Civil War

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.

Clinton Lewis / WKU University Relations

A significant Civil War battle took place in Kentucky on October 8th, 1862. The Battle of Perryville claimed the lives of about 7600 soldiers, and some historians now say the battle was more important than some researchers thought in the past. Dr. Glenn LaFantasie of the WKU Institute for Civil War Studies and WKU Military Historian Dr. Jack Thacker  say Confederate forces moved into the state, hoping to get Kentuckians to join their cause.

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.

Clinton Lewis / WKU University Relations

As Congress has struggled to move ahead with a variety of legislative packages in recent years, some WKU historians have drawn a contrast between contemporary lawmakers and those who made up the 37th Congress. That Civil War-era group of legislators were successful in passing several significant pieces of legislation at the same time the nation was split by the war between the Union and Confederacy.

Some of the largest troop movements of the American Civil War took place 150 years ago this week. WKU Military Historian Jack Thacker and Dr. Glenn LaFantasie of the WKU Institute for Civil War Studies say the Second Battle of Bull Run was significant for several reasons, including the emergence of Robert E. Lee's strategy for fighting the remainder of the war.

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