When war between North and South erupted in April 1861 Kentucky as a whole hoped the conflict would be quickly resolved. Although a slave state, Kentuckians strongly believed in the sanctity of the Union. The commonwealth’s initial stand of neutrality was unrealistic. Summer elections to the state legislature clearly decided Kentucky for the Union. But tens of thousands of Kentuckians disagreed with that decision and either joined the Confederacy as soldiers or civilian refugees. Many Kentuckians stayed home but lent aid and moral support to the Confederate cause. A number of Kentucky politicians refused to accept Kentucky’s decision not to secede and formed a Confederate government. It was, as Confederate general Albert Sidney Johnston described it, a “government on wheels.”
Jim Holmberg is a native of Louisville and holds a BA and MA from the University of Louisville in History. He joined the staff of The Filson in 1982 and currently serves as the Curator of Special Collections. In addition to curatorial duties, he writes and lectures on a variety of topics, the Lewis and Clark Expedition being a primary focus. The Civil War also is an interest, especially with the important collection The Filson holds.
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