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ARTICLES Louisville During the Civil War

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NEW RELEASE! Louisville's Southern Exposition.  This book offers an unprecedented perspective on this fascinating historic event, which from 1883 to 1887 showcased the largest-ever single display of agricultural machinery and technical innovation in the United States.

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1850-1860: The Storm Clouds Gather

During the 1850s, Louisville became a vibrant and wealthy city, but underneath the success, the city also harbored racial and ethnic problems.  In 1850 Louisville became the tenth largest city in the United States.  Louisville’s population rose from 10,000 in 1830 to 43,000 in 1850.  Louisville became an important tobacco market and pork packing center.  By 1850, Louisville’s wholesale trade totaled twenty million dollars in sales.  The Louisville-New Orleans river route held top rank on the entire Western river system in freight and passenger traffic.1  Not only did Louisville profit from the river, in August 1855, Louisville citizens greeted the arrival of the locomotive Hart County on Ninth and Broadway.  The first passengers arrived by train on the Louisville and Frankfort Railroad.  James Guthrie, president of the Louisville & Frankfort, pushed the railroad along the Shelbyville turnpike (Frankfort Avenue) through Gilman’s Point (St. Matthews) and onto Frankfort.  The track entered Louisville on Jefferson Street and ended at Brook Street.  Leven Shreve, a Louisville civic leader, became the first president of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.  With the railroad, Louisville could manufacture furniture and export the goods to Southern cities.  Louisville was well on her way to becoming an industrial city.  The Louisville Rolling Mill built girders and rails and the Louisville made cotton machinery, which they sold to Southern customers.  Louisville built steamboats.  Louisville emerged as a iron working industry with a plant on Tenth and Main called Ainslie, Cochran, and Company.

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Louisville also became a meat packing city, becoming the second largest city in the nation to pack pork, butchering an average of 300,000 hogs a year.  Louisville also led the nation in hemp manufacturing and cotton bagging.  Farmington plantation owned by John Speed was one of the larger hemp plantations in Louisville.  Hemp was Kentucky’s leading agricultural product from 1840 to 1860.  Jefferson County led all other markets in gardening and orchards.

European immigrants flowed into the city from Germany and Ireland.  By 1850, 359,980 immigrants arrived to America and by 1854, 427,833 immigrants arrived to seek out a new living.  With the arrival of the massive amounts of immigrants into the city, native Louisville residents began to harbor anti-foreign, anti-Catholic sentiments.  In 1841, the rise in Catholics entering the city prompted the archdiocese to move the bishop’s seat from Bardstown to Louisville.  The archdiocese began construction on the new Catholic cathedral which was completed in 1852.  In 1843, a new party arose on the political scene called the American Republican Party.  On July 5, 1845, the American Republican party changed their name to the Native American Party and held their first national convention in Philadelphia.  The party opposed liberal immigration.  On June 17, 1854, the Order of the Star Spangled Banner held their second national convention in New York City.  The members were comprised of “native Americans” and anti-Catholics.  When their members answered questions about the group, they responded with “I know nothing about it,” becoming the Know-Nothing or Native-American Party.  The new political party gained national support.  The Know-Nothing party encouraged and tapped into the nation’s prejudice and fear that Catholic immigrants would take control of the United States and hand the nation over to the Pope.  By 1854, the Know-Nothings gained control of Jefferson County’s government.  The ethnic tension came to a boil in 1855, during the mayor’s office election.  On August 6, 1855, Louisville experienced “Bloody Monday,” in which Protestant mobs bullied immigrants away from the polls and began rioting in Irish and German neighborhoods.  Protestant mobs attacked and slaughtered at least twenty-two people.  The rioting began at Shelby and Green Street (Liberty) and progressed through the city’s East End.  The mob burned houses on Shelby Street and headed for William Ambruster’s brewery in the triangle between Baxter Avenue and Liberty Street and set the place ablaze.  Ten Germans were burned to death.  Quinn’s Irish Row on the North side of Main between Eleventh and Twelfth Streets were burned and some of the tenants were burned to death, others were killed by rifle fire.  The Know-Nothing party won the election in Louisville and many other Kentucky counties.

Slavery also became the topic of discussion among Louisville citizens.  With the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, slavery became a hot issue among politicians.  Although slavery was on the way out in Louisville, Louisville sold an increasing volume of Kentucky slaves south during the 1850s.  Slave pens were kept on Second between Market and Main Streets.  Slave masters took the slaves to Portland and shipped them to New Orleans by boat to be sold.  Louisville also had a free black population and a handful managed to acquire property.  Washington Spradling, freed from slavery in 1814, became a barber and by the 1850s owned property valued at thirty thousand dollars.  Louisville was a city that had parts of the agricultural South and parts of the North with the rise in industry.

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War Erupts: 1860

As with the rest of the state, Louisville residents were divided as to which side they should support.

