History of Kentucky Governors

Kentucky Governors and Elections

THOMAS BRAMLETTE

1863-1867

            Amidst the Civil War, Kentucky elected a Democrat who espoused the Union cause.  Thomas Elliot Bramlette was born in 1817, in the part of Cumberland County which later was split off to become Clinton County .  He was the son of Colonel Ambrose Bramlette and Sarah Elliot Bramlette who had immigrated to Kentucky from Virginia.

            After studying law, Bramlette was admitted to the practice of law in 1837 at age 20 in Louisville.  That same year he married Sallie Travis with whom he had two children, Corrinne and Thomas.

            He returned to Clinton County and was elected in 1841 to the Kentucky House of Representatives.  In 1848, Governor Crittenden appointed him Commonwealth Attorney. He resigned that position in 1850 in order to resume the practice of law in Columbia.  In 1856, he was elected as a judge for Kentucky’s 8th Judicial Circuit a post he held until his resignation in 1861 when he accepted a commission in the Union Army as a colonel in the 3rd Kentucky Infantry.

            Bramlette resigned his commission in the army to accept President Lincoln’s appointment to become the U.S. Attorney for the District of Kentucky in July 1862.  In that position, Bramlette enforced wartime laws against Confederates and Confederate sympathizers.

            Bramlette’s opponent in the 1863 election was former Governor Charles “The Duke” Wickliffe.  There were complaints about the election as Union forces which occupied the state were said to have intimidated supporters of Wickliffe.  As a result, Bramlette won the election by a 4 to 1 margin.

            Bramlette assumed office as a staunch supporter of the Union cause and President Lincoln even though he supported the institution of slavery.  His support of Lincoln changed with in a year of taking of becoming Governor due to the “reign of terror” of General Burbridge.

 

In February 1864, General Stephen Gano Burbridge was appointed commander of the Military District of Kentucky upon the recommendation of Governor Thomas Bramlette (which he soon regretted).  General Stephen Burbridge, a native of Georgetown, Kentucky, had been appointed temporary Commander of the Military District of Kentucky had been given the authority by General Henry Halleck to declare any part or all of the state of Kentucky under martial law.

 

   Prior to making Burbridge’s appointment as commander permanent on August 7, 1864, President Lincoln suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus and declared martial law in Kentucky on July 5, 1864. Due to the ongoing guerilla warfare being waged by Confederate guerillas, Burbridge issued the infamous Order 59 on August 14, 1864.

 

            With Order 59, Burbridge deported or arrested alleged Confederate sympathizers found to be living within five miles of a guerilla attack.   This resulted in many Kentuckians seeking refuge in Canada and an estimated 30,000 Kentuckians arrested and/or imprisoned.  This included the arrests of Kentucky’s Lt. Governor, Chief Justice and former and future Governor Helm.

 

            Additionally, Burbridge seized the property of Confederate sympathizers to pay either the government or citizens for property damaged or destroyed by guerilla raiders.  Burbridge also decreed that whenever an unarmed Union citizen was murdered, four Confederates in the custody of the Union would be selected for execution at a public location near the site where the Union citizen was killed.  Captured guerillas, legitimate Confederate prisoners and loyal Union citizens who could not meet Burbridge’s loyalty test were summarily shot in Louisville, Williamstown, Maysville, Midway, Jeffersontown, Morganfield, Munfordville and Pleasureville as well as Brandenburg. The actions of Burbridge were said to have caused Bramlette to exclaimed, “the state was bloodily baptized into the Confederacy” by the Lincoln Administration.

           

            In October 1864, due to the steep increase in prices for pigs and pork products, Burbridge ordered farmers or owners of hogs to sell them to the Union Army or specially selected meat packers in Louisville at below market prices.  Kentucky pork producers at the time would often market their hogs to markets in Cincinnati, just across the Ohio River from Covington and Newport, in order to take advantage of competitive prices for their pork.  Cincinnati at the time was the nation’s largest market for hogs and pork products.  Burbridge ordered soldiers from the Newport Barracks to guard the Ohio River against farmers and others from crossing the river in order to take their hogs to market in Cincinnati.

           

Governor Bramlette protested to Lincoln about Burbridge preventing Kentucky’s farmers from getting fair market price for their products.  By the end of November 1864, Burbridge’s order preventing farmers from taking their pigs to market in Cincinnati, but only after Kentucky pork producers lost as much as $300,000 as a result of what was known as the “Great Hog Swindle.”

 

            The last incident of Burbridge’s “Reign of Terror” was his attempt in early 1865 to take over militia troops under the control of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and its Governor, Thomas Bramlette.  Burbridge ordered all state troops to deposit their weapons at the state armory in Frankfort.  This was the last straw for Governor Bramlette.  He wired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton:

 

            This unwarranted assumption of power by an imbecile

               commander is doubtless instigated by those who have

              long sought to provoke an issue with the State, and which

               I have prevented.”

 

            On February 10, 1865, Lincoln relieved Burbridge of his command and replaced him with Major General John M. Palmer of Illinois The Louisville –Journal in making the announcement said:  “Thank God and President Lincoln”.

           

            With the end of the war, Bramlette and the legislature petitioned President Andrew to end martial law in Kentucky, which Johnson did.  Bramlette pardoned most ex-Confederates.

            Bramlette achievements include the establishment of the Agricultural and Mechanical College (later to become the University of Kentucky) and the construction of turnpikes financed by state bonds.

            Following his term as Governor, he practiced law in Louisville.  After the death of his wife Sallie in 1872, he married Mary E. Graham Adams in 1874.  He died at age 58 on January 12, 1875.

            It was noted in the January 16, 1875 “Louisville Courier-Journal”, “Among the mourners at his funeral was his aged and feeble mother, who is now in her 80th year”.

