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Confederate Invasion of Kentucky
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Campaigns
July 16, 1862 John Hunt Morgan wires Kirby Smith "Lexington and Frankfurt ... are garrisoned with Home Guard. The bridges between Cincinnati and Lexington have been destroyed. The whole country can be secured and 25,000 to 30,000 men with join you at once. Kentucky
  John Hunt Morgan
  E. Kirby Smith
July 21, 1862 In a tersely worded telegram, Braxton Bragg informs Jefferson Davis that he will move his army in force from Tupelo, Mississippi to Chattanooga, Tennessee Mississippi
Tennessee
  Braxton Bragg
  Jefferson Davis
July 31, 1862 Braxton Bragg [CS] and Kirby Smith [CS] meet in Chattanooga to agree on strategy against the Army of the Ohio.
  Braxton Bragg
  E. Kirby Smith
August 16, 1862 Don Carlos Buell orders William "Bull" Nelson to assume command of federal forces in Kentucky. Kentucky
  Don Carlos Buell
  William 'Bull' Nelson
August 16, 1862 Carter Stevenson [CS] appears at the entrance to the Cumberland Gap in eastern Tennessee. Kentucky
Tennessee
  E. Kirby Smith
August 21, 1862 Braxton Bragg crosses the Tennessee River at Chattanooga. Tennessee
  Army of Mississippi
August 28, 1862 Braxton Bragg [CS] leaves from north of Chattanooga, heading to join Kirby Smith in Kentucky Tennessee
  Braxton Bragg
  Army of Tennessee
  Army of Mississippi
August 30, 1862 Battle of Richmond

In an impressive victory, E. Kirby Smith [CS] defeats William "Bull" Nelson [US]
Kentucky
  Army of Tennessee
  E. Kirby Smith
  William 'Bull' Nelson
September 2, 1862 Kirby Smith enters Lexington, Kentucky Kentucky
  E. Kirby Smith
September 3, 1862 Confederate forces capture Frankfurt, the capital of Kentucky Kentucky
September 14, 1862
September 17, 1862
Battle of Munfordville

After being initially repulsed by a federal garrison of 4,000, Braxton Bragg [CS] laid a brief seige. Federals surrendered on the 17th.
Kentucky
  Braxton Bragg
  Simon Bolivar Buckner
  Battle of Munfordville
September 25, 1862 Don Carlos Buell arrives in Louisville, KY, beating Braxton Bragg to the Ohio River. Kentucky
  Braxton Bragg
  Don Carlos Buell
  Army of the Ohio
September 29, 1862 General William A. Nelson gets into an altercation with General Jefferson C. Davis at the Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky. Davis returns later with a gun and shoots and kills Nelson. Kentucky
  Generals Who Died In the Civil War
  William 'Bull' Nelson
September 29, 1862 George Thomas offered command of the Army of the Ohio. He refuses, unaware that Abraham Lincoln had made the offer after receiving a plea for Thomas from 20 officers in the Army of the Ohio.
  George Thomas
  Army of the Ohio
  Don Carlos Buell
October 4, 1862 Richard Hawes is inaugurated as Confederate governor of Kentucky. Braxton Bragg attends. Kentucky
  Braxton Bragg
October 8, 1862 Battle of Perryville

Braxton Bragg [CS] and Don Carlos Buell [US] fight the largest battle on Kentucky soil. The battle is generally regarded as a draw, although Buell claimed victory. Less than half of Buell's men participated because he did not know a major battle was taking place less than 2 miles from his headquarters
Kentucky
  Braxton Bragg
  Don Carlos Buell
  Army of the Ohio
  Army of Tennessee
  Philip Sheridan
  William Hardee
  Simon Bolivar Buckner
  Benjamin Franklin Cheatham
  Leonidas Polk
  Patrick Cleburne
October 10, 1862 Battle of Harrodsburg Kentucky
October 19, 1862
October 23, 1862
Bragg moves south through the Cumberland Gap, essentially escaping the Army of the Ohio Tennessee
Kentucky
  Braxton Bragg
October 24, 1862 Don Carlos Buell [US] is relieved of command from the Army of the Ohio for his failure to pursue Bragg [CS] following the Battle of Perryville. William Starke Rosecrans is ordered to replace him.
  Don Carlos Buell
  William S. Rosecrans


Invasion of Kentucky

In July, 1862, Braxton Bragg and E. Kirby Smith agreed that Smith should move on Lexington, Kentucky from his base near Knoxville in East Tennessee. With the Army of Northern Virginia moving north in Virginia and Confederate forces in the Kanawha Valley moving west towards Charleston in West Virginia, a three-prong Confederate attack might encourage Britain and France to recognize the Confederate States of America. This is a common reason cited for the invasion, but when Bragg and Smith made plans to invade Kentucky, international politics were far from their minds. Bragg felt he could increase enlistments in the Confederate Army and Smith wanted to secure Union supplies for his hungry men. Both men wanted to reclaim Kentucky for the Confederacy.

