Jeremiah T. Boyle



Jeremiah Tilford Boyle was Union commander of Kentucky for much of the Civil War.


Born outside of Danville in 1818, after a broad education Boyle practiced law. When the Civil War erupted, Boyle, a slave owner, joined the Union army. In April 1862, he earned acclaim while leading a brigade at the battle of Shiloh. The next month he was appointed Union military commander of Kentucky. Although he was an attorney with no military training, the Lincoln administration believed that his knowledge of Kentucky and Kentuckians would help guide the commonwealth during the Civil War. In Boyle, they found that political generals were often ineffective.


In Boyle’s defense, he led Kentucky through trying times. In addition to defending the state against guerrillas and repeated Confederate cavalry raids, in the summer of 1862 he had to defend Kentucky from multiple Southern armies. The rebels eventually withdrew after the battle of Perryville, and Boyle cracked down on suspected Southern sympathizers, arresting many. He also faced the ire of Kentuckians when the Lincoln administration instituted unpopular policies, including the Emancipation Proclamation, which did not affect Kentucky because it was under Unionist control. Boyle also contended with the opposition of Kentuckians to the enlistment of African American soldiers.


Boyle interfered with elections, impressed slaves for railroad construction, and levied large fines against Confederate sympathizers who lived in proximity to guerrilla depredations. When he was relieved of command in January 1864, he resigned from the Union army. After the war, Boyle became wealthy from the railroad business.


Bust of Jeremiah T. Boyle

Kentucky Historical Society