In the November 1860 Presidential election, Kentucky gave native Kentuckian Abraham Lincoln less than one percent of the vote.  Kentuckians did not like Lincoln, because he stood for the eradication of slavery and his Republican Party aligned itself with the North, but Kentuckians also did not vote for native son John C. Breckinridge and his Southern Democratic Party, which most of the country regarded as secessionists.  In 1860, Kentuckians owned 225,000 slaves, with Louisville’s slaves comprising 7.5 percent of the population, but Kentucky also loved the Union.  Kentucky wanted to keep slavery and stay in the Union.  Most Kentuckians, including residents of Louisville, voted for John Bell of Tennessee, of the Constitutional Unionists Party, which stood for preserving the Union and keeping the status quo on slavery or Stephen Douglas of Illinois, who ran for the Democratic Party ticket.  Louisville cast 3,823 votes for John Bell.  Douglas received 2,633 votes.  On December 20, 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union, other Southern states followed and by early 1861 eleven Southern states seceded from the Union, except Kentucky.  Kentucky Senator Henry Clay worked for compromise and the state followed his lead.

February 22, 1861: Citizens gather at Jefferson County Courthouse to raise Union flag in celebration of Washington's Birthday


On April 12, 1861, Confederate Brigadier General Pierre G. T. Beauregard ordered his cannons to be fired on Fort Sumter, located in the Charleston, South Carolina harbor, starting the Civil War.  The commander of Fort Sumter was Union Major General Robert Anderson of Kentucky.  After the firing upon Fort Sumter, President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers, but Kentucky Governor Beriah Magoffin refused to send any men to act against the Southern states, and Unionists and secessionists supported his position.  On April 17, 1861, Louisville hoped to remain neutral and spent $50,000 for the defense of the city, naming Lovell Rousseau as brigadier general.  Rousseau formed the local Home Guard.  Unionists asked Lincoln for help and he secretly sent arms to the Home Guard.  The U. S. government sent a shipment of weapons to Louisville and kept the rifles hidden in the basement of the Court House.  As with the rest of the state, Louisville residents were divided as to which side they should support.  Louisville Main Street wholesale merchants dealt with the South with steamboats traveling the Ohio River from Louisville to New Orleans and supported the Confederacy.  Blue collar workers, small retailers, and professional men, such as lawyers, supported the Union.  On April 20, two companies of Confederate volunteers left by steamboat to New Orleans, and five days later, three more companies departed for Nashville on the L&N Railroad.  Union recruiters raised troops at Eighth and Main and the Union recruits left for Indiana to join other Union regiments.

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On May 20, 1861, Kentucky declared its neutrality.  An important state geographically, Kentucky had the Ohio River as a natural barrier.  Kentucky’s natural resources, manpower, and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad made both the North and South respect Kentucky’s neutrality.  President of the United States Abraham Lincoln and Confederate President Jefferson Davis kept a hands-off policy when dealing with Kentucky, hoping not to push the state into one camp or the other.  The L&N’s depot on Ninth and Broadway in Louisville and the steamboats at Louisville wharfs sent uniforms, lead, bacon, coffee and war material south, but Lincoln did not want to stop the city from sending goods south for the fear of upsetting Kentucky’s delicate balance of neutrality, but on July 10, 1861, a federal judge in Louisville ruled that the United States government had the right to stop shipments of goods from going south over the L&N Railroad.

On July 15, 1861, the War Department authorized U.S. Navy Lieutenant William Nelson to establish a training camp and organize a brigade of infantry.  Nelson commissioned William Landrum a Colonel of cavalry, Theophilus Garrard, Thomas Bramlette, and Speed Fry Colonels of infantry.  Landrum turned his commission over to Lieutenant Colonel Frank Wolford.  Garrard, Bramlette and Fry established their camps at Camp Dick Robinson in Garrard County, and Wolford erected his camp near Harrodsburg, effectively breaking Kentucky’s neutrality.2  Brigadier General Rousseau established a Union training camp opposite Louisville in Jeffersonville, Indiana, naming the camp after Joseph Holt.  Governor Magoffin protested the establishment of the Union camps to Lincoln, but he ignored Magoffin, stating that the will of the people wanted the camps to remain in Kentucky.3

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In August of 1861, Kentucky held elections for the State General Assembly and Unionists won majorities in both houses, but the residents of Louisville continued to be divided on the issue of which side to join.  The Louisville Courier was very much pro-Confederate, while the Louisville Journal was pro-Union.

Louisville became a staging ground for Union troops heading south.  Union troops flowed into Louisville from Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.  White tents and training grounds sprang up at the Oakland track, Old Louisville and Portland.

