Perryville "The Most Complete Confederate Victory Of The War" - Richmond, Kentucky, August 30, 1862

James N.

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Part I - Confederate Invasion Of Kentucky
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Capt. James P. Douglas' 1st Texas Battery attached to the division of Brig. Gen. Pat Cleburne, pictured above earlier in 1862 by Texan artist Andrew Jackson Houston, fired the first rounds of the Confederate army in the running battle of Richmond, August 30, 1862.

The battle fought in and around Richmond, Kentucky had its genesis earlier in the year 1862 beginning with the twin campaigns and battles fought on opposite sides of the Bluegrass State at Mill Springs or Logan's Crossroads and Forts Henry and Donelson just across the state line in northwestern Tennessee:

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/the-battle-of-mill-springs-kentucky-jan-19-1862.142355/
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/fort-donelson-tennessee-february-14-16-1862.154852/
These Union successes were followed by the hasty evacuation of the state by Confederate forces which were reunited at Corinth, Mississippi, and soon engaged in the climactic Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee, April 6-7, 1862:

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/the-battle-of-shiloh-tennessee-april-6-7-1862.156549/
This bloodbath was followed by a period of relative quiet for over a month as the Federal host, now under the direct command of Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, slowly inched their way towards the vital rail crossroads and Confederate stronghold at Corinth. Forced to evacuate the town in early May, the Confederates withdrew south to Tupelo to consider their options. Meanwhile, Halleck was called to Washington, D.C. to assume direction of the entire Union war effort and his large army dispersed over a wide area under his subordinates Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell.

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Buell, seen above at center in a period CDV, is flanked by his opponents, at left Maj. Gen. Edmond Kirby Smith, and at right Gen. Braxton Bragg. Buell's was tasked with leading his Army of the Ohio eastward along the track of the Memphis and Charleston RR to its junction at Chattanooga, repairing it as he went; this requirement slowed his advance to a crawl and provided an opening the Confederates were eager to exploit. Smith commanded a small detachment in Eastern Tennessee centered around Knoxville; exaggerated and overoptimistic reports from Kentucky reached him that the state was largely undefended and its citizens eager to embrace the Confederate cause. He therefore encouraged Bragg to join him in a joint invasion to "liberate" the neighboring slave state.

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Map by Hal Jespersen, www.cwmaps.com

The map above indicates the position of Buell's scattered forces, as well as that of Kirby Smith at Knoxville and Bragg's Army of Mississippi arriving by train at Chattanooga. Unfortunately for the confederate cause, there was no overall commander to coordinate their independent moves, though at first this proved not to be a problem. Smith led his force north, bolstered by the loan of the division of Brig. Gen. Patrick Cleburne from Bragg's army, through the mountainous terrain of East Tennessee, skirting Cumberland Gap, sending the division of Carter Stevenson to seal off the Federal garrison there as the rest of his force of possibly 10,000 proceeded into Kentucky. Meanwhile Buell, blissfully unaware of Confederate moves, continued his own leisurely advance on Chattanooga, from which he was finally startled. He began to reorient the progression of his own divisions northward to cover the immense Union supply base at Nashville, sending who he believed to be his most reliable subordinate, Maj. Gen. William "Bull" Nelson, to Kentucky to take charge and hopefully bring order out of the impending chaos there.

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Above, former officer in the antebellum U. S. Navy and veteran of the Battle of Shiloh where he marched to the relief of Grant's struggling army on the first day of the battle, Bull Nelson, is seen in a retouched copy of his best-known likeness which adds the buttons and shoulder straps of a Major General to his Navy uniform. He is flanked by his principal subordinates at Richmond, Brig. Gen. Charles Cruft at left and Brig. Gen. Mahlon Manson at right. Nelson found little in the way of organized resistance at Lexington, target for Smith's advance, and hastily extemporized a force consisting mainly of green Indiana volunteer regiments under Manson; advancing south towards Richmond he found another force under militia general and local politician Cassius M. Clay, who Nelson replaced with veteran Cruft for the coming fight. Clay encouraged Nelson to use the line of bluffs along the Kentucky River as a defensive position, but Nelson instead marched on to Richmond.

