Friday, May 13, 2011

Burbridge the Extortionist

I recently had the pleasure of speaking to the John C. Breckinridge SCV Camp #100 in Lexington, KY and was asked about the allegation of extortion that I made against Major-General Stephen Gano Burbridge of the Union Army.
Confederate Veteran Magazine 1911, volume 19, page 527, provides my best source of this allegation. Charlton G. Duke, wrote an accounting of the timely ransom payment that resulted in his death sentence being revoked. Rather than rewrite the tale, I ‘d rather you read it in its original form.

“ Personal Prison Experiences and Death.”
By: Charlton G. Duke, Hopkinsville, KY.

“ By request, I give a short account of my capture and imprisonment at Louisville KY. After the wounding of Gen. Adam Johnson at Grubbs’ Crossroads, our command crossed the river and went to Paris, TN. I was sent by Colonel Sypert, with my brother, John C. Duke, and cousin, Capt. Lindsey Buckner, back into Kentucky to gather up some of our men, who had been unable to cross with the command and to recruit as many more as possible. This we attempted to do, but, finding the whole country overrun with Federal soldiers, we thought it best to hasten back to our command. In endeavoring to cross the river at Hillman’s Rolling Mills, we were captured and sent at once to Louisville to a prison, which bore the significant, if not euphonious, name of “slaughter pen”. I will not speak of the many indignities heaped upon our men while in this prison, but will pass on to a period which I can never recall without emotions of deepest sadness.

We had been there some three or four weeks. We were coolly informed one morning that Captain Lindsey Buckner, B. P. Wallace, John Duke, and I would be shot the following day by order of General Burbridge in retaliation for a mail carrier who had been killed by a band of guerrillas, supposed to be the Sue Mundy gang. We did not spend that day with any degree of pleasure, for the thought of dying such an ignominious death at the hands of our enemies was indeed depressing, but we determined to meet our fate like men.

We were greatly surprised the next morning when several nicely dressed men in blue uniform, one of whom we recognized as Mr. Ed Baker, from our home at Princeton KY. came into the prison. He expressed pleasure at seeing me and my brother John, and informed us that it was his great happiness to convey to us the good news that through his influence and that of another prominent Union man of Princeton General Burbridge had been persuaded to countermand the order for our execution, and that we could have our choice of being sent to a Northern prison or take the oath of allegiance and return home. We thanked him and said we would go to prison. We asked if they could not influence General Burbridge to release our companions also. He replied that he could do nothing for Captain Buckner but that Captain Wallace would probably be released, which was afterwards done. Captain Lilly, Lieutenant Blincoe, and an old man named Halley were selected in our stead. We little supposed that the men who had interfered in our behalf were actuated by any but kindly motives in securing our release from death, but soon found that these expressions of friendship had cost our mother $2,000 in cash, which she promptly forwarded to Louisville. Our friend Wallace was also ransomed by his friends, and had Captain Buckner’s brother received in time the letter written him, his terrible fate would have been averted. But the letter was misplaced in some way.

In the afternoon of the next day the four men mentioned were placed in irons and taken out on the Jeffersontown road and shot to death. They requested that their eyes be not bound, and all refused to kneel when told to do so. Captain Buckner was one of the finest looking men I ever saw. He possessed an unusual degree of personal magnetism, was brave, as a man could be, but as gentle and affectionate as a woman. Just before the time appointed for the execution he was asked by one of his comrades to pray. I have never heard before or since such a prayer. He talked to the Lord in that calm beautiful way that made one feel as if in the presence of Jehovah, and as they passed out of the prison the last words I heard him utter were: “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.”

Shortly after this sad event I was sent to Johnson’s Island and my brother John to Camp Douglas, where we remained until the close of the war.”

Charlton G. Duke’s obituary in the Confederate Veteran Magazine Volume 30, 1922, page 30 also gives a shorter version of this same instance. There are some subtle differences in the recollections, however.
Fortunately there is another recollection by Charlton G. Duke in the “ Partisan Rangers of the Confederate States Army” Memoirs of General Adam R. Johnson, page 265, entitled “ Additional sketch of Colonel L. A. Sypert”. This recounting clarifies the activities of Duke’s military service up until his capture October 9, 1864.

Charlton G. Duke enlisted in Captain L. A. Sypert’s company in the Spring of 1864, at age 17. Sypert had a commission as Colonel dated 8/26/63, which gave him authority to raise a regiment of cavalry for the Provisional Army of the Confederate States. He actively recruited in Union, Henderson, Webster, Hopkins and Christian counties in 1864. After a brief period in Caldwell County, Duke crossed the Cumberland & Tennessee Rivers to recruit. Afterwards returning to Union and Hopkins Counties.
Near Morganfield at Blue Pond, his unit skirmished with the 17th Kentucky Cavalry Regiment Union Army. He also participated in skirmishes at Bell Mines and Old Salem. After merging into the Partisan Ranger Command of General A. R. Johnson, Charlton Duke held the rank of 1st Lt. Company A 13th (Syperts) Kentucky Cavalry Regiment. Only about 1/3 of these men were armed. During the fighting at Grubb’s Crossroads Johnson was blinded, and the command retreated into Tennessee. At some point Duke and the others fell in with Colonel J. Q. Chenoweth’s 16th Kentucky Cavalry, also of Johnson’s command. At Paris Tennessee, he was ordered to return to Kentucky and gather stragglers etc. and was captured. General H. B. Lyon replaced Johnson in command of the Brigade. After taking the oath in June of 1865, Charlton G. Duke was released from prison and returned to Kentucky owning a farm near Hopkinsville. He was a member of Camp #241 of the U.C.V.

Others mentioned; with historical corrections :

John W. Duke (his brother) was Sgt. Major of Company A, Sypert’s 13th Kentucky Cavalry.

B. F. Wallace was Captain of Company G, Sypert’s13th Kentucky Cavalry.

Lindsey Duke Buckner was a Captain in Colonel Chenoweth’s 16th Kentucky Cavalry. He was executed with three others, in Jeffersontown KY. October 25, 1864, by a firing squad from company B, 26th Kentucky Infantry (Burbridge’s own regiment). Historian, Nancy Hitt marked his gravesite in Green County with a Confederate headstone in 2001.

Wilson P. Lilly had formerly served in company G, 1st Missouri Volunteer Infantry. General Burbridge had ordered all Missourian’s in Kentucky to leave. Lilly most likely was arrested for failure to comply.
Executed 10/25/64.

Reverend Sherwood Hatley had been forwarded to Louisville after his arrest in Bowling Green, a month previously. Executed 10/25/64 (age 70?).

William C.” Dock” Blincoe served in Company D, 2nd Kentucky Cavalry Regiment. Executed 10/25/64
Historian, Nancy Hitt marked his grave with a Confederate headstone at the Bates burial-ground near Lewisport in 2001.

Further research is needed to identify Ed Baker.

Sources other than those mentioned above
Typewritten muster by S. D. Lynn, of Sypert’s and Chenoweth’s Kentucky Cavalry
Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kentucky civil war vol.2 Confederate
The Union Regiments of Kentucky: Captain T. Speed
The Atonement of John Brooks : J. Head
Research compiled by the author Stewart Cruickshank

Originally printed in the Fall 2007 publication of The Lost Cause

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