Family Stories

The History of Marion County, Kentucky

This history of Marion County, Kentucky, I know very well.  In the summer between my senior year of high school and first semester at college I worked at our local public library – in Marion County.  Having spent many, many hours there in the previous several years, going through census records – micro fiche – no books at that time! – and pouring over the county histories and family histories for records of my family – I was very familiar with the library, and excited when I was hired!  One of my tasks, other than shelving books, checking out customers, etc., was to type an extra copy of this history by W. T. Knott!  There are perhaps 100 pages.  We did not have copy machines (1975) so if you wanted an extra copy it was typed!  I was fascinated with the book – so loved every moment of my typing assignment!

In previous posts the history of the author, W. T. Knott, was the subject at hand, and early settlers were discussed.  This post is about the Civil War in Marion County.  John Hunt Morgan came through and made the town his own.  Just a few days after the Confederates moved out of Lebanon they met Federal troops at the little town of Perryville, Kentucky.  And just so you know, General Morgan was not  finished with the town of Lebanon – he comes around again in part two of the civil war days of Marion County.

from The History of Marion County by W. T. Knott

Occasion for recording “war history” of our county did not exist again until the year 1850.  In that year forebodings of an impending civil war in the United States were afloat everywhere over our country.  Little did the citizens realize the horrors that a civil war would bring upon the country.  Little did they appreciate what utter desolation, ruin and misery were so soon to overtake and overwhelm a great portion of our territory, and that so many hundreds of thousands of the then happy, prosperous citizens were so soon destined to reap the most dire consequences of a long and bloody war.  Nothing like a true conception at that time of coming events existed in any mind.  Older men felt grave apprehensions, it is true, but took their places fearlessly on the one side or the other, determined boldly to face whatever might be the consequences.  Younger men seemed joyous and merry as if they were anticipating a mere picnic where there might be “some hardship, but abundance of fun,” and that the dark clouds would soon go away.

On the 20th day of December, 1860, South Carolina passed the ordinance of secession, and in a short time many of the Southern states followed her example.  On the 4th day of February, 1861, Jefferson Davis was chosen President of the new government.  On the 12th day of April, 1861, Edmund Ruffin, under orders from P. C. T. Beauregard, fired the first gun of the civil war, its shot crashing against the granite walls of Fort Sumpter, whilst its report sounded and resounded, echoed and re-echoed, announcing the beginning of the civil war to every citizen of our country and of the whole world as well.

Marion County, until that shot, was comparatively quiet, but very soon the community gave unmistakable evidence of political disintegration.  Old men and young men elected their positions; many on each side hurried off to join the armies of their choice.  Some families divided, one son would enlist in one army, his brother in the army opposed.  Even our women were partisans; some support the stars and stripes while others held up the stars and bars.  The county was not all excitement, many of our prominent citizens were for the Union, as it was, and opposed to the Southern act of secession; others were in favor of succession and were ready to fight for the cause and left the county for the purpose of casting their lots with the Southern army; other good citizens were in favor of Kentucky neutrality – that is, they wished our state to arm her citizens and to whip both armies or either of them if they dared to cross our borders.  The Union party in the county, being largely in the majority, at once organized two companies of “Home Guards” in Lebanon, with many men from the county as members, for the purpose of protection or to meet any emergency that might arise.  The first company organized elected T. C. Woods as captain; the other company was commanded by Captain Richard Knott.  Shortly after the organization of the “Home Guard Companies” two camps were established for the purpose of recruiting and drilling volunteers for the service of the United States army.  C. S. Hill was commissioned Colonel and had charge of the camp “B. Spalding”.  For the purpose of recruiting a regiment of state troops, Colonel Hill resigned his commission as Colonel of U.S. Volunteers and Colonel John M. Harlan, now one of the Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, took his place as commander of his camp, and filled the regiment.  Their recruiting camp was called “E. A. Graves” and commanded by W. Anderson, from Louisville.  The General George H. Thompson estate was headquarters at Lebanon in the later part of November, 1861, and from that day until the close of the war Lebanon served as a post.

On the 10th day of July, 1862, while the post at Lebanon was guarded by only fifty or sixty soldiers under the command of Colonel Johnson – who was, I think,
Colonel of the 28th Kentucky Infantry – Colonel John H. Morgan commanding a battalion of Confederate Cavalry, raided the county and town and after a slight skirmish with the small body of U. S. soldiers under Colonel Johnson and a company of Home Guards, just out of the limits of the town on the Campbellsville road, put to flight and captured the whole force, killing two of the Home Guards, Moses Rickets and M. Deig, a German and recent citizen.  After Morgan’s force had burned Camp Crittenden, and all the quartermaster and commissary and ordinance stores and paroled his prisoners, he moved in the direction of Springfield.  In a few days after Morgan’s raid our town was again occupied by Federal soldiers, Colonel Owens, commanding the 60th Indiana Regiment and a battalion of the 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry under him as scouts, took possession of what was left of the military post, and at once proceeded to barricade the town, and issue orders that no person should leave the town without a pass from the military.  In the course of three or four weeks the post was re-enforced with forces under General Dumont, who superseded Colonel Owens and immediately began to add to the fortifications of the town, and throw up earthworks on some of the elevated surrounding of the town.  Common sense was a very scarce article with General Dumont, as it would appear when he bent every energy to perfect a complete “death pen” for his own men by digging trenches and planting fence rails and stakes across the street to “keep the enemy out and to keep his soldiers in,” while the town is so situated in a valley surrounded by high hills and knobs, and the occupancy by the enemy of any two or three, with a few pieces of artillery could have knocked the town into atoms, without the least danger to themselves.

On September 7, 1862, General Bragg having entered the state, General Dumont withdrew his forces from Lebanon, leaving a large amount of military and commissionary stores.  The day following Colonel Scott, entered and took possession of the place and left Dr. W. W. Cleaver, a citizen of our town and a surgeon in the Confederate army, in command of the post, who at once had the ditch filled and the barricades removed, for which the citizens were very thankful indeed.  Dr. Cleaver in the meantime recruited a company for the Confederate service.  During the time that the Confederate forces held this military post, and while Cleaver and others were recruiting in this and adjoining counties, the proclamation of President Lincoln abolishing slavery in the southern states “unless they returned to the Union before January 1, 1863,” was received at Lebanon.  Proclamation was dated September 22, 1862.  The Confederate forces evacuated Lebanon on the 5th day of October, 1862, and on the third day thereafter (October 8) the battle of Perryville was fought, from which bloody field of battle, many wounded Federals, as well as Confederate prisoners, were brought to Lebanon and cared for by the medical department of the Federals.  Our citizen women, true to all the traits of pure, noble womanhood, came forward, laying aside, for the time being, all partisan feeling, and prejudice, administering to the wants of the wounded and dying, closing the eyes, with motherly and sisterly tenderness, of those whom they had never seen before, dropping here and there a tear of sympathy beside the cold dead face of some woman’s son or brother or husband (they knew not who), and offering up a silent prayer that their loved ones, if ever on the battlefield should meet with like misfortunes, might have the like of kindness shown to them by strangers.  In this mission of love our women administered to the wants and necessities of expiring.  Federal and Confederate soldiers alike.  The “Stars and Stripes” and the “Stars and Bars” were on such occasions of death and suffering, for the time being, furled, hidden and forgotten.

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