Political map of North America & the Caribbean 17 December 1861 (Fight for Kentucky): When the Civil War (American Civil War) broke out, Kentucky had declared neutrality (Kentucky Declaration of Neutrality). This situation lasted for over three months, until a Confederate general (Leonidas Polk), acting on his own initiative, occupied Columbus (Columbus, Kentucky). In response to this blunder, Kentucky declared for the Union, thereby opening up the War's western theater (Western Theater of the American Civil War).