Civil War Operations

About the middle of September Gen. S. B. Buckner moved with his troops from Camp Boone to Bowling Green, and issued his proclamation as an officer of the Confederate army, to the people of Kentucky,” that the force under his command ” will be used to aid the Governor of Kentucky in carrying out strict neutrality desired by its people whenever they undertake to enforce it against the two belligerents alike.” Notwithstanding this, the Confederates put forward the first act of war by burning the bridge over Rolling Fork, five miles west of Muldrow Hill. This occurred on the 18th of September, and on the following day the first clash of arms was heard, the Confederates attacking the State Guard. Federal camps at once sprang into existence in several places, and the Legislature, without breaking with the National Government, constituted a Military Board to enlist, arm and control a body of State troops, which very soon were turned over to the United States Army by act of the Legislature. United States troops began to pour into the State, and the reports of skirmishes between the hostile forces were heard at Smithland, Lucas Bend, Buffalo Hill and Grayson. In the meanwhile the Military Board had appointed recruiting officers in various parts of the State, Judge Perkins being appointed in Todd County. In a short time two companies were formed here, which were organized and mustered at Calhoun, on Green River. These were mustered into the United States service as Companies C and F, of the Twenty-fifth Regiment of Kentucky Infantry. Company C was officered as follows: D. M. Claggett, Captain; Jesse Griffin, First Lieutenant; Walter Evans, of Christian County, and now Commissioner of Internal Revenue, Second Lieutenant. Company F was officered with E. B. Edwards, Captain; F. H. Bristow, First Lieutenant; and S. H. Perkins, Second Lieutenant. Soon after being mustered into the service they were ordered to join Gen. Grant’s command in Tennessee, and were present at the taking of Fort Donelson. They continued with this command to Shiloh, where the regiment suffered severely, as did all the troops engaged. After the battle the Seventeenth and Twenty-Fifth Regiments of Kentucky Infantry were consolidated, as neither was full, under the title of the former. The two companies raised from Todd, Christian and Muhlenburg Counties were consolidated as Company D, of the Seventeenth Regiment, with D. M. Claggett, as Captain; F. H. Bristow, First Lieutenant; and Ned Campbell of Christian County, as Second Lieutenant; the other officers retiring from the service save Lieut. Griffin, who was killed at Fort Donelson. The regiment as consolidated continued in service until December 29, 1864, when it was mustered out at Louisville. A considerable number of Todd County young men found their way into the Federal Army, but as there were no public early enlistments in the county, they went in squads of two or three to various organizations, of which there is no record.

The friends of the Confederate cause were much more prompt in making enlistments in this county. Early in the spring of 1861 a large company was formed by Childers and Edward Meriwether. They formed a camp at Trenton, and drilled for some time, organizing with Childers as Captain, and Meriwether as Lieutenant. Some difference sprang up in the company, when Childers with some twenty men left for Lee’s army, and joined Duncan’s regiment at Harper’s Ferry, Va. They soon started to join the army of Virginia, and were only prevented by a land-slide from taking part in the fight at Manassas. The balance of this company re-paired to Camp Boone, and were mustered into an infantry regiment with the understanding that when Meriwether should recruit sufficient numbers to form a company with them, they should be released for that purpose. They subsequently proceeded with Buckner’s command to the northern part of the State, and circling south came to Hopkinsville. Here Meriwether demanded the carrying out of the agreement, and after some difficulty this was effected, the company under command of Meriwether forming a part of Forrest’s cavalry. Capt. Meriwether was a gallant officer, and was killed early in the war, his company subsequently forming a part of Woodward’s regiment.

