Abraham Lincoln, Kentucky, and the Civil War
From the presidential election of 1860 through his assassination in 1865, Lincoln had a difficult relationship with his native state. At the outset of the Civil War, Lincoln realized the geographic and political importance of the state and considered Kentucky’s sentiments before acting on a number of issues. Throughout 1861, he gingerly dealt with the state’s political leadership as they debated whether the state would remain in the Union or join the southern Confederacy. After Kentucky sided with the Union, Lincoln proceeded cautiously with his plans for emancipation, knowing that they would be unpopular among Kentuckians. However, Lincoln was determined that the war must end slavery. Lincoln also faced the challenge of suppressing guerrilla warfare and disloyalty in Kentucky without alienating the state’s Unionists. Union military officials implemented a number of strategies that drew the ire of Kentuckians, who believed they were being treated as rebels despite their professed loyalty. By the end of the war, the combination of emancipation and the actions of federal soldiers in the state had pushed many Kentuckians into political alliance with the former Confederacy.