HISTORIC PATHWAYS: Taylorsville dentist descended from Civil War colonel

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By Tom Watson



 Some of us have heroes in our family trees, while others have skeletons in our closets.
Ex-Taylorsville dentist, Dr. John Edwards, is descended from a real character who was hailed as a hero and known for his unbending opinions. His great, great grandfather was Col. Franklin “Frank” Lane Wolford of the Union army.
Wolford is remembered for a variety of achievements and being an excellent cavalry leader, although he did have a disagreement with President Abraham Lincoln that cost him his job. The president wanted blacks to serve in the federal army, but Wolford didn’t think it was such a good idea.
Wolford was born in Columbia, Ky. where a historical marker has nothing but praise for him. It says: “A foremost champion of the Union, a staunch friend of the stricken South, defender of constitutional freedom. Born Columbia 1817, died 1895 and buried in city cemetery. Veteran Mexican War, leader famed First Kentucky Union Cavalry, hero of many battles, eight times wounded. Bold warrior, chivalrous foe. Renowned lawyer and orator. Member Legislature and Congress.”
Although born in Columbia, Wolford lived in Casey County for a time, part of which was during the Civil War. It was while he made his residence there that Quantrill and a band of guerrillas left Taylorsville and rode to Casey County with the intention of capturing or killing him, but when they arrived, Wolford wasn’t home.
Wolford is remembered for the longest cavalry chase in U.S. history when he led his troops in pursuit of Confederate Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan, finally catching him in Indiana. When he was captured, Morgan gave his silver spurs to the First Kentucky, Union commander, Col. Wolford.
Despite his sterling performance as a soldier and leader of men, in March 1864, Wolford was dismissed from the service because of his opposition to blacks in the Union army. He continued making speeches against the policy and word of his speeches reached Lincoln. In July, 1864 he was arrested, but Lincoln offered him a parole. In a letter to Lincoln July 30, 1864, Wolford replied to the President’s reprimand.
Wolford wrote: “Sir. I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter proposing to me a discharge from an arrest in many ways vexatious and inconvenient. Upon my signing a parole whereby I am to pledge my honor that I will not say anything that will directly or indirectly tend to delay or embarrass the employment of colored persons as soldiers, seamen or otherwise in the suppression of the rebellion so long as the U.S. government chooses to employ and use them.
“In answer to this proposal, I have frankly to say that I cannot bargain for my liberty and the exercise of my rights under any such terms. I have committed no crime. I have broken no law of my country or my state. I have not violated any military order or any of the usages of war. No word or act of mine have ever given any encouragement to the enemy. I have no sympathy with the rebellion and my sympathies are with and all my hopes are for my country.
“No sir. As much as I love liberty, I will fester in a prison and die on a gibbet before I will agree to any terms that do not abandon all charges against me and fully acknowledge my innocence. Your order charges me with disloyalty. Surely I am not disloyal. I never spoke a disloyal word in my life. Disloyalty is treason and treason is the highest crime known to the law. Your idea of an unconstitutional policy becoming necessary to the government and saving the Constitution is like killing a man to save his life.
“You annul the law to make the rebels obey it, disregard the Constitution to make them respect it, break your oath to keep them from breaking it. Surely the framers of the Constitution never intended that a president should tamper with his solemn oath and that sacred instrument in such a manner.”
—Col. Frank Wolford.
On Nov. 9, 1864, as recorded in the Official Records, Brig. Gen. N.C. McLean was ordered to “cause Lt. Gov. Richard T. Jacob and ex-Col. Frank Wolford to be quietly arrested and sent, without the privilege of communicating with any person while en route... to have them put through the lines.”
For speaking out against Lincoln, they were exiled into the Confederacy, though Wolford had fought so valiantly against the rebels.