On September 4, 1861, Confederate General Leonidas Polk, outraged by Union intrusions in the state, invaded Columbus, Kentucky, forever shattering Kentucky’s neutrality policy.  As a result of the Confederate invasion, Union General Ulysses S. Grant entered Paducah, Kentucky.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis allowed Confederate troops to stay in Kentucky.  Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston, commander of all Confederate forces in the West, sent Confederate General Simon Bolivar Buckner of Kentucky to invade Bowling Green, Kentucky.  Union forces in Kentucky saw Buckner’s move toward Bowling Green as the beginning of a massive attack on Louisville, Kentucky.  With twenty thousand troops, Johnston established a defensive line stretching from Columbus in Western Kentucky to the Cumberland Gap, controlled by Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer.  On September 7, the Kentucky State legislature, angered by the Confederate invasion, ordered the Union flag to be raised over the state capitol in Frankfort, declaring its allegiance with the Union.  The legislature also passed the “Non-Partisan Act,” which stated that “any person or any person’s family that joins or aids the so-called Confederate Army was no longer a citizen of the Commonwealth.”4  The legislature denied any member of the Confederacy the right to land, titles or money held in Kentucky or the right to legal redress for action taken against them.

With Confederate troops in Bowling Green, Union General Robert Anderson moved his headquarters to Louisville.  Union General George McClellan appointed Anderson as military commander for the district of Kentucky on June 4, 1861, and on September 9, the Kentucky legislature asked Anderson to be made commander of the Federal military force in Kentucky.  The Union army accepted the Louisville Legion at Camp Joe Holt in Indiana into the regular army.  Louisville Mayor John Delph sent two thousand men to build defenses around the city.  On October 8, Anderson stepped down as commander of the Department of the Cumberland and Union General William Tecumseh Sherman took charge of the Home Guard, and Lovell Rousseau sent the Louisville Legion along with another two thousand men across the river to protect the city.  Sherman wrote to his superiors that he needed two hundred thousand men to take care of Johnston’s Confederates.  The Louisville Legion and the Home Guard marched out to meet Buckner’s forces, but Buckner did not approach Louisville.  Buckner’s men destroyed the bridge over the Rolling Fork River in Lebanon Junction and with the mission completed, Buckner’s men returned to Bowling Green.

Louisville became a staging ground for Union troops heading south.  Union troops flowed into Louisville from Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.  White tents and training grounds sprang up at the Oakland track, Old Louisville and Portland.  Camps were also established at Eighteenth and Broadway, along the Frankfort and Bardstown turnpikes.

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Union troops arriving at the Louisville Wharf

1862 - 1863

By early 1862, Louisville had eighty thousand Union troops throughout the city.  With so many troops, entrepreneurs set up gambling establishments along the North side of Jefferson from 4th to 5th Street, extending around the corner from 5th to Market, then continuing on the South side of Market back to 4th Street.  Photography studios and military goods shops, such as Fletcher & Bennett on Main Street and Hirschbuhl & Sons, located on Main Street, east of 3rd Street, catered to the Union officers and soldiers.  With so many Union troops, brothels also sprung up around the city.

In January 1862, Union General George Thomas defeated Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer at the Battle of Mill Springs, Kentucky.  In February of 1862, Union General Ulysses Grant and Admiral Andrew Foote’s gunboats captured Fort Henry and Fort Donelson on the Kentucky and Tennessee border.  Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston’s defensive line in Kentucky crumbled before his eyes.  Johnston had no other choice but to fall back to Nashville, Tennessee.  No defensive preparations had been made at Nashville, so Johnson continued to fall back to Corinth, Mississippi.

With the Confederate army under [General Braxton] Bragg prepared to take Louisville, the citizens of Louisville panicked.

Although the threat of invasion by Confederates subsided, Louisville remained a staging area for Union supplies and troops heading south.  By May 1862, the steamboats arrived and departed at the wharf in Louisville with their cargoes.  Military contractors in Louisville provided the Union army with two hundred head of cattle each day and the pork packers provided thousands of hogs daily.  Trains departed for the South along the L&N, but in July of 1862, Confederate General Braxton Bragg, commander of the Army of Mississippi, and Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith, commander of the Army of East Tennessee, planned an invasion of Kentucky.  On August 13, 1862, Smith marched out of Knoxville with nine thousand men towards Kentucky and arrived in Barboursville, Kentucky.  On August 20, 1862, Smith announced that he would take Lexington, Kentucky.  On August 28, 1862, Bragg’s army moved towards Kentucky.  At the Battle of Richmond, Kentucky, on August 30, Smith’s Confederate forces defeated Union General William “Bull” Nelson’s troops, capturing the entire force, essentially leaving Kentucky with no Union support.  Nelson managed to escape back to Louisville.  Smith marched into Lexington and sent a Confederate cavalry force to take Frankfort: Kentucky’s capitol.

