Thomas E. Bramlette



Kentucky governor Thomas E. Bramlette, elected in 1863, frequently tangled with President Abraham Lincoln over Union military policy in the commonwealth.


Born on January 3, 1817, in present-day Clinton County, Bramlette was a lawyer, legislator, and politician.


During the Civil War, Bramlette raised the 3rd Kentucky Union Infantry and was elected colonel of the regiment.  In 1862, Lincoln appointed him U. S. district attorney for Kentucky. The next year Bramlette was elected governor in a race rife with Union military interference. As wartime governor, Bramlette resisted Confederate guerrillas and battled Lincoln over the enlistment of African American troops, the suspension of habeas corpus, and civilian arrests. He was governor until 1867, and in the postwar years he supported pardons for ex-Confederate soldiers yet resisted the Freedmen’s Bureau and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth constitutional amendments. One of Bramlette’s greatest legacies was establishing the Agricultural and Mechanical College, which eventually became the University of Kentucky. When Bramlette’s term ended, he was a philanthropist and attorney in Louisville.


Although Bramlette disagreed with Lincoln over many major issues, after Lincoln’s assassination the governor recognized the enduring legacy of Lincoln’s policies. Bramlette said, "We may differ with him, and have differed with him, but when the judgment of future events has come, we found we were differing blindly; that he was right and we were wrong . . . experience and time have demonstrated that his was the only line of salvation for our country."


Portrait of Thomas E. Bramlette by William Ver Bryck, 1874

Kentucky Historical Society Collections