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For Slavery and Union

For Slavery and Union: Benjamin Buckner and Kentucky Loyalties in the Civil War

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    For Slavery and Union
    Book Description:

    Benjamin Forsythe Buckner (1836--1901) faced a dire choice as the flames of Civil War threatened his native Kentucky. As an ambitious Bluegrass aristocrat, he was sympathetic to fellow slave owners, but was also convinced that the Peculiar Institution could not survive a war for Southern independence. Defying the wishes of his Rebel fiancée and her powerful family -- yet still hoping to impress them with his resolve, independence, and courage -- Buckner joined the Twentieth Kentucky Volunteer Infantry in 1861 as a Union soldier. President Abraham Lincoln's issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 ultimately destroyed Buckner's faith in his cause, however, and he resigned his commission.

    InFor Slavery and Union, Patrick A. Lewis uses Benjamin Buckner's story to illuminate the origins and perspectives of Kentucky's conservative proslavery Unionists, and explain why this group eventually became a key force in repressing social and political change during the Reconstruction era and beyond. Free from the constraints and restrictions imposed on the former Confederate states, men like Buckner joined with other proslavery forces to work in the interest of the New South's brand of economic growth and racial control.

    Other studies have explored how Kentucky cultivated a Confederate identity after the Civil War, butFor Slavery and Unionis the first major work to personify this transformation. Lewis's important book transcends biography to provide a deeply nuanced look at the history of the commonwealth in the nineteenth century and the development of the New South.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6081-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction: Relationships, Interests, and Identities
    (pp. 1-14)

    For Benjamin Forsythe Buckner, the major of the Union army’s Twentieth Kentucky Volunteer Infantry Regiment, a dissonant note of defeat accompanied the repulse of the Confederate invasion of his home state in the fall of 1862. Despite the military victory, Buckner was left gutted by the news of President Lincoln’s preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. Halted during the pursuit of the Confederate army back into Tennessee, Buckner vented his conservative proslavery unionist outrage at the president’s new war measure in a letter to his secessionist fiancée, Helen Martin.¹ “The Union Kentuckians are not shamefully heated,” Buckner wrote, “and by reason of the...

  4. 1 The World Is a Cruel and Cold Place
    (pp. 15-42)

    As soon as Major Benjamin Forsythe Buckner stepped off the steamer onto the shore of Smithland, Kentucky, at dawn on December 15, 1861, he could tell that his war had changed. A glance around the western Kentucky town at the confluence of the Ohio and Cumberland Rivers impressed upon the young lawyer turned soldier “the idea that we are in the midst of a war which is no childs play [more] than any thing I have seen.”¹ Though Buckner was still within the borders of his home state, Smithland and the war he found there were a world away from...

  5. 2 Firstborn of the Union
    (pp. 43-66)

    In Smithland in the winter of 1861–1862, Buckner’s mood matched the gray, rainy weather. With the disturbing realities of war all around him, there was no escaping the misery of that January cold. Buckner and the Twentieth were constantly out on patrol, moving through the countryside, searching for rebel cavalry sent out from Leonidas Polk’s Confederate garrison in Columbus or the informal bands of secesh who drove their loyal neighbors out of their homes and sent them fleeing to the safety of Smithland. Tramping out at all hours of the day and night on these ever-fruitless errands through the...

  6. 3 Brave Hearts and Stout Hands
    (pp. 67-88)

    When war came to Kentucky in 1861, Buckner saw an opportunity to prove his worth to Helen and the Martins on the battlefield—even if he was to fight against the side they supported. With the landslide unionist victories at the polls in August 1861, the sham neutrality under which both Unionists and Confederates had labored for months was essentially dead. Though Buckner’s politics did not line up with the Martins’, his military service could still prove his character in their eyes. In his study of the antebellum military tradition of Kentucky, Harry Laver shows that young Kentuckians throughout the...

  7. 4 I Feel Impelled to Pause
    (pp. 89-118)

    With the rebel army driven dramatically out of Tennessee and into Mississippi in the summer of 1862, Buckner’s greatest daily irritation had been not with thousands of cheering rebel soldiers intent on his death, but local secessionists in farms and towns along the army’s line of march. Though he claimed in a letter to Helen that he was “content that people should call me aYankee,aHessian a Vandal a thief& all the other long list of expletives which your secession friends shoved indiscriminately upon us,” the misperception of his cause by fellow white southerners was, in fact,...

  8. 5 Privileges and Elections
    (pp. 119-156)

    So much was uncertain on the morning of Monday, August 7, 1865. In the predawn hours, small detachments of soldiers from the Second Wisconsin Heavy Artillery fanned out from Winchester while people across Clark County saddled their horses or set off walking to their local voting precincts. Election day was tense and uncertain for the Kentuckians who would elect a new state legislature, for the Kentuckians whose future would be shaped by that legislature but had no say in its election, and for the occupiers of a loyal state that too often felt as if it were not.

    A deeply...

  9. 6 Democratic Partisan Militia
    (pp. 157-186)

    In late July 1870, Frederick Douglass’s periodical theWashington New Eraforetold a great revolution in the Bluegrass State. “The Democrats in Kentucky are in sore tribulation lest they should loose [sic] the Ashland Congressional district, through the colored vote, which will be cast for the first time at the coming election.” As Buckner and many white Bluegrass Democrats—now embracing the former rebels, wartime unionist supporters of John L. Helm such as Buckner, and the majority of the Conservative “Third” Party, which had folded into the Democratic Party after 1867—saw it, the elections in August 1870 would either...

  10. Epilogue: Glen Avon
    (pp. 187-200)

    Though the Kentucky legislature and governor had paid for Buckner, Breckinridge, and Stanbery to deal the Kentucky Democratic Party the poll tax card, they never played it against any future assertions of black civil rights. Delegates considered the measure during the constitutional convention of 1890, in a moment when a rash of voter-elimination measures such as poll taxes and literacy tests were written into revised constitutions of the states of the old Confederacy. The rush to implement Jim Crow disfranchisement amendments in other southern states, according to historian Michael Perman, marked a new phase in southern politics and race relations....

  11. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 201-204)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 205-240)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 241-258)
  14. Index
    (pp. 259-264)