At the Front:

The record of their service has been written by Hon. Austin Peay, as follows:

” At Oak Grove, Christian Co., Ky., on the 9th day of April, 1861, a company of cavalry was organized with Thomas G. Woodward, a West Point graduate, as Captain. Oak Grove is near the Tennessee line, and many Tennesseans anxious to become soldiers united their fortunes with this Kentucky company. The citizens around Oak Grove were ardent Southerners, and gave liberally of their means to mount, arm and equip the company. Lieut. Darwin Bell and Orderly William Blakemore were sent on a secret mission to Cincinnati for arms, and succeeded in purchasing enough fine Colt’s revolvers with which to arm the company.

“It was the intention of the company to unite with the Kentucky State Guards, but the action of the State was so dilatory that on the 25th of June, 1861, it was mustered into the Tennessee service as an independent organization. It numbered 108 men and officers, and no finer body of men, or better equipped, ever sought or obtained service anywhere. It saw no, active service for some months, but was drilled in camp at Boone, Cheatham and Trousdale.

” When the army invaded Kentucky, it led its vanguard, and penetrated as far as Hopkinsville, the home of many of its members, returning to Bowling Green in the early winter. At Bowling Green the company grew to such proportions that it was divided into two companies, and then merged into the First Kentucky Cavalry as Companies A and B, Capt. Darwin Bell commanding Company A, and Capt. William Caldwell Company B. Woodward was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel. Ben Hardin Helm, a noble gentleman and chivalrous soldier, who gave his life for his country on the field of Chickamauga, was Colonel of the regiment. The regiment was 1,200 strong.

” Hard service, picketing and scouting through the hard winter of 1861 and 1862 characterized the company’s history, and a few skirmish-es, in which the men bore themselves well, and gave promise of the valor which afterward bore fruition upon many a hard-fought field. When the army retreated from Kentucky, the regiment was its rear guard, and with sickening heart followed its dreary march through the whole State of Tennessee, until once again it formed its lines and confronted the enemy at Shiloh. Then it was stationed at Florence, Ala., and gave Gem Johnston accurate information of the advance of Buell’s army, which precipitated the attack at Shiloh. After the battle, which but for the untimely death of that great soldier, Gen. Johnston, would have been the most complete victory of the war, the command followed the varying fortunes of the army in Mississippi and Alabama until in May of 1862, under Gen. Adams, it was sent on a raid in middle Tennessee. Here it was engaged in several hard fights. At Winchester, Tenn., Companies A and L, with a fool-hardy courage, under orders of Capt. Cox, of Adams’ staff, who was in command, charged the court house filled with Federal infantry, halted in its front, fired their guns and revolvers in its doors and windows in the faces of the astonished foe, and then retreated under a murderous fire, which left many of its best and bravest dead and wounded. At Huey’s Bridge, the First Kentucky and some companies of the Eighth Texas, charged a Federal regiment entrenched in camp, and killed or captured every man of them, but with fearful loss of life among its officers and men. The advance of the Federal infantry drove Adams’ command from this portion of Tennessee across the river to Chattanooga. Here on the 25th of June, 1862, the time of enlistment of Companies A and B expired, and they were mustered out of the service. Some of the men re-enlisted at once and joined a command which Forrest was raising for a raid into Tennessee and Kentucky, but the greater number returned to their homes within the Federal lines in the above-named States.

” On the 12th of July, just seven days after disbandment, Woodward had returned into Kentucky, and in Christian County began the organization of a new command. His old men almost to a man gathered around him, new recruits flocked to him from Kentucky and Tennessee, and he soon had a large regiment in the field. The men were generally not well armed, and like all raw recruits in the beginning wanting in discipline, but under Woodward’s fine system of military tactics they soon became disciplined and hardened to the usages of war. They met the enemy often, and with varying success. Clarksville, Tenn., with Col. Mason and its entire garrison, was captured with but little loss; Fort Donelson was attacked, but the attack was repulsed with severe loss. The next morning the enemy, presuming upon the repulse of the day before, followed to the Rolling Mills, and charged with a regiment of cavalry. Woodward had had warning of their approach, and was ready for them. The command was placed in position under the river banks, and in the demolished works of the old mill, while the small four-pounder was in position at a bridge which was a little way in front. The Federal cavalry scarcely gave the command time to get into position before it charged in column down the road. On they came with headlong courage. The cannon was overturned after one.. discharge, and the cavalry with drawn sabers swept down upon our position. The tale was soon told. The men poured a terrible fire from both sides of the road into their serried column, and the road was soon choked with dead and wounded men and horses. Two front companies were annihilated, not a single man escaping to tell the bloody fate of his comrades. The rear companies never came through, but turned and fled. The command lost not a man in the action, and its retreat was in safety to Clarksville.

