Friday, September 28, 2018

The McGraw Story, or Monuments Are Not Always Factual

Incorrect flag in Flagg Springs Cemetery
On a drive to Augusta I decided to stop at Flagg Springs Cemetery, which is on Kentucky Highway 10 in Campbell County, a stone's throw from the AA Highway.  In doing research on the Augusta engagement I came across a story about two men, William F. Corbin and T. Jefferson McGraw, who had been executed for recruiting for the Confederacy in northern Kentucky.

In May, 1863, Stephen Gano Burbridge was in Grant's army near Vicksburg
This story focuses on McGraw, although Corbin is buried not too many miles away along Old Washington Trace.  During Edmund K. Smith's invasion of Kentucky in the summer of 1862, McGraw and other Campbell County men, joined the Confederate Army on September 25th, joining the Fourth Kentucky Cavalry, upon which McGraw, a part of one of the oldest and most respected families in the area, was made lieutenant.  After spending time with the 4th Kentucky, McGraw (and Corbin, who had been made captain) were sent to recruit more men in northern Kentucky.  On the night of April 8th, 1863, they were to meet a a local home, and march from there to Paris with their new recruits.  McGraw was late arriving, so Corbin sent his new men on their way while he waited for McGraw.  Unfortunately for both men, shortly after McGraw arrived, a group of Federal soldiers appeared, causing Corbin and McGraw to flee into a nearby woods.  When the Federals threatened to burn the home, the two men surrendered to save the house.  In Cincinnati on April 21st the men were tried, convicted, and upon President Lincoln's approval of the sentence, were sent to Johnson's Island on Lake Erie to be shot on May 15th.  Although appeals were made to Burnside and Lincoln by Corbin and McGraw family members, Lincoln
Needing a little TLC before it topples over
would not overturn the decision to execute these men who had been recruiting within Federal lines.  On that fateful May morning, the two men were bound with their arms behind them, blindfolded, and sat on their coffins, and were summarily executed.  A sad fate indeed.

After locating the cemetery and then finding the monument behind the old church, I immediately noticed that our Cynthiana friend Stephen Gano Burbridge is infamously listed, inferring that McGraw was executed under his order. But that did not make sense to me as Ambrose Burnside was in command in Cincinnati, and it was his General Order Number 38 under which McGraw was most likely found guilty and thus shot.  An excerpt from that order stated "That hereafter all persons found within our lines who commit acts for the benefit of the enemies of our country, will be tried as spies or traitors, and, if convicted, will suffer death."  

Also, at the time of the execution Burbridge was leading the 1st Brigade, Tenth Division, XIII Corps during the Vicksburg campaign and was hundreds of miles away from northern Kentucky  Was Burbridge hated so much in Kentucky after the war that consciously or sub-consciously he is the commander mistakenly listed as issuing the general order that would lead McGraw's death?  Or was this naming of Butcher Burbridge intentional, either by the ladies of the Mrs. Basil Duke Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy or the monument maker?  Upon seeing the completed stone before installation, the ladies of the chapter had to notice the error, and surely would have asked for a corrected replacement.  Or perhaps it was indeed intentional.  Burbridge's own brother was murdered in western Kentucky after the war for simply being the Butcher's kin.  Regardless, the incorrectness of the stone's text is a good indication of how Kentuckians felt after the war.  

Next Year - 2019 Events

March 6th-10th - Annual pilgrimage to Chattanooga for the Chickamauga study group.  Going to get some time on Missionary Ridge with David Powell and the gang along with the normal bus tour (McClemore's Cove) and on field day.  Also going to work on cleaning up the area at Weidrich's Battery on Smith Hill, one of the least visited of monuments in probably any national park.

March 23rd - Northern Kentucky History Day - A talk on the First Battle of Cynthiana.

April 13th - Tour at Augusta.

May 1st-5th - The gang from Chickamauga is doing an intense three full days at Shiloh.  Lots of walking on this one, a place I have not been to.

May 29th - June 2nd - Leading a tour for the American Battlefields Trust, location TBD, but likely to be Perryville, Wild Cat, or Cynthiana.

Fall - Trip to West Viriginia battlefields, such as Philippi, Rich Mountain, Corrick's Ford, Cheat Mountain, Greenbriar, Droop Mountain, Carnifex Ferry, and a few others

A few other things that might be in the works, such as a talk for a Sons of Confederate Veterans group, and perhaps tours for the Civil War Weekend in Cynthiana.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


View from Hilltop Cemetery
On September 27th, 1862, a small but vicious fight occurred in Augusta, Kentucky, as a portion of the Second Kentucky Cavalry, under Basil W. Duke, attacked the Bracken County Home Guards, some of whom had served at Cynthiana two months prior.  Duke was planning on crossing the Ohio River and raiding towards Cincinnati.  The home guards were successful in keeping the Confederates from crossing, but the town suffered the same fate as Cynthiana in 1864 as twenty buildings were burned by Duke's command, resulting in the loss of $100,000 of property value ($2.4M in today's currency).

Tour stop sign
I was working on a tour of Augusta, Kentucky for the Cincinnati Civil War Round Table, but as I have moved on from that organization (something about progressing forward vs. living in the past) I have decided to contact some folks in Augusta and see about developing a Civil War organization there, one that would encompass the elements of a round table, preservation group, and events (tours), all rolled into one.  Believe it or not, there is a decent bit of Civil War history in town, and some connections to other interesting periods in American history as well.*  There could be a quarterly speaker program (besides the several Civil War folks I know who would do talks, the Kentucky Humanities organization also has several speakers that cover Civil War topics.  Augusta has a community center that looks to be suitable for these types of events, and could also be a place to hold organizational meetings.  There is already a small walking tour in place, which could be enhanced/expanded by adding more details and human interest stories, and adding a couple of stops that would cover the initial Confederate artillery position on the heights above town, the Confederate monument, and the Baker-Bird Winery as a place of refuge for some of the town's citizens.  Augusta also offers a couple of lodging options, as well as some tasty restaurants in the heart of town.  Alas, no brewery, but if I ever win the lottery....

Confederate monument in Payne Cemetery along KY 8
The Official Records has three reports, two that cover the fighting at Augusta, one the covers the action at Brooksville the next day, and two pieces of correspondence, that vaguely refer to Augusta.  Not much to go on there, but Duke himself devotes several pages in his history of Morgan's cavalry, and there are some other available snippets that include some of the details of the fighting and human interest pieces.  Might be enough to put together a small booklet/tour guide.  

*For example, Alexander W. Doniphan, who fought in the Mormon and Mexican-American Wars, leading expeditions against the Navajo and Mexicans in the latter conflict.  Doniphan graduated from Augusta College in 1824.  


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