On this date in 1863, McCracken County Union supporters were in high spirits following their “large and respectable meeting” in Paducah.
Dr. R.H. Hall chaired the gathering and Thomas M. Redd was secretary. The Union men nominated several delegates for the Union convention in Frankfort on March 18, according to the Louisville Journal.
The delegates were D. Foushee, Capt. John Cunningham, Thos. Burchett, Mr. Davenport, Mr. Flowers, J.G. Cole, Shelby Bradshaw, Dr. Best, J.E. Morgan, Dr. Dodds, Dr. Kidd, Ed Given, Haywood Hines, Will Walker, James Bury, Col. W.T.E. Fernan, J.E. Woodward, F.S. Robertson, D.P. Yeiser and Thomas M. Redd.
The Unionists approved several resolutions, the first one declaring that it was the duty of loyal Kentuckians to come together “(without distinction of party names or titles) in order to suppress the present rebellion against the best government ever established by man,” the paper reported.
The Union men conceded they did “not endorse all the acts of the present Administration” – a veiled reference to the Emancipation Proclamation -- but favored continuing “the war until peace shall be restored to our once happy and prosperous country.”
The Unionists also linked disunion with abolitionism, declaring the secessionists to be “the practical abolition party of our State” because “they have brought about such a state of affairs as the abolition party of the North desired, namely, the virtual abolition of slavery in our State.” They rejected “both the abolition and secession party" as “twin sisters” who were “equally subversive of our civil and political rights.”
The Unionists saw “no prospect of peace until the rebellion is put down and the States restored to their former position in government” and they pledged “all their means and energies” to help win the war. Further, they endorsed the military draft, Joshua F. Bell of Danville for governor and praised Co. A.E. Gilbert, the Ohioan whose soldiers dispersed the recent Democratic convention in Frankfort, on the grounds that the conclave was treasonous, the Journal said.
Despite their ardor, the Union men were a decided minority in McCracken County, indeed in all of the Jackson Purchase. Kentucky's only Rebel region, the Purchase was so "secesh" that it was nicknamed "the South Carolina of Kentucky." Thoroughly Rebel Paducah, the McCracken County seat, was dubbed "the Charleston of Kentucky."
-- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org