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History Monday: The Adair Guards, 1860

By Mike Watson

Every family has one or more Civil War stories. Actions around Columbia and Adair County were more common than most may think. There were no battles, as such, closer than Mill Springs and Perryville. There were, however, skirmishes and engagements of small stature all around us.

Few people know that before the War, before the election of 1860, the results of which propelled the nation into the conflict that would touch every family in the nation, there was an elite military group in Adair County.

The militia was a para-military organization as old as Kentucky herself. Adair County, like every other county, had militia units that were to be prepared for the defense of the town and county, the state and nation, upon prompt notice.

The Adair Guards was such a local unit. It was small, but contained dedicated men who promised to do the proper and correct thing in time of emergency. The following is an excerpt of a long article from the Louisville Daily Courier of 11 July 1860 on the celebration of July 4th in Adair County:

"Celebration of the Fourth of July in Adair County, Ky.--On the bank of a beautiful stream near Columbia, and on the above day, music burst forth with its voluptuous sounds to lend joy and gladness to the assembled throng of ladies who had collected for the purpose of presenting, by the hands of Miss M.A.P.X. Saunders, a beautiful flag to a noble looking company of young men called the 'Adair Guards.' The ceremony was opened by the Rev. John L. McKee with a few preliminary remarks, concluding with prayer; after which he introduced Miss Tip Saunders to the audience, when she delivered the following address, in a calm, clear, deliberate and dignified manner:

'Gentlemen of the Adair Guards: I have had the honor of being selected by the ladies of Columbia to present (on their behalf) this banner--The Flag of Our Union--to you and your gallant comrades, and preface the same with a short address to you...

'This day is the day of days, a day that should be celebrated in every inhabited spot of these United States. A day ever to be commemorated in the annals of our history and the history of the world; the day on which our forefathers promulgated freedom to mankind, which gave new thoughts, new vigor to the mind, and regeneration to man; it is the birthday of liberty, and a very appropriate one for this occasion; for liberty has progressed, is not progressing, and will, I hope, progress throughout the whole universe to the end of time. Our forefathers fought, bled and died for liberty, and the consummation of their hopes, wishes, and victories has made us the proudest, happiest, and most independent nation on the face of the globe...

'With the greatest confidence and assurance, on the part of the ladies of Adair, that you will ever prove worthy of the sacred trust reposed in you, I have the honor of being the medium to present this beautiful flag to you, the members of the 'Adair Guards,' hoping its motto may ever be treasured in your hearts, and trusting that you will accept and appreciate it as a small token of the high regard that we, the ladies of Adair, have for your success, prosperity, happiness and welfare.'

"Miss [X]antippe Saunders was then responded to by James H. Bramlett, Esq., in a very impressive, complimentary and appropriate speech. Then followed Mr. Seldon Hatcher and Mr. Nat Gaither, Jr., in their wonted felicitous strains of eloquence, and with their usual gallantry highly compliments the ladies for their generous offering. After which all did ample justice to a sumptuous repast, spread out upon nature's verdant carpet, and every one seemed highly delighted with the entertainments of the day."
Miss M.A.P.X. Saunders was Xantippe "Tip" Saunders who became a celebrated artist and resided the greater part of her life in Louisville where she was sought after as a portrait painter. She spent many summers in Adair County, visiting with family and old friends, while she sketched and painted.

Rev. John L. McKee was a noted minister and principal of the Male & Female High School in Columbia. He resided here during the War and had a brother, who had previously taught at M & F, who fought in and lost his life during the conflict.

James H. Bramlett was the son of Colonel, later Kentucky Governor, Thomas Elliott Bramlett, who would serve during the War as well as practice law and assist his father after election.

Nat Gaither, Jr. was a son of Dr. Nathan Gaither, of Columbia, who would also served during the War.

It is interesting to note, the members of the Adair Guards who fought in the War did so on both sides of the political spectrum. Some joined the Confederate cause, others the Union cause.

If we could just find the Adair Guards' flag. What a treasure that would be!

This story was posted on 2020-04-27 09:35:32
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