Tag: Kentucky

Battle of Big Sandy River / Middle Creek, Kentucky 10 Jan 1862


On 10 January 1862, Union forces, under Colonel James Garfield, sought to drive out the Confederates, under General Humphrey Marshall, who were recruiting in the vicinity of Paintsville, Kentucky. Garfield was an new Colonel of Ohio volunteers who was to make his name at the Battle of Big Sandy, also known as the Battle of Middle Creek. This fame would eventually propel him to the White House. Marshall, on the other hand, came into the battle with an outstanding reputation from the Mexican War where he led the First Kentucky Cavalry. He was to leave the Battle of Middle Creek with a big question mark over his head.

Battle of the Big Sandy

As Garfield approached from the north, Marshall fell back to Prestonburg along the Middle Creek to take up defensive positions, even though his rebels were not well provisioned. The Confederate cavalry that was to provide a rear screen were surprised by the Federal cavalry as they were breaking camp. The initial rout by the Union forces turned into a bloody pursuit as the recovering Confederates ambushed the pursuing Union cavalry. Garfield pushed on, however, and caught up with the mass of Marshall’s force to the west of Prestonburg. Marshall had taken a strong position and had set a trap along Middle Creek to catch Garfield’s forces as they advanced into a hammer and anvil position. Garfield, who was unsure of Marshall’s positions, sent a small cavalry force into the open area to see where Marshall’s forces were. Marshall fell for the ruse and released the trap too early. Garfield now knew where Marshall had deployed and set to advancing slowly and methodically on the ill-equipped and hungry Confederates. The Battle of Big Sandy was truly one of those Civil War battles where brother fought brother and neighbor fought neighbor. Kentucky units on both sides of the war met in the boggy ground around the creek, sometimes in hand to hand fighting. As the pressure on the Confederates grew into the early evening, Marshall felt he had no choice, but to retire as he feared widespread desertion from his hungry troops.

The overall effect of the Battle of Big Sandy was not decisively in favor of the Union, but the future President James Garfield had made his name in showing that the area could be held by the Union. The fact that eastern Kentucky was now off-limits to the Confederates meant that the Union forces could begin their push into Tennessee with a secure eastern flank.

Battle of the Big Sandy Motorcycle Ride

Check out the scenery on two of Kentucky’s great parkways, the Combs Mountain Parkway and the Hal Rogers Parkway (formerly the Daniel Boone Parkway). Be unique. Be someone who has actually been to the Kentucky Appalachia, rather than a smug jokester about it.

Photo Credit: By American Battlefield Protection Program (National Park Service) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Crittenden Compromise Fails in Senate 16 January 1861


John Jordan Crittenden, one of Kentucky’s most prolific politicians, attempted to broker a compromise to save the Union in the U.S. Senate and avoid civil war. The Crittenden Compromise failed on 16 January 1861 and virtually guaranteed civil war. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 allowed the southern states and new states south of the 36’30” latitude to continue slavery, whilst the northern states and new states north of that line couldn’t. The Compromise of 1850 changed this and allowed the new territories’ residents to vote on the issue regardless if south of the 36’30”.

The Crittenden Compromise

Crittenden tried to mitigate the Compromise of 1850 in favor of the South. However, the Crittenden Compromise was a step too far in reverse for the Republican party which had formed specifically to oppose the expansion of slavery.
Crittenden was especially torn over the issue, as he had one son (Thomas L. Crittenden) and a nephew (Thomas Turpin Crittenden) who fought for the North and one son who fought for the South (George B. Crittenden). In the end, the gulf was just too wide for even a despairing father to stop. J.J. Crittenden died in the middle of the Civil War.

The Crittenden Compromise Motorcycle Ride

If you find yourself traversing western Kentucky on I-24, get off near Eddyville, KY and try the backroads through Crittenden County, Kentucky, named after J.J. Crittenden. It also gives me a good reason to recommend another ferry, and you know the Battlefield Biker likes to put the Red Rover on a ferry. Try the free (well, the KY taxpayer is paying) Cave-in-Rock ferry over the Ohio. This is the Battlefield Biker’s ancestral homeland and they are the back roads that Battlefield Biker learned to ride on as a young boy. Enjoy a little slice of rural Kentucky. From Eddyvile, you are not too far from Fort Donelson either, if you are looking for another local ride.

Photo Credit: Mathew Brady [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Battle of Logan’s Crossroads – 19 January 1862


After the defeat at the Battle of Middle Creek / Big Sandy on 10 January 1862, the Confederates were definitely on the defensive in eastern / central Kentucky. Kentucky was a key area for the Union to establish dominance, both politically and logistically. The long hoped for push into Tennessee by Ulysses S. Grant would be happening in February 1862, so the importance of clearing Kentucky of any serious Confederate forces was paramount to the Union. Not only would Tennessee be open to attack, but the Union would have direct access to the Cumberland Gap through eastern Kentucky and Tennessee to western Virginia. For the south, this area was also critical for supplies for the Confederacy with such staples as salt and mineral mines for ammunition.

Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer was sent to defend the Cumberland Gap and in the winter of 1861/62, he decided to occupy the area south of present day Nancy, Kentucky for winter quarters. Zollicoffer built defenses along both sides of the Cumberland River. Union General George Thomas wanted to break the remainder of the eastern Kentucky forces under General George Crittenden, Zolicoffer’s senior. When Crittenden determined that Thomas was to attack the area, he took personal command of the position.

As Thomas moved into the area in heavy rain, Zollicoffer and Crittenden thought they might be able to split Thomas’s forces by catching them off guard with the swollen Fishing Creek separating Union camps. Zollicoffer took his troops out of their defensive positions in the middle of the night for a forced march through appalling conditions to attack. The forces met at the Battle of Logan’s Crossroads, also known as the Battle of Fishing Creek (not to be confused of the North Carolina Revolutionary War battle of the same name), near Nancy, KY.

The Battle of Logan’s Crossroads

The Confederates achieved some level of surprise in the attack, but Union pickets and a cavalry patrol provided enough alert for Thomas to get his men moving. Crittenden had some early success, but three factors meant the battle was soon to sway in the Union’s favor. First, at least a regiment of Rebels had old flintlock rifles that would not fire in the deluge, so at least 1/8th of the force had to be sent to the rear. Second, Fishing Creek, although swollen, was not impassable, so Thomas was able to bring full force to bear. Finally, the Yankees had a further forces advancing to join the fray.

As if all of this was not enough, Zollicoffer got lost whilst working the lines and met up with Union Colonel Speed Fry. It is not clear as to whether both confused each other intially as friend or foe, but Fry was on the uptick quicker and recognized Zollicoffer for who he was and shot him in the chest. The loss of Zollicoffer threw panic into the closest Rebel brigade which took flight. Their panic sparked the other brigade and soon the Union rout was on. Crittenden got his troops across the Cumberland in a ragged retreat, but was to later be reprimanded on charges of drunkenness at the battle with aspersions being cast about his commitment to the southern cause. His daddy would not have been proud.

The Union was successful in pushing the line across eastern and south-central Kentucky much further south to near the Tennessee line. The stage was now set for attacking down the western ends of the Tennessee River and Cumberland River in western Kentucky and Tennessee at Forts Henry and Donelson in February 1862.

The Battle of Logan’s Crossroad Motorcycle Ride

Check out the Cumberland Cultural Heritage Highway for beautiful ride around the area of the battle.

British and Kentucky Riflemen Battle of Frenchtown 22 Jan 1813

Since its shameful fall in August 1812 with scarcely a shot fired in defense, the Americans wanted Detroit back. So embarrassed by it, a winter campaign was conceived to win it back. William Henry Harrison, the hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe, was selected to take back the area and further the American goals in the War of 1812. Harrison’s second in command was General James Winchester. The two split their forces to move on Detroit.

On 18 January 1813, Winchester’s lead elements entered Frenchtown (near modern day Monroe, Michigan) and took it in a short battle with a handful of British Regulars and a couple of hundred of local Indians. The American soldiers were militia that had recently been recruited in Kentucky and marched north with severe privation. The Kentuckians found great stores of food and gorged themselves for several days. Unfortunately, their officers had not ordered them to fortify the area for a counter-attack.

Battle of Frenchtown

A mixed force of British, under Colonel Henry Procter, and Shawnee, under Chief Tecumseh, counter-attacked on 22 January 1813. There followed a fierce battle that would go down as one of the biggest ground battles in the War of 1812. The British and Indians attacked across the American front. The American right flank was enveloped and surrendered, including Winchester. The left flank, however was holding well along a fence in the west of the area. The Kentuckians there were not surprised to see a British truce party arrive, but they were surprised to hear that it was the Kentuckian’s surrender they were after. Winchester had sent word that they should give up. The Kentuckians did surrender, but only with the assurance that the captured would be protected from the Indians.

The British then quickly unoccupied the area of operations for they feared that Harrison’s column would soon descend on Frenchtown. They left the prisoners with Tecumseh’s force. Some, but not all, of the Kentucky prisoners left with the Indians were massacred. The remainder were taken to Detroit for ransom. The Raisin River Massacre became a rallying point for remainder of the war in the old northwest. The event had a solidifying effect on the frontiersman for the war that was not there previously. Future Kentucky units rushed north yelling, “Remember the Raisin!” The area was re-captured by Kentucky cavalry units in September 1813.

Trivia; Although born in Ohio, George Armstrong Custer lived in Monroe as a boy and married a local girl. No doubt, young Custer would have heard the story of the massacre in his local school.

Battle of Frenchtown Motorcycle Ride

Check out the Raisin River Battlefield National Park. Then go from the Raisin River Battlefield Visitor’s Center and follow the Raisin River out to Raisinville, Dundee and back to Monroe to the Sterling State Park.

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