As early as August 14, 1862, Don Carlos Buell was receiving reports that Kirby Smith was moving on Kentucky with more than 10,000 men but felt the information was a ruse, perhaps to cover an attack on Nashville. By this time, forward units of Smith's command had been moving north for 3 days. Buell was also aware that Smith was being reinforced, perhaps from Virginia.

Former Naval officer, Nelson led Union forces at the battle of Richmond, Kentucky
William 'Bull' Nelson
Smith was, in fact, being reinforced, but by rail from Chattanooga. Bragg ordered Patrick Cleburne, one of his best infantry brigadiers, and others to advance to give Smith more manpower. It would soon be apparent to the Army of the Ohio why. On August 16, Buell was certain Kirby Smith was moving into Kentucky through gaps west of Cumberland Gap with the intent of getting behind Brigadier General George Morgan [US], then commanding the volunteers controlling the gap. Kirby Smith had split his force, sending some from Knoxville on a circuitous route through Montgomery and Jamestown, Tennessee to Somerset and on to London. Buell ordered William "Bull" Nelson north to take command of the meager Union forces in eastern Kentucky on August 16.

Buell then moved veteran commander George Thomas to McMinnville to replace Nelson and guard against Bragg, now north of the Tennessee River, striking the Union line. Union commanders had good reason to be concerned about protecting Nashville...Confederate cavalry raiders (specifically John Hunt Morgan and Nathan Bedford Forrest) were known to be operating in the area.

Carter Stevenson [CS] appeared at the Tennessee entrance to the gap, a narrow east-west passage in the Appalachian Mountains on August 16. Troops under the command of Pat Cleburne took London, Kentucky on August 17, although it would not be until August 22 that a significant force had arrived. Additional Rebel forces took Barboursville on August 20.

Even with reports of enemy in the rear and knowing Carter Stevenson was at the entrance to the gap with another significant force, George Morgan [US] resolutely decided to hold the gap, writing Buell on August 25 that his men were are half rations and he could hold out for 10 days. Morgan held a good position, but when Kirby Smith showed up at the west entrance to the gap, George Morgan withdrew into the mountains to the north and Carter Stevenson occupied the Cumberland Gap.

With George Morgan out of the way, the Confederate Army of Kentucky regrouped in Barboursville, Kentucky and moved northwest. For the last 10 days Bull Nelson had been struggling to form a fighting force from a group of recruits. Nelson fanned his army out to the south of Richmond, Kentucky. Smith ran into Nelson's men in the hamlet of Big Hill, west of Berea, where he had decided to concentrate in preparation for attack Richmond. As Nelson's men withdrew to Richmond, Kentucky under increasing pressure from Smith's men, Braxton Bragg left from his base north of the Tennessee River and marched over Walden's Ridge and up the Sequatchie Valley and north to Carthage.

Don Carlos Buell thought Bragg was moving on Nashville, so he concentrated his force at Murfreesboro, centrally located between Chattanooga and Nashville. When word reached Buell that the Confederates had bypassed both Murfreesboro and Nashville, Buell assumed Bragg was on his way to Louisville and the Ohio River. Were Bragg to reach the lightly defended Kentucky transportation hub that was supplying the entire Union army west of the Appalachian Mountains or sever the supply route down the Ohio, it might be a crippling blow to Union forces in the west. When word reached Buell that Nelson had been overpowered at Richmond, Buell began a race to Louisville. Kirby Smith headed north to Lexington.

Bragg moved quickly through the rolling hills of the Cumberland Plateau near Glasgow, east of Bowling Green. Simon Bolivar Buckner came upon a Union garrison in Munfordville, put there to guard an important railroad bridge over the Green River. Buckner had spent time in the city as a youth and knew the town well. Opposing Buckner was John Wilder, a Union colonel whose experience leaned towards engineering rather than command.