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Nelson positioned his infantry around the Rogers Farm, grandiosly known as "Rogersville"; the main house is now the visitor's center for the spread out Richmond Battlefields Park. Here Manson and Cruft encamped with their brigades of what was known as the Army of Kentucky while Nelson tried to locate the advancing Confederate force, about which he knew virtually nothing, thanks largely to the tiny cavalry force of only around a thousand men led by Rebel Col. John S. Scott.

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Louisiana Col. Scott's veterans from Tennessee, Georgia, and Kentucky had been skirmishing for several days with an equally small force of mostly green local Kentucky Federal cavalry. From the small size of his force he was able to mask the true nature of his activities, convincing the Federals that he was merely another raider in the mold of Forrest and Morgan and therefore nothing serious for them to worry about. He was also armed with a section of tiny mountain howitzers like those pictured below in another location in Kentucky, and when the Unionists captured one of them in a skirmish they thought Scott was finished.

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James N.

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Part II - The Battle Begins In Earnest
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When on the morning of August 30, 1862 Scott's cavalry engaged the Federal outposts it was as cover for the advance of Kirby Smith's leading brigade, that of Pat Cleburne. Hearing the ruckus, Manson marched out to see what was going on, not bothering to inform cruft what he was doing; in the absence of Nelson who was out reconnoitering to the west where he expected the Confederates, this was a serious error. Manson took position across the Old State Road just south of Mount Zion Church, deploying his brigade mainly to the east of the road. As his artillery units arrived they were put in position here near the church commanding the Old State Road along which the Confederates were advancing. The view above is looking south in the direction from which the Confederate advance came along both sides of the road.

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The designation "batteries" for the units of Federal artillery here on the signage is misleading - they were each sections or parts of batteries, consisting of only two guns each. The Federals were considerably outnumbered in artillery here, Kirby Smith's force eventually deploying three full batteries of guns beginning with that of Capt. Douglas pictured at the top of this thread. Nevertheless, Douglas suffered from counter-battery fire, losing one of his section commanders, Lt. James N. Boren who was decapitated by a shell, and several men before being joined by Martin's Florida Battery which also suffered severely.

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The map above from the National Battlefield Trust depicts Richmond as a two-stage conflict; at bottom Cleburne's division is joined by the first brigade of Churchill's division, composed of Texas dismounted cavalrymen armed with a miscellany of small arms. Outflanked by Churchill, Manson fell back to the second position at the Rogers House where he was joined by Cruft; at this juncture of their forces, Federal commander Nelson was still missing from the scene.

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Kirby Smith's small army was composed of three divisions led by the men above: At left, Brig. Gen. Patrick Roynane Cleburne, a native of Ireland, was by then a veteran of Shiloh and Corinth; while talking with his friend and commander of one of his brigades Lucius Polk, Cleburne suffered a freak wound when a bullet or fragment of one entered his open mouth, exiting through his opposite left cheek, taking with it several of his teeth and rendering him unable to speak, forcing him to turn over command of his division to Brig. Gen. Preston Smith. Center, Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Churchill led a division of Westerners, Texans and Arkansans. At right, Virginian Brig. Gen. Henry ("Harry") Heth's division was too far in the rear of Smith's column to take part in the battle, but arrived in time to handle the job of paroling the many Federal prisoners in Richmond. A fourth small division under Carter Stevenson had as has been mentioned been left to mask and then take possession of Cumberland Gap once it was abandoned in the wake of the Confederate invasion.

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Churchill's division had advanced on the Union right flank by moving largely unseen up the declivity above, now known as Churchill's Draw. At the time of the battle it was heavily wooded allowing Churchill to approach unseen.

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Since McCray's brigade leading the advance of Churchill's division was composed almost entirely of Texas cavalrymen whose regiments had been forced to give up their horses in favor of becoming foot soldiers, this seemed a likely spot to recognize their major contribution to the Confederate victory by placing the Texas State Monument here at the head of Churchill's Draw; note that Capt. Douglas's 1st Texas Battery is also included in the roster of units engaged here.

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Churchill's men emerged near the Armstrong House above and below, which as usual became the site of a field hospital during the battle. Earlier, Martin's Florida Battery had mistakenly advanced to an exposed position near here before retiring hastily; later Humphrey's Arkansas Battery took position near the barn, pummeling Manson's lines until they were forced to retreat in turn.

