The 4,000-man 1st Kentucky Brigade
was organized in the summer of 1861.
Not recognized by their home state, which
remained in the Union, the soldiers were
forced to train in Tennessee. In February
1862, the Confederate army was forced out
of Kentucky, and with it went the 1st Kentucky Brigade, never to return during the
war. This forced exile gave the unit its
nickname, "Orphan Brigade."
The 1st Kentucky Brigade covered itself
with glory in the battles it fought with
the Confederacy's Army of Tennessee: the
battles of Shiloh, Corinth, Vicksburg,
Baton Rouge, Stones River, Jackson,
Chickamauga, and Missionary Ridge, as
well as throughout the Atlanta campaign
and against Sherman during his march to
the sea. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and Gen.
John B. Hood, who served at different
times as commander of the Army of Tennessee, both declared the Orphan Brigade
the best in their army. President Abraham
Lincoln's brother-in-law, Ben Hardin
Helm, was one of the Orphan Brigade's
generals until he was killed at Chickamauga. Another of its generals, Roger W. Hanson, was killed in the tragic Confederate charge during the final day of battle at
Stones River. Of the 1,200 members of the
Orphan Brigade engaged in the charge, 400
did not return. Division commander and
former U.S. vice president John C. Breckinridge rode among the survivors crying,
"My poor Orphans! My poor Orphans!"