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Battle of Middle Creek
January 10, 1862 Battle of Middle Creek Kentucky
  James Garfield

Battle of Middle Creek

Following the disaster at Ball's Bluff and George McClellan's unwillingness to advance, Abraham Lincoln was spending much of his time trying to placate the Republican Congress. Early in 1862 Brigadier General and future President James Garfield gave the President a battle that could be construed as a victory.

Commander of the Western Theater for the Confederates Albert Sidney Johnston viewed Brigadier General Humphrey Marshall's position in extreme eastern Kentucky on the Big Sandy River as preserving Confederate presence in the eastern part of the state and providing some cover for the Cumberland Gap now that General Felix Zollicoffer had moved west to form the eastern end of his 200-mile front.

Marshall had been somewhat successful in recruiting Kentuckians to the Secessionist Army and had a pretty good idea of what he was facing. The force opposing him was "...stated in the Cincinnati Enquirer on December 28, 1861 to consist of five full regiments of infantry, 200 cavalry, and two batteries of field artillery." He also knew the was under the command of Colonel James Garfield.

Garfield advanced to Sycamore Creek, north of Paintville and bivouacked. Humphrey intercepted a letter from Garfield to "Colonel Cranor" commanding the 40th Ohio, a cavalry force of about 500 men, instructing him to advance from West Liberty to Prestonburg, which would have put Marshall between the two Union forces. Marshall decided to move against Cramor while holding Garfield in place with a cavalry demonstration.

Cramor, however, eluded Marshall and rejoined Garfield and the federals near the junction of Paint Creek and Middle Creek. Now the Confederates, using Middle Creek for defense, lined the west bank of the river as Garfield's federals moved forward along a small valley screened by cavalry. The entire force was covered by Union troops in well secured position on nearby hills.

Artillery dispatched the Union cavalry fairly quickly, but the infantry behind them stood their ground in spite of repeated bombardment. They advanced on the Rebels three times in the vicinity of Spurlock Branch, each time being driven back by the Rebels on Middle Creek. Fighting continued along a relatively narrow front until nightfall when Garfield withdrew to Prestonburg and later to Paintsville while Marshall headed west in search of food for his men.

Links appearing on this page:

Abraham Lincoln
Albert Sidney Johnston
Ball's Bluff
December 28
December, 1861
Felix Zollicoffer
George McClellan
James Garfield

Battle of Middle Creek was last changed on - January 1, 2008
Battle of Middle Creek was added in 2005

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