Wednesday, May 10, 2017

"I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky!"

Those are the words of President Lincoln attesting to the absolute importance of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which on the eve of the Civil War ranked 9th in population and was an agricultural powerhouse. Mr Lincoln said:
"I think to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game. Kentucky gone, we cannot hold Missouri, nor Maryland."

[There were 33 states at that time; fifteen of those, including Kentucky. allowed slavery.
Here is a map of the border states].

"The strategic importance of Kentucky also lay in the Ohio River, the nation's major east-west waterway that comprised the state's 500-mile border with three Midwestern states -- Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.
Furthermore, two of the Ohio River's main tributaries, the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers, flowed into the southwest portion of the Confederacy. Whichever side could control Kentucky possessed an excellent staging area for an invasion into the heart of the enemy's territory."

"Raftsmen Playing Cards" (George Caleb Bingham, 1847)

When you think of Kentucky, navigable waterways should come to mind! It leads the 48 lower states in length of such streams and rivers.

"Kentucky is the only state to be bordered on three sides by rivers. The Ohio River [is the northern boundary].

"The Mississippi River separates Kentucky from Missouri, making up the western border.

"The Big Sandy River and the Tug River make up the eastern border, with Virginia and West Virginia."

(The Tennessee River runs through Kentucky, but does not form one of its borders. It comes up from the South, and empties into the Ohio River at Paducah. The Tennessee River is the largest tributary of the Ohio).

The 'Delta Queen' on the Ohio River at Vanceburg (50 miles west of Ashland)

Nowadays, the city of Cincinnati (across the Ohio River from Covington) ranks 66th in population -- two spots below Saint Paul, Minnesota. But in 1860, Cincinnati was the nation's seventh largest.
Its population of 160,000 was bigger than Chicago -- and dwarfed that of Washington DC (ranked 14th).

Back then, the city of Louisville was our country's 12th largest with 68,000 people. It was founded two years after the Declaration of Independence was written -- as a portage site by the Falls of the Ohio, the only major barrier on the upper Ohio River.

"Kentucky voted to remain in the Union, but as a neutral party. Both the Confederacy and the Union announced, 'We will respect the neutrality of Kentucky,' because neither one wanted to push Kentucky toward the other. Both presidents [Lincoln and Jefferson Davis] were natives of Kentucky. 

"The Confederacy violated the state's neutrality in September 1861 by seizing and fortifying the Mississippi [at a couple towns]. The South took this drastic step in an effort to maintain control of the rivers... but the state legislature called on the Union Army for help. From 1862 onward, Kentucky was largely controlled by the Union.

"More than any other state, the idea that the Civil War was a war between brothers was true in Kentucky. One example of many was the family of the late Henry Clay, Kentucky's longtime congressman and senator who forged sectional compromises in 1820 and 1850: four of his grandsons fought for the Confederacy, while three grandsons fought for the Union."

[Most of Mary Todd Lincoln's relatives in Lexington were pro-Confederate].

Originally, Kentucky was part of Virginia.

"In 1775, the now-legendary frontiersman Daniel Boone blazed a trail through the Cumberland Gap –a notch in the Appalachian Mountains at the junction of Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee."

The Gap was 1,300 feet in altitude. Indians used it as a footpath, and buffalo came through looking for better pasture.

"Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap" (George Caleb Bingham, 1852)

Train rails eventually came through the Gap

What were the next territories granted statehood after the original 13?
Vermont -- 1791.
Kentucky -- 1792.
Tennessee -- 1796.
Ohio -- 1803.

In the presidential election during the Civil War, former general-in-chief George McClellan carried only three states: his home of New Jersey, Delaware, and Kentucky.
(In the 1860 election, Mr. Lincoln beat out three men -- including Stephen A. Douglas, who managed to win only Missouri).

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