Union General Don Carlos Buell’s army withdrew from Alabama and headed back to Kentucky.  Union General Henry Halleck, commander of all Union forces in the West, sent two divisions from General Ulysses Grant’s army, stationed in Mississippi, to Buell.  Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, of Lexington, Kentucky, managed to destroy the L&N Railroad tunnel at Gallatin, Tennessee cutting off all supplies to Buell’s Union army.  On September 5, Buell reached Murfreesboro, Tennessee and headed for Nashville, Tennessee.  On September 14, Bragg reached Glasgow, Kentucky.  On that same day, Buell reached Bowling Green, Kentucky.  Bragg decided to take Louisville.  One of the major objectives of the Confederate campaign in Kentucky was to seize the Louisville and Portland Canal, severing Union supply routes on the Ohio River.  One Confederate officer suggested destroying the Louisville canal so completely that “future travelers would hardly know where it was.”  On September 16, Bragg’s army reached Munfordville, Kentucky.  Colonel James Chalmers attacked the Federal garrison at Munfordville, but he was in over his head and Bragg had to bail him out.  Bragg arrived at Munfordville with his entire force and the Union force at Munfordville surrendered.  Buell left Bowling Green and headed for Louisville.  Fearing that Buell would not arrive in Louisville to prevent Bragg’s army from capturing the city, Union General William Nelson ordered the construction of a hasty defensive line around the city and the placement of pontoon bridges across the Ohio to facilitate the evacuation of the city or to receive reinforcements from Indiana.  Two pontoon bridges, built of coal barges, one below the Big Four Bridge and the other from Portland to New Albany, were erected, but the Union army arrived to prevent the Confederate seizure of the city.  On September 25, 1862, Buell’s tired and hungry men arrived in Louisville.  Bragg moved his army to Bardstown, but did not take Louisville.  Bragg urged General Smith to join his forces to take Louisville, but Smith told him to take Louisville on his own.

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With the Confederate army under Bragg prepared to take Louisville, the citizens of Louisville panicked.  To make matters worse, General Nelson issued the following order: “The women and children of this city will prepare to leave the city without delay.”  He ordered the Jeffersonville ferry to be used for military purposes only.  Private vehicles were not allowed to go aboard the ferry boats without a special permit.  Hundreds of Louisville residents gathered at the wharf to be transported to New Albany or Jeffersonville.  With Frankfort in Confederate hands, the state legislature held their sessions in the Jefferson County Courthouse.  Troops, volunteers and impressed labor worked around the clock to build a ring of breastworks and entrenchments around the city.  New Union regiments flowed into the city.  General William “Bull” Nelson took charge of the defense of Louisville.  He sent Union troops to build pontoon bridges at Jeffersonville and New Albany to speed up the arrival of reinforcements, supplies and, if needed, the evacuation of the city.

Union General Jefferson C. Davis shoots and kills Union General William "Bull" Nelson at the Galt House

Instead of taking Louisville, Bragg left Bardstown to install a Confederate governor at Frankfort.  On September 26, 1862, five hundred Confederate cavalrymen rode into the area of Eighteenth and Oak and captured fifty Union soldiers.  The following night, a heavy skirmish occurred just beyond Middletown on the Shelbyville Pike and on September 30, Confederate and Union pickets fought at Gilman’s Point in St. Matthews and pushed the Confederates back through Middletown to Floyd’s Fork.

The War Department ordered Union General William Nelson to command the newly formed Army of the Ohio.  When Louisville prepared for the Confederate army under Bragg, General Jefferson C. Davis, who could not reach his command under General Don Carlos Buell, met with General Nelson to offer his services.  General Nelson gave him the command of the city militia.  General Davis opened an office and went to work in assisting in the organization of the city militia.  On Wednesday, General Davis visited General Nelson in his room at the Galt House.  General Davis told General Nelson that his brigade he assigned Davis was ready for service and asked if he could obtain arms for them.  General Nelson asked Davis how many men were in his brigade.  Davis responded that he had 2,500 men.  General Nelson angrily barked to Davis: “About twenty-five hundred! About twenty-five hundred! By God! You a regular officer and come here to me and report about the number of men in your command? God damn you, don’t you know, Sir, you should furnish me the exact number?”  Davis told Nelson that he did not expect to get the guns now and only wanted to learn if he could get them and where and after learning the exact number of troops he would draw the needed weapons.  General Nelson flew into a rage and screamed at General Davis: “About twenty-five hundred! By God I suspend you from your command, and order you to report to General Wright; and I’ve a damned mind to put you under arrest. Leave my room, Sir!”  Davis told General Nelson that he would not leave the room until he gave him an order.  General Nelson barked: “The hell you won’t! By God I’ll put you under arrest, and send you out of the city under a provost guard! Leave my room, Sir!”  General Davis left the room, and, in order to avoid arrest, crossed over the river to Jeffersonville, where he remained until the next day, when General Stephen Gano Burbridge joined him.  General Burbridge had also been relieved of command by General Nelson under a trivial cause.  General Davis came to Cincinnati with General Burbridge and reported to General Wright, who ordered General Davis to return to Louisville and report to General Buell and General Burbridge to remain in Cincinnati.  General Davis returned to Louisville and reported to Buell.  When General Davis saw General Nelson in the main hall of the Galt House, fronting the office, he asked the Governor of Indiana, Oliver Morton to witness the conversation between him and General Nelson.  The Governor agreed and the two walked up to General Nelson.  General Davis confronted General Nelson and told him that he took advantage of his authority.  General Nelson, sneeringly and placing a hand to his ear, said: “Speak louder, I don’t hear very well.”  Davis in a louder tone repeated his statement.  Nelson indignantly told Davis that he did not take advantage of his authority.  Davis told Morton that Nelson threatened to have him arrested and sent out of the state under provost guard.  Nelson took his hand and struck Davis twice in the face and stated: “There, damn you, take that!”  Davis left the room, but before he left he told Nelson: “This is not the last of it; you will hear from me again.”  General Nelson turned to Governor Morton and asked him if he came to insult him too.  Governor Morton stated that he did not come to insult Nelson but requested that he be present and listen to the conversation between Nelson and Davis.  General Nelson violently told the by-standers: “Did you hear the damned rascal insult me?” and walked into the ladies parlor.  In three minutes, Davis returned, with a pistol he had borrowed from Captain Gibson of Louisville and walked toward the door that Nelson had passed through.  He saw Nelson walk out of the parlor into the hall separating the main hall from the parlor and the two faced each other ten yards apart, when General Davis drew his pistol and fired, the ball entering Nelson’s heart.  General Nelson threw up both hands and grabbed a gentlemen, who stood nearby, around the neck and exclaimed: “I am shot!”  Nelson walked up the flight of stairs toward General Buell’s room, but sank at the top of the stairs.  Fellow officers took General Nelson to his room and they laid him on his bed.  Nelson requested Reverend Mr. Talbott to see him at once.  Mr. Talbott administered the ordinance of baptism.  The General whispered: “It’s all over,” and died fifteen minutes later.5

