Few white Kentuckians, whether they fought for the Confederacy or Union, had an abolition ideal during the Civil War. They longed for the status quo.
That status quo was not to be.
Like Missouri, wartime Kentucky provided a classic example of "brother against brother." Although the slave state was militarily in Federal control by late 1862, Confederate cavalry raids and vicious guerrilla warfare brought chaos and terror until the war's end.
The division is the subject of an exhibit, "Civil War: My Brother, My Enemy" at the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort. The exhibit, opening June 2, was produced by the Frazier History Museum in Louisville. (Photo above, child in mourning dress)
“It’s got a lot of weapons but it is not a battles and generals kind of exhibit," said Trevor Jones, the society's director of museum collections and exhibitions. “It focuses on families and what the impact of the war was on families. Most of those families are not particularly well known.”
The Davidson brothers of Todd County exemplify the fissures within the border state.
The coat and uniform of Maj. John L. Davidson, killed while fighting for the Union, will be on display. His brother, Frank, joined the Confederate army and survived.
“In the postwar, his family never mentions him again. He is ostracized," Jones said of Frank Davidson.
It's interesting that slave-holding families like the Davidsons chose to align with the Union.
“Kentucky tries to stay neutral the first couple months of the war," Jones told the Picket. "A lot of people are supporting the Union as the best way to save slavery.”
Artifacts on display include a casket wagon used to reinter soldiers, slave documents and plantation horns, dresses, flags, horse tack (photo), letters, and other personal objects, including the Mary Todd Lincoln collection.
Visitors will see pieces of the gallows used to hang partisan Confederate guerrilla Champ Ferguson (photo below) in October 1865. Ferguson, tried for 53 murders, was only one of two Confederates executed for war crimes.
“He was too wild even for (Brig. Gen. John Hunt) Morgan," said Jones. "He went around and killed everybody indiscriminately.”
The exhibit includes interactive features, such as iPads.
"You can be a spy and decipher codes," said Jones. "If you are a soldier you can pack your haversack. You can make choices on what to pack. In the end it will evaluate on whether you will be able to march and whether you packed the right things.”
The society is in the process of putting its entire Civil War collection online, including rosters for U.S. Colored Troops, who trained at Camp Nelson in Kentucky. The society's HistoryMobile will have a Civil War theme beginning in August.
Photos courtesy of Frazier History Museum and Kentucky Historical Society. The exhibit runs through Dec. 8 at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History in downtown Frankfort.
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