Expecting Buell to relieve his besieged garrison, Wilder did his best to delay, giving Buell more time. When the Confederate surrender demand arrived, Wilder asked Buckner what he should do. Buckner, who at first refused the request, decided to escort Wilder around the Rebel camp, after which Wilder surrendered. Meanwhile, Buell was quick-stepping his men to bypass Bragg (and Wilder) and sacrifice the 5,000 man garrison in Munfordville. Buell arrived in Louisville before the Army of Tennessee, but Wilder never forgave his commanding general for his action.

One of the reasons Buell beat Bragg to Louisville was that Bragg had decided to head to Bardstown, southeast of Louisville, rather than confront the Army of the Ohio. The Army of Tennessee commander felt that taking the communications and transportation hub of the United States Army would be a mistake because of Buell's numbers. Once in Louisville, Buell regrouped his troops until the end of September, then advanced slowly from Louisville. It was during this regroup that Buell lost division commander Bull Nelson to a bullet fired by a brigadier, Jefferson C. Davis at the Galt House.

After witnessing the inauguration of a Confederate governor of Kentucky (Richard Hawes) in Frankfurt on October 4, Bragg was forced to withdraw south because of the presence of the Army of the Ohio. Outside Perryville Bragg's men were desperately searching for water in the parched Kentucky Piedmont.

William Hardee's men had been surprised by the amount of Union contact over the last couple of days when they made camp on October 6. Perryville was a welcome relief for the troops that had been marching through drought-stricken Kentucky. With Chaplin River and its tributaries they found the one thing an army must have - water - and The Army of Tennessee was short of. Joe Wheeler had been skirmishing with the Yankees for the better part of the day, but did not really have a feel for their troop strength or concentration. Hardee, unwilling to march with an enemy of unknown strength to his rear decided to entrench and requested additional support from Leonidas Polk. Polk sent a division under Patton Anderson and a brigade under Pat Cleburne.

Opposing the veteran Confederate commander was the III Corps under the command of Brigadier General Charles Gilbert, who was doing a poor job of standing in for the late Bull Nelson. His men quickly developed a distaste for the recently promoted Gilbert, who was selected to replace Nelson simply because Gilbert had graduated from West Point. As they advanced to Perryville searching for water, it was Gilbert's men that Wheeler had been skirmishing with before the battle. Gilbert's men crossed Peter's Creek early on the morning of October 8th and engaged the Confederates. This was the start of the Battle of Perryville.

Before this engagement Buell decided to concentrate his widespread forces northwest of the small Kentucky town of Perryville because of the availability of water to quench the thirst of his soldiers. To the left of Gilbert he ordered the Union I Corps under Major General Alexander McDowell McCook, in command of a corps mostly comprised of raw recruits, to the right a corps under Brigadier General Thomas Crittenden. When word reached Buell of Gilbert's engagement he began preparing to attack the Rebel line, but decided to delay the attack at mid-morning when his troops were have trouble getting to the battlefield.

The Rebels, too, had been planning an attack, and the Confederates began a general movement forward about 2:00pm. It was McCook, on the Union left, who would absorb most of Leonidas Polk's [CS] attack on that October afternoon, while Gilbert was giving orders to Phil Sheridan to preserve ammunition (per his commander, Don Buell). Finally, at 3:30 pm, after General Hardee had joined the attack against McCook's Corps, did Gilbert send assistance, a brigade under Colonel Michael Gooding. Fighting would continue until nightfall with additional Union losses before they finally firmed their line. Bragg decided to withdraw and Buell claimed victory. It was the largest engagement fought on Kentucky soil.

Bragg and Smith ended up in Harrodsburg, where Smith tried to get Bragg to fight. Bragg felt that the entire state of Kentucky was against him and wanted to return to the relative safety of Knoxville. As the rear guard engaged some of Buell's forces, the armies headed to Big Hill, then London, before leaving the state through the Cumberland Gap. Soon, the Army of Tennessee was heading west to Murfreesborough.

Links appearing on this page:

Army of Northern Virginia
Army of Tennessee
Braxton Bragg
Bull Nelson
Don Carlos Buell
E. Kirby Smith
George Thomas
John Hunt Morgan
Kentucky
Leonidas Polk
Nathan Bedford Forrest
Patrick Cleburne
Simon Bolivar Buckner
Tennessee
Virginia
William Hardee

Civil War Encyclopedia >> Campaigns

Confederate Invasion of Kentucky was last changed on - November 19, 2006
Confederate Invasion of Kentucky was added on - October 12, 2006



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