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The Dark and Bloody Ground of Civil War Kentucky
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“When you find him out for me just tell him to write to me your say so is sufficient recommendation if he is not worth a dollar I don’t care so he does not drink whiskey to and excel play cards and has business qualifications I want the jewel to consist of himself. I want him to be handsome intelligent polite good natured no profusion of fob chaines necktie or big words need apply for they cannot fill my eye” (Harriet Binford, May 11, 1860)

 “the banks have nearly all suspended and what little money a person can get is doubled and discounted.... gloom and despair seems to have over every branch of business … yesterday we had a very large meeting of the citizens of this County to have an expression of their feelings and greatly to my surprise about half were in favor of a disolution of the union and thereby destroying the fairest fabric ever reard by mortal hands and on that I consider second only to the religion we profess I consider that all that this country has suffered by all the plagues pestilence and bankrupsy as small in comparison to a disolution of this union” (Josiah Parker, November 30, 1860)

 “we are at this time just about half way between tow large contending armeys the one at Cairo numbers at this time I suppose about 30000 the one at New Madrid about 18000 and it was expected yesterday that they would meet in Misouria.... we are in daily expectation when we will have an army in this part of Kentucky perhaps and most likely at Hickman it is thought that as soon as the election is over which is tomorrow that there will be something disisive done in Kentucky I fear she has waited to long for it is now thought that she will again become the dark and bloody ground which if it should will be fearful to contemplate....”  (Josiah Parker, August 4, 1861)

CIVIL WAR—KENTUCKY. 24 Autograph Letters Signed (6 pre-war, 16 war-date, and 2 post-war), to Lucy Ann Robbins Ligon, 78 pp, folio, various places including Hickman, Kentucky, Tupelo, Mississippi, and Knoxville and Memphis, Tennessee, 1856-1865. Condition good to poor, with foxing, chipped margins, light toning throughout, but several letters have good content ranging from personal and matrimonial, to political and war related.

Inventory #22562       Price: $1,950

Historical Background

A fantastic archive of Civil War era letters, revolving around Lucy Ann Parker Robbins Ligon, a young mother and widow, struggling to survive in the war-torn border between North and South, slavery and freedom. Kentucky tried to maintain neutrality at the start of the Civil War, but after an unsuccessful attempt by Confederate General Leonidas Polk to bring the state into the Confederacy by force, Kentucky petitioned the Federal government for support and remained largely under the control of the Union for the remainder of the war.

The Parker family, living in Hickman, Kentucky, along the Mississippi River in the extreme southwestern corner of the state, was divided by the conflict. Their eldest daughter Lucy lived in Arkansas, just across the river from Memphis, with her brother-in-law and her two children, after the death of her first husband. Like many border-state citizens, Judge Josiah Parker wanted to maintain the Union but feared the secession wave was irresistible. Hundreds of young men left Hickman to join the Confederate ranks. Matthew, the Parkers’ oldest son, joined the home guards before later joining the 53rd Kentucky Mounted Infantry. He was killed or died of disease late in 1864.

Lucy and her children returned to Hickman sometime in 1862 or 1863, and her brother-in-law provided for her support and that of his niece and nephew. She received at least two offers of marriage, and her brother-in-law counseled her not to marry a “secesh.” In September 1863, she wed George J. Ligon, who joined the First Kentucky Cavalry (Confederate) and was severely wounded in Mississippi. Meanwhile, Lucy received letters from her close friend Hardin W. Elsbury, who had joined the 1st Battalion of the Tennessee Light Artillery (Union) in 1863.

Lucy Ann Parker Robbins Ligon’s correspondence brings to life the divisions in the “dark and bloody ground” of Civil War Kentucky. Her father and brother-in-law supported the Union, and her brother died in the Union Army, while her second husband was a Confederate cavalryman, and her close friend was in the Union Artillery in Tennessee.

Lucy Ann Parker Robbins Ligon (1833-1891) was born in Wayne County, Tennessee. In September 1855, she married William C. Robbins in Fulton County, Kentucky, and they had two children. In 1860, she lived with her brother-in-law, C. C. Robbins, a farmer in Crittenden County, Arkansas, just west of Memphis, Tennessee, with her children Curtis, aged four, and Millie Mary, aged 2. In September 1863, she married George Jones Ligon in Fulton County, Kentucky.

William C. Robbins (d. c. 1859) married Lucy Ann Parker in September 1855, and they had two children.

