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COLUMN: Those good Union men

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By Tom Watson

During the Civil War (1861-1865), Taylorsville, Bloomfield, Lebanon and several other communities were generally known as “Rebel Towns.”
A woman, not from Taylorsville, told me recently that when she was a teenager, her mother wouldn’t let her date Taylorsville boys or even visit the town after dark because it had a bad reputation.
Of course, we Taylorsvillians always thought other towns were rough and as teenagers, some of us found out which ones, the hard way. I always let my friends do the fighting. I was too busy for such nonsense (blush).
I’ve always thought that if Taylorsville had a bad reputation, it probably began in the latter stages of the Civil War when it was overrun by Confederate guerrillas.
The judge advocate when Louisville was occupied by thousands of Union troops during the war was William H. Coyl.
“Spencer and Marion counties stand out prominently as having more and meaner traitors (Southern sympathizers) and fewer loyal men than any other counties in the state,” Coyl was quoted as saying during a guerrilla trial after the war.
Now, come on, Coyl! Bloomfield had just as many good old Rebels!
My great, great grandpa Tom Watson lived up Salt River about a mile and a half from Taylorsville and I’ve read in some rare transcripts that he fed a few Confederate guerrillas, but possibly not because he was eager to do it. Does that make my family Rebel? My cousin Joseph Watson was a Spencer County jailer and I believe he signed up local boys for the Union Army.
Does that make my family Yankee? I can’t find any record of any of my close kin fighting for either side. They were too busy.
Just to prove we had some good Union men in Taylorsville, let’s take a look at this article from The Louisville Daily Journal, Friday, March 6, 1863.
“UNION MEETING IN SPENCER COUNTY
“At a meeting of the Union Democracy of Spencer County, held pursuant to notice, at the Courthouse in Taylorsville, on Monday the 2nd day of March, 1863, on motion Capt. John Cochran was called to the chair. and Thomas J. Barker was appointed secretary. (TSW–Barker was an undertaker. Probably a good man to serve on a Union group in Taylorsville just in case his skills were needed).
“The objects of the meeting having been explained by the chairman, on motion D. R. (David Roselle) Poignand; Mark E. Huston, Jonathan Davis (Spencer County Judge); James M. Tichenor; A. C. Kincheloe, Dr. James J. Heady (father of the incredible blind poet, musician, inventor and author James Morrison Heady); Richard Conner and Bannister Stodghill were appointed a committee to draft resolutions expressive of the sentiments of the meeting, and also to select delegates to attend the Union Democratic convention, which is to assemble on the 18th day of March, in the city of Louisville.
“Whereupon said committee after a brief retirement, returned to the convention, through their chairman M. E. Huston, the following resolutions:
“l. Resolved, That we reaffirm our unalterable devotion to the Union, the Constitution of Kentucky and the Constitution of the United States, in the provisions of which instruments we recognize no warrant for the doctrine of the secessionists or the higher law of abolitionists. And that the Emancipation Proclamation of the President of the 1st January, 1863, is unconstitutional, unwise and impolitic. (TSW–What the heck Abe, four out of five ain’t bad for Taylorsville.)
“2. Resolved, That to the con- vention to be held on the 18th of March, 1863, in the city of Louisville, we, reposing confidence in the patriotism of our countrymen, Mark E. Huston, J. Davis, Dr. James J. Heady, James M. Tichenor, Robert Cochran, Gilbert Glass, Edward D. Massee (TSW–it was actually spelled Massey and he was later murdered by Rebel guerrillas); A. C. Kincheloe, M. N. Murray, D. R. Poignand, Joseph B. Cox (Spencer circuit clerk); Capt. John Cochran, Thomas J. Barker, J. J. Wood, Samuel Ruble and Major Holloway, delegate them severally and jointly to represent us in said convention.
“3. Resolved, That the proceedings of this meeting be published in the Louisville Journal and (Louisville) Democrat, JNO. COCHRAN, Chairman; T. J. Barker, Secretary.”
So, it appears these good ‘ole Union boys wanted to have their cake and eat it too. Or in this case, support the Union led by Republican President Abe Lincoln, but denounce the Emancipation Proclamation and keep their slaves.