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Adair Soldier refused to apologize to the President

By Vonnie Kolbenschlag

Kentucky has produced few characters so remarkable as Adair County's Col. Frank Lane Wolford, leader of the U.S. 1st Kentucky Cavalry. Considered by many to be the outstanding Kentuckian in the Civil War; he is known for bravery, leadership, devotion to his men, and for his staunch stand for the principles in which he believed, as evidenced by Wolford's refusal to apologize to President Lincoln for a speech that was considered by his superiors to be insubordinate.

Born in Adair County, Frank Lane Wolford had an average frontier education. He studied by firelight, was largely self taught, and became one of the best criminal lawyers in Green River area.

He was physically strong, with an unusual mental and moral strength - but a twinkle in his eye. He had a good sense of humor and did not try to be anyone but himself. Uniforms were not to his taste and his clothes often were ill fit. He married for a second time after death of his first wife and had a total of 11 children, not all of whom lived to be adults. He never swore, drank, smoked or chewed tobacco.

Wolford fought and was wounded in the Mexican War. He carried the mortally wounded Henry Clay, Jr., son of the great Kentucky statesman, from the battle field.

Wolford received Lincolns pledge that the purpose of the Civil War was only to preserve the Union, and with that pledge, to which he agreed, he helped establish Union Camp Dick Robinson in Garrard County (August 1861) and recruited the 1st Kentucky Cavalry, often at his own expense without government reimbursement.

He fought in over 300 fights and skirmishes in Kentucky and Tennessee and was wounded seven times during his three years service in the Civil War. He took part in all the chases after Confederate General John Hunt Morgan in Morgans raids into Kentucky and beyond. Wolford is said to have led every advance and brought up the rear in every withdrawal.

Wolford refused to confiscate rebel property when ordered to do so by a superior because he said he was in the army to fight, not to steal. He believed private property of both friends and foes should be protected, and told his men that no person could be a thief or marauder and be a true soldier.

Wolford was honored in 1864 for outstanding leadership. He was given a ceremonial sword, sash, spurs and pistols. He took the occasion to speak out against recruiting African-Americans who were slaves.

He doubted this act of recruiting slaves, though passed by Congress, was constitutional. In his opinion, it should have been a matter for the courts, not the Congress. He believed recruiting slaves was contrary to the cited initial cause for going to war. He said he felt the United States was being crucified between thieves - the authorities in Richmond and in Washington.

His speech was considered by his superiors to be insubordinate, and he was dishonorably discharged but told he could be reinstated as a colonel if he apologized to President Lincoln.

Wolford would not apologize to the president because he said he had the freedom to speak, had broken no law, and had given no encouragement to the enemy. He tried to return to the 1st Kentucky as a private, but had too many wounds to qualify for service

Elected to state and federal government positions after the war, Wolford tried to bring healing to the nation by supporting amnesty for soldiers who fought for the Confederacy.

Colonel Frank Lane Wolford died at home on Greensburg Street in Columbia, and his funeral was held in the Adair County courthouse because the crowd was too large for any church. He is buried in the Columbia City Cemetery.

It is said he "Bled for the North; pled for the South."

"All my sympathies are with and all my hopes are for my country." - Colonel Frank Lane Wolford

"While the Earth remaineth, seed time and harvest shall not cease." - Colonel Frank Lane Wolford, 1817-1895, Commander, U. S. 1st Kentucky Cavalry.

Wolford strongly opposed states seceding from The Union. His 1st Kentucky Cavalry helped guard south central Kentucky and was involved in major Kentucky battles. It was the only regiment Confederate raider General John Hunt Morgan said he feared.

Wolford was a friend with Lincoln until the incident mentioned, then he became a Democrat and campaigned for McClellan. Wolford had beenarrested by an over zealous "Homeland Security Agent" - Burbridge - and put in jail. Actually Burbridge was supposed to be on the lookout for guerilla fighters who were numerous, but he took his job very seriously. Lincoln, when he found out, pardoned Wolford, buthe did not get his job as Colonel back.

Some of this information about Wolford came from"Incidents in the Life of Frank Wolford, Colonel of the 1st Kentucky Union Cavalry" by HambletonTapp. It was written in 1936 and printed in the Filson Club History Quarterly as an essay.

Vonnie Kolbenschlag is doing in-depth research and writing on the Civil War in this area. She can be reached by e-mail at: ykolben@duo-county.com


This story was posted on 2004-10-12 20:28:04
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Adair County Soldier Wolford



2004-10-12 - Columbia, KY - Photo Courtesy of Vonnie Kolbenschlag. COL. FRANK LANE WOLFORD WAS A HIGH PROFILE CHARACTER in the Civil War era. Elected to state and federal government positions after the war, Wolford tried to bring healing to the nation by supporting amnesty for soldiers who fought for the Confederacy. He died at home on Greensburg Street in Columbia, and his funeral was held in the Adair County courthouse because the crowd was too large for any church. He is buried in the Columbia City Cemetery. Click "read more" for his story.
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