The War Between the States pitted brother against brother, and nowhere was this division more apparent than in the border state of Kentucky – where family lines were often the battle lines. “Civil War: My Brother, My Enemy,” examines how Kentucky’s distinctive physical and political positioning led to deep and lasting divisions among families and friends.
It opens Saturday, June 2, at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History in downtown Frankfort and runs through Saturday, Dec. 8.
"The exhibition delves into the divisions in Kentucky before, during and after the war. Instead of battles and generals, “My Brother, My Enemy” looks at the conflicts between family and what the war meant to them. More than any other state, Kentucky embodied the conflicts over slavery that tore the nation apart. The exhibition covers Kentucky’s geographic and political importance during all phases of the conflict – from Henry Clay’s efforts to prevent a war over slavery, to post war racial politics," says KHS Director of Museums and Exhibition Trevor Jones.
“My Brother, My Enemy” is an original exhibit by the Frazier History Museum in Louisville. Artifacts include a casket wagon once used by Cave Hill Cemetery to reinter soldiers, an exceptionally rare enlisted soldier’s uniform, slave documents and plantation horns, as well as a number of dresses, flags, surgical tools, horse tack, letters, photos and other personal objects.
"The exhibit includes items from famous people like Mary Todd Lincoln, whose own family was strongly divided by the war," Jones continues. (Her gloves, broach and an infant garment she made for her son Robert are all included). "However, artifacts belonging to ordinary Kentuckians make up the bulk of the exhibition. A great story is that of Major John L. Davidson from Todd County whose uniform is on display. Brothers John and Frank Davidson both joined the army – John joined the Union, Frank the Confederacy. Frank was captured in 1864 and survived the war but because of his Confederate service he was never again mentioned in family letters. John was killed shortly after enlisting and his slave returned both his body and his uniform to his family. John had fathered twin sons by an African American woman, but the family never mentioned them either. The Davidson story captures the divisions in Kentucky, the carnage of the war and the complex racial issues that its people wrestled with – John Davidson and most of his family supported the Union, but his family owned slaves. John’s only children had an African American mother, but they were never acknowledged by the family."
The exhibit was designed with students in mind and incorporate a number of interactive features, including elements created to work with smartphones, touch-screen stations that allow visitors to engage with the exhibit via custom apps and other hands-on activities.
“My Brother, My Enemy” is made possible by a federal grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. It is also sponsored by Brown-Forman, Forcht Bank, WKYT-TV, WLAP-AM and The State Journal.