Timeline of Kentucky in the American Civil War

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Spring and Summer 1861[edit]

  • April 12, 1861 • Confederate forces attack a Federal fort outside Charleston, South Carolina, at the Battle of Fort Sumter, beginning the American Civil War.
  • May 10, 1861 • Confederate engineers begin construction of Fort Donelson only twelve miles south of the Kentucky line near Dover, Tennessee.
  • May 16, 1861 • Neutrality resolution adopted by Unionist-dominated legislature, though governor Beriah Magoffin was an advocate of secession.
  • May 20, 1861 • Kentucky, trying to remain neutral in the American Civil War, issues a proclamation asking both sides to stay off Kentucky soil.
  • May 29–31, 1861 • Delegates from 5 Jackson Purchase counties meet in Mayfield along with delegates of 12 Tennessee counties to discuss secession, but the plan is abandoned following Tennessee's secession.
  • September 3, 1861• Confederates under Leonidas Polk occupied Columbus, essentially ending Kentucky's bid for neutrality.

Winter 1861[edit]

  • December 10, 1861 • Although Kentucky did not secede, a shadow government formed that favored secession. On this date the shadow government's hopes resulted in the Confederacy accepting Kentucky as its 13th Confederate state.




  • March 25, 1864 • Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest raided Paducah as part of his campaign northward from Mississippi to upset the Union domination of the regions south of the Ohio river.[citation needed]
  • April 14, 1864 • The Battle of Salyersville is fought in Magoffin County, resulting in a Federal victory in this largest skirmish fought in the county.
  • April 14, 1864 • Brig. Gen. Abraham Buford revisits Paducah to capture "140 fine horses" reported by a Dover, Tennessee newspaper to have escaped Forrest's earlier raid.[citation needed]
  • June, 1864 • Major Gen. Stephen G. Burbridge assumes military command over Kentucky.
  • June 11-12, 1864 • The Battle of Cynthiana, part of Morgan's Last Raid, is fought over two days, resulting in a Federal victory on June 12th, and a total rout of Morgan's forces.


Further reading[edit]

  • Astor, Aaron. Rebels on the Border: Civil War, Emancipation, and the Reconstruction of Kentucky and Missouri (LSU Press, 2012)
  • Brown, Kent Masterton. The Civil War in Kentucky: Battle for the Bluegrass State (Da Capo Press, 2007)
  • Coulter, Ellis Merton. The Civil War and Readjustment in Kentucky (1926), A major scholarly survey
  • Dollar, Kent, ed. Sister States, Enemy States: The Civil War in Kentucky and Tennessee (University Press of Kentucky, 2009)
  • Harrison, Lowell. The Civil War in Kentucky (University Press of Kentucky, 2010)
  • Howard, Victor B. "The Civil War in Kentucky: The Slave Claims His Freedom." Journal of Negro History (1982): 245-256. in JSTOR
  • McKnight, Brian Dallas. Contested Borderland: The Civil War in Appalachian Kentucky and Virginia (University Press of Kentucky, 2006)
  • Marshall, Anne Elizabeth. Creating a confederate Kentucky: The lost cause and Civil War memory in a border state (Univ of North Carolina Press, 2010)
  • Preston, John David. The Civil War in the Big Sandy Valley of Kentucky (Gateway Press, 2008)


  • Yonkers, Charles E. "The Civil War Transformation of George W. Smith: How a Western Kentucky Farmer Evolved from Unionist Whig to Pro-Southern Democrat." The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society (2005): 661-690. in JSTOR

Primary sources[edit]

  • Hardin, Elizabeth Pendleton. The Private War of Lizzie Hardin: A Kentucky Confederate Girl's Diary of the Civil War in Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia (Kentucky Historical Society, 1963)
  • Peter, Frances Dallam. A Union Woman in Civil War Kentucky: The Diary of Frances Peter (University Press of Kentucky, 2015)
  • Reinhart, Joseph R., ed. Two Germans in the Civil War: The Diary of John Daeuble and the Letters of Gottfried Rentschler, 6th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry (University of Tennessee Press, 2004)

External links[edit]