Location: Knox County
Kentucky Union sympathizers had trained recruits at Camp Andrew Johnson, in Barbourville, throughout the summer of 1861. Confederate Brig. Gen. Felix Zollicoffer entered Kentucky in mid-September intending to relieve pressure on Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston and his troops by conducting raids and generally constituting a threat to Union forces and sympathizers in the area. On September 18, 1861, he dispatched a force of about 800 men under command of Col. Joel A. Battle to disrupt the training activities at Camp Andrew Johnson. At daylight on the 19th, the force entered Barbourville and found the recruits gone; they had been sent to Camp Dick Robinson. A small home guard force commanded by Capt. Isaac J. Black met the Rebels, and a sharp skirmish ensued. After dispersing the home guard, the Confederates destroyed the training camp and seized arms found there. This was, for all practical purposes, the first encounter of the war in Kentucky. The Confederates were making their might known in the state, countering the early Union presence.
CAMP WILDCAT or WILDCAT MOUNTAINLocation: Laurel County
Brig. Gen. Felix Zollicoffer’s men occupied Cumberland Gap and took position at Cumberland Ford to counter the Unionist activity in the area. Brig. Gen. George H. Thomas sent a detachment under Col. T.T. Garrard to secure the ford on the Rockcastle River, establish a camp at Wildcat Mountain, and obstruct the Wilderness road passing through the area. Col. Garrard informed Thomas that if he did not receive reinforcements, he would have to retreat because he was outnumbered seven to one. Thomas sent Brig. Gen. A. Schoepf with what amounted to a brigade of men to Col. Garrard, bringing the total force to about 7,000. On the morning of October 21, soon after Schoepf arrived, some of his men moved forward and ran into Rebel forces, commencing a fight. The Federals repelled the Confederate attacks, in part due to fortifications, both man-made and natural. The Confederates withdrew during the night and continued their retreat to Cumberland Ford, which they reached on the 26th. A Union victory was welcomed, countering the Confederate victory at Barbourville.
CYNTHIANA or KELLAR'S BRIDGELocation: Harrison County
Brig. Gen. Morgan approached Cynthiana with 1,200 men, on June 11, 1864, at dawn. Col. Conrad Garis, with the 168th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry and some home guard troops, about 300 men altogether, constituted the Union forces at Cynthiana. Morgan divided his men into three columns, surrounded the town and launched an attack at the covered bridge, driving the Union forces back towards the depot and north along the railroad. The Rebels set fire to the town, destroying many buildings and some of the Union troops. As the fighting flared in Cynthiana, another Union force, about 750 men of the 171st Ohio National Guard under the command of Brig. Gen. Edward Hobson, arrived by train about a mile north of the Cynthiana at Kellar’s Bridge. Morgan trapped this new Union force in a meander of the Licking River. After some fighting, Morgan forced Hobson to surrender. Altogether, Morgan had about 1,300 Union prisoners of war camping with him overnight in line of battle. Brig. Gen. Stephen Gano Burbridge with 2,400 men, a combined force of Ohio, Kentucky, and Michigan mounted infantry and cavalry, attacked Morgan at dawn on June 12. The Union forces drove the Rebels back, causing them to flee into town where many were captured or killed. Morgan escaped. Cynthiana demonstrated that Union numbers and mobility were starting to take their toll; Confederate cavalry and partisans could no longer raid with impunity.
Location: Floyd County
While recruiting in southeast Kentucky, Rebels under Col. John S. Williams ran short of ammunition at Prestonsburg and fell back to Pikeville to replenish their supply. Brig. Gen. William Nelson sent out a detachment from near Louisa under Col. Joshua Sill while he started out from Prestonsburg with a larger force in an attempt to “turn or cut the Rebels off.” Williams prepared for evacuation, hoping for time to reach Virginia, and sent out a cavalry force to meet Nelson about eight miles from Pikeville. The Rebel cavalry escaped, and Nelson continued on his way. Williams then met Nelson at a point northeast of Pikeville between Ivy Mountain and Ivy Creek. Waiting by a narrow bend in the road, the Rebels surprised the Yankees by firing upon their constricted ranks. A fight ensued, but neither side gained the bulge. As the shooting ebbed, Williams’s men felled trees across the road and burned bridges to slow Nelson’s pursuing force. Night approached and rain began which, along with the obstructions, convinced Nelson’s men to go into camp. In the meantime, Williams retreated into Virginia, stopping in Abingdon on the 9th. Sill’s force arrived too late to be of use, but he did skirmish with the remnants of Williams’s retreating force before he occupied Pikeville on the 9th. This bedraggled Confederate force retreated back into Virginia for succor. The Union forces consolidated their power in eastern Kentucky mountains.
Jefferson Davis Birth Place
Location: Todd County
Jefferson Davis State Historic Site is a memorial to the famous Kentuckian born on this site on June 3, 1808. A 351-foot obelisk constructed on a foundation of solid Kentucky Limestone, marks the site, and an elevator to the top gives visitors a bird's eye view of the countryside.
