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Kentucky and the Civil War

Various Confederate Flags

Various Confederate Flags

Confederate battle flags, red with stars on blue cross; Third National flag- established Mar 4, 1865; Battle flag in right corner; and Bonnie blue flag, blue with big white start in middle. 

 

Kentucky played a vital role in the Civil War as a border state. Pulled by both sides, the state ultimately stayed with the Union after a failed invasion by the Confederate General Polk in September 1861. Not all Kentucky residents agreed with the decision to remain in the United States. Many men and women in the state supported the Confederate government and soldiers. Family became torn apart by loyalties. Kentucky’s Mary Todd Lincoln had family fighting in the Confederacy despite her status as First Lady of the United Sates. A major pull to Southern sympathies rested on the fact that slavery existed in Kentucky. The institution of slavery wove together the economic and societal structure of the South. This tie linked Kentucky with Southern states’ interests. However, the majority of Kentucky’s agriculture rested on small white farmers rather than the slave based plantations. Therefore, the slavery link was not as strong and contributed to the state’s commitment to the Union. In 1865, the Union won the bloody Civil War and the Confederate states merged back with the United States of America.