The Civil War, Day by Day

Cavalry Charge


Grant Moves into Paducah

Though no combat occurred during Grant’s brief stay, the event altered the course of U.S. history. It not only secured a strategic foothold for the North - the junction of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers - it resulted in Kentucky’s commitment to the Union.

During the initial months of the Civil War, Kentucky maintained a neutral position. It considered itself a “border state,” tied by kinship, sympathy, and commerce to its neighbors - both north and south. However, both sides had personal reasons for wanting Kentucky: it was the common birthplace of the two opposing Chief Executives, Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis.

As the Confederates set up a defensive line and fought their way through the state, Lincoln resisted Union pressure to mount a strong defensive. Instead, he displayed tact and patience in winning his home state. Lincoln recognized Kentucky’s neutrality as a fragile situation for the Union, insisting that “to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game.”

The Union won, thanks to Grant. He gave General Charles Smith command of the Kentucky force, and returned to his headquarters in Cairo, Illinois later that day. Smith’s men would prevent the Confederates from taking Paducah - and Kentucky declared its allegiance to the Union shortly thereafter.

Mort Künstler painted this scene of “Cavalry Charge,” which typifies the cavalry action at Paducah.





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All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.