"Louisville, the Ohio Valley, and the Civil War" Symposium: March 26-27, 2010

Registration Information

  • Participants are asked to register and pay the appropriate fee by March 5 (postmarked)

  • Registration Fee of $65 includes light continental breakfasts (March 26 & March 27), lunch (March 26), and dinner (March 26).

  • Registration Form: PDF or Word .doc file

About the Symposium

Civil War Symposium 2010 Photo CardThe University of Louisville College of Arts and Sciences and its Arts and Culture Partnerships Initiative are hosting their second scholarly symposium on Louisville history. Following last year’s “Land, River and Peoples: Louisville before the Civil War,” this year’s theme will be Louisville’s important role in the first two years of the Civil War.  Located astride the boundary between slave and free states, Louisville’s location was strategic in planning and executing that war.

Unlike most Southern cities, Louisville had a sizable immigrant population.  Unlike Northern cities it had enslaved individuals.  This admixture buffetted the city and pulled it in opposite directions.  The division was evident when Main Street merchants, who traded with the Deep South, were pro-Confederate while young professionals were pro-Union.  After a brief bout of neutrality, Louisville emerged as a pro-Union city but retained its slaves.

In determining a war strategy, Louisville’s location made it a headquarters for logistical planning.  From the Galt House Hotel, Generals Sherman and Grant, among others, drew up plans for war in the western theater.  Their plans included control of commerce on the Ohio River and utilization of the vital Louisville & Nashville Railroad.  Those transportation routes funneled supplies and troops from here to the Deep South.  Some 80,000 Union soldiers used Louisville as a gathering place while the city was ringed by a series of fortifications.  This sizable Union presence and defense meant there was no “Battle of Louisville.”

Yet Louisville felt the brunt of war, and life changed on the home front.  Many of its buildings were seized and used for military prisons and hospitals.  Louisville’s women nursed the wounded and provided food and supplies to the columns passing through its streets.  Cemeteries offered burial sites.  The pro-Union state government found lodging here when Frankfort fell briefly into Confederate hands.  In the midst of war, Louisvillians attempted to go about a normal daily routine attending plays, enjoying music, and worshipping together.  

When the call came for troops, Louisville’s men answered; among them were African-Americans.  While some left the city to enlist, six regiments of U.S. Colored Troops were organized here. Black churches formed “soldier’s aid societies.” In the turmoil some slaves escaped across the Ohio River or behind Union lines finding freedom.  For those who remained, life was uncertain and some were taken to work on fortifications or conscripted into the army while others sought out a local black refugee camp. Regardless of their response, for African Americans slavery was a reality until the enactment of the thirteenth amendment in December 1865.

 Civil War Symposium 2010 Photo Card