Which half was the horse?: The Kentucky militia and volunteers in fact and fiction
The state of Kentucky has a unique history having originally been the hunting grounds for various Indian tribes. The settlement of the territory proved difficult for, and even fatal to, the pioneers due to the proximity to these tribes and the fact that they did not welcome white infringement on their hunting grounds. With an increase in hostility, the need for a state militia developed. A lack of enthusiasm for militia service eventually resulted in the development of volunteer units as an alternative to the drafted militiamen. When the federal government called on states for militiamen to serve in national conflicts, Kentucky was often quick to answer supplying volunteers and/or militia; however, the performance of these men in the various military engagements of the United States was spotty at best. Kentucky militiamen and volunteers developed a unique reputation over the decades beginning in the late eighteenth century and through the years after the War of 1812. Public opinion viewed them as courageous, brave, and skillful, but their combat record more often than not contradicted that perception. By examining the history of Kentucky, origins of the militia and volunteers, and their involvement in national conflicts one can observe this disparity between the dual nature of the Kentuckian, the real and the mythical.