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Wickliffe in Ballard County, Kentucky — The American South (East South Central)
Fort Jefferson
 
Fort Jefferson Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain, March 17, 2009
1. Fort Jefferson Marker
 
Inscription. Fort Jefferson (also known as Camp Crittenden) was the second of two Union Army posts established in Ballard County in September 1861, following the Confederate occupation of Columbus. Fort Jefferson was first established during the American Revolution by George Rogers Clark in 1780 and occupied until 1781. The Civil War era fort was located on the same site, just above the mouth of Mayfield Creek. The first post was Fort Holt, named for Joseph Holt, Secretary of War at the end of the Buchanan administration and after March 1862 the first Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Army. Holt was born in Breckinridge County, Kentucky in 1807 and practice law in Louisville before becoming Commissioner of Patents in 1857. Fort Holt was located opposite Birds' Point, Missouri. The two forts were part of the defense of the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and the shipyards at Mound City, Illinois.

Before establishment of the two forts, Union troops were active in Ballard County. On June 5 and 6, 1861, a small force was observed checking on rebel activity, and again on August 21, 1861.

By late September 1861, there were 3,595 federal troops at Fort Holt and more than 2,000 at Fort Jefferson. Refugees, mostly former slaves, flooded Union lines soon after the forts were established. They were put to work by General Grant on
 
Markers at the Fort Jefferson Site Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain, March 17, 2009
2. Markers at the Fort Jefferson Site
 
the fortifications at Fort Holt and worked felling trees and digging earthworks.

Troops from Fort Jefferson and Fort Holt were sent to Elliott's Mill and involved in skirmishes and reconnaissance in late September 1861. Fort Holt troops later went on a September 26 raid on Blandville and arrested secessionists on September 26. All the troops from Fort Holt went with General Grant and fought in the Battle of Belmont.

Most of the troops from Forts Holt and Jefferson accompanied General Grant to Forts Henry and Donelson as the western theatre moved east and south. On January 10, 1862 Federal troops were sent to Fort Jefferson as a diversion to distract Confederates at Forts Henry and Donelson.

Much of the action seen by both forts involved river boats. A naval skirmish occurred near Fort Jefferson at Lucus Bend on the Mississippi River, September 9 and 10, 1861. The USS Conestoga defeated the CSS Yankee, but returned to Cairo under heavy sniper fire from both sides of the river. The largest skirmish occurred on January 11, 1862 at Lucas Bend. Confederate gunboats attacked the USS Essex and the USS St. Louis. After twenty minutes of artillery exchanges and an hour-long running battle there was no clear winner. This encounter was the last time the Confederate Navy approached this far north.

By April 1862, both of these forts were
 
Cross at the Fort Site Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain, March 17, 2009
3. Cross at the Fort Site
Today a giant cross stands at the site of Fort Jefferson.
 
deserted, Fort Holt having been flooded out in the spring. Federal forces in far western Kentucky concentrated at Columbus and Paducah.
 
Erected by Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. (Marker Number 27.)
 
Location. 36° 57.342′ N, 89° 5.469′ W. Marker is in Wickliffe, Kentucky, in Ballard County. Marker is on Westvaco Road (U.S. 51/62), on the right when traveling south. Click for map. Located at the entrance to Fort Jefferson Memorial Cross Park. Marker is in this post office area: Wickliffe KY 42087, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within one mile of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Union Supply Base (a few steps from this marker); Fort Jefferson Site / Indian Massacre (a few steps from this marker); Lewis and Clark in Kentucky Fort Jefferson (a few steps from this marker); Lewis & Clark at Old Fort Jefferson (approx. 0.2 miles away); County Named, 1842 (approx. 0.7 miles away); The Prince of the French Explorers (approx. one mile away); King Mounds (approx. one mile away); Welcome to Wickliffe Mounds (approx. 1.1 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Wickliffe.
 
More about this marker. On the left center of the marker is a portrait of Joseph Holt. Fort Holt was named for Joseph Holt, Secretary of War at the end of the Buchannan Administration. He was a native of Breckinridge County, Kentucky. In the upper right is a photo of the USS Conestoga which defeated the CSS Yankee in a skirmish that occurred near Fort Jefferson on the Mississippi River. On the lower right is an engraving of Fort Holt which was on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River opposite of Cairo, Illinois. The marker is Site 27 of the Kentucky Ohio River Civil War Heritage Trail.
 
Mississippi River at Wickliffe Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain
4. Mississippi River at Wickliffe
Looking north from the site of Fort Jefferson. To the left is Bird Point on the Missouri shore. Beyond Bird Point, behind the bend of the river is Cairo and the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. On the right is the river port at Wickliffe with many river barges docked. Fort Holt stood on the low ground north of the river port.
 

 
Also see . . .  The Civil War in the Jackson Purchase Region of Kentucky. A survey of historic sites related to the Civil War in western Kentucky, by William H. Mulligan, Jr. (Submitted on May 2, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 
 
Fort Jefferson Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Monty L. Robertson
5. Fort Jefferson Marker
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on May 1, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 2,260 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on May 1, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   4. submitted on May 2, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   5. submitted on October 3, 2010, by Monty L. Robertson of Loami, Illinois.
 
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