Driving & Walking Tours | Monuments | John Hunt Morgan in Kentucky | Fort Heiman
St. Joseph, KY
18. Thompson & Powell Martyrs Monument
St. Alphonsus Catholic Church Cemetery, St. Joseph (Daviess County)
Limestone double headstone, circa 1864
Inscription: Charles W. Thompson Pierman Powell Confederate Soldiers Executed in the City of Henderson Ky. July 22, 1864 by Order of General Burbridge. C.S.A.

General Stephen Gano Burbridge issued a retaliation policy in 1864, known as Order No. 59. It stated that four guerrilla prisoners would be shot for each Union soldier killed. More than 50 prisoners were executed as a result of this order, including the two for which this monument was erected. This is one of four monuments to "martyrs" executed under Order No. 59.

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Two of the four simply recognize the cause of death as "by order of General Burbridge." The other two use much more emotional language to condemn the Union general’s actions and suggest injustice on the part of the Federal Army. As such, these latter two, in Eminence and Jeffersontown, serve as much to mourn the Lost Cause as to mark the graves of lost soldiers.

At the time these executions occurred, the Owensboro Monitor reported that they were ordered to retaliate for the Henderson raid in which prominent citizen James E. Rankin was wounded. Rankin did not die until August 3, after the retaliatory executions. The injured Rankin even wrote a note to try to spare the lives of the young men once the sentence was announced. The newspaper reported the ages of Powell and Thompson as 25 and 18, respectively.

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Burbridge, a Scott Countian, was made brigadier general in 1862, following distinguished service at Shiloh. He fought Braxton Bragg's invasion in Kentucky, participated at Vicksburg, and drove John Hunt Morgan's raiders from Cynthiana in 1864. He was brevetted major general of volunteers July 4, 1864 and was recognized by President Lincoln. Order No. 59 was the most extreme of the many unpopular policies of the General, for the order was extended to prisoners of war and led to shoot-on-site tactics against guerrillas. Burbridge also played a major role in the Great Hog Swindle which forced Kentucky farmers to sell all surplus hogs to the U.S. government at low prices. "Butcher" Burbridge, as he came to be known, was replaced in his command and resigned from service in 1865.

One curious detail regarding this monument: as was typical of Confederate monuments, the initials C. S. A., for Confederate States of America, appear at the bottom of the headstone's inscription. Because it was possible to misinterpret the wording to mean that General Burbridge was C. S. A., the monument caused quite an uproar. The situation infuriated Burbridge, who for years, tried in vain to have the letters removed.
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