Kentucky in the Civil War


Mill Springs - January 19, 1862

Confederate Brig. Gen. Felix K. Zollicoffer’s main responsibility was to guard Cumberland Gap. However, in November 1861 he advanced west into Kentucky to strengthen control in the area around Somerset. Zollicoffer 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 Confederates across the Cumberland River and break up Maj. Gen. George B. Crittenden’s army. Thomas left Lebanon and slowly marched through rain-soaked country, arriving at Logan’s Crossroads on January 17th, where he waited for Brig. Gen. A. Schoepf’s troops from Somerset to join him.
Maj. Gen. George Crittenden
, Zollicoffer’s superior, arrived at Mill Springs and took command of the Confederate troops. He knew that Thomas was in the vicinity and decided that his best defense was to attack the Union forces.
The Confederates attacked Thomas at Logan’s Crossroads at dawn on January 19th.  Some of Schoepf’s troops had arrived and reinforced the Union troops. The initial Confederates attack was successful and forced the first unit it hit to retire. Stiff resistance followed, the Union troops held their positions and Zollicoffer was killed. The Confederates made another attack but were repulsed. Union counterattacks on the Confederate right and left were successful and forced the Confederates from the field in a retreat that ended in Murfreesboro, TN.
Mill Springs, along with Middle Creek, broke the Confederate in eastern Kentucky. Mill Springs was the larger of the two Union Kentucky victories in January 1862. With these victories, the Federals were able to carry the war into Middle Tennessee in February.

The Mill Springs Battlefield Association has done a splendid job in creating a lasting monument to the battle. The battlefield tour has nine stops which track the movements in the engagement.  The tour begins at the visitor with an excellent video on the battle.  The visitor center museum has exhibits of items found on the battlefield and the Confederate camp.
The tour starts at the Mill Springs National Cemetery.  The cemetery contains the graves of Union soldiers killed at the battle.  The Confederate dead are buried in a mass grave located at the second stop of the driving tour.  A list of the Confederate dead was compiled and headstones were placed on the site.  An interesting sidelight to the battle involves the death of
Brig. Gen. Felix K. Zollicoffer who was killed when he encountered Union troops. The battlefield describes the main conflict in the area where Zollicoffer was shot and the Confederate retreat and escape to Mill Springs. The ruins of Camp Beech contain markers where battlefield artifacts were recovered.  This is definitely a site to visit.  

Please click on link below for map. Mill Springs, Wayne, Kentucky, United States

The Confederate Heartland Offensive or Kentucky Campaign was a series of maneuvers and battles in East Tennessee and Kentucky.  From June to October 1862, Confederate forces under the commands of Braxton Bragg and Edmund Kirby Smith launched a series of movements to outflank the Union Army of the Ohio and draw the border state of Kentucky into the Confederacy. Though the Confederates gained some early successes, their progress was stopped decisively at the Battle of Perryville, leaving Kentucky in Union hands for the rest of the war.

The following battles were part of this campaign:

This road trip covers the battles of Richmond, Munfordville and Perryville.

Richmond, KY August 29-30,1862

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 Confederate cavalry, while moving north from Big Hill on the road to Richmond, Kentucky, on August 29th, encountered Union troopers and began skirmishing.  After noon, Union artillery and infantry joined the battle and forced the Confederate cavalry to retreat to Big Hill. Brig. Gen. Mahlon D. Manson, who commanded Union forces in the area, ordered a brigade to march to Rogersville, toward the Confederates. Fighting for the day stopped after pursuing Union forces skirmished briefly 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). 
started early, marching north, passed through Kinston, dispersed Union skirmishers, and approached Mansons battle line near Zion Church. Additional troops joined both sides during the day. After an artillery duel, a concerted Confederate attack on the Union right forced the Federals to retreat into Rogersville. The Union forces 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 Confederates captured approximately 4,000 Union troops.
The Confederate victory opened the route north.

The Battle of Richmond Association has worked to preserve the battlefield. The association maintains an auto vehicular tour of the battle corridor.  The corridor, areas of battle interest and involvement, extends 17 miles from Big Hill at the southern point of Madison County to White Hall State Historic Shrine in the northern portion of the county.  Historical markers provide information at each tour station and brochures are available from Richmond Tourism. 

Please click on link below for map. Richmond, Kentucky, United States

Munfordville, KY - September 14-17, 1862

While Kirby Smith's forces moved toward Lexington, Gen. Braxton Bragg’s army left Chattanooga, Tennessee, in late August.  The Confederates troops were followed by Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell’s Union Army.
Bragg approached Munfordville, a station on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad and by mid-September had arrived near the railroad bridge crossing Green River.
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’ demand to surrender on September 14th. Union forces repulsed Chalmers’ attacks on the 14th, forcing the Confederates 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 another demand for surrender. Wilder entered enemy lines under a flag of truce, and Maj. Gen. Simon B. Buckner escorted him to view all the Confederate troops and to convince him of the futility of resisting.  Impressed, Wilder surrendered. The formal ceremony occurred on the 17th.
The Confederate control of the railroad and the bridge disrupted the movement of Union supplies and men.

This site is in need of repair.  The visitor center is closed, the trails are not mowed and the signs are water-damaged.  Still it is worth a stop to see the railroad bridge and the outlines of Wilder's star fort.

Please click on link below for map. Munfordville, Hart, Kentucky, United States

Perryville, KY October 8, 1862

Gen. Braxton Bragg’s invasion of Kentucky had reached the outskirts of Louisville and Cincinnati, but he was forced to retreat and regroup.  On October 7th, the Federal army of Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell converged on the small crossroads town of Perryville, KY. Union forces skirmished with Confederate cavalry on the Springfield Pike and the fighting increased when the Confederate infantry arrived.  At dawn the following day, fighting began again around Peters Hill as a Union division advanced up the pike and stopped before the Confederate line.  After noon, Confederate forces struck the Union left flank and forced Union forces to fall back. Union troops on the left flank, reinforced by two brigades, stabilized their line, and the Confederate attack stalled.  A Confederate brigade assaulted a 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 early evening.  With Union reinforcements threatening the Confederate left flank and the Army of the Mississippi short of men and supplies, Bragg's forces left during the night.  Confederate forces withdrew into East Tennessee ending the offensive and giving the Union control of Kentucky.

The State Historic Park has numerous trails that describe the movement of the attacking Confederate forces and retreating Union troops.  The trails are well documented with markers.

Please click on link below for map. Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site (state historic park), Kentucky, United States

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Revised 01/28/2011