The Buckner Mint Julep Ceremony


The Buckners have a long association with mint juleps. The first reference I have found is this story published in 1909, which includes an anecdote from the preceding century.

Now at 85 years of age, strong and well, in the full enjoyment of all his faculties, the last surviving Lieutenant-General of the armies of the Confederacy, the ranking surviving officer of the civil war on either side, he is spending the evening of his life in ease and comfort, blessed with a sufficiency of this world's goods and the companionship of his queenly wife on his ancestral estate in Hart County, Ky.


Recently a little party of Nashville newspaper workers--four in number--made a pilgrimage to Hart County to pay a visit to the "Sage of Glen Lily." One of them had served under Gen. Buckner during the civil war; one of them was a native of Kentucky, who had been a delegate to the convention which nominated Gen. Buckner the Democratic candidate for Governor of Kentucky.


A day with Simon Bolivar Buckner, one time a Captain in the regular army of the United States, one time a Lieutenant-General of the army of Confederate States of America, one time Governor of Kentucky, one time candidate for Vice-President of the United States, will never be forgotten by anyone who has had the experience, and this article is written in order that the readers of the Banner may in a measure share the pleasures and profits of such a day.

... [Many stories and reminicences.]

The general was evidently getting tired of roaming over the Western plains and fighting the battles of two wars, for he said suddenly:

"I must tell you an anecdote--how I won an old Prohibitionist in my canvass for the nomination for Governor. I was in Winchester, up in the bluegrass region, in the office of my friend, Capt. Lee Hathaway, a Confederate soldier. A number of gentlemen were in there on a cool autumn evening. Whilst we were there talking an old gentleman came in, a very nice-looking old fellow, an old farmer. He had on one of those long-tailed coats coming down to his heels and buttoned up to the chin. His face was clean-shaven. There wasn't a hair on it, and his appearance was that of a man whose thoughts had been of too serious a character all his life. He looked as if, had he attempted to smile, it might have cracked the surface. You have seen men of that sort. On being introduced, he said to me:

"'Gen. Buckner, I haven't yet made up my mind, sir, as to whom I will support for Governor, and before I decide I wish to ask you a question, sir.'

"I told him I recognized his perfect right to do that.

"'I wish to know, sir, your opinion of officials drinking whisky. For my part, sir, I think they ought not to drink any at all, because it might interfere with the clear exercise of their judgment.'

"Said I: 'I recognize, sir, the propriety of your question, and I will answer it with entire frankness. I am a temperate man; was never intoxicated in my life, and never expect to be; but at the same time, sir, I live in a very remote part of this country from your beautiful bluegrass region here--down in the knobs of Green River, on the place where I was born, and which I love very much; but I am especially fond of a beautiful spring on my place,' said I. 'It has a large volume of water gushing out of the rocks and flowing over a number of little precipices, forming a series of beautiful cascades, until the water mingles with that of the brook that flows at the base of the hill,' says I. 'Around the mouth of this spring, growing in great profusion, are immense beds of mint, its roots watered by the cool spring, and diffusing its aroma in all the air around; and as I sit upon the banks of that stream, listening to its murmurings over the rocks, it does seem to me, sir, that it is clamoring for some other ingredient to mix with them. So I keep that ingredient at my house, and if I can induce a friend, by its intricate appropaches, to that sequestered spot, I invariably put these three elements before him, with a little sugar, and tell him to mix them to suit himself. And I have read in books of Oriental travel where the people of the East are in the habit of poisoning each other, it has the custom of the host to taste his own poison first, to convince his guests that it would not hurt them. I invariably follow that beautiful Oriental custom.'

"He said: 'I think that is allowable.'

"We will try it," said the General, addressing his guests.

And not one voice was raised in protest.

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