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The Federal position at Mount Zion Church, above, was rapidly becoming outflanked and untenable; below, scars from the battle remain on the south-facing side of the building. To the credit of Manson's green Indiana infantrymen and Michigan artillerists, they stood their ground well in this, their first engagement.

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James N.

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Part III - Union Retreat Becomes A Rout
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The second phase of the running fight occurred here as Manson withdrew to the intersection of the Old State Road with Duncannon Lane and Old Speedwell Road where he was joined by Cruft. Again the Federals formed across the road with Manson on the left or east of the road and Cruft on the right west of it. Since Cleburne's division, now led by Preston Smith, had fought the longest in the increasing heat of a late August morning, Churchill's division led by McCray's Texans now took the lead in the pursuit. Heat and a general lack of water was beginning to be felt by both sides, as Kentucky was at this time in the middle of a terrible drought which was to last through the Battle of Perryville in October. Becoming exhausted by the unfamiliar work and strain of battle, Manson's and Cruft's regiments were becoming "brittle," likely to break at any moment, causing the two leaders to decide to fall back through their camps at the Rogers House and all the way to Richmond. Unfortunately for them, during their retreat they encountered an outraged and raging Bull Nelson.

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Above at left, Louisiana Col. John S. Scott who contributed so much to secure the Confederate victory; before reaching Richmond Kirby Smith detached Scott to circle to the west and north of town to intersect the retreat route of the Federals, where he eventually bagged several thousand fugitives. Center, Brig. Gen. Preston Smith who replaced pat Cleburne at the head of his division when he was wounded. At right, Kentucky politician, militia general, and eccentric Cassius Marcellus Clay who advised Nelson on a better defensive position and who is buried in Richmond's Cemetery.

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Nelson vainly attempted to form his men in a defense of the town of Richmond centered on the walled cemetery, where he allegedly cursed and raged among his men flailing about and striking them with his sword; he is said to have killed at least one wounded man who was heading to the rear. The monument below is over the grave of Kentucky frontiersman and Indian fighter Captain James Estill and was here during the battle when it suffered several hits from bullets during the fighting in the cemetery.

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The by-now equally tired and thirsty Rebels nevertheless made another valiant assault, led by the brigade of Brig. Gen. Evander McNair of Churchill's division that had just arrived and had yet to be committed to the fray. Despite Nelson's furious but dubious efforts at rallying his men, they soon broke, scampering through Richmond and heading north out of town as night fell. In the darkness they soon stumbled into Scott's waiting cavalry lying in ambush to the north. The fugitives were escorted back to town where they joined other prisoners in and around the grounds of the County Courthouse below, where the following day they were paroled by Gen. Heth who had arrived with his uncommitted dividion.

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James N.

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Part IV - Repercussions Of The Battle
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It was said that Bull Nelson became the last casualty of the Battle of Richmond: his vaunted Army of Kentucky was in tatters, most of it casualties, surrendered, or captured though Nelson and a few others managed to escape in the confusion with the coming of nightfall. Returning to his headquarters in Louisville's Galt House Hotel, he tried to salvage what he could from his disaster; unfortunately his temper and imperious demanding manner proved to be his undoing. Rumors of his behavior at Richmond were beginning to circulate, so when the 300-pound behemoth was shot by offended subordinate Brig. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis, few seemed to care during this time of crisis as the North marshalled its forces to meet the Rebel invasion. Davis was never brought to trial for what was by any reckoning a cold-blooded and likely calculated murder of his unpopular superior. It was likely this action was to have an unfortunate effect on the course of the impending battle eventually fought at Perryville when a mere captain in the Regular U. S. Army was plucked from obscurity and hastily promoted Maj. Gen. to take the place of the imperious but talented veteran Nelson.

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Kentucky militia Maj. Gen. Cassius M. Clay went on to become U. S. Ambassador to Russia from 1863 to 1869 and helped negotiate the purchase of Alaska before running afoul of now-President Grant who replaced him. Becoming a recluse and noted local eccentric before his death in 1903, he is buried in Richmond Cemetery alongside others who fell there in the battle like James K. P. Scott below.

