|Date(s):||May 16, 1861|
|Course:||“Rise And Fall of the Slave South,” University of Virginia|
After the attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, Kentucky wanted to pursue a neutrality policy between the North and the South. Many Kentuckians supported the idea of remaining neutral through the conflict, although eventually both sides became so strong that Kentucky had to eventually align with one. In the mean time they declared, that this state and the citizens thereof shall take no part in the civil war now being waged, except as mediators and friends to the belligerent parties.' (Donald, 170) Kentucky was pro-slavery but wished not to side with the North nor the South when the war began.
One historian later wrote, A bewildered observer from abroad might well have concluded that the United States had become three countries: the Union, the Confederacy, and Kentucky.' (Donald, 170) Kentucky was strongly pro-slavery with a large slave population; at the time one of every five inhabitants was a slave. (Donald, 169) Although they had strong ties to the Union and nationalism Kentucky was unwilling to openly choose a side for awhile.
As southern states began to secede at a rapid pace, Kentucky refused to join the southern states in the Confederacy. Their neutral position only bought them time as both sides began to arm themselves and mobilize. There remains but one line of policy, and that is MEDIATION;--mediation between the revolting States of the South and the aggressive States of the North for the maintenance of the Constitution;' (Louisville Daily Journal, January 8, 1861, p. 3) Kentucky's neutrality lasted only four months before they announced their allegiance to the Union. The Kentucky House of Representatives gathered and resolved the issue by a vote of 69 to 29 in favor of the Union. Kentucky was thus granted protection by federal troops against southern invasion. Ironically, Kentucky was the birthplace of both President Abraham Lincoln and President Jefferson Davis, possibly symbolic of its own division and roots.