Echoes of the American Civil War reverberate across our nation's landscape more than 150 years after it began in April 1861. Most Americans, even ones who aren't interested in history, have heard of the great battles of Bull Run, Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Gettysburg, and many others, in which massive armies fought one another to determine the path of our nation. What is far less known, however, is the fact that guerilla warfare played a large role in at least some states during the war. "Bloody Bill" Anderson" and Quantrill's Raiders were the most notorious of these guerilla fighters infamous for committing atrocities against civilians, especially in Missouri. The Commonwealth of Kentucky is another of the states which eventually saw the outbreak of guerilla warfare committed by "Bushwhackers" as men from both sides eventually began to be called. The bushwhackers typically did not belong to any organized army of either side, instead fighting as irregulars for their particular cause.
In the early days of the Civil War, Kentucky was the setting for battles between organized armies as both the Union and Confederacy desperately tried to sway the state to their cause. In fact, Abraham Lincoln himself, a native Kentuckian, realized the strategic importance of the this border state as can be seen in his famous line "I must have Kentucky." The eastern region of Kentucky saw some of the earlier ground fighting of the Civil War when in November 1861 into early the next year around the town of Pikeville. In fact, Major General George B. McClellan wrote General Don Carlos Buell, begging him to not abandon the Pikeville region. Southern sympathies ran high in that region of Kentucky and Union command realized the importance of keeping possession of this rugged region.
Finally in 1863, this area of Kentucky, the Big Sandy region, remained firmly in Union hands. With the formation of the new state of West Virginia, the former western region of Virginia, this area of the Union no longer had to worry about being on the border of a hostile enemy nation. Small Union forces were left in place, but with no civil government in place in and around Pikeville, Kentucky, fighting began degenerating into guerilla warfare, or "bushwhacking."
Today, Pike County Kentucky hosts one of the fastest growing Civil War re-enactment commemorations in the Kentucky Commonwealth, if not the nation. Elkhorn City, KY is the host for "Bushwhacking On The Russell Fork", an annual event held every Memorial Day Weekend to commemorate the events of the Civil War which took place in the region. This event sees battle recreations, speeches by re-enactors, a Civil War ball, a parade, and services for the Unknown Soldier. Below is a link for more information:
I was contacted by Mr. Jay Shepherd of the Pike County Convention and Tourism Bureau. He asked if I would be willing to publicize their upcoming event. I ordinarily decline such requests because I receive so many of them. In this case, I chose to publicize it because it commemorates a little known, but important, series of events which helped Abraham Lincoln to maintain control of Kentucky for the Union. Disclaimer: I have received no compensation of any type for this publicity.
While I've not attended this annual event personally, I can tell you that I've been to that region of Kentucky and it's beautiful. If you're close to the area, why not pay Elkhorn City a visit for this Civil War Event?