Although Davis is most well-known for his service as President of the Confederacy during the Civil War, he was actually a reluctant secessionist. Davis distinguished himself as a military and political leader not only during the Civil War, but also as a West Point graduate, Mexican War hero, Mississippi congressman and senator, and Secretary of War during the Franklin Pierce administration.
Location: Floyd County
More than a month after Confederate Col. John S. Williams left Kentucky, following the fight at Ivy Mountain, Brig. Gen. Humphrey Marshall led another force into southeast Kentucky to continue recruiting activities. From his headquarters in Paintsville, on the Big Sandy River, northwest of Prestonsburg, Marshall recruited volunteers and had a force of more than 2,000 men by early January, but could only partially equip them. Union Brig. Gen. Don Carlos Buell directed Col. James Garfield to force Marshall to retreat back into Virginia. Leaving Louisa, Garfield took command of the 18th Brigade and began his march south on Paintsville. He compelled the Confederates to abandon Paintsville and retreat to the vicinity of Prestonsburg. Garfield slowly headed south, but swampy areas and numerous streams slowed his movements, and he arrived in the vicinity of Marshall on the 9th. Heading out at 4:00 am on January 10, Garfield marched a mile south to the mouth of Middle Creek, fought off some Rebel cavalry and turned west to attack Marshall. Marshall had put his men in line of battle west and south of the creek near its forks. Garfield attacked shortly after noon, and the fighting continued for most of the afternoon until Union reinforcements arrived in time to dissuade the Confederates from assailing the Federal left. Instead, the Rebels retired south and were ordered back to Virginia on the 24th. Garfield’s force moved to Prestonsburg after the fight and then retired to Paintsville. Union forces had halted the Confederate 1861 offensive in Kentucky, and Middle Creek demonstrated that their strength had not diminished. This victory, along with Mill Springs a little more than a week later, cemented Union control of eastern Kentucky until Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg launched his offensive in the summer and fall. Following these two January victories in Kentucky, the Federals carried the war into Tennessee in February.
MILL SPRINGS or LOGAN'S CROSSROADS or FISHING CREEK
Although Brig. Gen. Felix K. Zollicoffer’s main responsibility was to guard Cumberland Gap, in November 1861 he advanced west into Kentucky to strengthen control in the area around Somerset. He found a strong defensive position at Mill Springs and decided to make it his winter quarters. He fortified the area, especially both sides of the Cumberland River. Union Brig. Gen. George Thomas received orders to drive the Rebels across the Cumberland River and break up Maj. Gen. George B. Crittenden’s army. He left Lebanon and slowly marched through rain-soaked country, arriving at Logan’s Crossroads on January 17, where he waited for Brig. Gen. A. Schoepf’s troops from Somerset to join him. Maj. Gen. George Crittenden, Zollicoffer’s superior, had arrived at Mill Springs and taken command of the Confederate troops. He knew that Thomas was in the vicinity and decided that his best defense was to attack the Yankees. The Rebels attacked Thomas at Logan’s Crossroads at dawn on January 19. Unbeknownst to the Confederates, some of Schoepf’s troops had arrived and reinforced the Union force. Initially, the Rebel attack forced the first unit it hit to retire, but stiff resistance followed and Zollicoffer was killed. The Rebels made another attack but were repulsed. Union counterattacks on the Confederate right and left were successful, forcing them from the field in a retreat that ended in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Mill Springs, along with Middle Creek, broke whatever Confederate strength there was in eastern Kentucky. Confederate fortunes did not rise again until summer when Gen. Braxton Bragg launched his offensive into Kentucky. Mill Springs was the larger of the two Union Kentucky victories in January 1862. With these victories, the Federals carried the war into Middle Tennessee in February.
MUNFORDVILLE or GREEN RIVER BRIDGE
In the 1862 Confederate offensive into Kentucky, Gen. Braxton Bragg’s army left Chattanooga, Tennessee, in late August. Followed by Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell’s Union Army, Bragg approached Munfordville, a station on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad and the location of the railroad bridge crossing Green River, in mid-September. Col. John T. Wilder commanded the Union garrison at Munfordville which consisted of three regiments with extensive fortifications. Wilder refused Brig. Gen. James R. Chalmers’s demand to surrender on the 14th. Union forces repulsed Chalmers’s attacks on the 14th, forcing the Rebels to conduct siege operations on the 15th and 16th. Late on the 16th, realizing that Buell’s forces were near and not wanting to kill or injure innocent civilians, the Confederates communicated still another demand for surrender. Wilder entered enemy lines under a flag of truce, and Confederate Maj. Gen. Simon B. Buckner escorted him to view all the Rebel troops and to convince him of the futility of resisting. Impressed, Wilder surrendered. The formal ceremony occurred the next day on the 17th. With the railroad and the bridge, Munfordville was an important transportation center, and the Confederate control affected the movement of Union supplies and men.
