Confederate Military History, Vol. 10: Kentucky.
This work spanning fifteen extensive volumes is the result of contributions by many Southern men to the literature of the United States that treats of the eventful years in which occurred the momentous struggle called by Mr. A. H. Stephens “the war between the States.” These contributions were made on a well-considered plan, to be wrought out by able writers of unquestionable Confederate record who were thoroughly united in general sentiment and whose generous labors upon separate topics would, when combined, constitute a library of Confederate military history and biography. According to the great principle in the government of the United States that one may result from and be composed of many – the doctrine of E pluribus unum–it was considered that intelligent men from all parts of the South would so write upon the subjects committed to them as to produce a harmonious work which would truly portray the times and issues of the Confederacy and by illustration in various forms describe the soldiery which fought its battles. Upon this plan two volumes – the first and the last-comprise such subjects as the justification of the Southern States in seceding from the Union and the honorable conduct of the war by the Confederate States government; the history of the actions and concessions of the South in the formation of the Union and its policy in securing the existing magnificent territorial dominion of the United States; the civil history of the Confederate States, supplemented with sketches of the President, Vice-President, cabinet officers and other officials of the government; Confederate naval history; the morale of the armies; the South since the war, and a connected outline of events from the beginning of the struggle to its close. The two volumes containing these general subjects are sustained by the other volumes of Confederate military history of the States of the South involved in the war. Each State being treated in separate history permits of details concerning its peculiar story, its own devotion, its heroes and its battlefields. The authors of the State histories, like those of the volumes of general topics, are men of unchallenged devotion to the Confederate cause and of recognized fitness to perform the task assigned them. It is just to say that this work has been done in hours taken from busy professional life, and it should be further commemorated that devotion to the South and its heroic memories has been their chief incentive. This volume ten out of fifteen, covering the Civil War in Kentucky.
Confederate Military History, Vol. 10: Kentucky.
Excerpt from the text:
At the treaty at Watauga, Tenn., in March 1775, when the Cherokees sold to the Henderson company for ten thousand pounds sterling the greater part of the territory embracing the present State of Kentucky, the chief, Dragging Canoe, said there was a dark cloud over that country. Another version is that he said it was ‘a dark and bloody ground.’ The whites, inquiring the meaning of his reference to a cloud, and fearing it implied an imperfect title, were assured with a stately wave of the hand by the stem chieftain that their title was unquestioned, but that he feared when the purchasers went to take possession the Indians of the north who frequented the land as a hunting ground would shed their blood and resist their occupancy.
Three days after the conclusion of the treaty, the purchasers, preceded by Daniel Boone with a small party, started for their newly acquired possessions, and within ten days the first blood was spilled in verification of the chief’s ominous warning. The Indians of the north met them almost at the very threshold, thus inaugurating a bloody war which lasted for twenty years, and gave to the State, which near its close had become a member of the Union, the sobriquet of ‘the dark and bloody ground.’ Kentucky holds this title after the lapse of more than a century of statehood. Tradition reaching back beyond Watauga had represented it as an untenanted expanse of forest and grassy plains in which the Indians of the north and south periodically hunted the buffalo, deer and other game, and across which were beaten war paths by which they were wont to make predatory excursions into the territory each of the other.
The aborigines yielded before the march of civilization. The axe of the pioneer felled the forest, and before a century had passed since Boone blazed away for the Transylvania company more than a million souls were dwelling in peace and happiness in the fair land whose natural beauties had been heightened by the skill of the husbandman and the embellishments of modem civilization. For a long season, interrupted only by the call to arms in the national defense, the dark cloud of the Indian legend seemed dispelled and the war path between the North and South obliterated forever. But the fancied security was illusory. In the very sunshine of a peaceful day the cloud suddenly loomed up on the horizon, and spreading with a blinding gloom, enveloped every home with its pall. Kentucky again became in very deed ‘the dark and bloody ground.’ The warpath was reestablished and legions from the North and from the South threaded the ways which Boone had trod and crimsoned her soil with their blood. The tragedy was heightened by the fate which arrayed father against son, and brother against brother. There was scarce a home across which the shadow of death did not fall.
A third of a century has passed since this deluge of blood swept the State. Peace has smoothed the wrinkled brow of war. The passions of strife have cooled into the calm reflection of a philosophic retrospect The discussions born of war have ceased, and the wounds of strife have so far healed as to admit of dispassionate review of the stirring events of that period. A new generation risen since the treaty of peace was written with the sword at Appomattox, has nearly displaced the actors in the great tragedy of the Confederate struggle, and they and the children of those who bared their bosoms to the storm, are eager to learn something more of the causes of this terrible war and of the heroism it evoked than they can find in the distorted publications of the press or the fireside narratives of its survivors.
The history of the great struggle which for four long years shook the continent and made the world stand aghast, has yet to be written. The personal observations of many hundreds of its participants have been printed, and many of the civil and military leaders have prepared volumes of more or less merit; and for many years yet to come these and others to follow will but form the material from the great mass of which, together with the official military records of both sides published by the government, the real history of our civil war will be written. When the actors shall all have passed away, and when to the narratives of actual participants shall succeed the periods of romance and the drama; when all traces of the war shall have disappeared save the imperishable monuments which will attest the valor of victor and vanquished alike; and when the two sections shall be as thoroughly welded into one as the houses of York and Lancaster after years of blood or those of the Stuarts and Hanover—some great mind like that of Gibbon or Macaulay will dispassionately, with the clear perspective of time, collate all this heterogeneous mass of material and give to the world the unbiased truth. The South can well await the verdict of prosperity when the evidence thus sifted of prejudice and free from distortions of error or malice shall be philosophically woven into a narrative where only truth shall have a lodgment. Meantime as the era of the living actors is fast coming to a close, it behooves every one who can contribute, either from his own observation and experience or a careful study of the record, to the accumulation of such material for the use of such an historian and the instruction of the present and coming generations, to put his offering in tangible shape ere it be too late; for ‘the night cometh when no man can work.’