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Following the war the Union dead were removed to the Camp Nelson National Cemetery; Confederates now lie mostly in unmarked graves in the vicinity of the Confederate Monument above. Unfortunately for their cause, Richmond proved to be the high-water-mark for the Southern Confederacy in the West; despite Braxton Bragg following a short time later, Kirby Smith largely wasted his victory, occupying the Kentucky State Capital in Frankfort and sending patrols as far north as the Ohio River and threatening Cincinatti, but never joining Bragg in a showdown battle. That would come alright, in October at Perryville, but would prove to be a case of too little, too late and another Pyrrhic Victory heralding Confederate failure and retreat form the Bluegrass State:

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/the-battle-of-perryville-kentucky-october-8-1862.139216/
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You make the comment that Nelson posted his troops around the Rogers Farm...Nelson was not there untl later in the day. The first phase of fighting takes place between the Mount Zion Church and the Armstrong Farm, and more on the east side of the Richmond Pike. After this first phase, the Federals fall back to near Rogersville, decide that is not a good position, and fall back again to the Duncannon Road area. This is where the second phase of fighting takes place. After being pushed out of that position, and falling back towards town, is when Nelson shows up. Mahlon Manson had been in command up to that point.

Excellent post, so please do not mind my minor quibble.

Today on the new Western Theater in the Civil War website is a Q&A with Phil Seyfrit of Richmond Battlefield. Yesterday we featured a letter from a man from the 95th Ohio, and tomorrow will feature another post about the 95th. https://www.westerntheatercivilwar.com/blog

Richmond has turned into a fairly nice site with what land they have been able to preserve. I encourage all to join their group.

The Western Theater website will also be hosting a two day tour of this campaign/battle next year (scroll down the page).
https://www.westerntheatercivilwar.com/
 

James N.

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You make the comment that Nelson posted his troops around the Rogers Farm...Nelson was not there untl later in the day. The first phase of fighting takes place between the Mount Zion Church and the Armstrong Farm, and more on the east side of the Richmond Pike. After this first phase, the Federals fall back to near Rogersville, decide that is not a good position, and fall back again to the Duncannon Road area. This is where the second phase of fighting takes place. After being pushed out of that position, and falling back towards town, is when Nelson shows up. Mahlon Manson had been in command up to that point.

Excellent post, so please do not mind my minor quibble.

Today on the new Western Theater in the Civil War website is a Q&A with Phil Seyfrit of Richmond Battlefield. Yesterday we featured a letter from a man from the 95th Ohio, and tomorrow will feature another post about the 95th. https://www.westerntheatercivilwar.com/blog

Richmond has turned into a fairly nice site with what land they have been able to preserve. I encourage all to join their group.

The Western Theater website will also be hosting a two day tour of this campaign/battle next year (scroll down the page).
https://www.westerntheatercivilwar.com/
Thank you; I wasn't referring to the day of the battle, but upon the arrival of his troops in the area, contrary to the recommendations of Clay and after having moved them out of Richmond itself to keep the green troops in camp and out of trouble. Of course Nelson had traveled west scouting the region for any sign of Smith's forces that morning, much to his regret later!
 

James N.

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Richmond, Kentucky is an excellent example of when state and local authorities work together of what can be accomplished. Plus the entire battle follows one road and ends in the Cracker Barrel parking lot.
At the time of my visit in May, 2017 the area of the second phase of fighting was inaccessible to visitors due to its being on U.S. Government property, so I necessarily had little opportunity to take any photos other than the one showing the two markers looking out in the general direction of the heaviest fighting. I understand it may be accessible now or in the future?
 
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At the time of my visit in May, 2017 the area of the second phase of fighting was inaccessible to visitors due to its being on U.S. Government property, so I necessarily had little opportunity to take any photos other than the one showing the two markers looking out in the general direction of the heaviest fighting. I understand it may be accessible now or in the future?
That is really the first phase that is mostly on government property. Most of the fighting near the Mt. Zion area was east of the road as Manson moved all but three companies of his brigade to the east of field, and that area is part of the Bluegrass Army Depot. I believe there is an interpretive sign on that property, but when I was down there last month one could not access the area.

The second phase is near Duncannon Lane, and has a few interpretive signs there. Most of that fighting took place west of the Richmond-Big Hill Road, and is not on government property, but alas not preserved ground either. Where the signs are one really cannot get a view of the fighting that took place between Cruft's and McCray's brigades that occured to the south of modern Duncannon Lane.
 
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