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Kentucky Union Soldier Discusses the Presidential Election in the Field
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I donot know who would make the best president but I think that if the election is carried on every whare like it was in Nashville that abe will be reelected for the negroes had the same privilege of voteing that the white man has thare was 5000 of the negroes that voted for abe at Nashville

WILLIAM A. BALLEW. Autograph Letter Signed, to Thomas Hopkins, November 12, 1864, Springhill, Tennessee, 3 pp. 8vo.

Inventory #21265.30       Price: $450

Complete Transcript

                          Nov. the 12th 1864

                           Camp, Springhill, Tenn.

Dear Friend

I this eavening take the pleasure of awriteing you a few lines for the first to let you know that I am well at present truely hopeing when those few lines come to hand they may find you all well and doing well I have nothing of interest to write to you at present more than you know the buoyse is all well and harty the helth of the army in general is good Times is hard There is a great excitement in the army about the election as for my part I donot know what will be the best for the US. <2> I donot know who would make the best president but I think that if the election is carried on every whare like it was in Nashville that abe will be reelected for the negroes had the same privilege of voteing that the white man has thare was 5000 of the negroes that voted for abe at Nashville I think this is a smarte to far along the 12th carried a large majority for little mack so nomore of this you must write to me as soon as this letter comes to hand let us know how Times are in Clinton I would like very well to be in old Clinton once more the buoyse all want to see the time come when <3> they can come home louis and shelley is here and is well tell mr simpsons folks that James A is here and well tell mr Guthrie that will is well so it is gitting late and my light is dim so excuse my bad hand give my respects to Mrs Hopkins and allso to all of the family reserving for your self a portion write soon so I remain your friend until death

                                                                        William A. Ballew

To Mr Thomas Hopkins

Clinton Co Ky.

Historical Background

Mustered into service in late 1861 and January 1862, the 12th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry participated in the siege of Corinth, Mississippi, in May 1862 and was in reserve at the Battle of Perryville in October. Active in east Tennessee in 1863, it participated in General William T. Sherman’s advance on Atlanta, Georgia in the spring and summer of 1864. Following Confederate General John Bell Hood’s army into northern Alabama and central Tennessee in the fall of 1864, the 12th Kentucky was in Spring Hill, thirty miles south of Nashville, when Ballew penned this letter to a friend back home in Kentucky.

While in Nashville, the week before, Ballew and other members of the 12th Kentucky voted in the 1864 Presidential election. Although Republican incumbent President Abraham Lincoln won 75 percent of more than 40,000 army votes cast across all states that allowed their soldiers to vote in the field, Kentucky soldiers gave 70 percent of their votes to Democratic candidate George B. McClellan. Kentucky was one of only three states that McClellan carried in the election. Ballew’s home county of Clinton gave more than 90 percent of its votes to McClellan.

Ballew misunderstood what he witnessed in Nashville on election day. African Americans in Tennessee still could not vote in November 1864, but nearly 3,200 African Americans held mock elections on College Street, giving all but one of their votes for Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. In 1866, with the state’s passage of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution, African-American men received the right to vote, and more than 40,000 registered by the end of 1867.

Within the next month, the 12th Kentucky took part in the Battle of Franklin and the Battle of Nashville, which effectively destroyed Hood’s army. Early in 1865, the regiment moved to Washington, D.C., then to North Carolina, where it participated in the capture of Wilmington and the occupation of Goldsboro and Raleigh. The 12th Kentucky was mustered out of service in July 1865 at Greensboro, North Carolina.

William A. Ballew (1843-1915) was born in Clinton County, Kentucky, on the Tennessee border. He was mustered in as a private in Company C of the 12th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, on January 30, 186. He was later promoted to corporal. In March 1866, he married Rebecca Morrison, with whom he had four children. In 1870, he was a farmer in Clinton County. By 1880, Ballew had moved his family to Lyon County, Kansas, and by 1900, to Blaine County, Oklahoma. He died in Geary, Oklahoma.

Thomas Hopkins (1798-1875) was born in Georgia. In 1823, in Wayne County, Kentucky, he married Jane Watson, with whom he had two children. She died in 1830, and he married Matilda Ryan (1807-1876) in 1834 in Clinton County, Kentucky. They had ten children between 1835 and 1851. In 1860, Hopkins was a farmer in Clinton County, where he lived with his wife and seven of his children. Two of Hopkins’ sons, Lewis F. Hopkins (1841-1921) and Granville Shelby Hopkins (1843-1925), served in Company C of the 12th Kentucky with Ballew.

James A. Simpson (1840- ) was the son of Samuel and Sally Simpson and was a farm laborer in 1860. He was mustered in as a private in Company C of the 12th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, on January 30, 1862.

William S. Guthrie (1844-1912) was mustered in as a private in Company C of the 12th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, on January 30, 1862.


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