” Woodward remained in Kentucky drilling and enlarging his command until after the battle of Perryville and Bragg’s retreat from Kentucky. The Federals then sent Gen. Ransom with a large command into southern Kentucky to drive Woodward out. Near the little town of Garrettsburg, in September of 1862, the Federals struck Woodward’s regiment in line of battle. The conflict was sharp and brief. Overpowered in numbers, armed only with shot-guns, and upon ground unfitted for cavalry fighting, the men were no match for the long range rifles of the trained infantry and artillery of the foe, and broke into disorder and fell back in great confusion, leaving a good many dead on the field, and carrying off as many more wounded. The next day Cumber-land River was crossed, Kentucky faded into the distance, and the homes of our birth were left to the possession of the foe.

” Near Charlotte, in Dixon County, the command was camped for some time. The regiment was enlisted for one year’s service, and here came the tidings that the Confederate authorities would receive no enlistment for less than three years’ service, and it came coupled with the command to swear the men in for three years and place the regiment under the command of Forrest, who was then preparing to invade west Tennessee. At this time Forrest was as much feared and despised as he was afterward appreciated and beloved. So the men refused to submit to the terms pro-posed and the regiment went to pieces, as the night gathered clans of McGregor dissolved before the light of the morning.

” Woodward’s work, before its full fruition, had come to naught. His disappointment was great, but nothing daunted, he gathered around him a company of 100 men, followed Forrest into west Tennessee and did yeoman service,` participating in every engagement of that hard campaign, and winning the highest commendation for himself and men from his chief, that glorious old dead hero, who never said to his men, ‘ Go,’ but ‘ Follow me.’ In this campaign was killed Lieut. Joe Staton, a man of great vanity, but of courage as true as steel, of brilliant mind, and an officer gallant as ever drew saber or buckled a spur.

” When Woodward returned from the campaign in west Tennessee, for weeks his command was camped at Columbia, Tenn. His old comrades again flocked to his standard; there was no peace for them while their beloved South writhed in the grasp of the foe and fought for liberty. They came in troops and companies; to-day in squads of three or four, to-morrow in organized companies, mostly from Kentucky, but a goodly sprinkling of Tennesseans, most of whom joined Company A, commanded by Will A. Elliott, himself a son of Tennessee. Company C was composed entirely of Tennesseans, and its Captain, Tom Lewis, was as noble a gentleman and brave a soldier as ever lived or died. Soon once more by his indomitable exertions, Woodward had organized a fine, serviceable body of men. Seven full companies answered at his roll call and stood ready to follow him to battle: not sufficient for a regiment, yet it was received as such. Woodward was elected to the command with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, and Thomas Lewis as Major. Its companies were commanded and distinguished as follows: Company A, Capt. Will A. Elliott, about one-third Tennesseans; Company B, Capt. Given Campbell; Company C, Capt. Tom Lewis; after Lewis’ promotion to Major commanded by Lieut. Jackson; Company D, Capt. Robert Biggs; Company E, Capt. John Crutcher; Company F, Capt. J. H. Harvey; and Company G, Capt. Joe Williams. C. D. Bell was Adjutant and Edward Gray Sergeant-Major.

