Today in History, September 3: 1861 – Unintended consequences. At the outset of the Civil War, Kentucky declared itself neutral, primarily because the state had an almost equal allegiance to both sides. President Lincoln, on precarious footing with the border states, was careful to respect the neutrality. Kentucky covered key geography and the North couldn’t afford to push it to the South.
Confederate General Leonidus Polk (2nd cousin to President Polk), was not quite as politically astute, making one of the worst blunders of the war. He made the decision to secure the strategic town of Columbus, Kentucky. The act pushed the fence sitting Kentucky government to the other side, and they asked for Federal protection from the Confederate “invaders”. This came in the form of Gen. US Grant’s Army forcing Polk out.
While there were Kentucky units that fought for both the Union and the Confederacy, the state itself was now officially Union.