The Battle of Mill Springs, Kentucky, Jan. 19, 1862

jackt62

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The map above indicates the geographic significance of the tiny battle; the Confederate force at right labeled Crittenden was the anchor of Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston's line which stretched entirely across the state of Kentucky from the bastion of Columbus in the west to the Cumberland Gap in the East, with Johnston's headquarters near the center in Bowling Green. Once the Confederate right was defeated and driven back at Mill Springs, it was followed quickly by Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's advance into Tennessee and capture of Forts Henry and Donelson in early February. This collapsed Johnston's line, causing the evacuation of Columbus, Bowling Green, and the entire state of Kentucky, without which President Abraham Lincoln said the war could not be won.
The Union victory at Mill Springs, along with the other engagements noted, probably spelled defeat for the Confederacy. It was early in the war, and it may not have been apparent at that time, but by successfully busting the Confederate defensive line across southern Kentucky and northern Tennessee, the ultimate outcome of the war was set in stone. My opinion.
 

jackt62

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Good pictures. I remember reading in the Official Records some months ago about the campaign of Zollicoffer leading up to this battle. He was very confident he would succeed, and had straddled the river near the border for exiting. The Big Sandy came into play, and Zollicoffer had advanced past that crossing, and where the camp and his other troops were busy near the Cumberland were separated somewhat, but due to overconfidence, attacked, defeated, and driven back into Tennessee. My memory is vague on the full details. It was a ferry crossing on the river, and I didn't know the confederates moved into Kentucky but for one purpose, and that was to attack.
I really enjoyed the thread. Thanks.
Lubliner.
While hoping to take the offensive, the Confederate position placed its back against the Cumberland River. The wiser move would have been to stay on the south bank and assume a defensive position, which is what I believe General A.S. Johnston advised. As with the entire Kentucky line, it might have been more prudent for the Confederacy to maintain a strictly defensive posture, without making aggressive moves such as Polk's occupation of Columbus or Zollicoffer's attack at Mill Springs.
 

Lubliner

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The Union victory at Mill Springs, along with the other engagements noted, probably spelled defeat for the Confederacy. It was early in the war, and it may not have been apparent at that time, but by successfully busting the Confederate defensive line across southern Kentucky and northern Tennessee, the ultimate outcome of the war was set in stone. My opinion.
Over-confidence contributed to it.
Lubliner.
 

James N.

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While hoping to take the offensive, the Confederate position placed its back against the Cumberland River. The wiser move would have been to stay on the south bank and assume a defensive position, which is what I believe General A.S. Johnston advised. As with the entire Kentucky line, it might have been more prudent for the Confederacy to maintain a strictly defensive posture, without making aggressive moves such as Polk's occupation of Columbus or Zollicoffer's attack at Mill Springs.
Evidently Johnston had sent Crittenden to Zollicoffer to order him back across the Cumberland. Unfortunately, Thomas had already begun to move against the Confederates by that time, so the pair of generals felt a spoiling attack before Thomas could fully concentrate his still-scattered force had at least a fair chance of success. Also, they didn't want Thomas to attack them while they were in the process of trying to re-cross the river with their supplies and other impediments.
 

NedBaldwin

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I feel the strategic importance is overstated.
did not lead Johnston to pull back from Bowling Green
Did not contribute to Fort Donelson and Henry
I dont see that it really turned Johnston's flank or left it wide open for further Federal advances -- the next time the US tried to advance that way a few months later, it found a CS brigade at Cumberland Gap
Sure Crittenden retreated "all the way back" to Tennessee but that was a mere 20 miles away
 

Dave DuBrucq

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Tennessee
Thought I would share a few photos of the last re-enactment that will ever be held on the Mill Springs Battlefield. Some of the early morning photos are haunting due to the cold fog.

Mill Springs 01.JPG


Mill Springs 02.JPG


Mill Springs 03.JPG

Federal Cavalry (1st Michigan)
This was taken on the last day of the re-enactment. Weather had improved significantly.