” Thus was organized and officered and constituted a regiment, and sworn into the Confederate service for the war. It was the famous Second Kentucky, and if its country had a history its record should be writ-ten deep upon it. But who can write its history? It would take a volume in itself to contain it. It cannot be done; its roll has been lost, and could it be called to-day more voices would answer from the further shore than from this. The pen stands appalled at the magnitude of the task. How write the eulogies and elegies of its living and dead? Its dead sleep in every State of the South, and not a stream that has not run red with their blood. From the deep-moving current of Green River to the slumbrous waters of Cape Fear these veterans marched and fought. From where the winds of winter sweep in shrill cadences over the hills of north-ern Kentucky, to where the warm waves of the ocean lave the sand beaches of Carolina, they followed the flag of their country with unfaltering devotion through victory and defeat, until with sorrowing hearts they saw it furled and laid away forever.

” Who can write its history, illustrate its devotion and call the roster of its dead? How it followed a cause until ‘lost’ and dead; how it fought under Forrest, the most beloved leader of them all, in his numerous hard fights in many campaigns; in east Tennessee under chivalrous Kelly; and then to Chickamauga, where Forrest dismounted his men and led them into battle as infantry, and when the enemy were defeated and routed, he mounted his impetuous riders and pushed them right upon Chattanooga. Here Forrest, followed by Maj. William Caldwell, Adj. C. D. Bell and Lieut. Pack Edwards, daringly charged into the streets of the town, where Forrest’s horse was killed. After this battle the regiment, in spite of its prayers and tears, was taken from Gen. Forrest and with the First and Ninth Kentucky organized into a brigade, and placed under the command of J. Warren Grigsby, and assigned to Gen. Joseph Wheeler’s corps of cavalry. This was in obedience to new regulations from Richmond, putting regiments from same State in brigades together. Forrest was to be sent into west Tennessee, and was allowed some troops with him. He asked for the Second Kentucky and McDonald’s battalion, but for some reason was refused his request.

” Wheeler, immediately after the battle of Chickamauga, gathered together his forces, and crossing the Tennessee far above Chattanooga, swept around the enemy’s rear through the whole of middle Tennessee, leaving ruin and devastation for him wherever he marched. At Farmington was fought a battle in which the Second Kentucky lost heavily and bore the brunt of the fight.

” It would be an endless task to attempt to follow in detail the service under this distinguished general,. the Prince Rupert of the Confederate army. After the raid into Tennessee and some further service in east Tennessee, the command was recalled to the main army, and Gen. John S. Williams sent to command the brigade, under whom it served until the close of the war. After the disastrous defeat at Missionary Ridge, Wheeler covered the retreat from Dalton to Atlanta, and after the battle of Jonesboro followed and captured Stoneman and his command in the heart of Georgia, and then again crossing the Tennessee River near Knoxville, made the circuit of the enemy’s rear. On this raid Williams’ brigade was separated from the main command, and being hard pushed returned by way of east Tennessee and Virginia, reaching Saltville in time to join in the battle there under Gen. John C. Breckinridge, which resulted in the total overthrow of the Federals, and the saving of those valuable works.

” Hood had invaded Tennessee, and Sherman was marching for the sea. Williams’ brigade was sent to join Hampton, who was the only foe Sherman had in his front. This general was another Forrest, and fighting was hard, but how useless. A few cavalry, however great their valor, could not successfully check the countless hordes of Sherman, and hordes they were more pitiless than those of Attila and Genghis Khan, leaving fiery destruction in their march. Hampton fought them every step, and kept their plunderers from scattering too far from their line of march. On the plains in front of Columbia, S. C., Gem Williams’ brigade was engaged in the heaviest contest of the war for it, and the Second Kentucky left its best and bravest, dead on the field.

” Soon after the foe reached the sea the command joined Gen. Johnston, who was gathering the scattered fragments of Hood’s army in North Carolina. History tells how those decimated veterans fought at Bentonville. Part of that history belongs to this veteran regiment. Hope had fled, death had thinned its ranks, but with unconquered resolution its men fought; and it is but truth and justice to say that they never met the foe in those last days but their battle-scarred banner floated in victory over his silenced batteries and broken columns. But the dread fiat which struck sorrow to so many faithful hearts had gone forth from the Lord of Hosts, and the cause was lost !