In March 1864, Forrest set out from Columbus, Mississippi, with a force of less than 3,000 men on a multipurpose expedition (recruit, reoutfit, disperse Yankees, etc.) into West Tennessee and Kentucky. Forrest arrived in Paducah on March 25 and quickly occupied the town. The Union garrison of 650 men under the command of Col. Stephen G. Hicks retired to Fort Anderson, in the town’s west end. Hicks had support from two gunboats on the Ohio River and refused to surrender, while shelling the area with his artillery. Most of Forrest’s command destroyed unwanted supplies, loaded what they wanted, and rounded up horses and mules. A small segment of Forrest’s command assaulted Fort Anderson and was repulsed, suffering heavy casualties. Soon afterwards, Forrest’s men withdrew. In reporting the raid on the town, many newspapers stated that Forrest had not found more than a hundred fine horses hidden during the raid. As a result, one of Forrest’s subordinate officers led a force back into Paducah in mid-April and seized the infamous horses. Although this was a Confederate victory, other than the destruction of supplies and capture of animals, no lasting results occurred. It did, however, warn the Federals that Forrest, or someone like him, could strike anywhere at any time.
Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg’s autumn 1862 invasion of Kentucky had reached the outskirts of Louisville and Cincinnati, but he was forced to retreat and regroup. On October 7, the Federal army of Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell, numbering nearly 55,000, converged on the small crossroads town of Perryville, Kentucky, in three columns. Union forces first skirmished with Rebel cavalry on the Springfield Pike before the fighting became more general, on Peters Hill, as the grayclad infantry arrived. The next day, at dawn, fighting began again around Peters Hill as a Union division advanced up the pike, halting just before the Confederate line. The fighting then stopped for a time. After noon, a Confederate division struck the Union left flank and forced it to fall back. When more Confederate divisions joined the fray, the Union line made a stubborn stand, counterattacked, but finally fell back with some troops routed. Buell did not know of the happenings on the field, or he would have sent forward some reserves. Even so, the Union troops on the left flank, reinforced by two brigades, stabilized their line, and the Rebel attack sputtered to a halt. Later, a Rebel brigade assaulted the Union division on the Springfield Pike but was repulsed and fell back into Perryville. The Yankees pursued, and skirmishing occurred in the streets in the evening before dark. Union reinforcements were threatening the Rebel left flank by now. Bragg, short of men and supplies, withdrew during the night, and, after pausing at Harrodsburg, continued the Confederate retrograde by way of Cumberland Gap into East Tennessee. The Confederate offensive was over, and the Union controlled Kentucky.
In Maj. Gen. Kirby Smith’s 1862 Confederate offensive into Kentucky, Brig. Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne led the advance with Col. John S. Scott’s cavalry out in front. The Rebel cavalry, while moving north from Big Hill on the road to Richmond, Kentucky, on August 29, encountered Union troopers and began skirmishing. After noon, Union artillery and infantry joined the fray, forcing the Confederate cavalry to retreat to Big Hill. At that time, Brig. Gen. Mahlon D. Manson, who commanded Union forces in the area, ordered a brigade to march to Rogersville, toward the Rebels. Fighting for the day stopped after pursuing Union forces briefly skirmished with Cleburne’s men in late afternoon. That night, Manson informed his superior, Maj. Gen. William Nelson, of his situation, and he ordered another brigade to be ready to march in support, when required. Kirby Smith ordered Cleburne to attack in the morning and promised to hurry reinforcements (Churchill’s division). Cleburne started early, marching north, passed through Kinston, dispersed Union skirmishers, and approached Manson’s battle line near Zion Church. As the day progressed, additional troops joined both sides. Following an artillery duel, the battle began, and after a concerted Rebel attack on the Union right, the Yankees gave way. Retreating into Rogersville, the Yankees made another futile stand at their old bivouac. By now, Smith and Nelson had arrived and taken command of their respective armies. Nelson rallied some troops in the cemetery outside Richmond, but they were routed. Nelson and some men escaped but the Rebels captured approximately 4,000 Yankees. The way north was open.
ROWLETT'S STATION or WOODSONVILLE or GREEN RIVER
After Brig. Gen. Don Carlos Buell took command of the Department of the Ohio in early November, he attempted to consolidate control by organizing and sending troops into the field. He ordered Brig. Gen. Alexander McD. McCook, commanding the 2nd Division, to Nolin, Kentucky. In the meantime, the Confederates had established a defensive line along the Green River near Munfordville. McCook launched a movement towards the enemy lines on December 10, which the Rebels countered by partially destroying the Louisville & Nashville Railroad bridge over the Green River. As a result, the Union sent two companies of the 32nd Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment across the river to prevent a surprise and began constructing a pontoon bridge for the passage of trains and artillery. When the bridge was completed on December 17, four more of the 32nd Indiana companies crossed the river. The combined force advanced to a hill south of Woodsonville where, in the afternoon, they spotted enemy troops in the woods fronting them. Two companies advanced toward the enemy in the woods, which fell back until Confederate cavalry attacked. A general engagement ensued as eight Yankee companies fought a much larger Confederate force. Fearing that the enemy might roll up his right flank, Col. August Willich, commanding the regiment, ordered a withdrawal to a stronger position in the rear. Knowing of McCook’s approach, the Rebels also withdrew from the field. Although the results of the battle were indecisive, Union troops did occupy the area and insured the movement of their men and supplies on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad.