In a way, I never really did expect the war to break out.
I don’t mean to say this in a way where I’m saying that there weren’t any signs of future conflict, because there were plenty of those. I guess you could say I was trying to deny that a war could break out, by ignoring what was going on. I didn’t want the war to break out, because I knew there was no turning back, and from that point on our young country would fall down to a point where
There were many issues leading up to the war,even from years and years before matters started to get really tense. Some could even say that the civil war started to develop as early as the time our first constitution was drafted, when our founding fathers decided to not try and rid the country of slavery. We definitely could have prevented this war if they had done so, although maybe not a war at that time. The issue about looking towards the past is that we’ll never know if that situation would have pretended all wars, or would have brought on a much smaller war, or even a larger one. The only thing that we do know is what erupted the issue of slavery. The invention of the cotton gin, Eli Whitney’s work of hell that the world could have gone without at that time. Around that era slavery was slowly fading away everywhere, as the need for slavery was declining. Yet the invention of the cotton gin threw that need back into the deep south full force, and suddenly slavery throned cotton as the king. Everything erupted from that point and beyond, from states fighting over their individual rights to the election of Lincoln finally pushing everything over the end.
I grew up as a young girl in Kentucky, alongside slaves on a farm with three older brothers, all of whom weren’t fully opposed to the peculiar institution of slavery. My older brother Timothy-Joe was the one that was willing to fight to keep our ‘right’ to slavery, which was something I was never willing to fight for. Living in the house especially with the female slaves had me realize very quickly how wrong slavery truly was, and growing up I was as anti-slavery as one could possibly be, taking on all the abolitionist ideas at the time. These two different ideals led to him fleeing down to the South as a Confederate soldier with the rest of my brothers, and to me disguising myself as male and joining the Union army. It wasn’t too surprising that our family split apart like it did, this sort of thing was common in states like Kentucky, where slavery was still legal but the state didn’t leave the Union. My parents were supportive of my brothers leaving, and thought of me to have run away to the capital. I wish it didn’t have to happen, just like I wish the Union didn’t have to split, but it did. And I never did see my brothers again, with the exception of the youngest, Will-Iam.
The next and last time I saw my brother Will was at the Battle of Perryville, a huge Union win known as the Battle for Kentucky. I saw him as I was running towards enemy lines, him running towards his enemy, me. My cause. I almost didn’t recognize him. The war wasn’t treating him well, he looked tired and weary. I guess you could say it was due to the state of the Confederacy; we were starting to come out on top. We were doing better. The Confederacy wasn’t. And you could tell by the way the fight was leaving his eyes as he fought on, and the look in his eyes when he saw me. He recognized me, I know he did. After all, at one point in the battle, he jumped in front of a bullet for me.
It was then I realized why we were here, pitting family against each other, union turning inward on itself and slowly suffocating itself. Because even as my own brother lay on the ground, even though he took a bullet for me, I knew the world would remember us as the armies we fought for, two different ideas. We had two different ideas on something as basic as human rights. I knew one had to come up on top, because if someone didn’t then we’d fight the same war for centuries, maybe millennia. Because people don’t change their minds so easily, and someone always has to take charge and make a change. And as my brother lay dying, I realized that while I didn’t want this war, and tried to deny that it would happen, it was needed to secure the future of the citizens of our country. It was needed to end the war going on outside of the battlefield and within our mindsets.
Author: Minnesota Historical Society