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A Reflection on the Civil War Era:
Excerpts from the Journal of Dr. John Lilly

By John Lilly, History Columnist

John M. Lilly was born in Spencer County Oct. 5, 1828 on his parents' farm near Goodwin Springs on Lilly Road. He studied medicine at St. Joseph College in Bardstown, and interned with his father, Dr. Thomas Lilly. As an adult, he chose farming instead of medicine as his life's work. He married Martha Stone on June 9, 1952 and settled on a farm near his father's.

John kept a detailed journal, or ledger, of his farming activities, and he sprinkled in comments about current events of the day.

Sometimes he wrote in this journal daily, or let a month go by with no entries.

The journal gives a rich account of life for a Spencer County farmer during the nineteenth century. Though most of his entries concerned the activities around the farm, he also had a few poignant views of the effects the Civil War had on rural life.

January 1, 1861: South Carolina seceded from the Union. There is a great feeling among the people of the southern states today to make the same action, unless the northern states make the necessary concessions. Meetings are being held all over the country demanding that the North acknowledge the rights of the South, and unless something is done speedily, the whole South will be out of the Union. Confidence has been lost in a commercial point of view, and money is very scarce; not enough money is being made in the county to pay off store bills and other bills in the neighborhood.

January 15, 1861: Mississippi has seceded and the general excitement still continues. There is no particular prospect of a settlement on the difficulty.

January 19, 1861: The political aspect of the country still looks gloomy.

June 6, 1861: Zerelda Hagan, (John's sister-in-law) wrote to us from Missouri a few days ago. She is in great trouble. Frank has been marked as a secessionist and had to leave the state. He has gone to Arkansas. We have invited him here until Kentucky becomes more settled. The federal troops have taken the government into their hands and are cleaning out the state's rights men.

October 10, 1861: Zerelda arrived from Missouri. She is well; her baby, however, is afflicted with a spinal disease; her husband, Frank Hagan, has been here several weeks.

November 22, 1861: Large numbers of federal troops are passing through Louisville to the camp on Green River.

January 1, 1862: Dire war overspreads the country. Two combating armies of over 100,000 each are in Kentucky, one at Bowling Green, commanded by Confederate officers and one at Mumfordsville, commanded by federal officers, a bloody battle eminent.

February 15, 1862: One dozen federal soldiers dined with us today. They behaved themselves very well. They belong to the First and Second Kentucky Regiment.

April 13, 1862: An account is given in the papers of a battle at Pitts Point with great destruction on both sides. The federals do not boast much over the battle. The particulars do not seem very reliable. The opinion of some is that Beauregard was more than a match for his antagonist Grant.

May 22, 1862: John Rogan, one of Col. Morgan's men, stayed with us today. He is secreting himself until he has an opportunity to return to his command.

August 6, 1861: Al Hagan arrived here yesterday. Disturbances are becoming so great that he could not stay home. The war in Missouri has become only worthy of savages.

August 11, 1862: The government has ordered the pressing of horses, which is going on in some neighborhoods.

August 14, 1861: James Crume had one horse impressed into the service of the Mounted State Services, along with others in the neighborhood. Mine were to be taken next when the order was countermanded by Gen. Boyle.


See the next History Page, in the Aug. 28 edition, for part 2 of John Lilly's journal entries on the Civil War.


See A Reflection on the Civil War Era:
Excerpts from the Journal of Dr. John Lilly
for Part II.


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