Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Invasion Of Kentucky

Alternate Historian's Note: Today's post is by Guest Historian Zach Timmons. If you'd like to be a Guest Historian, read this post, and then email us. Our thanks to Zach - we appreciate his contribution!

On this date in 1861, Union troops under Brigadier Gen. Ulysses S. Grant invade Kentucky, enraging the inhabitants of the state. Kentucky had declared itself neutral in an attempt to spare the state the ravages of the war, but when Gen. Grant marched in and occupied Paducah, the majority of the legislature (which had been pro-Union) sided with the Confederacy. The legislature officially seceded on the 4th and asked for admittance as the twelfth state of the CSA. The Confederates were overjoyed; with Kentucky on their side, this made it easy for Confederate troops to march into the vital states of Ohio and Indiana and wreak havoc. Also, the Ohio River formed the border between Kentucky and the states to the north, giving the rebels an excellent defensive position. General Grant's campaign was for his army to march down the Mississippi and cut the Confederacy in half, but on September 17th Confederate troops began the siege of Cincinnati, forcing Grant's army to be recalled north to relieve the city. For the next year, the Union army hammered away at the Confederates in Kentucky, slowly driving them back. However, the Union was dealt a major blow on October 1st, 1862, when southern raiders under the command of Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest rode north into Illinois, tearing up the southern half of the state and briefly riding into the outskirts of St. Louis. At the same time, a raiding party led by Joe Wheeler went into Ohio, making it as far as the state capitol at Columbus before returning south. The states of the Old Northwest had considerable numbers of Southern sympathizers, especially Illinois' south; in the mid-term elections in November, these states went strongly Democratic, forcing Lincoln to rely heavily on War Democrats in Congress. The political success of these relatively minor raids did not go unnoticed in Richmond, which ordered Forrest (promoted to Brig. Gen.) and Wheeler to step up their attacks. The Union was forced to keep considerable numbers of troops in the rear to guard against possible raids; these troops could have made a huge difference on the front. Confederate raids increased through mid-1863 and tapered off around August as the Union finally developed a cavalry force capable of keeping up with the Southern horsemen. However, the effect of these raids was immeasurable; by the time of the presidential elections in 1864, the Union had only then begun to march into Tennessee, and a three-year stalemate had been occuring in Virginia with no results on either side. President Lincoln was soundly defeated by his Democratic opponent, New York Governor Horatio Seymour, who began peace talks with the South the day after he was inaugurated. According to the terms of the Treaty of Alexandria, Kentucky remained with the Confederacy, as did a piece of southern Missouri that was added to Arkansas. Also, the Mississippi was demilitarized and opened to Northern shipping. This became a moot point in 1867, when the states of Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, and Missouri formed the Union of Midwestern States, with its capitol centrally located at Des Moines, Iowa. With a land connection to the east lost, the territories of the west gradually broke off: California, Oregon, Nevada, and the western half of the New Mexico Territory (Arizona) formed the Commonwealth of the Pacific in early 1868; the Confederacy added the Indian Territory and the eastern half of the New Mexico Territory (West Texas) later that year. The Dakota and Nebraska Territories were annexed by the UMS, and Colorado was split in two by the UMS and the Mormons, now in the Nation of Deseret. The British even moved in, taking the northern half of the Washington Territory as the Mormons nabbed the south. The USA, now limited to New England and the eastern Great Lakes states, was a shell of its former self. Abraham Lincoln was a broken man; with the secession the UMS in 1867, he collapsed into a deep depression. On January 6th, 1868, at his home in Springfield, he put a pistol to his head and committed suicide. His wife Mary awoke, and was so overcome by grief she picked up the gun and shot herself as well. Ulysses S. Grant, the man whose invasion of Kentucky most likely started the downfall of the Union, was last seen drinking on a Mississippi riverboat in 1870; he is believed to have fallen overboard and drowned.

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