With General Nelson dead, the command switched over to General Don Carlos Buell.  On October 1, 1862, the Union army marched out of Louisville with sixty thousand men.  Buell sent a small Federal force to Frankfort to deceive Bragg as to the exact direction and location of the Federal army.  The ruse worked.  On October 4, 1862, the small Federal force attacked Frankfort and Bragg left the city and headed back for Bardstown, thinking the entire Federal force was headed for Frankfort.  Bragg decided that all Confederate forces should concentrate at Harrodsburg, Kentucky, ten miles northwest of Danville.  On October 8, 1862, Buell and Bragg fought at Perryville, Kentucky.  Bragg’s sixteen thousand men attacked Buell’s sixty thousand men.  Federal forces suffered 845 dead, 2,851 wounded and 515 missing, while the Confederate toll was 3,396.  Although Bragg won the Battle of Perryville tactically, he wisely decided to pull out of Perryville and link up with Smith.  Once Smith and Bragg joined forces, Bragg decided to leave Kentucky and head for Tennessee.

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After the battle, the massive amount of wounded flooded into Louisville.  Hospitals were set up in public schools, homes, factories and churches.  The Fifth Ward School, built at 5th and York Streets in 1855, became Military Hospital Number Eight.  The United States Marine Hospital also became a hospital for the wounded Union soldiers from the battle of Perryville.  Constructed between 1845 and 1852, the three-story Greek revival style Louisville Marine Hospital contained one hundred beds and became the prototype for seven U.S. Marine Hospital Service buildings, including Paducah, Kentucky, which later became Fort Anderson.  Union surgeons erected the Brown General Hospital, located near the Belknap campus of the University of Louisville, and other hospitals were erected at Jeffersonville and New Albany, Indiana.  By early 1863, the War Department and the U.S. Sanitary Commission erected nineteen hospitals.  By early June 1863, 930 deaths had been recorded in the Louisville hospitals and Cave Hill Cemetery set aside plots for the Union dead.

Louisville also had to contend with Confederate prisoners.  Located at the corner of Green Street and 5th Street, the Union Army Prison, also called the “Louisville Military Prison,” took over the old “Medical College building.”  Union authorities moved the prison near the corner of 10th and Broadway Streets.  By August 27, 1862, Confederate prisoners of war flowed into the new military prison.  The old facility continued to house new companies of Provost Guards.  From October 1, 1862 to December 14, 1862 the new Louisville Military Prison housed 3,504 prisoners.  In December of 1863, over two thousand prisoners, including political prisoners, Federal deserters, and Confederate prisoners of war, were located in the military prison.  The prison was made of wood and covered an entire city block stretching from east to west between 10th and 11th Streets and north to south between Magazine and Broadway Streets.  The main entrance to the prison was located on Broadway near 10th Street.  A high fence surrounded the prison with at least two prison barracks.  The prison hospital was attached to the prison and consisted of two barracks on the south and west sides of the square with forty beds in each building.  The Union commander at the Louisville Military Prison was Colonel Dent, but in April 1863, military authorities later replaced him with Captain Stephen E. Jones.  In October 1863, military authorities replaced Captain Jones with C. B. Pratt.6

Just a block away from the Louisville Military Prison, Union authorities took over a large house on Broadway between 12th and 13th Streets and converted the house into a female military prison.

On September 22, 1862, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared on January 1, 1863, that all slaves in the rebellion states would be free.  Some Kentucky Union soldiers, including officers such as Colonel Frank Wolford of the 1st Kentucky Cavalry, quit the army over the proclamation.  The proclamation and the recruitment of slaves into the Union army ended the relationship between Lincoln and Kentucky.  The controversy drove Kentucky into the hands of the Democrats, who stayed in power for a century.