 

     

THOMAS BRAMLETTE

1863-1867

            Amidst the Civil War, Kentucky elected a Democrat who espoused the Union cause.  Thomas Elliot Bramlette was born in 1817, in the part of Cumberland County which later was split off to become Clinton County .  He was the son of Colonel Ambrose Bramlette and Sarah Elliot Bramlette who had immigrated to Kentucky from Virginia.

            After studying law, Bramlette was admitted to the practice of law in 1837 at age 20 in Louisville.  That same year he married Sallie Travis with whom he had two children, Corrinne and Thomas.

            He returned to Clinton County and was elected in 1841 to the Kentucky House of Representatives.  In 1848, Governor Crittenden appointed him Commonwealth Attorney. He resigned that position in 1850 in order to resume the practice of law in Columbia.  In 1856, he was elected as a judge for Kentucky’s 8th Judicial Circuit a post he held until his resignation in 1861 when he accepted a commission in the Union Army as a colonel in the 3rd Kentucky Infantry.

            Bramlette resigned his commission in the army to accept President Lincoln’s appointment to become the U.S. Attorney for the District of Kentucky in July 1862.  In that position, Bramlette enforced wartime laws against Confederates and Confederate sympathizers.

            Bramlette’s opponent in the 1863 election was former Governor Charles “The Duke” Wickliffe.  There were complaints about the election as Union forces which occupied the state were said to have intimidated supporters of Wickliffe.  As a result, Bramlette won the election by a 4 to 1 margin.

            Bramlette assumed office as a staunch supporter of the Union cause and President Lincoln even though he supported the institution of slavery.  His support of Lincoln changed with in a year of taking of becoming Governor due to the “reign of terror” of General Burbridge.

 

In February 1864, General Stephen Gano Burbridge was appointed commander of the Military District of Kentucky upon the recommendation of Governor Thomas Bramlette (which he soon regretted).  General Stephen Burbridge, a native of Georgetown, Kentucky, had been appointed temporary Commander of the Military District of Kentucky had been given the authority by General Henry Halleck to declare any part or all of the state of Kentucky under martial law.

 

   Prior to making Burbridge’s appointment as commander permanent on August 7, 1864, President Lincoln suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus and declared martial law in Kentucky on July 5, 1864. Due to the ongoing guerilla warfare being waged by Confederate guerillas, Burbridge issued the infamous Order 59 on August 14, 1864.

 

            With Order 59, Burbridge deported or arrested alleged Confederate sympathizers found to be living within five miles of a guerilla attack.   This resulted in many Kentuckians seeking refuge in Canada and an estimated 30,000 Kentuckians arrested and/or imprisoned.  This included the arrests of Kentucky’s Lt. Governor, Chief Justice and former and future Governor Helm.

 

            Additionally, Burbridge seized the property of Confederate sympathizers to pay either the government or citizens for property damaged or destroyed by guerilla raiders.  Burbridge also decreed that whenever an unarmed Union citizen was murdered, four Confederates in the custody of the Union would be selected for execution at a public location near the site where the Union citizen was killed.  Captured guerillas, legitimate Confederate prisoners and loyal Union citizens who could not meet Burbridge’s loyalty test were summarily shot in Louisville, Williamstown, Maysville, Midway, Jeffersontown, Morganfield, Munfordville and Pleasureville as well as Brandenburg. The actions of Burbridge were said to have caused Bramlette to exclaimed, “the state was bloodily baptized into the Confederacy” by the Lincoln Administration.

           

            In October 1864, due to the steep increase in prices for pigs and pork products, Burbridge ordered farmers or owners of hogs to sell them to the Union Army or specially selected meat packers in Louisville at below market prices.  Kentucky pork producers at the time would often market their hogs to markets in Cincinnati, just across the Ohio River from Covington and Newport, in order to take advantage of competitive prices for their pork.  Cincinnati at the time was the nation’s largest market for hogs and pork products.  Burbridge ordered soldiers from the Newport Barracks to guard the Ohio River against farmers and others from crossing the river in order to take their hogs to market in Cincinnati.

           

Governor Bramlette protested to Lincoln about Burbridge preventing Kentucky’s farmers from getting fair market price for their products.  By the end of November 1864, Burbridge’s order preventing farmers from taking their pigs to market in Cincinnati, but only after Kentucky pork producers lost as much as $300,000 as a result of what was known as the “Great Hog Swindle.”

 

            The last incident of Burbridge’s “Reign of Terror” was his attempt in early 1865 to take over militia troops under the control of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and its Governor, Thomas Bramlette.  Burbridge ordered all state troops to deposit their weapons at the state armory in Frankfort.  This was the last straw for Governor Bramlette.  He wired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton:

 

            This unwarranted assumption of power by an imbecile

               commander is doubtless instigated by those who have

              long sought to provoke an issue with the State, and which

               I have prevented.”

 

            On February 10, 1865, Lincoln relieved Burbridge of his command and replaced him with Major General John M. Palmer of Illinois The Louisville –Journal in making the announcement said:  “Thank God and President Lincoln”.

           

            With the end of the war, Bramlette and the legislature petitioned President Andrew to end martial law in Kentucky, which Johnson did.  Bramlette pardoned most ex-Confederates.

            Bramlette achievements include the establishment of the Agricultural and Mechanical College (later to become the University of Kentucky) and the construction of turnpikes financed by state bonds.

            Following his term as Governor, he practiced law in Louisville.  After the death of his wife Sallie in 1872, he married Mary E. Graham Adams in 1874.  He died at age 58 on January 12, 1875.

            It was noted in the January 16, 1875 “Louisville Courier-Journal”, “Among the mourners at his funeral was his aged and feeble mother, who is now in her 80th year”.