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Basil W. Duke

Basil W. Duke, lawyer and Confederate soldier, was born in Scott County , Kentucky, on May 28, 1838, the only child of Nathaniel W. and Mary Pickett (Currie) Duke. He studied at Georgetown College , Centre College in Danville [1854-55 academic year], and Transylvania University in Lexington, where he earned a law degree in 1858. He was admitted to the bar in St. Louis, where he practiced law and served as police commissioner. An officer of the pro-secession Minute Men when the Civil War began, Duke burned bridges to delay a Federal advance and was indicted for arson and treason. He returned to Kentucky and on June 18, 1861, married Henrietta Hunt Morgan, a sister of John Hunt Morgan.

In October 1861 Duke enlisted in the Confederate army and was elected first lieutenant of Morgan's cavalry company. As second in command, he was, Morgan recorded, "wise in counsel, gallant in the field," and always "the right man in the right place." Duke was twice wounded, first at Shiloh and later near Muldraugh's Hill in Kentucky in the Christmas Raid on December 29, 1862. During the Great Raid, he was captured in Ohio and was held prisoner from July 19, 1863, to August 3, 1864. After Morgan was killed, Duke was brevetted brigadier general on September 15, 1864, and appointed commander of Morgan's men. At the close of the war he was attempting to unite with Gen. Joseph Johnston's army in North Carolina when he was assigned to the force escorting Jefferson Davis in his retreat from Richmond.

In 1868 Duke opened a law office in Louisville. The next year he was elected as a Democrat to the Kentucky House and served until 1870, when he resigned. In 1875 he was elected the commonwealth's attorney for the 5th Judicial District and served until 1880. He was chief counsel and lobbyist for the Louisville and Nashville Railroad for over twenty years and a founder of the Filson Club in Louisville. Duke, a historian interested in the Civil War and the development of transportation and banking, wrote History of Morgan's Cavalry (1867) and History of the Bank of Kentucky 1792-1895 (1895). He died September 16, 1916, in New York City and was buried in the Lexington Cemetery . His children were Johnnie ("Reb"), Basil, Thomas, Currie, Calvin, Henry, Julia, and Frances Key.

Source: Ramage, James A. "Basil W. Duke." The Kentucky Encyclopedia. Lexington, Ky. : University Press of Kentucky, 1992