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By 1864, a dark period entered Louisville's history.  Guerilla warfare plagued the state, so the Radicals in Congress took a heavy hand to Kentucky.

The Taylor Barracks at Third and Oak in Louisville recruited black soldiers.  Black Union soldiers who died from wounds or disease were buried in the Louisville Eastern Cemetery.

After the fall of New Orleans and the capture of Vicksburg, Mississippi on July 4, 1863, the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers were open to Union boats without harassment.  On December 24, 1863, a steamboat from New Orleans reached Louisville.


An important meeting took place at the Galt House on February 4, 1864.  Union Generals Ulysses S. Grant, William S. Rosecrans, George Stoneman, Thomas Crittenden, James Wadsworth, David Hunter, John Schofield, Alexander McCook, Robert Allen, George Thomas, Stephen Burbridge and Read Admiral David Porter met to discuss the most important campaign of the war which would eventually rip the Confederacy into three parts.  On March 9, 1864, Grant met Union General William T. Sherman at the Galt House and discussed the spring campaign.  Grant would take on Confederate General Robert E. Lee and take Richmond, while Sherman took on Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston and take Atlanta.7

By 1864, a dark period entered Louisville’s history.  Guerilla warfare plagued the state, so the Radicals in Congress took a heavy hand to Kentucky.  In Kentucky, a guerilla was defined as any member of the Confederate army who destroyed supplies, equipment or money.  Any returning Confederate was considered a guerilla.  On January 12, 1864, Union General Stephen Gano Burbridge of Kentucky succeeded General Jeremiah Boyle as Military Commander of Kentucky.  On July 5, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus, which meant a person could be imprisoned without trial, their house could be searched without warrant, and the individual could be arrested without charge.  Lincoln also declared martial law in Kentucky, which meant that elected officials were powerless to act on behalf of their constituents.  Civilians accused for crimes would be tried not in a civilian court, but instead a military court, in which the citizen’s rights may not be guaranteed under the Constitution.  On this same day, General Burbridge became military governor of Kentucky with absolute authority.8

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On July 16, 1864, General Burbridge issued Order No. 59 which declared: “Whenever an unarmed Union citizen is murdered, four guerillas will be selected from the prison and publicly shot to death at the most convenient place near the scene of the outrages.”9  On August 7, 1864, Burbridge issued Order No. 240 in which Kentucky became a military district under his direct command.  Burbridge could seize property without trial from persons he deemed disloyal.  People he deemed disloyal could be shot without trial or question.

Map of Louisville in 1864, showing 13 forts and other defenses. Viewed from the north; Kentucky is above the river, Indiana below.
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During the month of July and August, Burbridge set out to build more fortifications in Kentucky.  As Union General William T. Sherman marched through Georgia, Kentucky no longer faced the threat from a Confederate army, but Burbridge felt the need to build earth works.  Burbridge received permission from Union General John Schofield to build fortifications in Mount Sterling, Lexington, Frankfort and Louisville.  The plans furnished for each location was to have a small enclosed field work of about two hundred yards along the interior crest, with the exception of Louisville, which would be five hundred yards.  Other earthworks would follow in Louisville as opportunity and the means available would allow.  All the works were to be built by soldiers, except at Frankfort, where the works were performed by the state and at Louisville by the city.  Lt. Colonel. J. H, Simpson, of the Federal Engineers, furnished the plans and engineering force.  Eleven forts protected the city in a ring about ten miles long from Beargrass Creek to Paddy’s Run.  They included from east to west: Fort Elstner between Frankfort Avenue and Brownsboro Road, near Bellaire, Vernon and Emerald Avenues; Fort Engle at Spring Street and Arlington Avenue; Fort Saunders at Cave Hill Cemetery; Battery Camp Fort Hill between Goddard Avenue, Barrett and Baxter Streets, and St. Louis Cemetery; Fort Horton at Shelby and Merriweather Streets (present day incinerator plant); Fort McPherson on Preston Street, bounded by Barbee, Brandis, Hahn and Fort Streets; Fort Philpot at Seventh Street and Algonquin Parkway; Fort St. Clair Morton at 16th Street and Hill Streets; Fort Karnasch on Wilson Ave between 26th and 28th Streets; Fort Clark at 36th and Magnolia Streets; Battery Gallup at Gibson Lane and 43rd Street; and Fort Southworth on Paddy’s Run at the Ohio River (now site of city sewage treatment plant with a marker located at 4522 Algonquin Parkway.  Also in the area was Camp Gilbert and Camp C. F. Smith, although the exact location for both sites are lost to history.  The first work built was Fort McPherson, which commanded the approaches to the city via the Shepherdsville Pike, Third Street Road, and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.  The fort served as a citadel if an attack came before the other forts were completed.  The fort could house one thousand men.  General Hugh Ewing, Union commander in Louisville, directed that municipal authorities furnish laborers for fortifications, ordered the arrest of all “loafers found about gambling and other disreputable establishments” in the city for construction work and assigned military convicts to the work.  Each fort was a basic earth and timber structure surrounded by a ditch with a movable draw bridge at the entrance to the fort, and each was furnished with an underground magazine to house two hundred rounds of artillery shells.  The eleven forts occupied the most commanding positions to provide interlocking cross fire between them.  A supply of entrenching tools was collected and stored for emergency construction of additional batteries and infantry entrenchments between the fortifications.  The guns in the Louisville forts never fired their guns, except for salutes.