While, therefore, it is a sacred duty both to the living and the dead for all who love truth for its own sake to aid in making up this record upon which posterity must pass, especially is it the duty of the people of the South to marshal the evidence upon which will rest their title to the future respect of the world. It naturally follows that the victor in a civil war has more ample material for history than the defeated side. Its record makes itself, its archives are intact, its muster rolls carefully preserved in State and Federal capitals, while pride and individual ambition secure the preservation of every incident of real or alleged valor which can be claimed as contributing to the result. On the other hand, the defeated in such a struggle, while as jealous of their good name, even in disaster, too often lack the power of preserving their records. Official papers become part of the spoils of war. Fire and pillage, added to authorized deportation, deprive them of the most valuable material, leaving in many instances the personal testimony of actual participants as the only adjunct to the scanty record rescued from a common destruction. In the present instance, the South was, after the war, paralyzed by the mal-administration imposed upon the people and, for many years, more concerned as to whether it would have a future than with the preparation of its past history. But now, after having won additional title to the admiration of the world by her heroic struggles toward rehabilitation in peace and having secured as the result of labor and self-denial a fair measure of thrift, and a restoration to full civil equality, the work of marking the graves of her dead with fitting monuments and collecting into permanent form the record of the deeds of her sons begins to assume a practical phase.
While the duty is enjoined upon the States of the South proper whose autonomy has been preserved as actual members of the Confederacy, it is even more incumbent upon Kentuckians who survive to see that justice is done in history to their comrades, dead and living, who left their homes and all that makes life sweet to obey the dictates of conscience and vindicate their principles as God gave them to see their way. They exchanged luxury for want, the certain rank which awaited most of them for private station, home for exile, peace for war, and life for death itself, rather than turn their weapons against a kindred people struggling to maintain their convictions of right. The war has settled adversely to their views many questions; but while the superficial or ignorant may talk of the enormity of the treason which their advocacy implied, the enlightened student knows that in the first place no court has ever pronounced participation in the late war treason; and in the second, that if treason could be committed without an overt act, secession as a remedy for wrongs committed by the general government against the reserved rights of the States was, before the war, regarded by no means as such a monstrous doctrine as the resort to arms against it has made it. The very essence of the platform upon which Thomas Jefferson was elected, which he inspired, if he did not write, and which was introduced in and passed by the general assembly of Kentucky in 1798, had this initial resolution: ‘Resolved, That the several States composing the United States of America are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government, but that by compact under the style and title of the Constitution of the United States and by amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for special purposes, delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving each State for itself the residuary mass of right to their own self-government, and that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers its acts are unauthoritative, void and of no force; that to this compact each State acceded as a State and is an integral party; that the government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the power delegated to itself, since that would have made discretion and not the Constitution the measure of its powers; but that as in all cases of compact among parties having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress.’
For more than fifty years, up to the brink of the war, this resolution was reaffirmed by State legislatures and party conventions as containing the true theory of our government. It had been put forth by men who had taken a leading part in the war of the Revolution and the formation of the Federal Constitution, as embodying the principles upon which separation from Great Britain had taken place and the federative system of government had been founded. But it had a still further significance and object. Within a decade after the formation of the union of the States, dangerous heresies had gained a foothold, and a monarchical element, assuming the theory of a consolidated government, had passed acts such as the alien and sedition laws, and in many ways transcended the limits of the Constitution. By a silent, yet steady and peaceful revolution, our form of government was undergoing a radical change when Mr. Jefferson sounded the note of alarm and, upon the platform of the resolutions of 1798, overthrew the Federal party in 1800 and, in contradistinction to its contention for a strong central government with powers other than those specially delegated to it by the States, established upon a firm basis the opposite and Democratic theory of our government which was maintained for more than half a century. No one dreamed that such principles were treasonable. Mr. Madison, who had been one of the most prominent in framing the Constitution, had used this language, ‘The States being parties to the compact and in their sovereign capacity, it follows of necessity that there can be no tribunal above their authority to decide in the last resort whether the compact made by them be violated, and consequently that, as parties to it, they must decide in the last resort such questions as may be of sufficient magnitude to require their interpretation.’ Chief Justice Marshall, who was a Federalist and neither personally nor politically in sympathy with Mr. Jefferson, in rendering a judicial decision in an important case said: ‘In America the powers of sovereignty are divided between the government of the Union and those of the States. They are each sovereign with respect to the objects committed to the other. If it be true that the Constitution and laws of the land made in pursuance thereof are the supreme law of the land, it is equally true that laws of the United States made not in pursuance thereof cannot be the supreme law of the land.’ As long as these principles were observed in the administration of the government there was peace. It was not the South alone which maintained them as embodying the correct theory of the Constitution. Other States, both before and after the compact, had contended for them as the conditions under which the Union was formed or was possible. New York, among others, in ratifying the Constitution declared that the powers delegated by her could be resumed whenever perverted to her injury or oppression, and that every power not granted remained with her. Not only was this so, but Massachusetts was the very first to assert her sovereign rights, to the very verge of active hostility to the Federal government and affiliation with Great Britain in the war of 1812. The Federal laws were nullified by governor and legislature and in 1814, at the darkest period of the war, the legislature declared that ‘it was as much the duty of the State authorities to watch over the rights reserved, as of the United States to exercise the powers which are delegated, and that States which have no common umpire must be their own judges and execute their own decisions.’ A mere reference to the Hartford Convention is sufficient to indicate the extent to which these sentiments prevailed in New England.