After the War

Author Williams to speak on Old Confederate Veterans Home

He will also lead a tour of the
Confederate cemetery in Pewee Valley, Ky.

LA GRANGE, Ky. (April 2017) – Even though Kentucky never joined the Confederacy, more than 40,000 Kentuckians donned Confederate gray uniforms during the Civil War. When Southerners returned from the war, defeated, these veterans had no place to go until the Confederate Home was established in Pewee Valley, Ky.
It is their story that author Rusty Williams wrote about in “My Old Confederate Home: A Respectable Place for Civil War Veterans.” In his book, Williams relates stories from residents who lived out the rest of their lives in the home.
“Most of those who came to the Kentucky Confederate Home had few other alternatives,” said Williams, 68. “The acceptance of public assistance at the time was considered shameful, but the managers of the home made the place sound like a retirement home paid for by their military service.”

Rusty Williams

As part of the 2017 History Dinner Series, Williams is scheduled to give a program about his book at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 20, at the Oldham County History Center in La Grange. A light meal and cash bar will accompany the program, held in the Rob Morris Educational Building at 207 W. Jefferson St. Williams will also lead a Confederate Cemetery Walking Tour from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, April 22, at the Confederate Cemetery in Pewee Valley. Cost is $25, with lunch included.
During the Civil War, Oldham County was split geographically between Union and Confederate sympathizers. Generally, Union supporters were from the northeastern part of the county (La Grange and Westport) and Confederate supporters hailed from the southwestern part of the county (Ballardsville, Crestwood, Pewee Valley).
The Confederate Home was built with private donations, Williams said. Ex-Confederates raised the funding, believing it was their responsibility to take care of their comrades. Later on, “the state paid the operational costs, but only after ex-Confederates deeded the property to the state.”
Union veterans faired better. Federal funding paid for more than 30 care and rehabilitation centers for Union veterans, with construction beginning even before the war ended.
“Americans have learned over the last half-century that, while we may hate the wars we fight, we are obliged to support the men and women who take up arms on our behalf,” Williams said.
Without any federal aid at the end of the Civil War, “Southerners stepped up to take care of the homeless, distraught and distressed veterans who had few other alternatives.”
Williams said he wrote his book because he “wanted to demonstrate the charity of all Kentuckians toward Civil War veterans. Kentucky was a divided state during the war, but not so divided when it came to taking care of the men who stood up for their communities and families.”

Photo provided

Author Rusty Williams is a former journalist from Texas.

The home had a five-year residency requirement, said Williams. But many times, a veteran born in Kentucky or who had served in a Kentucky unit, even though he may have been living out of state at the time, was admitted to the home based on need.
Background material for the book came from the Filson Historical Society in Louisville.
Some of the Confederate Home’s original operational documents were available at the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort. Old newspapers and interviews with descendants of veterans and residents of Pewee Valley and Crestwood aided Williams in his research as well.
Praise for the book includes this comment from R.B. Rosenburg, author of “Living Monuments: Confederate Soldiers’ Homes in the New South,” which says: “Williams’ book is a welcome addition to the growing literature on the care of disabled Civil War veterans and the Confederate soldiers’ home movement. He narrates a compelling true story, cleverly conceived, ably crafted, and eloquently written.”
“Burial in the Pewee Valley Cemetery was a matter of choice for the veterans,” Williams said. Some wished to be buried in family plots, while other men, who had no close family members remaining, chose to be buried among the men with whom they had lived. There are a few non-resident veterans who asked to be buried in the cemetery.
Williams currently lives in north Texas and has had a long career in the journalism and publishing industries. He has written four books, including “Red River Bridge War: A Texas-Oklahoma Border Battle.”

• Cost for the History Dinner Series program is $20 for members of the Oldham County Historical Society or $22 for non-members. Cost for the Confederate Cemetery Walking Tour is $25 and includes lunch. Reservations are required for both events by calling the Oldham County History Center at (502) 222-0826.

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