Historical Marker #1306 in Clinton County notes the birthplace of Kentucky's twenty-third governor, Thomas E. Bramlette.
Bramlette's tenure as governor of Kentucky included four of the state's most troubled years. He was elected in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, and served through the first two years of Reconstruction. That time brought about issues that proved to be especially difficult, including the enlistment of African American troops, the end of slavery, and how the pro-Union former slave state would regain its footing in the immediate postwar years. Bramlette's life experiences leading up to his election helped shape his leadership and prepared him for many challenges.
Bramlette was born on January 3, 1817, in what was then Cumberland County. His father, Ambrose Bramlette, had served in the Kentucky General Assembly, so Thomas benefitted from his father's knowledge of politics and law. Bramlette attended local schools and studied for the bar, to which he was admitted at age twenty. He immediately began practicing law in Louisville. In 1841, he was elected to represent Clinton County in the state House of Representatives, where he served until he was appointed the commonwealth's attorney in 1848. Bramlette moved from Clinton County to Columbia, Kentucky, in the 1850s, and served there as a district judge.
As war clouds developed, Bramlette proved to be an unconditional Unionist. When the Civil War finally came, he was made a colonel and raised the 3rd Kentucky Infantry. However, he resigned in 1862 to accept an appointment by President Abraham Lincoln as federal district attorney for Kentucky. In 1863, Bramlette ran for governor on the Union Democrat ticket and defeated Charles A. Wickliffe by a wide margin.
While Governor Bramlette fully believed in the endurance of the Union and Kentucky's place in it, he also spoke out about federal intrusions in state affairs. One of the largest issues of Bramlette's tenure was the enlistment of black troops in Kentucky. Bramlette initially opposed the measure, but eventually accepted it as a fact of the war. The governor supported the Thirteenth Amendment, which ended slavery, but, like the majority of white Kentuckians, he opposed the Freedmen's Bureau and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Bramlette also sought a quick reconciliation with those who had fought for the Confederacy.
After leaving office in 1867, Bramlette ran for the U.S. Senate but was defeated. He then moved to Louisville and practiced law. He died in 1875 and was buried in Louisville's Cave Hill Cemetery.