By the end of 1864, [Union General Stephen Gano] Burbridge arrested twenty-one prominent Louisville citizens, plus the chief justice of the State Court of Appeals on treason charges.

With Order No. 59 and Order No 240, Burbridge began a reign of terror in Kentucky and Louisville.  On August 11, Burbridge commanded Captain Hackett of the 26th Kentucky to select four men to be taken from prison in Louisville to Eminence, Henry County, Kentucky to be shot for unknown outrages.

On October 25, 1864, Burbridge ordered four men, Wilson Lilly, Sherwood Hartley, Captain Lindsey Dale Buckner and M. Bincoe to be shot by Captain Rowland Hackett of Company B, 26th Kentucky for the alleged killing of a postal carrier by guerillas allegedly led by Captain Jerome Clark (Sue Munday) near Brunerstown, present day Jeffersontown, Jefferson County.  On November 6, two men named Cheney and Morris were taken from the prison in Louisville and transported to Munfordsville and shot in retaliation for the killing of Madison Morris, of Company A, 13th Kentucky Infantry.  James Hopkins, John Simple and Samuel Stingle were taken from Louisville to Bloomfield, Nelson County, and shot in retaliation for the alleged guerilla shooting of two black men.  On November 15, two Confederate soldiers were taken from prison in Louisville to Lexington and hung at the Fair Grounds in retaliation.  On November 19, eight men were taken from Louisville to Munfordsville to be shot for retaliation for the killing of two Union men.10

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By the end of 1864, Burbridge arrested twenty-one prominent Louisville citizens, plus the chief justice of the State Court of Appeals Joshua Bullitt on treason charges.  Many of the captured guerillas were brought to Louisville and hanged on Broadway at 15th or 18th Streets.

By the November elections of 1864, Burbridge tried to interfere with the election for President.  Despite military interference, Kentucky citizens voted overwhelmingly for Union General George B. McClellan over Lincoln.  Twelve counties were not even allowed to post their returns.11


As the Confederacy began to fall apart in January 1865, Burbridge continued his reign of terror.  On January 20, 1865, Nathaniel Marks, formerly of Company A, 4th Kentucky, C.S. was condemned as a guerilla.  He claimed he was innocent, but was shot by a firing squad in Louisville.  On February 10, 1865, Burbridge’s term as military governor came to an end.  Secretary of War Edward Stanton replaced Burbridge with Major General John Palmer.  On March 9, 1865, following a skirmish at Howard’s Mill, Kentucky, Union authorities sent Union troops to Owingsville to chase several bands of guerillas.  On March 12, fifty Union soldiers, from the 30th Wisconsin Infantry, under the command of Major Cyrus Wilson surrounded a tobacco barn ten miles south of Brandenburg forces near Breckinridge County.  At daybreak, the Union soldier fired into the barn.  Gunfire erupted from the barn and four Union soldiers fell wounded.  Inside the barn contained the famous guerilla Jerome Clarke, a.k.a. Sue Munday, Henry Medkiff, and Henry Magruder.  Major Wilson earlier injured Magruder at Howard’s Mill.  Major Wilson told Clarke that his men would be treated as prisoners of war if he surrendered.  Clarke agreed and Major Wilson escorted all three men to Brandenburg, where they boarded a steamer for Louisville.  Military authorities kept Clarke’s trial a secret and the verdict had already been decided the day before the trial.  On March 14, military authorities planned Sue Munday’s execution, even though the trial had not even started.  Of the brief hearing, Sue Munday “stood firm and spoke with perfect composure.”  He stated that he was a regular Confederate soldier and that the crimes he was being charged with he had not committed or had been committed by Quantrill.  During the three hour trial, Munday was not allowed to counsel or witnesses for his defense.  Three days after his capture, Union authorities scheduled Clarke for public hanging just west of the corner of 18th and Broadway in Louisville.  On March 15, Rev. J. J. Talbott visited Clarke in prison and notified him that his “life’s journey was nearing its end.”  The minister informed Clarke that he would be hanged that afternoon.  Clarke knelt and prayed.  He asked Talbott to baptize him in the cell.  With Clarke dictating, the minister wrote four letters; one to Clarke’s aunt, one to his cousin, and one to a young lady named Lashbrook.  To his fianc?, he wrote: “I have to inform you of the sad fate which awaits your true friend. I am to suffer death this afternoon at 4 o’clock. I send you from my chains a message of true love, and as I stand on the brink of the grave I tell you I do truly, fondly love you. I am ever truly yours.”  Clarke made his last requests stating he wanted his body to be sent to his aunt and stepmother in Franklin next to his parents and that he buried in his Confederate uniform.  At 3:25 p.m., four hand picked companies of Union soldiers, dressed for parade, formed in front of the make shift prison.  Clarke, joined by Talbott and a guard, exited the prison and took their seats in a carriage for the ride to the gallows.  Clarke wore a dark blue jacket with a row of Kentucky buttons, dark cashmere pants and boots.12

