Prelude to Invasion
After Fort Sumter fell to the Confederacy, the State of Kentucky adamantly tried to remain neutral between the Union States and Confederate States, and during this time, both armies tried to place their forces on the most tactical points on Kentucky’s borders, especially in the west, next to the Mississippi River. The Union army setup their headquarters at Cairo, Illinois and Bird’s Point, Missouri at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and the Confederate army setup at Union City, Tennessee, and New Madrid, Missouri just across the border from southwest Kentucky, and each side maintained readiness in case the opposing army made an incursion into Kentucky to gain the most desirable strategic locations within the Jackson Purchase, because they thought losing this ground to the other was detrimental to their war effort.
Before the War of the Rebellion – 1818-1860
To begin to understand the story of Paducah in the Civil War, one needs to envision the city before the war in regards to the early Jacksonian Democratic voting patterns in the Jackson Purchase, and the later rise of Henry Clay’s Whig Party’s influence in McCracken County and Paducah, where the rest of the Purchase remained heavily Democrat. In 1818, the Jackson Purchase treaty with the Chickasaw Indians occurred, almost ten years before Paducah became a town, and because most of the early settlers into the region came from the southern states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee, they had a strong affinity to southerner Andrew Jackson, that lived in Nashville, Tennessee, which was much closer to them than Frankfort, Kentucky that had leaders like Henry Clay. Because the Jackson Purchase was geographically isolated from the rest of Kentucky, due to its being located west of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, this helped the culture remain southern and strongly Democratic. In fact, the region was so Democratic, it was known as the “Democratic Gibraltar” of the state.1
This is the story of how the actions of Cesar Kaskel, a resident of Paducah during the Civil War, lead to the ending of a Union military injustice, that became known as the worst official anti-Semitic action in American history, when Major-General Ulysses S. Grant issued General Orders No. 11 on December 17th, 1862, instructing his officers to expel all the Jews in the military district of western Kentucky, western Tennessee, and Mississippi:1
An Attack may be coming – March 20-24, 1864
After the initial excitement when Confederate General Polk invaded Kentucky to take Hickman and Columbus, General Grant’s taking of Paducah, and the Union successes in the battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, the region went through the adjustment of being occupied by the Union Army, and because of this, many sympathizers to the Confederates conducted illegal trade to the Confederate Army.