Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 24.djvu/307

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299
Buckner and McClellan.

and McClellan had unexpected interest and importance. It is evident that the Kentuckian was acting in good faith in the belief that he had a solemn agreement with the Union General that the State's neutrality was to be respected. At a later meeting of the two at Cairo, Ill., he gave McClellan the substance of an interview he had at Memphis with Pillow regarding the subject of neutrality. It is certain that he visited Pillow, and it was generally understood that through Buckner's representations an immediate advance by the Southern forces into Kentucky was prevented.

It would seem to be improbable on the face of it that Buckner volunteered his word of honor as a representative of Magoffin and the rampant secessionists of Kentucky, to keep out Pillow's Tennesseeans without receiving from the Union commander some pledge in return to carry back to them, some corresponding concession. That McClellan fully understood Buckner to be clothed with the necessary power or influence to prevent Pillow's advance is admitted in his protest of June nth, which in some sort also confirms the probability of a mutual agreement wherein it alludes to "our understanding," although, of course, there may have been a jug-handle arrangement in which Buckner promised everything and McClellan nothing. Buckner being confident meanwhile that under existing conditions the Federals would commit no overt act, anyhow. But, inasmuch as there was then and for long afterwards no advance of the Union troops, McClellan's quick and curt protest at a threatened infringement of "our understanding" by the other side certainly warrants the belief, aside from Buckner's statement, that some comforting assurances were given him. Buckner, it is clear, could have no object in deluding his party.

What gave the Cincinnati interview peculiar significance was the appearance in the public press a few weeks later of a letter from Buckner to Magoffm, stating that he had entered into a specific agreement with McClellan at the Cincinnati conference that Kentucky's neutrality was to be maintained by both sides. Hence, that Buckner, who McClellan himself states was the soul of honor, believed there was such an understanding, is beyond the shadow of doubt. That there was a very general understanding that such stipulations existed is also certain. There is, in fact, no dispute that there was on the part of the Federal authorities, or its Western commanders, at least a tacit recognition of Kentucky's neutrality, lasting through several months. However, its expediency may have been