Monday, November 5, 2012

The Russellville Convention

The border states of Tennessee and Kentucky were, in today's parlance, the key swing states that would determine the course of the war west of the Appalachians and Logan County Kentucky was situated in the middle of the border between these two border states.  The Tennessee Legislature voted to join the Confederacy by a slim margin (overturning an initial vote to remain in the Union) only after Lincoln's call for troops to retake Fort Sumter in June of 1861. The Commonwealth of Kentucky  which had decided against secession in February 1861 used this demand for troops to declare their neutrality.

In October of 1861, however, two coordinated incursions into neutral Kentucky were conducted by former Kentucky citizens who had joined the Confederate Army of Tennessee. The first incursion into Bowling Green led by General Leonidas Polk of Tennessee was supported by Kentuckians like Simon Bolivar Buckner who had left home to fight for the South and it was welcomed by many of those who had remained behind.  The second, led by General John Hunt Morgan had targeted the small crossroads town of Russellville in Logan County, which also had strong Confederate sympathies as well as good connecting roads from Nashville and Clarksville, Tennessee to Hopkinsville, Owensboro and Bowling Green Kentucky.  An added bonus was it's strategic location on the Louisville & Nashville railroad line.

With their sovereignty threatened by these incursions, loyal volunteer regiments like the Seventeenth and Twenty-fifth Kentucky Infantries began forming across the state in the fall of 1861, while many pro-secessionists fled to the newly established strongholds of Russellville and Bowling Green to join the Confederate Army. The prospect of remaining neutral was becoming less likely and the state whose official seal features a businessman and frontiersman clasping hands surrounded by the motto "United we stand, divided we fall" was about to become the most conflicted participant in the conflict.

Seizing upon this opportunity, a convention was called by Kentucky's pro-secessionists at Russellville in November 1861 for the purpose of creating the Confederate State of Kentucky, with it's capitol being established at Bowling Green.  The constitution for this state was written and adopted at the Russellville Convention and on December 10, 1861 the Confederate State of Kentucky was admitted to the rebellious confederation and honored by the addition of the 13th and central star on the Confederate flag.  Thus the Confederate government gained the rights of conscripting men and commandeering private property in Kentucky to support their fight for a state's right to secede from the Union.

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