Mill Springs battlefield is a exciting journey through an early Union victory of the Civil War. The battlefield tour closely follows Kentucky 235 from the site of the heaviest fighting to the shore of Lake Cumberland where the Confederates were encamped in the winter of 1861-62. A well-written tour guide can be obtained at the Pulaski County Convention and Visitors Bureau or at Zollicoffer Park, the second stop on the tour.
Although the tour begins as you enter the town of Nancy, you can learn a little about the battle on the drive to the tour. After leaving Somerset the road drops to and spans Fishing Creek. The Confederates call this the Battle of Fishing Creek while the Union called this the Battle of Logan's Crossroads. When General George Thomas established his camp at Logan's Crossroads he was waiting for General Albin Schoepf to arrive from Somerset. Fishing Creek had been swollen by the rain, making it almost impassible and delaying Schoepf's 8-mile journey.
Mill Springs National Cemetery
First stop on the tour is the Mill Springs National Cemetery, on the right just after entering the city of Nancy. One of the smallest national cemeteries in the system it was one of the 12 original cemeteries.
Site of heaviest fighting in the battle of Mill Springs, Zollicoffer Park is named for General Felix Zollicoffer, a noted editor, publisher and Congressional representative from the state of Tennessee. Within the park is a Confederate mass grave dug by Union forces following the battle. Headstones for each of the men who died were placed in a small cemetery near the mass grave but the bodies were not moved.
The park is the start of a excellent 0.5 mile interpreted hike through the battlefield, giving enthusiasts a chance to walk the site of the action. At the top of a low ridge near the park a split rail fence similar to the one where Union lines formed in 1862 overlooks the ravine that Confederates crossed before advancing on the line. The hike then drops to the ravine, crossing it on a bridge before rising to the site of a blacksmith shop where many of the Confederate injured sought shelter. It returns along Kentucky 235 near the historic road that Union forces also lined up along.
Within the park is the so-called "Zollie Tree," a white oak where, according to legend, General Zollicoffer's body lay until after the battle. In the early 1900's a young girl, Dorothea Hudson began honoring the fallen general on Decoration Day (now Memorial Day). In 1995 the tree was struck by lightning and destroyed, but a new white oak, a seedling from the original, is now growing in its place. Across from the park is an eternal flame, completed in 1997 as memorial to those who fought in the battle.
Last Stand Hill
This was the site of the rear guard action ordered by General George Bibb Crittenden, who was in overall command of the Confederates. Here, four regiments stood their ground against advancing Union forces following the loss at Mill Springs, gaining the retreating Confederate forces time to start on the return journey to Beech Cove.
Conferate Field Hospital
Pull in and climb to a small parking lot near the foundation of the cabin the South had chosen to use as a field hospital. Following the defeat of the Rebels, Yankees overran the hospital.
Confederates stumbled on a Union force at this point. There appears to be some debate as to whether the force was pickets or encamped cavalry or both but the skirmish served its purpose, warning the Union lines of the approaching enemy.
A small park with a cannon marks the site of the Union advance overlooking the Confederate position on the Cumberland River. From this site Union artillerists fired on the Rebels as they retreated across the river under the cover of darkness.
Confederate Fortified Camp at Beech Grove
It was from this site that Confederates advanced to attack the Union position at Logan's Crossroads. Following the battle the troops returned to this camp to cross the river to safety. Following the Confederate retreat, Union forces entered the camp and burned the cabins the Confederates had built.
This short walk follows the old ferry road to about 500 feet from the site of the ferry, now completely covered by Lake Cumberland.
The final stop on the tour, which the brochure considers optional, requires visitors to travel 30 miles to the far side of Lake Cumberland. Within the boundary of the park are the site of the mill that gave the battle its name, a house used by both Confederate and Union officers which has a hole from an artillery shell, an overlook where Confederate artillery was posted to protect the river and a good view of the Confederate position at Beech Grove.
Location:On Kentucky Highway 80 in Nancy, 8 miles west of Somerset Directions:From I-75 exit 41 take Kentucky Highway 80 west to Nancy, about 8 miles west of Somerset, Kentucky. Watch for a blue "Travel Information" sign for the Somerset/Pulaski County Convention and Visitors Bureau. You can stop here for an informative brochure on the battlefield and the tour guide, then read the brochure on the way to the battlefield. If you decide not to stop continue on Kentucky 80 to Nancy and turn left on KY 235. Zollicoffer Park is on the left and there are driving tour packets available here.