Saturday, July 8, 2017

Cromwell Home Guard Organized

Cromwell Home Guard Organized

In west central Kentucky after Lincoln’s call for troops, men and boys living near Cromwell and elsewhere in Ohio County, put down their plows and picked up their guns to defend their homes.  The Cromwell Home Guard was organized in June 1861. As members of the Guard, they were anxious to help protect their own family members and homes, and indeed, the homes all over the county, against Confederate raiders. (At least 150 men from Ohio County served in the Cromwell Home Guard. It appears that the commanding officer was Captain W. H. Porter. This unit was active about seven or eight months and many of these men subsequently enlisted in the Union Army. See my blog posted August 13, 2012 for a list of names of members of the Cromwell Home Guard.)

            The Cromwell Home Guard guarded ferries, constructed bridges, and sabotaged and destroyed Rebel obstructions.  The Guard became an important source of information to Union troops about the enemy forces.  One of their most significant jobs was keeping Union troops informed about the size and moves of Confederate forces in the area.  The Home Guard from Cromwell was also a constant menace to active Confederate couriers in the area, who often carried supplies, messages and intelligence of updated strength and disposition. The Cromwell Home Guard took pride in their jobs to try to foil the Rebel ambitions, and they became recognized by Union leaders for their daring and courage in west central Kentucky.

Less than a year after joining two members of the unit were taken prisoner while on duty near Borah’s Ferry on New Year’s Day 1862, in Ohio County.  They were carried off and put in a Confederate prison in Maryland, and later were to be exchanged at Aiken’s Landing, Virginia

Subsequent research at the National Archives verified that Thomas Smith was a member of the Cromwell Home Guard when he was taken prisoner by Confederate troops January 1, 1862, at a point between Borah’s Ferry on Green River and Bowling Green, Warren County, Kentucky.  He and his friend, James A. Stevens, who were guarding the ferry together, were captured and carried off by the Confederates.  James A. Stevens and Thomas Smith were later paroled from prison at Aiken’s Landing, below Dutch Gap on the James River, Virginia, on September 14, 1862, as of Company E., 15th Kentucky.  Thomas later died in a prison hospital at Annapolis, Maryland, November 16, 1862, while waiting to be sent home.

James Axley Stevens, captured along with Thomas Smith on New Year’s Day, 1862, survived the war and returned home to Ohio County.  Born in 1817, he was the son of Henry Stevens and Hannah Bennett, both of whom are said to have come to Ohio County, from Montgomery County, Maryland.

The Stevens and Smith families appear to be closely connected and some of the families may have intermarried.  Almost five years later, on the 21st day of October, 1869, Thomas Smith’s friend, James A. Stevens, gave an affidavit, along with several others, on behalf of and for the benefit of Kitty Ann Smith (widow of Thomas Smith), when she was trying to obtain a widow’s pension.  In this affidavit, James declared and made oath:

            “that he and Thomas Smith were both members of Capt. William H. Porter’s Company of Home Guards, and that on the 1st day of January, a squad of the company were guarding Borah’s Ferry on Green River by order of Colonel McHenry of the 17th, who was then at Hartford, and the Rebels then held Bowling Green and the ferry way between those points, and that the squad was captured by the Rebels, and affiant and Smith were retained in custody until 15th Sept. 1862 when they were paroled and sent to Annapolis, Md.  Smith was sick at the time they were paroled, and Thomas was sent to a hospital and died there of diahrrea (sic) which disease he caught while a captive.”

            Kitty Ann (Jenkins) Smith, then age 32, was never to see her husband again. She was left with a small farm near Cromwell and the duty of raising their five young children, ranging in age from six months to eleven years.  She eventually obtained a widow’s pension by a special Act of Congress.  It took a special Act because her husband was in the Home Guards, and not a soldier in the regular U. S. Army.  But, because the Home Guard militia had been ordered out by Col. John McHenry of the 17th Kentucky Regiment, Thomas Smith’s duty at Borah’s Ferry was considered to be active war service.  She was granted a pension of $8.00 per month as shown in the Special Act of Congress below:

CHAP. CDXXIV. — An Act granting a Pension to Kitty A. Smith:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Secretary of the Interior be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to place upon the pension roll,  subject to the provisions and limitations of the pension laws, the name of Kitty A. Smith, widow  of  Thomas  Smith,  late  a  private  in  the Ohio county, Kentucky, home guards,  and  pay  her  a  pension  at  the  rate of eight dollars per month from the passage of this act. 

Approved, March 3, 1873.

Submitted  by Janice Cox Brown, Coppell, Texas

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