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Civil War Trust

To the People of Southeastern Kentucky

A December 16, 1861 Proclamation by Felix Zollicoffer

A former newspaper editor and congressman from Tennessee, Confederate Brig. Gen. Felix K. Zollicoffer issued this proclamation to the people of Kentucky as his forces took up position in the southeastern portion of the state.  Roughly one month later, Zollicoffer would be killed at the Battle of Mill Springs, Kentucky and the defeated Confederate army was forced to retreat back into Tennessee, leaving Kentucky solidly in Union hands.

BRIGADE HEADQUARTERS, BERCH GROVE, Ky., Dec. 16, 1861.

To the People of Southeastern Kentucky:

ZollicofferThe brigade I have the honor to command is here for no purpose of war upon Kentuckians, but to repel those Northern hordes who, with arms in their hands, are attempting the subjugation of a sister Southern State. They have closed your rivers, embargoed your railroads, cut off your natural and proper markets, left your stock and produce on hands almost valueless, and thereby almost destroyed the value of your lands and labor. We have come to open again your rivers, to restore the ancient markets for your produce, and thereby to return to you the accustomed value of your lands and labor. They have represented us as murderers and outlaws. We have come to convince you that we truly respect the laws, revere justice, and mean to give security to your personal and property rights. They have forced many of you to take up arms against us. We come to take you by the hand as heretofore -- as friends and brothers. Their Government has laid heavy taxes on you to carry on this unnatural war, which is openly avowed to be to set at liberty your slaves, and the ensuing steps in which will be to put arms in their hands, and give them political and social equality with yourselves.

We saw these things in the beginning, and are offering our hearts' blood to avert those dreadful evils which we saw the Abolition leaders had deliberately planned for the South. "All men must have the BALLOT or none; all men must have the bullet or none," said Mr. SEWARD, the present Federal Secretary of State. How long will Kentuckians close their eyes to the contemplated ruin of their present structure of society? How long will they continue to raise their arms against brothers of the South, struggling for those rights, and for that independence common to us all, and which was guaranteed to all by the Constitution of 1787? For many long years we remonstrated against the encroachments against rights, and the insecurity to that property thus guaranteed, which these Northern hordes so remorselessly inflicted upon us.

They became deaf to our remonstrances, because they believe they had the power, and felt in every fibre the will to "whip us in." We have disappointed them. We have broken their columns in almost every conflict. We have early acquired a prestige of success which has stricken terror into the Northern heart. Their "grand armies have been held in check by comparatively few but stern-hearted men; and now they would invoke Kentucky valor to aid them in beating down the true sons of the South who have stood the shock, and in bringing common ruin upon Kentucky and her kindred people. Will you play this unnatural part, Kentuckians? Heaven, forbid. The memories of the past forbid.

The honor of your wives and daughters, your past renown, and the fair name of your posterity, forbid that you should strike for Lincoln and the abolition of Slavery against those struggling for the rights and independence of your kindred race. Strike with us for independence and the preservation of your property, and those Northern invaders of your soil will soon be driven across the Ohio.

F.K. ZOLLICOFFER, Brig.-Gen.

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