Civil War

The Civil War Trust

A non-profit organization is preserving part of Kentucky’s Civil War history.

The 1862 Battle of Perryville was Kentucky’s largest and bloodiest Civil War battle.  The Civil War Trust recently purchased 70 acres of the hallowed ground in Boyle County. 

Meg Martin, Communications Director for The Civil War Trust, says the latest area to be preserved is known as the Western High Water Mark of the Confederacy, which refers to the farthest point reached by Confederate soldiers in the Western Theater during the Civil War.

"An interesting tidbit about this particular parcel is that there are likely still several Union soldiers laid to rest there," Martin told WKU Public Radio.  "Their bodies would not have been moved."

Grants and a national fundraising campaign allowed the Civil War Trust to purchase the 70 acres, bringing the total amount of land preserved at Perryville to 1,027 acres.

The two day Battle of Nashville was marked by delays, confusion, some say incompetence and bitter, vicious warfare. WKU historians Dr. Glenn LaFantasie and Dr. Jack Thacker say when it was all over the Confederate Army was decimated and in disarray, Nashville was secure and the War was beginning its end.

Emil Moffatt

Abraham Lincoln’s place in history is well-defined. He’s the great emancipator, the man who preserved the Union.   

Jefferson Davis’ legacy, however, is a little more complicated.

The two men were born within 120 miles of each other in rural parts of Kentucky.  Today, the Lincoln birthplace in Hodgenville is a National Park, featuring a granite memorial rising above rolling green hills.

“There’s four flights of the steps as you head up to the memorial, said park superintendent Bill Justice. “They are, in their own way, an invitation to go up and go into the memorial itself."

A replica of the austere log cabin in which Lincoln was born sits inside the ornate structure.

“There’s also a beautiful skylight up above there that provides an opportunity for natural light to flow into the building,” said Justice. “It has a very ‘memorial’ feel to it; the beautiful pink granite around the edge, the plaster-finished fixtures on the wall, the florets in the ceiling.  [It’s a] really, really beautiful interior for this memorial.”

Kentucky Historical Society

When a young Bowling Green woman’s diary was published as a book in 2009, it gave a glimpse of life in Kentucky during the Civil War.

But those entries weren’t the end of Josie Underwood’s story.

A Louisville woman was browsing a bookstore when she picked up a copy of the diary.

 “[She] realized that she was related to the Underwoods and that she had some family papers and decided to go looking through her closet and lo and behold discovered that she had the second volume of Josie Underwood’s diary, ” said David Turpie, editor of the Register, a publication of the Kentucky Historical Society which has published Volume 2 of Underwood’s diary. It mainly covers the years 1862-66

“It also helps us to understand the thoughts and feelings of one individual, one young woman from Kentucky and that life went on for her,” said Turpie.

Emil Moffatt


A new piece of American history is now on display at the Kentucky Museum, but if you don’t look closely, you might miss it.

The handwritten note from 1864 measures only three inches by three inches, but comes with enormous historical significance. It was written by Abraham Lincoln.

“If it were in anyone else’s hand, it would be insignificant,” said Timothy Mullin, head of the Department of Library Special Collections at WKU.  “But because it is Lincoln, and because it refers to the oath and it really is the essence of how he wanted the war to end.”

The note is dated March 31, 1864 and is written on behalf of a Confederate prisoner of war. It indicates that he’s taken an oath of allegiance to the Union and is to be set free.

The Kentucky Museum has several Lincoln artifacts, but Mullin notes, this one is special.

New Study Raises Civil War Death Toll

Nov 29, 2012

A newly released study has raised the estimated deaths from the Civil War by almost 20 percent. Joe Corcoran speaks with WKU Civil War historians Dr. Glenn LaFantasie and Dr. Jack Thacker.

In his storied career as a federal judge and former director of the FBI and CIA, William Webster was guided partly by the great-grandfather he never knew who died on a Civil War battlefield. His ancestor, Union Col. George Penny Webster, was mortally wounded in savage fighting at the Battle of Perryville on Oct. 8, 1862, the biggest Civil War confrontation in Kentucky.

Eight Civil War battlefields, including three in Kentucky and Tennessee, are receiving more than $2.4 million in grants to help with land acquisition. The National Park Service said the grant money will help in the permanent preservation and protection of the battlefields. This year marks the 150 year anniversary of several important Civil War battles.

This fall marks the 150th anniversary of Kentucky’s largest Civil War battle. To honor that event, planning is well underway for the October re-enactment of the Battle of Perryville.

Women in the Civil War: On The Homefront

Mar 19, 2012

As their husbands, sons and fathers went off to fight on the front lines, women who stayed behind had to keep the family going however they could. In this third part of his three-part series Women in the Civil War, Joe Corcoran speaks with WKU Civil War historians Dr. Jack Thacker and Dr. Glenn LaFantasie about the new gender roles women were forced to take on and how those changes are still being felt today.

The casualty numbers of the Civil War were staggering for both the Union and the Confederacy. They would have been much higher without the thousands of women who volunteered as nurses in hospitals and homes.

Women in the Civil War

Mar 5, 2012

One of the best kept secrets of the Civil War is the number of women who disguised themselves as men so they could fight on the front lines. In the first of his three-part series Women in the Civil War, Joe Corcoran speaks with WKU Civil War historians Dr. Glenn LaFantasie and Dr. Jack Thacker about these forgotten warriors.

Bowling Green, Ky – A Kentucky Civil War historian wants people to know about the contributions made by African-American soldiers. Robert Bell is with the US Colored Troops Living History Association, a group dedicated to the preservation of the history of African-Americans who served during the Civil War. A day of activities will be held Saturday, Sept. 17, at the Kentucky Museum at WKU. Kevin Willis has this story.

Bowling Green, KY – Civil War Historians Dr. Jack Thacker and Dr. Glen LaFantasie say President Lincoln looked at the state of Kentucky as a key pivotal area as he tried to address slavery issues in the days leading up to the start of the Civil War. Lincoln considered Kentucky to be a key strategic location, in part because of its access to the Ohio River.Dan Modlin has more on the story.........