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 – part two – along with part two of General John Hunt Morgan.

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

The morning of the 5th day of July, 1863, found the military post at Lebanon commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hanson, of the 20th Kentucky Infantry.  Early on the morning of that day, Colonel John Hunt Morgan, in command of two brigades of Confederate Calvary, arrived before the town, and sent in a flag of truce, demanding the surrender of the Federal forces and the town.  Colonel Hanson, having but about 300 men fit for duty, reported his situation by telegraph to the commander of the department, who was at that time stationed in Louisville.  In reply Hanson was ordered to defend himself and the town by posting his men in the houses; that very soon he would be re-enforced by the command of Colonel David, who at that time, no doubt, was very near the town, coming from towards Danville with a battery and force of cavalry.  The anxiety of Morgan to capture the Federal troops before a large Federal force that he knew was following him, led by Generals E. H. Hobson and Woolford, should arrive and being impatient of the delay, he ordered the town to be set on fire.  The torch was at once applied to several dwellings, among others those of Dr. Ben Spalding, Dr. J. C. Maxwell, L. H. Noble, Mrs. Abell and J. S. Braddock.  Hanson, seeing the situation, and to save the utter destruction of the town already commenced, and despairing of receiving the promised assistance, displayed the white flag and surrendered his entire force to Morgan unconditionally.  Morgan then ordered his forces to cease the burning of private property and to assist in subduing the flames of those already burning.  This order was, however, too late to save any house to which the torch had been applied.  The engine house, containing a large amount of commissary and quartermaster stores, had been burned by Hanson previous to his surrender.  The fire from the depot, which was burned by Morgan, set on fire the dwelling and store house of C. Beeler, with an almost total loss of the contents of both.  Several other buildings had also taken fire but were fortunately saved.  The Confederates, finding one or two of their men in jail, released them, and, as many indictments had been filed against Confederate soldiers in the clerk’s office, that building, with all the records of the circuit and county courts since the county was organized was set on fire and all totally destroyed.  This to the county, as well as to citizens, was an irreparable loss.  [Think of the genealogy records that went up in flames!]

The surrender of Hanson was between twelve and one o’clock; between three and four p.m., after the Confederate forces had enjoyed the privileges and hospitalities of the town, they took leave, with Colonel Hanson’s forces, numbering about 300 men, as prisoners, on the road towards Springfield.  After the command with its prisoners had left town, and arrived at the toll gate near Mrs. Joseph Spalding’s residence, the Federal troops that were to have re-enforced Colonel Hanson appeared on Grime’s hill, a mile from town on the Danville Pike, and fired a few shells across the country towards the Springfield Pike, along which Morgan’s command was leisurely marching.  Colonel Hanson and his 300 soldiers, then prisoners, and on foot, were taken to Springfield where they were paroled.  It appears that the brave Colonel David, in command of this force of Federal soldiers, in spite of the desire of some of his subordinates to “hurry to the rescue of the Federal forces and property at Lebanon,” had ordered a halt a few miles above town, and in a beautiful shady grove remained in full enjoyment of ease, comfort and safety from ten a.m. until after three p.m.  It was supposed that the brave commander kept himself well posted as to the progress of the battle, and as soon as the enemy retired he boldly rushed to the top of Grime’s hill, exploded a few shells in the direction the enemy had gone, and leading his cavalry in one grand, thundering charge, he came like a grand cyclone, down on the town, sweeping the desolate streets and finally captured the town, after killing, just above the smoldering remains of the depot on Depot Street, one poor drunken Confederate who had become “overwhelmed by the hospitalities” of the town, and was still somewhat oblivious to the exact status of his surroundings, as he was endeavoring to find the street on which his command had left town.

In the battle Lieutenant Tom Morgan, of Morgan’s command, and a brother of General John Hunt Morgan, was killed while bravely leading the charge on the depot building then occupied by Hanson and his 300 men.  He fell on the Campbellsville Pike somewhere between the residences of Mr. John L. Edmonds and Mr. George T. Edelen.  Total killed and wounded so far as known – Federals – killed 5, wounded 22.  Confederates – killed, 13 reported, wounded, reported about 30.  There are reasons, however, to believe that the number of killed and wounded Confederates was much greater than reported.

Lebanon was continued as a military post for several years after this.  Among others whose names are not remembered, were Colonel Motley, Colonel Wood, Captain James M. Fidler and Lieutenant Horton, who were Post Commanders at different periods from Morgan’s raid of July, 1863, until the close of the war in 1865.  During the year 1864 the civil war was at its zenith of blood and carnage.  Scarcely a day passed that some family did not read the sad tidings of a dead of wounded father, husband, brother or son, for scarcely an important battle was fought during the war that Marion County was not represented on one side or the other, and oftentimes on both sides – brother against brother and neighbors against neighbors.

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