When the carriage arrived at the gallows, Clarke and Talbott exited and stopped at the foot of the gallows to pray.  Clarke gave one last statement to the crowd.  He said: “I am a regular Confederate soldier-not a guerilla. . . . I have served in the Army for nearly four years. . . . I fought under General Buckner at Fort Donelson and I belonged to General Morgan’s command when I entered Kentucky.”  In response to the charge that he as Sue Munday killed helpless prisoners, he stated: “I have assisted in the capture of many prisoners and have always treated them kindly. . . . I hope in and die for the Confederate cause.”  After the noose was placed on Clarke’s neck and the lever pulled, his neck did not break from the three foot fall and he slowly strangled to death.  According to witnesses, he struggled and convulsed so violently, Union authorities feared he would break the rope.  Over fifteen thousand people attended Sue Mundy’s execution.  After authorities cut Mundy’s body down from the scaffold, witnesses cut off his buttons as keepsakes.  Police arrest three men for fighting over Mundy’s hat.  On October 29, 1865, Union authorities hung Henry Magruder behind the walls of the Louisville Military Prison, thus ending the careers of two famous Kentucky guerillas.13

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On April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses Grant, and on April 14, Confederate General Joseph Johnston surrendered to Union General William T. Sherman, ending the Civil War.  On December 18, 1865, the Kentucky legislature repealed the Expatriation Act of 1861, allowing all who served in the Confederacy to have their full Kentucky citizenship restored without fear of retribution.  The legislature also repealed the law that any person who was a member of the Confederacy was guilty of treason.  The Kentucky legislature also allowed former Confederates to run for office.  On February 28, 1866, Kentucky officially declared the war over.14

On May 15, 1865, Louisville became a mustering out center for troops from Midwestern and Western states and on June 4, 1865, military authorities established the headquarters of the Union Armies of the West in Louisville.  During June 1865, 96,796 troops and 8,896 animals left Washington, D.C. for the Ohio valley, where 70,000 men took steamboats to Louisville and the remainder embarked for St. Louis and Cincinnati.  The troops boarded ninety-two steamboats at Parkersburg and descended the river in convoys of eight boats, to the sounds of cheering crowds and booming cannon salutes at every port city.  For several weeks Union soldiers crowded Louisville and on July 4, 1865, Union General William T. Sherman visited Louisville to conduct a final inspection of the Armies of the West.  By mid-July the Armies of the West disbanded and the soldiers headed home.

After the war, Louisville continued to grow with factories and transporting their goods by train.  Foreign immigrants and blacks came to Louisville to work in the new factories.  Ex-Confederate officers entered law, insurance, real estate and political offices.

Louisville During the Civil War is the subject of Bryan's latest book, Louisville and the Civil War: A History & Guide.


Beach, Damian, Civil War Battles, Skirmishes, and Events in Kentucky, Louisville: Different Drummer Books, 1995.

Bush, Bryan, The Civil War Battles of the Western Theatre, Paducah: Turner Publishing, Inc. 1998, reprint 2000, 22-23, 36-41.

Head, James, The Atonement of John Brooks: The Story of the True Johnny "Reb" Who Did Not Come Marching Home, Florida: Heritage Press, 2001.

Johnson, Leland, R., "A History of the Louisville District Corps of Engineers United States Army," 103-120.

McDowell, Robert E, City of Conflict: Louisville in the Civil War, Louisville: Louisville Civil War Roundtable Publishers, 1962.

Nevin, David, The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West, Alexandria: Time-Life Books Inc., 1983, 11-12, 42-103.

Street, James, The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River, Richmond: Time-Life Books, Inc., 1985, 8-67.

Thomas, Samuel, ed., Views of Louisville Since 1766. Louisville: Merrick Printing Company, 1971, reprint 1992.

Vest, Stephen M., "Was She or Wasn?t He?," Kentucky Living, November 1995, 25-26, 42.

Yater, George H., Two Hundred Years at the Falls of the Ohio: A History of Louisville and Jefferson County, Louisville: The Heritage Corporation, 1979, 82-96.

1Yater, George, 61.
2Beach, Damian, 16-17.
3Beach, 18.
4Beach, 20.
5The Murder of General Nelson, Harper's Weekly, October 18, 1862.
6Head, James, 155-158.
7McDowell, Robert E., 159.
8Beach, 154-156.
9Beach, 177.
10Beach, 198, 201, 202.
11Beach, 202.
12Vest, Stephen M., 25-26, 42.
14Beach, 228.

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Modified Thursday, December 20, 2007

Next Keynote Article: “Stephen Gano Burbridge: The Scourge of Kentucky”

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