Timeline of the Civil War in Kentucky

Citizens of the state of Kentucky were truly divided over issues that caused the Civil War. The Kentucky legislature did not vote to secede from the Union, but neither did it vote to raise troops to support the Union. Instead, the state declared neutrality. But this neutrality did not last long. Because Kentucky was a strategic border state dividing the South and the North, it was occupied by both Union and Confederate forces. In 1861 and 1862, Kentuckians at home saw a number of battles and skirmishes. By the end of 1862, Confederate forces had been run out of the state. However, the destruction caused by war was not over for Kentuckians. From December 1862 to January 1865, famous Confederate raids by John Hunt Morgan, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Quantrill, and "Sue" Mundy destroyed Union supply depots, bridges, and county courthouses. Kentucky also experienced a period of lawlessness in 1864, when "Bushwhackers" -- small bands of unruly soldiers from both sides -- looted small towns and robbed local farmers of produce and livestock.

When President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in January of 1863, all slaves in the Confederacy were legally set free. Because Kentucky remained in the Union, slaves in this state were not free. Lincoln declared in 1864 that any slave who enlisted in the Union army would be given freedom as well as the freedom of his family. A flood of Kentucky slaves rushed to Camp Nelson to enlist. Soon, the camp became a recruitment center for "coloured" troops, as well as a refugee center for their families.

Kentucky slaves were legally freed when the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified in 1865. But Confederate sentiment was still high in Kentucky after the war. The legislature failed to ratify either the 13th Amendment; the 14th, which extended equal protection of the law to blacks; or the 15th, which gave African Americans the right to vote.

Here is a timetable of major events during the Civil War that occurred in Kentucky.


1860 1861 1862 1863 1864 1865

Battle of Middle Creek: Confederate retreat

Battle of Mill Springs: Union win

President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation.

Camp Nelson founded

"Bushwhacking" terrorizes Kentuckians all year. Quantrill raids on

Union gunboats from Paducah take Forts Donelson and Henry in Tennessee.


Confederate Nathan Bedford Forrest attacks Paducah.
Confederates fire on Fort Sumter.

General Lee surrenders: Union victory
Kentucky declares neutrality.


Morgan's Third Raid
Union recruiting camp established at Camp Dick Robinson Morgan's first raids in Kentucky Morgan's "Great Raid"


Battle of Richmond: Confederate win

Confederate General Leonidas Polk occupies Columbus.

Union General Ulysses Grant occupies Paducah and Smithland.

Confederate forces occupy Bowling Green.

Battle of Barbourville: Confederate win

Confederates capture Lexington and Frankfort.

Battle of Wildcat Mountain: Union win Battle of Perryville: Confederate win

Confederate forces leave Kentucky.

November Abraham Lincoln elected president

December Southern states begin to secede from Union. Battle of Sacramento: Confederate win Morgan's "Christmas Raids"     13th Amendment frees Kentucky slaves.

1860 1861 1862 1863 1864 1865


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