In the wake of America’s Civil War, hundreds of thousands of men who fought for the Confederacy trudged back to their homes in the Southland. Some—due to lingering effects from war wounds, other disabilities, or the horrors of combat—were unable to care for themselves. Homeless, disabled, and destitute veterans began appearing on the sidewalks of southern cities and towns.
In 1902 Kentucky’s Confederate veterans organized and built the Kentucky Confederate Home, a luxurious refuge in Pewee Valley for their unfortunate comrades. Until it closed in 1934, the Home was a respectable—if not always idyllic—place where disabled and impoverished veterans could spend their last days in comfort and free from want.
In My Old Confederate Home: A Respectable Place for Civil War Veterans, Rusty Williams frames the lively history of the Kentucky Confederate Home with the stories of those who built, supported, and managed it: a daring cavalryman-turned-bank-robber, a senile ship captain, a prosperous former madam, and a small-town clergyman whose concern for the veterans cost him his pastorate. Each chapter is peppered with the poignant stories of men who spent their final years as voluntary wards of an institution that required residents to live in a manner which reinforced the mythology of a noble Johnny Reb and a tragic Lost Cause.
Based on thorough research utilizing a range of valuable resources, including the Kentucky Confederate Home’s operational documents, contemporary accounts, unpublished letters, and family stories, My Old Confederate Home reveals the final, untold chapter of Kentucky’s Civil War history.
“My Old Confederate Home is a good story well told.”
—Gaines M. Foster, author of Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Emergence of the New South, 1865–1913
“Teems with humanity. Williams has a storyteller’s gift for making historical characters come alive. This well-researched account of the establishment of a Confederate veterans’ home in a state, Kentucky, that did not even support the Confederacy is a dramatic story of a diverse range of people who responded to the needs of Civil War veterans. It offers a new angle on the South’s Lost Cause.”
—Charles Reagan Wilson, author of Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865–1920