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A History of the United States by Cecil Chesterton

But the neutrality of Kentucky forbade them


naturally felt a special interest

in the attitude of his native state, Kentucky. That attitude would have perplexed and embarrassed a less discerning statesman. Taking her stand on the dogma of State Sovereignty Kentucky declared herself "neutral" in the impending war between the United and Confederate States, and forbade the troops of either party to cross her territory. Lincoln could not, of course, recognize the validity of such a declaration, but he was careful to avoid any act in open violation of it. Sometimes openly and sometimes secretly he worked hard to foster, consolidate, and encourage the Union party in Kentucky. With his approval and probably at his suggestion loyalist levies were voluntarily recruited on her soil, drilled and prepared for action. But no Northern troops were sent across her frontier. He was undoubtedly working for a violation of Kentuckian "neutrality" by the other side. Circumstances and geographical conditions helped him. The frontier between Kentucky and Tennessee was a mere degree of latitude corresponding to no militarily defensible line, nor did any such line exist to the south of it capable of covering the capital of Tennessee. On the other hand, an excellent possible line of defence existed in Southern Kentucky. The Confederate commanders were eager to seize it, but the neutrality of Kentucky forbade them. When, however, they saw the hold which Lincoln seemed to be acquiring over the counsels of the "neutrals," they felt they dared not risk further delay. Justifying their
act by the presence in Kentucky of armed bodies of local Unionists, they advanced and occupied the critical points of Columbus and Bowling Green, stretching their line between them on Kentuckian soil. The act at once determined the course of the hesitating State. Torn hitherto between loyalty to the Union and loyalty to State rights, she now found the two sentiments synchronize. In the name of her violated neutrality she declared war on the Confederacy and took her place under the Stars and Stripes.

The line between the two warring confederations of States was now definitely fixed, and it only remained to try the issue between them by the arbitrament of the sword.

At first the odds might seem very heavy against the Confederacy, for its total white population was only about five and a half million, while the States arrayed against it mustered well over twenty million. But there were certain considerations which tended to some extent to equalize the contest.

First there is the point which must always be taken into consideration when estimating the chances of war--the political objective aimed at. The objective of the North was the conquest of the South. But the objective of the South was not the conquest of the North. It was the demonstration that such conquest as the North desired was impracticable, or at least so expensive as not to be worth pursuing. That the Union, if the States that composed it remained united and determined and no other factor were introduced, could eventually defeat the Confederacy was from the first almost mathematically certain; and between complete defeat and conquest there is no such distinction as some have imagined, for a military force which has destroyed all military forces opposed to it can always impose its will unconditionally on the conquered. But that these States would remain united and determined was not certain at all. If the South put up a sufficiently energetic fight, there might arise in the dominant section a considerable body of opinion which felt that too high a price was being paid for the enterprise. Moreover, there was always the possibility and often the probability of another factor--the intervention of some foreign Power in favour of the South, as France had intervened in favour of the Americans in 1781. Such were the not unlikely chances upon which the South was gambling.


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