Mill Springs 1.jpg

Right after we positioned our Williams gun for the final re-enactment.
I have some others which I have not uploaded to this PC that I am saving for posterity. This was a great re-enactment and our Kentucky hosts could not have been more welcoming. I have just started reading some scholarship on this engagement, that goes beyond the obvious. This fight was notable because it was the first significant victory for George Thomas and because Confederate Brigadier General Felix Zollicoffer was killed when he blundered into the Federal Camp.
 

Rusk County Avengers

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Thought I would share a few photos of the last re-enactment that will ever be held on the Mill Springs Battlefield. Some of the early morning photos are haunting due to the cold fog.

View attachment 387613

View attachment 387614

View attachment 387615
Federal Cavalry (1st Michigan)
This was taken on the last day of the re-enactment. Weather had improved significantly.

View attachment 387616
Right after we positioned our Williams gun for the final re-enactment.
I have some others which I have not uploaded to this PC that I am saving for posterity. This was a great re-enactment and our Kentucky hosts could not have been more welcoming. I have just started reading some scholarship on this engagement, that goes beyond the obvious. This fight was notable because it was the first significant victory for George Thomas and because Confederate Brigadier General Felix Zollicoffer was killed when he blundered into the Federal Camp.

The NPS would do itself so much good if they allowed reenactments.

I've seen more reenactment footage of Mill Springs in documentaries than I have books on the battle. A shame its over, I always thought it looked like a great event, and if flintlocks were allowed and the weather conditions a reenactor could have a realistic time on the same field!

Neat looking Williams gun by the way. @DixieRifles would love to see that I bet...
 

GwilymT

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The NPS would do itself so much good if they allowed reenactments.

I've seen more reenactment footage of Mill Springs in documentaries than I have books on the battle. A shame its over, I always thought it looked like a great event, and if flintlocks were allowed and the weather conditions a reenactor could have a realistic time on the same field!

Neat looking Williams gun by the way. @DixieRifles would love to see that I bet...
I know the NPS generally does not allow battle re-enactments but don’t they have some exceptions to the rule?
 

Dave DuBrucq

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The NPS would do itself so much good if they allowed reenactments.

I've seen more reenactment footage of Mill Springs in documentaries than I have books on the battle. A shame its over, I always thought it looked like a great event, and if flintlocks were allowed and the weather conditions a reenactor could have a realistic time on the same field!

Neat looking Williams gun by the way. @DixieRifles would love to see that I bet...
I have worked that gun for several years. Love it! I enjoy working the three inch ordnance rifle and the 10 pounder Parrot, but the Williams gun is something special.
Williams gun 1.jpg

We were in Confederate kit for this community event. (Sorry for the background but we didn't have a lot of room or I could have gotten a better picture).
 

Rusk County Avengers

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I know the NPS generally does not allow battle re-enactments but don’t they have some exceptions to the rule?

The way I've always heard it stated was "The NPS doesn't believe battle reenactments are the proper way to honor fallen soldiers." which I call bs on. I think the NPS got sued during the Centennial events in the 1960's and said no more.

Either way its extremely foolish given the great number of dedicated reenactors nowadays who do things right, (contrary to the Centennial years), and how the Parks always seem to have funding problems cause if handled correctly, a reenactment could give an economic boost to an ailing Park. Not to mention get a local festival going and thus people visiting the parks and learning.

Now a lot of Parks do have Living Histories with them being invite only, and in theory a discriminating eye to make sure quality impression having reenactors come out. Arkansas Post was going to have one that wasn't necessarily open to the public this month with a skirmish off property, but not off battlefield, and it got postponed. Those type of events tend have the reenactors raising money to donate to the park, which you'd think would give some of the powers-that-be a clue...

There's a lot of NPS staff who are reenactors, a lot of whom I've known were stitch-counters, and shouldn't be tarred with the same brush as all NPS staff as those types tend to top notch great and dedicated people.
 

