Colonel Frank Wolford, the acclaimed Civil War colonel of the First Kentucky Volunteer Cavalry, is remembered today primarily for his unenviable reputation. Despite his stellar service record and widespread fame, Wolford ruined his reputation and his career over the question of emancipation and the enlistment of African Americans in the army.
Unhappy with Abraham Lincoln’s public stance on slavery, Wolford rebelled and made a series of treasonous speeches against the president. Dishonorably discharged and arrested three times, Wolford, on the brink of being exiled beyond federal lines into the Confederacy, was taken in irons to Washington DC to meet with Lincoln. Lincoln spared Wolford, however, and the disgraced colonel returned to Kentucky, where he was admired for his war record and rewarded politically for his racially based rebellion against Lincoln.
Although his military record established him as one of the most vigorous, courageous, and original commanders in the cavalry, Wolford’s later reputation suffered. Dan Lee restores balance to the story of a crude, complicated, but talented man and the unconventional regiment he led in the fight to save the Union. Placing Wolford in the context of the political and cultural crosscurrents that tore at Kentucky during the war, Lee fills out the historical picture of “Old Roman Nose.”