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The Marshall County Wallers stepped to a different drummer
Battle of Shiloh, April 1862, drawing in public domain

 

(Mayfield, KY, Jan. 27, 2012) -  On this date in 1862, the Wallers were maybe the most hated family in Marshall County.

     Like the rest of the Jackson Purchase, dubbed "The South Carolina of Kentucky," Marshall County was staunchly Confederate. No matter, the Wallers were devout Unionists; four Waller men donned Yankee blue.

     Wilia Waller was the family patriarch. “He was a warm opponent of the doctrine of secession, and in consequence of his stern adherence to what he believed to be right, he became very unpopular with those whose sympathies were on the opposite side of this great question,” according to Battle, Perrin and Kniffen’s 1885 History of Kentucky, Jackson Purchase edition. "So great was the prejudice against him, that on different occasions he was subjected to cruel treatment in both person and property, and lived in constant danger of assassination.”

     Marshall County furnished many more men to the Rebel forces than to the Yankee army.

     But soon after Union troops occupied Smithland, the Livingston County seat, brothers Thomas B., John and Benjamin Rush Waller and other pro-Union Marshall men “from the State militia and other sources,” joined the 20th Kentucky Infantry, according to History of Kentucky.

     The western Kentuckians -- about 100 strong -- mustered into U.S. service for three years as Company G. Thomas B. Waller was captain and company commander. He was later promoted to major and lieutenant colonel. Benjamin Rush was a lieutenant and John a private.

     The 20th Kentucky received its baptism of fire at the battle of Shiloh, Tenn., in April, 1862. Afterwards, the outfit participated in the siege of Corinth, Miss. In October, 1862, the regiment ended up in the battle of Perryville, the bloodiest battle ever fought in Kentucky.

     The 20th Kentucky did not taste defeat until July 5, 1863, at the battle of Lebanon, Ky. Like many other Civil War battles, the firefight pitted Kentuckian against Kentuckian.

     The 20th Kentucky, whose job was to hold Lebanon, the Marion County seat, was led by Lt. Col. Charles S. Hanson. His brother was Confederate Gen. Roger W. Hanson.

     The Yankee Hanson had no more than 400 men. The enemy was a 2,500-man cavalry force led by Gen. John Hunt Morgan. Morgan was from Lexington; most of his troopers were Kentuckians.

     Morgan forced his captives to run 11 miles to Springfield, the Washington County seat, where there were paroled. The 20th Kentucky returned to combat and fought in the Atlanta Campaign and the siege of Atlanta in 1864.

     Meanwhile, in October, 1861, Wilia Waller helped raise the 15th Kentucky Cavalry, a mostly Jackson Purchase outfit, and became a major in the regiment. The 15th Kentucky mainly patrolled against guerrillas and Confederate raiders in Kentucky and Tennessee.

     -- Berry Craig is a professor of history at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and is the author of True Tales of Old-Time Kentucky Politics: Bombast, Bourbon and Burgoo, Hidden History of Kentucky in the Civil War, Hidden History of Kentucky Soldiers and Hidden History of Western Kentucky. The books are being sold to raise money for scholarships at WKCTC. They are available by contacting Craig by phone at (270) 534-3270 or by email at berry.craig@kctcs.edu.

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