Holland City News, December 14, 1961
The 25th Michigan Volunteers in Kentucky
Kentucky Occupied Strategic Spot for Both North and South
By Rev. Edward J. Masselink, Ph. D.
Kentucky, as a state, occupied a strategic place in the war, and attempted to maintain a neutral position. On April 18, 1861, the governor refused to furnish troops demanded by the Federal Government. After an invasion of Southern troops in August 1861, the legislator, after a very exciting discussion, gave its adhesion to the Union. The population, however, remained divided in its loyalty. During the war, 92,000 men served in the Union army, while 40,000 joined with the Confederate forces.
Louisville was a very important military center for the Union Armies, since it is the hub of transportation between the North and the South. By numerous railway connections, it was easily accessible from all points in the North. The Louisville to Nashville Railroad was the direct line of supply for the Union Army of the Cumberland, which was camped in southern Tennessee. By way of the Ohio River, materials could be sent by boat from Louisville to Memphis and Vicksburg, where Grant and Sherman were conducting their campaigns.
On April 1, 1863, the Twenty-Fifth Michigan Volunteers, under the command of Colonel Orlando H. Moore, were transferred to Louisville, for military police duty. Colonel Moore was made the Provost Marshall of the city.
The Union Army maintained huge stockpiles of war materials at Louisville. There were hundreds of cannon and sheds full of ammunition and rifles. Great quantities of salt beef and pork, as well as beans and rice, were kept in supply. Boots and shoes, denim for uniforms, medicines and gauze, saddles and harnesses—equipment for hundreds of thousands of soldiers were concentrated in this area. In addition to this, there was a large military prison. The task of Colonel Moore and his men was to guard these supplies, and maintain military order in the city.
The days at Louisville were the happiest period of the war. Spring had come to the South. They lived in barracks instead of in tents. The letters home were full of accounts of trips they had to take in escorting prisoners to and from Washington, Baltimore, Harper’s Ferry, Cincinnati and other far off places. Numbers of the men were granted leaves to spend a few days at home. They liked Louisville.
Here at Louisville, they found real opportunity to serve in the cause of freedom. On New Year’s Day, 1863, Lincoln had issued his Emancipation Proclamation, legally freeing all slaves.
Kentucky was a slave state, even though it had remained in the Union. The sentiments of the people, however, were with the South, and they had paid little attention to Lincoln’s proclamation.
Many runaway slaves were at this time making their way to the Ohio River. When they came to Louisville, the city police would arrest them and place them in jail. If they were from Kentucky, they were returned to their plantations. The others were placed on the slave block and sold over.
Colonel Moore came from Schoolcraft, which was an important station on the underground railway. Many fleeing slaves had found refuge in the Moore home, and often Moore had helped his father transport them by night, in a closed carriage, to the next stop. This love of freedom ran hot in his blood.
Soon the barracks of the Twenty-fifth Michigan Volunteers became the refuge for runaway slaves who came to Louisville. The men gave them shelter during the day, and by night they would ferry them across to the Indiana side.
Before long, the Louisville Journal and the Louisville Democrat wrote scathing editorials about this subject. When General Boyle asked Colonel Moore what all these Negroes were doing around the camp, Moore replied that they were needed as servants for the officers. Thereupon Colonel Moore issued the following note:
Headquarters Provost Marshall’s Office,
May 1st, 1863
Special Orders—No. 12
Hereafter all unlawful interference with the authorized Negro services of officers of the United States Army and Negroes legally entitled to their freedom, passing through Kentucky and Indiana, is prohibited; and while the legal rights of the citizens of Kentucky shall be strictly guarded, parties will be held responsible for such unlawful interferences.
Orlando H. Moore
Colonel 25th Michigan Infantry and Provost Marshall
The following day Colonel Moore issued a second order to the effect that no more slave auctions were to be held in the city of Louisville. General Boyle demanded by what authority the sale of slaves was interfered with. Moore replied that he assumed the responsibility for this himself.
General Boyle demanded that the orders be retracted. When this was refused, General Boyle immediately relieved him of his post at Provost Marshall of the city of Louisville.
Moore appealed this matter to President Lincoln, who upheld Moore, and removing him from General Boyle’s command, placed him directly under the command of Headquarters of the 23rd Army Corps at Lexington.
Before Lincoln’s sustaining order could return, however, Colonel Moore and his Michigan Volunteers had again been transferred. Now they were sent for picket duty to Lebanon, Kentucky.
Transcriber: Joan Van Spronsen
Created: 8 February 2007