Wandering the lush, peaceful gardens of the Lexington Cemetery – the final resting place of many luminary figures of the Civil War – one senses that the serenity of this place belies the region's impassioned, conflicted past.
The Commonwealth of Kentucky lay on the dividing line between North and South, and while its legislature voted to remain in the Union, many of Kentucky's native sons took up arms for the Confederate cause. Kentuckians of that era bore a unique burden as brother truly was pitted agains brother.
Kent Masterson Brown is a Lexington attorney who writes and lectures on Civil War history and produces Civil War documentary films. The Lexington Cemetery tops his list of recommended Civil War attractions. He describes a section of the cemetery that contains the grave sites of Confederate generals John C. Breckenridge and John Hunt Morgan, as well as the Confederate half-siblings of Mary Todd Lincoln, whose own loyalty to the Union was criticized by the South and called into question by the North.
“The central shaft in the Todd family plot reads, 'Our Confederate Sons.' The Todd family plot in Lexington Cemetery is among the most evocative anywhere in the world,” Brown says. “These notable Confederate graves sites are all near Henry Clay, the statesman who fashioned compromises to try to keep the war from coming.”
Visitors to Lexington also can tour the Mary Todd Lincoln House and Hunt-Morgan House, which contains the Alexander T. Hunt Civil War Museum on the second floor. Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate, with its beautiful home and gardens, is another must-see attraction.
“The Henry Clay Estate is the site of the only pitched battle in Fayette County. John Hunt Morgan attacked on October 18, 1862,” Brown adds. “A granite memorial was erected just two years ago.”