Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 24.djvu/308
Southern Historical Society Papers.
viewed in the beginning, it soon became palpable that the continuance of Kentucky's attitude of neutrality would estop if not prove entirely fatal to Union designs for the suppression of the war.
This neutral zone, if maintained inviolable, raised an impassable barrier between the North and the most vulnerable points of the new Confederacy, absolutely closed up the most available routes of invasion. It was a most absurd arrangement, if carried beyond a mere makeshift to soothe the people of Kentucky. All the advantages of such an arrangement accrued to the South, which merely asked to be let alone; the Confederates had no purpose to invade the North. Buckner's penetrating mind divined this, and no doubt that is why he entered the field of diplomacy and sought the conference with McClellan. If he really made a deal with the Union general, he clearly had the best of the bargain.
McClellan positively denied the existence of any pledge on his part to respect the neutrality of Kentucky. The publication of Buckner's letter to Magoffin threw him into a great heat, and his utterances display anxiety, because it was clear that he had taken a false step, which must be condemned by the Northern public. In his personal memoirs, issued in 1887, he takes pains to explain in detail his version of the Buckner interview. He says:"The object of the interview was simply that we, as old friends, should compare views and see if we could do any good; thus I understood it. Buckner's main purpose seemed to be to ascertain what I should do in the event that Kentucky should be invaded by the secession forces, then collecting under General Pillow. Buckner was very anxious that the Federal forces should respect the neutrality of Kentucky, and stated that he would do his best to preserve it, and drive Pillow out should he cross the boundary line. I could assent to this only to the extent that I should be satisfied if the Kentuckians would immediately drive out any Confederate force that might invade Kentucky, and -continued, almost in these very words: 'You had better be very quick about it, Simon, for if I learn that the Confederates are in Kentucky, I will, with or without orders, drive them out without delay.' I expressly told Buckner that I had no power to guarantee the neutrality of Kentucky, and that, although my command did not extend over it, I would not tolerate the presence of Southern troops in that State. Not many days afterward I met Buckner again at Cairo, and had a conversation with him in presence of John M. Douglass, of Chicago. Buckner had just then