Rusk County Avengers

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I have worked that gun for several years. Love it! I enjoy working the three inch ordnance rifle and the 10 pounder Parrot, but the Williams gun is something special.View attachment 387641
We were in Confederate kit for this community event. (Sorry for the background but we didn't have a lot of room or I could have gotten a better picture).

You need to start a thread on that gun with detailed photos....
 

GwilymT

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Pittsburgh
The way I've always heard it stated was "The NPS doesn't believe battle reenactments are the proper way to honor fallen soldiers." which I call bs on. I think the NPS got sued during the Centennial events in the 1960's and said no more.

Either way its extremely foolish given the great number of dedicated reenactors nowadays who do things right, (contrary to the Centennial years), and how the Parks always seem to have funding problems cause if handled correctly, a reenactment could give an economic boost to an ailing Park. Not to mention get a local festival going and thus people visiting the parks and learning.

Now a lot of Parks do have Living Histories with them being invite only, and in theory a discriminating eye to make sure quality impression having reenactors come out. Arkansas Post was going to have one that wasn't necessarily open to the public this month with a skirmish off property, but not off battlefield, and it got postponed. Those type of events tend have the reenactors raising money to donate to the park, which you'd think would give some of the powers-that-be a clue...

There's a lot of NPS staff who are reenactors, a lot of whom I've known were stitch-counters, and shouldn't be tarred with the same brush as all NPS staff as those types tend to top notch great and dedicated people.
Perhaps I was equating the “living history” with battle re-enactments. So a group could be a part of a living history display and set up a camp, drill, etc... but wouldn’t be able to have a battle?
 

Rusk County Avengers

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Perhaps I was equating the “living history” with battle re-enactments. So a group could be a part of a living history display and set up a camp, drill, etc... but wouldn’t be able to have a battle?

Yes.

The kicker is there's a ton of paperwork, special permission, special releases, just a big hassle really. There's exceptions, but that's the general rule in my experience, I think it comes down to the park and they're staff.

State Parks are the way to go if your a reenactor/living historian. At least in the South. Bad part is one Arkansas State Park won't allow ramrods on muskets, and got a bunch of my comrades-in-arms who just about reenact there 90 percent of the time convinced that that is a general reenacting rule.
 

Lubliner

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The way I've always heard it stated was "The NPS doesn't believe battle reenactments are the proper way to honor fallen soldiers." which I call bs on. I think the NPS got sued during the Centennial events in the 1960's and said no more.

Either way its extremely foolish given the great number of dedicated reenactors nowadays who do things right, (contrary to the Centennial years), and how the Parks always seem to have funding problems cause if handled correctly, a reenactment could give an economic boost to an ailing Park. Not to mention get a local festival going and thus people visiting the parks and learning.

Now a lot of Parks do have Living Histories with them being invite only, and in theory a discriminating eye to make sure quality impression having reenactors come out. Arkansas Post was going to have one that wasn't necessarily open to the public this month with a skirmish off property, but not off battlefield, and it got postponed. Those type of events tend have the reenactors raising money to donate to the park, which you'd think would give some of the powers-that-be a clue...

There's a lot of NPS staff who are reenactors, a lot of whom I've known were stitch-counters, and shouldn't be tarred with the same brush as all NPS staff as those types tend to top notch great and dedicated people.
I didn't realize the NPS's major purpose would be to honor fallen soldiers. Memorial Day and a every grave is set for commemoration. The idea I believed to be the purpose of the NPS is guardianship, preservation of lands and monuments, and offering public assistance upon enquiry. I would think a reenactment would bring in necessary funding, unless the cost of clean-up, landscaping, and policing during and after the event was too costly. We have had dedicated days here in the past for volunteers to clear creeks and streams. Of course, the politicians' booster boys seek any avenue for personal prestige and power. If they could just be more committed to the cause progress would be advanced.
Lubliner.
 
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