Kentucky had an important role in the Civil War, including the critical Battle of Richmond, the brutal Battle of Perryville, and one of the nation's major African-American recruitment and training facilities, Camp Nelson. However, no major battle was fought in Kentucky itself.
The state was largely pro-Union from the beginning of the war, although many Southern Unionists either left the state or were forced out after attacks by Confederate forces. Additionally, several thousand blacks served in the Union Army during the conflict, working mainly as laborers but also as officers. One of these men, Ulysses S. Grant, became one of the most successful commanders in American history.
After the war ended, former Confederate general Edmund Kirby Smith led an effort to have Kentucky enter the Confederacy again. Although this effort failed, many southerners continued to live in Kentucky after the war ended. These people wanted to keep control of local government bodies by voting them into office, but the National Government did not want them involved with other states if they were going to leave.
Finally, in June 1865, Congress passed a bill admitting Kentucky into the Union. The state officially joined on 6 July 1867.
During the war, Virginia lay claim to all land that could be seen from Louisville's highest point - today's Western Reserve Park.
Three of the late Kentucky statesman Henry Clay's grandchildren served in Union blue, while four fought in Confederate gray. Approximately 100,000 Kentuckians served in the Union Army. When the Union Army began recruiting African American troops in Kentucky in April 1864, about 24,000 men enlisted to fight for their freedom. About 7,500 of these men were from Kentucky.
About 1,200 Kentuckians lost their lives in the war. Over 910 of these deaths occurred in Kentucky during combat operations. The other 490 fatalities include 220 soldiers who died of disease and 170 who were killed by enemy action while serving with black units.
Approximately 830 individuals from Kentucky served in the Confederate Army. More than 400 of these men died as a result of battle or disease. Another 150 men lost their lives while serving with black units.
Kentucky also suffered economically through the war. Industry was destroyed by military actions and resource shortages. Agriculture was largely unaffected by the conflict but did experience major problems due to the need for labor in times of war.
After the war ended, former slaves didn't return to work in Kentucky farms because they were offered free land instead.
During the Civil War, both forces relied heavily on racial and ethnic groupings. Many black troops fought for the North, infuriating Southerners. Hispanic troops served on both sides of the conflict. American Indians served as scouts and guides, aiming to reclaim their land and independence by assisting the conquerors.
The Confederate government ordered an end to slavery, but only after the war began did this come into effect. However, once in action, the Union also stopped trading slaves, so neither side intended for this rule to last long. In fact, after the war had ended, former slaves quickly reverted to being enslaved again.
There were several groups that were excluded from full citizenship at the time of the war: women, blacks, and immigrants. Women could not vote or serve on juries, nor could blacks. Some states banned immigrants altogether.
However, all these groups played a role in the conflict. Black soldiers formed part of integrated units - Northern commanders wanted them out of the firing line because they felt they were getting poor treatment. American Indians helped the Union build roads and track down deserters while serving as scouts for the Army. And Hispanic soldiers fought for both sides - some joined up because they didn't want to be forced into either slavery or labor camps, others because they saw it as their way out of poverty. There was even a small group of Chinese laborers who worked on the railroads of the South.
Kentucky, being a border state, was one of the most prominent locations where the "brother versus brother" situation was common. Kentucky declared its neutrality at the start of the war, but following Confederate General Leonidas Polk's unsuccessful effort to seize the state for the Confederacy,...
...neither side wanted to attack across the river into Kentucky. Neutrality ended when Union General Benjamin F. Butler invaded the state to stop slavery expansion. He was met with little resistance and Louisville quickly surrendered.
Butler then set out on a campaign to capture the other major cities along the Ohio River: Cincinnati, Newport, and Indianapolis. These raids by themselves were not enough to make much of a difference in the war, but they did serve as distractions while President Abraham Lincoln tried to get Congress to pass an emancipation bill. In September 1862, after these raids had taken place, Lincoln issued a proclamation banning slavery in areas under Union control. This action by Lincoln effectively abolished slavery in those states that joined the Union before the war started. If Kentucky had been captured by the Confederacy, it would have led to more slave states joining that organization and thus strengthened it even more than it already was.
The neutrality of Kentucky was never really threatened during the war, but both sides knew that if they wanted to win, they would have to go through Kentucky to do so. This is why they were so focused on capturing the state.
Antioch, Tennessee, is a Nashville suburb. During the Civil War, Antioch experienced one of the fiercest fights. The Battle of Antioch was fought on July 5, 6, and 7, 1864. Confederate forces under General James Longstreet attacked Union troops led by generals William S. Rosecrans and George Thomas near Nashville. The battle was fierce but a clear victory for the Confederates. They captured Rosecrans's supply depot and nearly captured Thomas's supply depot as well. However, both armies soon retreated to their original positions without further fighting.
Antioch was known at the time as "The Valley Between the Hills." It provided a perfect place for soldiers to hide during battles or retreat across after being defeated. In fact, it was here that many of Thomas's men took refuge before being sent back east to be replaced by new recruits. Longstreet planned to continue his attack on Nashville, but illness forced him to turn over command to General Joseph Johnston. Johnston decided instead to go after Thomas at Morristown, New Jersey, leaving Rosecrans free to deal with Longstreet in the west. After this battle, Antioch never saw another fight.
There are several markers throughout town that tell about the war and its effects on this community.