Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 24.djvu/304
Southern Historical Society Papers.
came Adjutant-General of the State. But about two years prior to the war Buckner returned to Kentucky, and settled upon his estate near Louisville. Here he resumed his military diversions by entering upon the organization of the Kentucky State Militia, a congenial employment in which he was eminently successful, thereby making himself very popular with an influential class of his fellow-citizens. In 1861 he had become Inspector-General of the State, and commanded the Home Guards, a military organization composed mainly of the young bloods of the blue grass region whose sympathies were almost wholly with the South.
These antecedents, the critical situation of affairs which created a field for his kind of talents, his surroundings, with the additional attraction of a striking presence and a magnetic address, made Buckner, at the beginning of 1861, a very important personage in Kentucky. His interests were largely at the North, but he was opposed to coercive measures, and believed firmly in the doctrine of State rights. His course throughout was consistent and honest. To use a threadbare phrase, he had the courage of his convictions. His attitude was well understood by the partisans of both sides, and as the clouds of civil war thickened, the eyes of the Kentucky secessionists who intended to fight were turned toward Buckner as their natural chief. And their chief he became; thousands of Kentuckians followed him out of the Union who would doubtless have remained at home but for his example. The great majority of Kentuckians wished to remain at peace in the Union, but the powerful influence of Buckner, Breckenridge, Marshall and others came near taking the State out. He was assiduously courted by the Southern leaders.That Buckner's standing was high, is attested by the great esteem in which he was held by all his old military associates of Northern proclivities, who became familiar with him at West Point, and subsequently in the old army. So favorably was he regarded as a professional soldier, that strong efforts were made to bring him over. The temptations held out to him were great enough to shake any man of less strength than he. McClellan, Burnside, even the Government itself, made advances to forestall Buckner's evident intention to precipitate himself into the Confederacy. Among the unprinted archives in the War Department, is a telegram sent early in 1861 by Burnside to Buckner, adjuring him to take no steps until he could be seen personally. "I have just come from the President," telegraphed Burnside, indicating that Mr. Lincoln was willing to do