“I hope to have God on my side but I must have Kentucky.” Anyone, North or South, who could read a map would have agreed with that sentiment of Abraham Lincoln for their side in 1861. With Kentucky part of the Confederacy, the South would have a broad rampart in which to defend Tennessee and the Deep South. With Kentucky part of the Union, the North had a clear hand to punch into Tennessee, capture Memphis and Nashville, and begin dual invasions down the Mississippi and into Georgia and Alabama.
Kentucky was a house bitterly divided. Governor Beriah Magoffin, although not a full fledged secessionist, had little sympathy for Lincoln’s attempt to preserve the Union by force. The Kentucky legislature leaned towards the Union, and in June elections in Kentucky Unionists would win nine of 10 Congressional seats and a 76-24 majority in the state House of Representatives and a 27-11 majority in the state Senate.
One thing all Kentuckians could agree on was an effort to avoid the War coming to Kentucky. A Proclamation of Neutrality was passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor on May 20, 1861. On the same day North Carolina became the eleventh state to join the Confederacy, underlining the impossibility of neutrality in the conflict.
On September 4, 1861 Confederate forces seized Columbus, propelling Kentucky fully into the arms of the Union. The Dark and Bloody Ground would be one of the prime battlefields of the War.