Ludington claimed that Burbridge had made his fair share of mistakes and that "He is now heartily hated by a majority of the people in the State. . . ." Ludington did not believe Burbridge required removal, but qualified that "the substitution of a man stronger in capacity and character would be an advantage."

Lastly, the assistant inspector general outlined four "suggestions as to policy."
1. "It is absolutely necessary to crush out the guerrillas in the State. This may be effected by placing in each exposed county 100 good troops from another State, mounted and well officered."
2. "All troops raised in Kentucky should be assigned to duty elsewhere. They would become efficient, and there would be no objection to the Governor's organizing and officering them, and thus one great cause of complaint upon his part would be removed. No troops should be allowed in State service."
3. "Noisy and active sympathizers with rebels and rebellion should be dealt with most rigorously. Offenses should be clearly proved, and after proof, no relenting. Every distinction should be made in favor of active and tried Union men."
4. "The policy of the Administration should be rigidly enforced, and Kentucky feel herself governed, as she is now is not either by civil or military authorities. If the Governor should array himself against the Administration, there should be no hesitancy in superseding him."

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

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