George J. Ligon (1826-1902) was born in Buckingham County, Virginia, but moved with his family to Tennessee in 1847. In 1852, he traveled to California but returned in 1854, to Hickman County, Kentucky. There he married Mary E. Wilkerson in 1856. In September 1863, he married Lucy Parker, with whom he had three children. In April 1864, he enlisted in Company B, Twelfth Kentucky Cavalry (Confederate), under General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Severely wounded at Harrisburg, Mississippi, in July 1864, he was taken prisoner but was later recaptured. After the war, he was a farmer in Kentucky, until he moved to Stoddard County, Missouri, in 1872.

Josiah Parker (1811-1867) was born in Georgia. In the 1830s, he married Lucy, with whom he had at least four children. From 1854 to 1862 and again from 1866 to his death, he was the senior county judge in Fulton County, Kentucky. In 1860, he lived in Hickman and owned $3,600 in real property.

C. C. Robbins (b. 1822) was born in Tennessee. In 1860, he was a farmer in Crittenden County, Arkansas, with $4,400 in real property and $2,000 in personal property.

Hardin W. Elsbury (1839-1882) was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and in 1860, he was a farm laborer on the farm of C. C. Robbins in Crittenden County, Arkansas. In 1863, he enlisted in the 1st Battalion, Tennessee Light Artillery (Union) as a sergeant. In August 1870, he married Sarah Faulks, with whom he had five children. In 1880, he was a fisherman in Memphis, Tennessee.

Thirteen letters are written to Lucy Ann Robbins by her father, mother, and friends from Hickman, Kentucky. Dating from 1856 to 1861, they are written to her in Council Bend, Arkansas, south of Memphis, and perhaps 200 miles by river from Hickman, and later to her in Crittenden County, Arkansas, just across the river from Memphis.


Josiah Parker to his daughter Lucy Ann Robbins, May 24, 1856, with integral address leaf with 3c George Washington postage stamp:

an Irish youth was hung here on the 16th Inst and it is thought there was some 6 or 7000 persons in town that day the town is improving rapidly there is now a population of something over 2000 persons here now.” Eighteen-year-old daughter “Mary is well and the more worthless a person is the more she thinks of them which is a strange thing to me when I know she is a girl of good sense.” Twelve-year-old son “Jim is going to school and is as Lasey as any need for and rather more so

Lucy A. Parker and Josiah Parker to their daughter Lucy Ann Robbins, July [1857?]:

we had one death this summer a negro boy Beloning to Bolivar.... he dyed the ninth day of typhoid fever.... I will send you a bed and things with the wry …I have not been out of town since I recd your letter and there has not a bushel of Rye come to town. I have got one of the Wheat Buyers to get the 1st that comes to town for you but it is so low that I expect that there will none come in.

Josiah Parker to Lucy Ann Robbins, August 7, 1857:

I was sorry that you was disapointed in comeing after you had started I hope that the baby has goo well and that you and William will come soon I have been looking for you on every up river Boat for several days…times is hard hear as regards money though there is an abundant crop raising there is about 200 waggon Loads of wheat delivered hear every day.... our town is still improving it now numbers about 40000.... I will send you some things if you will let me know to what house to ship them in Memphis.

The collection includes eleven letters to Lucy Ann Robbins, when she was in Hickman, Kentucky, 1863-1865. Among them are one from admirer R. F. McKay, two from brother-in-law and Unionist C. C. Robbins, one from second husband and Confederate soldier George J. Ligon, and seven from friend and Union soldier Hardin W. Elsbury.


R. F. McKay, Memphis, TN, to Lucy Ann Robbins, February 27, 1863:

you speak of Capt Tom as a very agreeable read I prefer something else to talk about you and Capt Tom talking about matrimony I would rather it was my self and you that was talking about it....  The answer to thees few lines it lays in your power to make me misreable or happy and I will be miserable untill I get your answer / Yours most patiently....

C. C. Robbins, Memphis, TN, to his sister-in-law Lucy Ann Robbins, April 23, 1863:

I sent you a letter on the 7th with 10 dollars it and you have not anserd it yet I would of sent you more but you did not anser it and I heard that confeds were neare thar and I did not want them to get one dime of my mouney so I wated until I thot it wold cum in safety and I will send you five dollars at a time until I find that you get it tel Mr Binford to let you have enny thing that you want....

Hardin W. Elsbury, Memphis, TN, to Lucy Ann Robbins, May 29, 1863:

I have quit New madrid mo but I am fishing with Curt here at the landing but Mills is still up there.... vicksburgh is reported as being taken their is six thousand prisoners just come up from there....  give my compliments to all the girls & especialy to that little blue eyed hattie you know which one....

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