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Orphan Brigade: Wikis


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First Kentucky Brigade
Active 1861 – 1865
Country Confederate States of America
Branch Mix of infantry, cavalry, and artillery
Size Brigade
Nickname The Orphan Brigade
Engagements Battle of Shiloh, Defense of Vicksburg, 1862, Battle of Stones River, Siege of Jackson, MS, Atlanta Campaign, Battle of Stockbridge, Oconee River Bridge, South Carolina Campaign, Surrender at Washington, Georgia
John C. Breckinridge
Roger W. Hanson
Benjamin H. Helm
Joseph H. Lewis

The Orphan Brigade was the nickname of the First Kentucky Brigade, a group of military units recruited from the Commonwealth of Kentucky to fight for the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. The First Kentucky was the largest Confederate unit to be recruited from Kentucky during the war. Its original commander was Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge, former Vice President of the United States and candidate for President, who was enormously popular with Kentuckians.

The Orphan Brigade was so named because of their status as "orphans" during most of the war. Kentucky never fully seceded from the Union, although it did have a Confederate government. but military units intent upon assisting the Confederate cause were formed. Since the Confederate States never were successful in occupying and controlling Kentucky, the soldiers of the First Kentucky Brigade were unable to return home for fear of being captured and imprisoned. Many of them stayed away from their homes for the duration of the war. And resupply was haphazard, if not non-existent for long periods of time, adding to the impression of their being orphans.

Elements of the Orphan Brigade were involved in many military engagements in the American South during the course of the war, including the Battle of Shiloh. In 1862, Breckinridge was promoted to divisional command and was succeeded in the brigade by Brig. Gen. Roger Hanson. At the Battle of Stones River, the brigade suffered heavy casualties in an assault on January 2, 1863, including General Hanson. As Breckinridge, who vehemently disputed the order to charge with the army's commander, General Braxton Bragg, rode among the survivors, he allegedly cried out repeatedly, "My poor Orphans! My poor Orphans." The actual origin of the moniker "Orphan Brigade" remains in dispute, as it was never used in any contemporary references to the First Kentucky Brigade. The first instance of using "Orphans" as a reference to the brigade appears many years after the war. It is unlikely that the First Kentucky Brigade was referred to as "The Orphan Brigade" during the course of the American Civil War.

The Orphan Brigade lost yet another commander at the Battle of Chickamauga, when Benjamin Hardin Helm fell during the hard fighting which had become typical of the Kentuckians.


The original units of the Orphan Brigade

  • 2nd Kentucky Infantry, organized at Camp Boone, 17 July 1861
  • 3rd Kentucky Infantry, organized at Camp Boone, 20 July 1861
  • 4th Kentucky Infantry, organized at Camp Burnett, 13 September 1861
  • 6th Kentucky Infantry, organized at Bowling Green, 19 November 1861
  • 9th Kentucky Infantry, organized at Bowling Green, 3 October 1861, as the 5th Kentucky Infantry (preliminary organization; final organization not complete until 15 May 1862 (Thompson, p. 434)
  • Cobb's Battery, organized at Bowling Green, 20 September 1861
  • Graves' Battery, organized at Bowling Green, 8 November 1861
  • Byrne's Artillery Battery, organized in Washington County, MS, July 1861. (Disbanded during the summer of 1862, at Vicksburg, Mississippi, with men and guns being transferred into Cobb's Battery.
  • Morgan's Men, organized at Bowling Green, 5 November 1861

Formally in but not directly serving with

1st Kentucky Cavalry, organized at Bowling Green 1861

Other units to join the Orphan Brigade

  • 5th Kentucky Infantry
  • 41st Alabama Infantry

Notable people who served within the Orphan Brigade

External links



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