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.  



    I’ll try to find any articles after that ceremony. There are a couple stories about Corbin on that Genweb site if you are interested

  2. Excellent info on that link, adds a bit more to what I had found online. The other source I usd did not mention that the order was issued five days after the arrest of Corbin and McGraw. Thanks!



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