Historical Marker #67 in Warren County discusses Bowling Green's role as the state capital of Kentucky's Provisional Confederate government.
Few states were as bitterly divided as Kentucky during the Civil War. The commonwealth's unique position between the North and South placed the Bluegrass State in a precarious position. In May 1861, Kentucky implemented a brief period of neutrality that lasted until September, when Union and Confederate troops moved into the state.
On September 18, Confederate troops led by General Simon B. Buckner seized Bowling Green and began fortifying the city. A month later, General Albert Sidney Johnston established his Confederate headquarters at Bowling Green.
With the Confederates having established a defensive line across southern Kentucky, rebel sympathizers held a "Sovereignty Convention" behind Confederate lines in Russellville from November 18-20, 1861. An estimated 116 delegates met at the convention, and George W. Johnson of Scott County was selected governor of the provisional government. As part of the proceedings, Bowling Green was chosen as the capital. Confederate Kentucky was admitted into the Confederate States of America on December 10, 1861.
The provisional government in Bowling Green lasted a mere three months as Confederate forces, along with Governor Johnson, retreated to Tennessee in February 1862. After the evacuation, Union forces occupied Bowling Green, which Federal troops held for the duration of the war. The provisional state government chose Richard Hawes to replace Governor Johnson after his death at the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862. Johnson and Hawes were the only two governors of the provisional government, as it existed only in name after 1863.