Letter from Camp Boone, August 1861
Camp Boone, Tenn.
As I have a considerable acquaintance in Kentucky, I desire to make some truthful statements with regard to Camp Boone:
1. The camp is situated in a healthy, cool, and picturesque location, and is kept as clean as a parlor floor.
2. The men have plenty to eat and are well satisfied with their food and quarters.
3. There is no dissatisfaction with officers existing among the men.
4. The farmers surrounding the camp are daily sending the soldiers all kinds of vegetables and fresh meat.
5. I have heard the oath administered to the men, and there is not a word in it relating to Kentucky. If the dominant party in Kentucky will preserve their "neutrality," they will never be visited by the soldiers of Camp Boone; but if an attempt is made to carry guns to the ignorant and deluded Union men of Tennessee, then such a purpose will be resisted by this brigade.
I make the above statements from personal observation. Since the election every train has brought in from 50 to 100 men. The 2nd and 3rd Regiments number over 2000 men, and a 4th is being formed, to be commanded by Col. Trabue. About 600 men have been accepted for the 4th Regiment.
Each regiment of the brigade is accompanied by a full brass band, and an abundance of field music has been provided. The soldiers are rapidly progressing in the drill - even now perform the evolutions in a very creditable manner.
(excerpted from the Louisville Daily Courier, Aug. 20, 1861, p.14; copy courtesy Jimmie Epling)
The "oath" referred to was the Oath of Enlistment as a Confederate soldier. This oath was based on that appearing in pre-war US Army regulations, and required loyalty to the Confederate States (so that Kentucky nor any other state was mentioned). The Federal authorities had begun to arm Union men in Kentucky as early as June 1861, in violation of Kentucky's declared neutrality, and the Confederates expected that they might try to also arm Union men in East Tennessee. "Liberation" of East Tennessee was certainly a major desire of Union strategy in the area in 1861 and 1862.
The election for state government in August 1861 resulted in a decided Union majority in the legislature, prompting an exodus of Southern-minded Kentuckians to Camps Boone and Burnett, and other Confederate recruiting locations. This Unionist legislature would very soon put an official end to neutrality, allowing the Federal authorities to openly recruit, train, and arm military units within the state. In early September, both Confederate and Federal forces moved into the state, putting a final end to its fragile neutrality.
For further info, see our article on Camps Boone and Burnett.
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