“President Davis dispatched to Gen. Johnston at Raleigh to send, as an escort for himself and the remains of the Government, a thousand of his best cavalry. Dibbrell’s division, composed of Williams’ and Dibbrell’s brigades, was sent. The division reached the President at Greenville, and followed him in mournful march until about three days before his capture, beyond Washington, Ga. It was a mournful cortege that wound along over the hills of Carolina and Georgia in those memorable May days of 1865. The writer of this remembers on this march a scene one morning that made a strong impression on his youthful mind. An ambulance, which was in the train and near the front, had mired in the mud, or broken something, which caused a halt. Around it, with shoulder to the wheel on one side, was Judah P. Benjamin, Secretary of State; on. the other side was John H. Reagan, Postmaster-General, and looking on were the Secretary of the Treasury and Samuel Cooper, Adjutant-General of all the armies; while a little further off, mounted and looking on, were President Davis and Gen. John C. Breckinridge, Secretary of War.

” The regiment was paroled May 9, near Washington, Ga., and allowed to retain their horses, but at Chattanooga the horses were taken from them and they sent to Nashville and lodged in the penitentiary until morning. In the morning its men were marched into the city, made to take the oath, and allowed to go to their homes sadder and wiser, if not better men.

” Such is but a cursory sketch of a command composed of the flower of the youth of Kentucky and Tennessee, and which did its duty in a great historic conflict. It is incomplete and imperfect, and it is not possible now, and never will be, to write an accurate history of its deeds. No history of Tennessee could be complete, or just, or honest, unless meritorious mention was made, even nameless though they be, of those gallant sons, who, merging their identity in this Kentucky regiment, gave their services and fought and died for the land and cause which they in common with their mother Tennessee loved so well. Some of them go through life dragging their poor wounded bodies, and no government administers to them with fostering care, while the graves of many more, who died in battle, dot the hills and plains of the South, and the finger of affection cannot find their last resting place. No monument rises above them, no cenotaph, perhaps, will ever have carved on its voiceful marble their glorious deeds; but how useless are all of these, for marble and monumental brass corrode and fall into dust, but their memories live and flourish in the hearts of their comrades, green as the grass that grows above them, and in the traditions of their grateful country their heroic deeds shall live forever.”

A few found their way to Morgan’s command, and to other organizations in the Confederate Army. Most of these enlistments were made early in the war, there being little in the cause of either side to subsequently draw the more conservative element into the ranks of either army. As matters progressed, the folly of any attempt to maintain neutrality became more apparent. The Union sentiment secured and maintained control of the official machinery of the State, notwithstanding the short-lived attempt to establish at Bowling Green a provisional government to draw the State into the Confederacy. The temporizing policy, however, served to make Kentucky the battle-ground of the contending armies, and only the early success of the Union arms in Tennessee saved Kentucky from the most destructive ravages of war. Todd County was situated too far west to experience the effect of a campaign by large armies, but the community was kept in a constant state of insecurity by the scouting parties of both armies. It should be said, however, that the non-combatant adherents of either party acted with good faith toward each other. When detachments of either army appeared in the county, the friendly influence of the partisan of the dominant power was always exerted in behalf of his neighbors, and while none were safe from the indiscriminate plunderings of the guerrillas, or the arbitrary action of irresponsible subordinates, still the community here suffered comparatively little the ravages of war. Two slight skirmishes, on the western border of the county and at Coleman’s bridge; a few dashes of guerrillas into Elkton, with the usual plundering of a store or smokehouse; and the occasional passage or temporary stationing of small bodies of troops in the county, were the sum of Todd County’s military experiences.


Battle, J. H., W. H. Perrin, Counties of Todd and Christian, Kentucky : historical and biographical, Chicago : F. A. Battey Publishing Co., 1884.

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