"Indignities, Wrongs, and Outrages": The Home Front in Kentucky During the Civil War
In the 1920s historians such as James Harvey Robinson and Arthur Schlesinger, Sr., attempted to examine historical topics using new methodology. Writing "New Social History," they endeavored to emphasize society, culture, and the common people rather than great men and strictly political events. Since the 1980s historians have exhibited new interest in the importance of social history. "Indignities, Wrongs, and Outrages: The Homefront In Kentucky During The Civil War" attempts to apply the methods of the "new social historians" to the era of the American Civil War, centering on the homefront by examining in detail its impact on the everyday lives of Kentuckians. The Civil War in Kentucky was a microcosm of the American Civil War. Although Kentuckians generally favored the Union, allegiances remained mixed throughout the state, even within families. Divided loyalties in this "brother's war," complicated by periodic occupation of the Commonwealth by both Union and Confederate troops, prevoked embittered feelings among friends, neighbors, and relatives, sometimes resulting in challenges to loyalty and even loss of life. Civilians on the homefront endured every aspect of the war: harassment, hunger, homelessness, military occupation, and death. The Bluegrass state was a path for armies marching to and from the "front," resulting in economic devastation for many. Because Kentucky was a supplier of food, livestock, soldiers, and war materiel for Federal and Confederate troops alike, the price of food soared, and fuel shortages wracked the populace. Armies from both sides confiscated produce and livestock, and raids by guerrilla forces often made farming impossible. Financial losses, physical destruction, and soldiers threatening violence resulted in further reduction in the quality of life for Bluegrass civilians. Nevertheless, the homefront story was one of triumph over adversity. In addition to facing armed occupiers and rogue soldiers, women and their servants struggled successfully with everyday problems such as rearing the children, coping with illnesses, and managing businesses and farms. For African Americans the war offered hope for a new beginning. Some found prosperity in their new freedom, but many who ran away to enter Union lines suffered and died in refugee camps scattered throughout the state. The "new social history," to a great extent, is history of the "common people." Drawn largely from letters, journals, and diaries, this thesis attempts to discover how Kentuckians on the homefront lived, worked, and survived during the Civil War. It is a story worth telling.