Document Selection

The documents published on this site represent less than half of those that the Civil War Governors of Kentucky has found in its archival search thus far—over 10,000 of 23,000 currently identified. These documents have been pulled from across the offices of all five wartime governors to showcase the diversity of document genres, geographic locations, and nature of interactions they record between the executive branch and citizens, freed people, businesses, government officials, and military officers.

Selection Criteria

To be in-scope, a document must

...have been created between November 1, 1860 and December 31, 1865 OR

... have been received or acted upon by one of the five identified governors between November 1, 1860, and December 31, 1865 in cases when part or all of a document or its enclosures were generated before November 1, 1860 or after December 31, 1865.


...have been to, from, or endorsed by a governor OR

...have been to or from a governor's secretary or assistant OR an official response to a document sent to a governor but referred elsewhere for reply OR a governor's words not captured elsewhere, such as the transcript of a speech OR

...have been an enclosure to an in-scope document.

Archival Collections

Rather than sample individual documents from across the CWGK corpus, we have elected to publish all of the in-scope documents from fifty-two collections held in four Kentucky archives.

The Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives is the official repository of state government, and thus house the official papers of each gubernatorial administration. CWGK has published twenty-six collections from the administrations of Beriah Magoffin, James F. Robinson, and Thomas E. Bramlette. Materials accessioned by CWGK but not yet published here include the executive journals for each governor (daily logs of all official business, which are available in PDF from KDLA) and any in-scope governors' material from collections organized under different branches of state government (Secretary of State, Auditor of Public Accounts, and the Court of Appeals). Because they are available in published form elsewhere as Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, CWGK will not collect or publish lists of enrolled bills signed into law by each governor.

The Military Records and Research Branch of the Kentucky Department of Military Affairs administers state military records from pre-statehood militia through current National Guard deployments. The records held in this repository are incredibly diverse, including correspondence concerning appointments and promotions, muster rolls and discharge forms, claims for civilian property destroyed by military action, and thousands of receipts for weapons, food, clothing, services, and transportation for Kentucky soldiers. This site contains collections that represent a sample of each of these diverse document types. There are collections documenting the enlistments and promotions within Kentucky units in active U.S. Army service. There are collections which document Kentucky's active and enrolled militia, containing invaluable county-level reports of military and paramilitary activity. There are copy books of outgoing letters leaving the state military offices in Frankfort. There are collections of receipts from the Adjutant and Quartermaster General's files.

The question of the Military Board of Kentucky is an especially pertinent issue in KDMA collections. The board was a legislative creation to subvert the commander-in- chief power of Governor Magoffin, whom many of the legislators suspected would aid secessionists if he wielded sole military authority. Magoffin served as a member of early incarnations of the Military Board, and so those documents are published here if they appear in selected collections. After September 25, 1861, however, Magoffin was removed from the board. While CWGK has identified and scanned post-Magoffin Military Board documents, the project has elected not to process them for publication at this time. Because the Military Board co-opted the constitutional functions of the governor, there is a philosophical question about whether to include post-Magoffin items. Researchers interested in the currently unpublished activities of the Military Board should contact the project to learn more about how they can use CWGK metadata and scanned images to assist a research project.

The Civil War-era holdings at CWGK's home institution, the Kentucky Historical Society, are primarily family manuscript collections. The most relevant of these for CWGK are the family papers of Provisional Confederate Governor George W. Johnson, wartime selections of which have been chosen for publication in Early Access. His successor, Richard Hawes, is the project's most poorly documented governor. The single document issued by him from Frankfort, his inaugural address, is published here as is a hand-written commission drawn up in exile in Georgia.

We publish two documents, each the entirety of the holdings CWGK accessioned from small archives. The first is a letter from future Lincoln administration Attorney General James Speed requesting the release of imprisoned abolitionist Calvin Fairbank, found in the large Lincolnania collections of Lexington judge William H. Townsend, now owned by Kentucky Mansions Preservation Foundation, operators of the Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington. The second is a broadside announcing an 1863 charitable ball. William T. Samuels, an ancestor of the Samuels family who now operate the Maker's Mark Distillery, was a member of the Robinson administration, who hosted the ball.

Both of these documents are published here to acknowledge the openness and generosity of both of these institutions. Their inclusion is an important reminder to many smaller institutions—museums, libraries, corporate archives, and private collections—that every relevant document is valuable to CWGK, and we hope to feature many similar small archives in this and future iterations of the edition. The strength of this project is not only in the wealth of materials published online but the relationships that are built in the identification and publication process.