A Reunion of men of the Orphan Brigade around 1900.
Kentucky was one of the states where it was truly Brother-Against-Brother during the Civil War. Kentucky initially aimed to remain neutral in the war, however both sides fought vociferously to pledge allegiance one way or the other. Indeed, even Lincoln himself considered Kentucky a key state. He would write in September 1861 letter to Orville Browning: "I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky. I think to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game. Kentucky gone, we cannot hold Missouri, nor Maryland. These all against us, and the job on our hands is too large for us. We would well consent to separation at once, including the surrender of this capitol."
Despite Lincoln's letter, the leaders of the Confederacy had no problem building up initial regiments throughout the state.
A proclamation given by John Hunt Morgan to rouse support for the forming of the Brigade.
Things got more difficult for the CSA in Kentucky in mid 1862 when the State Legislature voted to side with the Union. This made CSA recruitment in the state much more difficult, and so the leaders quickly increased the intensity of their language going in to the end of 1862.
This poster shows the types of language used to recruit more men to the The First Kentucky Brigade, which was originally formed in early 1862 and was the largest Confederate unit formed from Kentucky during the war. Led by Major General John C. Breckinridge, the Brigade was used throughout the south in major battles, including the Battle of Shiloh. Because Kentucky remained formally a part of the Union during the Civil War, these CSA soldiers were often called Orphans.
The name stuck after General Braxton Bragg rode among the survivors following a particularly harrowing battle and cried out, repeatedly, "My poor Orphans! My poor Orphans!". The Brigade became run-down in the following years, as they lost commander after commander during major battles. When they were originally mustered in to service, weapons were in short supply, so they were armed with old smoothbore muskets and hunting rifles; further, some men fought with no rifles at all. Thankfully, only a week before the Battle of Shiloh, most of then men were given Enfield rifles which better prepared them for upcoming battles.
The men charge forward in to the Battle of Chickamauga. Note that each regiment that made up the Brigade carried its own flag.
Though the men would be successful in this battle, they would lose their commander, Brigadier General Benjamin Hardin Helm, who was Abraham Lincoln's brother-in-law.
A portion of the 4th Kentucky Infantry flag.
The Orphan Brigade served throughout the Atlanta Campaign of 1864, then were converted to mounted infantry and opposed Sherman's March to the Sea. They ended the war fighting in South Carolina in late April 1865, and surrendered at Washington, Georgia, on May 6–7, 1865
Veterans of the Orphan Brigade and other units met in Franklin, Kentucky in 1910. There are monuments to these men throughout Kentucky and the South.
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