Civil War Days home at one time belonged to noted war supporter
by Thomas Harper, Columnist
Mar 23, 2011 | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On April 12, 2011, the National Park Service will launch four years of events marking the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. The first shot of the War Between the States rang out from Fort Sumter, South Carolina in the early morning hours of April 12, 1861, and ignited the bloodiest war in our nation’s history. The approaching anniversary of the war (2011-1015) offers Americans an important opportunity to know, discuss, and commemorate our country’s greatest national crisis and to explore its enduring relevance in the 21st century. For more information about the Civil War, and opportunities to attend special events at historic sites, visit the National Park Service website at www.nps.gov/civilwar.

Local residents and Civil War enthusiasts stepped back in time during the Trigg County Civil War Days which were held at the West Cadiz Park, March 18, 19 and 20. Re-enactors dressed in Union and Confederate military uniforms along with other participants in a variety of period clothing, began setting-up camp in Cadiz on Thursday evening. Following a day of demonstrations for local school children on Friday, the opposing sides were more than ready for the “Battle of Dover Road” Saturday afternoon. Hundreds of visitors enjoyed tours of the camp, artillery demonstrations, and story tellers and of course the battles on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

West Cadiz Park is a fitting location for the Trigg County Civil War Days as one of Kentucky’s most notable supporters of the Southern cause once resided on land that is now a portion of the park. Henry Cornelius Burnett (1825-1866), son of Dr. Isaac and Martha Garrett Burnett, was born in Virginia, and moved to Trigg County when he was a young boy. Educated in the common schools of the community, and later the Christian Academy in Hopkinsville, Burnett went on to study law and was admitted to the bar in 1847. He established his practice in Cadiz, and later that same year he married Mary A. Terry, daughter of Abner and Eleanor Dyer Terry, also of Cadiz. The children of Abner and Eleanor Terry provide a fine example of a civil war era “house divided,” with sons and sons-in-law serving in high government and military positions on both sides of the dispute, and will be discussed in a future column.

Henry C. Burnett was elected clerk of the Trigg County Circuit Court in 1850, but resigned the post in 1853 to run for the United States House of Representatives. He was elected to the Thirty-fourth Congress and was re-elected to the three succeeding Congresses. Burnett supported Kentuckian John Breckinridge for president in 1860, but Breckinridge lost to Abraham Lincoln. Although Lincoln had no plans to abolish slavery in the United States, he did oppose the expansion of slavery beyond the states where it already existed. Southerners viewed Lincoln’s position on the expansion of slavery as a violation of the constitutional rights of the states to make such determinations on their own, and his election resulted in the succession of the southern states from the Union. Congressman Burnett was a staunch supporter of the Southern cause, and was quoted in Paducah’s Tri-Weekly Herald as having declared that “There is not the slightest hope of any settlement or adjustment of existing troubles.”

Burnett not only championed the Southern cause in Congress, but he also worked within Kentucky to encourage the state’s support of the Confederacy. Ultimately, he presided over a sovereignty convention in Russellville and then travelled to Richmond, Virginia to secure Kentucky’s admission into the Confederate States of America. Burnett also raised a Confederate regiment at Hopkinsville, and served in the Confederate Army for a short time. These subversive actions did not go unnoticed in Washington D.C., and when Congress reconvened in the winter of 1861, a resolution was passed and Henry Cornelius Burnett of Trigg County, Kentucky became one of only five members in the history of the United States to be expelled from the House of Representatives. The charges against Burnett included treason and subversion, crimes for which he could have been executed. Following the war, Burnett, like nearly all the Confederate leadership was pardoned and only one man, Captain Henry Wirz, was executed.

Have you ever wondered about the history of Trigg County? Drop me a line at trigghistory@gmail.com with your questions or suggestions for future columns. In the words of the great Kentuckian, Abraham Lincoln, “History is not history unless it is the truth.”
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