Kentucky was a border state of key importance in the American Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln recognized the importance of the Commonwealth when he declared "I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky." In a September 1861 letter to Orville Browning, Lincoln wrote "I think to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game. ... We would as well consent to separation at once, including the surrender of the capital." Kentucky was the site of fierce battles, such as Mill Springs and Perryville. It was host to such military leaders as Ulysses S. Grant on the Union side, who first encountered serious Confederate gunfire coming from Columbus, Kentucky, and Nathan Bedford Forrest on the Confederate side. Forrest proved to be a scourge to the Union Army in such places as the towns of Sacramento and Paducah, where he conducted guerrilla warfare against Union forces.
Kentucky, being a border state, was among the chief places where the "Brother against brother" scenario was tragically prevalent. Kentucky was the birth place of Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary Todd and his southern counterpart Jefferson Davis.