Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State

Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State

Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State

Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State

Synopsis

In Creating a Confederate Kentucky, Anne E. Marshall traces the development of a Confederate identity in Kentucky between 1865 and 1925, belying the fact that Kentucky never left the Union. After the Civil War, the people of Kentucky appeared to forget their Union loyalties and embraced the Democratic politics, racial violence, and Jim Crow laws associated with former Confederate states. Marshall looks beyond postwar political and economic factors to the longer-term commemorations of the Civil War by which Kentuckians fixed the state's remembrance of the conflict for the following sixty years.

Excerpt

Standing before an immense crowd at the opening of the 1895 Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) encampment in Louisville, Kentucky, Louisville Courier-Journal editor Henry Watterson delivered words of welcome, proclaiming, “It is … with a kind of exultation that I fling open the gateway to the South!” Many in attendance noted the irony of an exConfederate soldier and eminent New South spokesman offering his greetings to Union veterans. What many listeners may not have noticed, however, was the manner in which Watterson cast Kentucky’s wartime position, even as he extended his wishes for sectional reconciliation. “You came, and we resisted you,” he said of Kentucky’s wartime response to men in blue; “you come and we greet you; for times change and men change with them. You will find here no sign of the battle; not a reminiscence of its passion. Grim-visaged war has smoothed his wrinkled front.”

Along with many of his fellow white Kentuckians, Watterson seemed to overlook the fact that his home city stood with the Union during the Civil War and had served as a major supply center for the Union army. Furthermore, Union veterans would have had to wander only a few blocks to the intersection of Louisville’s Third and Shipp Streets to see an unmistakable “reminiscence of passion,” a towering Confederate monument erected just a few months earlier. in fact, the gar reunion of 1895 fell amid a late nineteenth-century swarm of Lost Cause activity that led many people, both inside and outside of the commonwealth, to forget that Kentuckians had never fully been part of the mythic past they celebrated so fervently. Theirs, it seemed, was a cause they had not actually lost.

In the thirty years between the end of the Civil War and Watterson’s speech, Kentucky developed a Confederate identity that was seemingly at odds with its historical past. From the first rumblings of sectional tension early in the nineteenth century, Kentucky lay at both a geographical and an ideological crossroads. the commonwealth shared in that most defining characteristic of southern society—slavery. Yet a vested interest in the . . .

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