Wild Wolf – The Great Civil War Rivalry

No major Civil War battles were fought in Northern Kentucky or Cincinnati – no Gettysburgs, no Antietams, no Shilohs. There are no no national Civil War parks or cemeteries in the immediate area either.

Despite this, the area was not untouched by the war or its participants. General U.S. Grant was born in nearby Georgetown, conducted planning meetings with William T. Sherman in the Burnett House then on Third Street in downtown Cincinnati and even owned a horse named Cincinnati. Cincinnati native William Lytle was injured at Perryville and killed at Chickamauga and nearby Camp Dennison was a major Union recruiting and training base. 

Robert E. Lee served briefly in the Newport Barracks in the 1850s, Abraham Lincoln witnessed a court trial in Cincinnati, and Union Generals such as Ambrose Burnside and Horatio Wright had departmental headquarters in Cincinnati. Of course, the Siege of Cincinnati in September of 1862 brought a sense of public anxiety and even martial law to Cincinnati, Covington, Newport and the region as tens of thousands of volunteers turned out to defend the area against a band of Confederates who threatened the vital trade route known as the Ohio River as well as the supplies kept in Cincinnati. No major battle occurred, though a small skirmish took place at Snow’s Pond in Florence.

Another scare, through Kentucky, southern Indiana and Ohio, occurred a few months later, in June and July of 1863,  as famed Confederate cavalry General John Hunt Morgan, a hero in the South and who had already conducted one invasion of Kentucky in late 1862, now led his raiders on what became known as “Morgan’s Great Raid.” His men rode throughout the region scaring citizens, destroying railroads and taking supplies, including horses.

Morgan was truly a thorn in the Union’s side in what was called the Western Theater of the war, even escaping from the Ohio State Penitentiary, so the Federal army naturally wanted to stop him as soon as possible. They sent many troops to attempt to capture the raiders, even as vitalcampaigns for Gettysburg and Vicksburg were also taking place. Among the most persistent of these troops were Frank Wolford and his First Kentucky Cavalry.

Ron Blair’s new book, Wild Wolf -The Great Civil War Rivalry, discusses Colonel Wolford’s Civil War career, including his pursuit of Morgan, and his later political controversies. According to the publisher, Wild Wolf “explores in detail Wolford’s heroic leadership as commander of the Union 1st Kentucky Cavalry, who fought in more than 300 battles and skirmishes during which he was wounded seven times, and his notable rivalry with John Hunt Morgan.” This story is “about Wolford’s military and political rivalry during the war and his political rivalry that continued post-war.”

Wild Wolf, nearly 500 pages long, includes over 100 maps and illustrations. Kentucky state historian James C. Klotter describes it as “Solidly researched, well illustrated, and clearly written” and notes that it “reminds us, once again, that many important lives have too long remained untold and have just needed someone to chronicle them. At last, one of those exciting and significant stories has been told. Wolford has found his biographer.”

On June 12, the James A. Ramage Civil War Museum in Fort Wright, Kentucky, will host author Ron Blair, great-great nephew of Colonel Wolford, for a discussion of his book. The event will begin at 1:00 at the museum, located at 1402 Highland Avenue. Cost is $5.00 per person, and $4.00 for museum members. The museum will also open its used book sale to the public.

Mr. Blair has discussed his ancestor in various cities in the region and has contributed to numerous Civil War publications. A resident of Lexington, he is a member of the Civil War Trust, the Kentucky Historical Society, Morgan’s Men and other organizations.