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Near East Bernstadt in Laurel County, Kentucky — The American South (East South Central)
 

Battle of Camp Wildcat

 
 
Marker #1 - Battle of Camp Wildcat image. Click for full size.
By Duane Hall, May 23, 2015
1. Marker #1 - Battle of Camp Wildcat
Inscription.

(Marker #1)
Battle of Camp Wildcat
Kentuckyís first taste of civil war


On October 21st 1861, the stillness of this forest was broken by the sound of musket fire. These hills witnessed the first battle between Union and Confederate armies in Kentucky.

Walk lightly – you are touching the face of history.

(Marker #2)
Kentucky - September 1861
Trust No One


The Civil War erupted at Fort Sumpter South Carolina on April 12, 1861. Despite promises from both sides to respect Kentuckyís neutrality, by September Union and Confederate troops had marched across her borders. Rumors flew of coming attacks and secret plots.

Confederates Attack While the Union Plans

On September 19th, Confederate forces destroyed a Union recruiting camp near Barbourville, Kentucky.

Meanwhile, at the urging of President Lincoln, Union troops began gathering at Camp Dick Robinson to launch an expedition into east Tennessee.

“... the Confederate States of America neither intends nor desires to disturb the neutrality of Kentucky.”
Jefferson Davis, August 28, 1861

“I most cordially sympathize with ... the wish to preserve the peace of my own native state, Kentucky ...”
Abraham
Marker #2 - Kentucky - September 1861 image. Click for full size.
By Duane Hall, May 23, 2015
2. Marker #2 - Kentucky - September 1861
Lincoln, August 24, 1861

(Marker #3)
The Way To Wildcat
The 7th Kentucky Gets On-The-Job Training


Sept. 22, 1861 - Camp Dick Robinson
The 7th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry (USA) under Colonel Theophilus Garrard arrives for training.

Sept. 23, 1861 - Camp Dick Robinson
Scouts report Confederate cavalry within six miles of London, Kentucky.

Sept. 24, 1861 - Camp Dick Robinson
With one day of training, the 7th Kentucky is sent south to Camp Wildcat to protect a ford across the Rockcastle River.

Colonel Garrardís 975 “soldiers” made camp on a ridge overlooking the road from London and began cutting trees to block the road.

Camp Wildcatís remote location inspired some ... “The scenery is all that the most enthusiastic admirer of nature could wish.”

And depressed others ... “This is one of the most desolate places we ever saw.”

(Marker #4)
Armies On The Move

Zollicoffer Marches North


On October 16th Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer ordered his soldiers to strike at Camp Wildcat. More than 4,750 men marched from Cumberland Ford toward the Union encampment 50 miles away.

“The winding column presented the appearance of a monster
Marker #3 - The Way To Wildcat image. Click for full size.
By Duane Hall, May 23, 2015
3. Marker #3 - The Way To Wildcat
boa constrictor creeping along the road.”

Captain Albert Roberts, 20th Tennessee Infantry

The Union Outnumbered

At Camp Wildcat a lack of warm clothing and blankets brought on sickness, reducing Colonel Garrardís force to 600 men. He begged help from Camp Dick Robinson.

“(I) intend, if I do not receive more troops, to abandon this place.... I have no idea of having my men butchered up here, where they have a force of six or seven to one....”
Colonel Theophilous Garrard, 7th Kentucky Infantry

Confederates Close In

On October 19th Confederate troops were within four miles of Wildcat when ...

(Marker #5)
Battle Before Breakfast
The Confederates advanced on Camp Wildcat in the pre-dawn darkness of October 21.


Union Meals Were Interrupted
“About 7:00 a.m. ... while I was eating breakfast ... Gen. Schoepf rode up and told Col. Coburn to get his men in line immediately, that the enemy were right on us.”
Stephen Keyes Fletcher, 33rd Indiana Infantry

Enemies Met at Hoosier Knob
Colonel John Coburn and 350 men of the 33rd Indiana were rushed to an undefended hill which later became known as Hoosier Knob. Confederate soldiers were already climbing the other side. Scattered firing
Marker #4 - Armies On The Move image. Click for full size.
By Duane Hall, May 23, 2015
4. Marker #4 - Armies On The Move
began and last for about an hour.

First Union Casualty
The Union forces suffered their first casualty in the opening moments of the fighting.
“About ten minues after the firing commenced, one of our men in Co. D, by the name of McFerrin, was shot in the left chest.... He walked up the hill to where we were standing and said, ĎCapt. Iím shot. Iím a dead maní.”
Stephen Keyes Fletcher, 33rd Indiana Infantry

(Marker #6)
Wildcat Battle Map

(Marker #7)
The Battle Heats Up

The Confederates Attack

Late in the morning, gunfire rose to a roar as Confederate forces mounted an attack on the Union troops above them.

“The firing was very hard an in quick succession, the sound resounding in the hills was perfectly teriffic.”
John Wilkens, 33rd Indiana Infantry

The heaviest fighting took place on Hoosier Knob.

Confederate Artillery Opens Up

General Zollicoffer ordered his artillery to be placed in a line along the road at the bottom of the hill and began shelling the Union positions.

“For two hours nothing could be heard but the booming of cannon, the roaring of artillery and the sharp crack of rifles and muskets and occasionally you could see men packing from the
Marker #5 - Battle Before Breakfast image. Click for full size.
By Duane Hall, May 23, 2015
5. Marker #5 - Battle Before Breakfast
battlefield a poor wounded soldier.”

Captain George Faw, 20th Tennessee Infantry

(Marker #8)
Zollicoffer Reconsiders

“I heard the band of our Seventeenth playing Hail Columbia behind me.... Capt. Standartís artillery rushed up the hill, the horses at full gallop, their drivers urging them with whips and spurs, and shouts.”
Correspondent for the Cincinnati Gazette

More Union Help Arrives
In the midst of the battle, nearly a thousand more Union soldiers and six cannon arrived from Camp Dick Robinson after a forced march of forty-five miles in thirty-eight hours.

Confederates Fall Back - Then Attack
Confederate forces were forced back but advanced again in the afternoon, attacking both sides of the road.

“At two oíclock we opened fire on them again... the fight was as hot as it was in the morning.”
William Demoss, 20th Tennessee Infantry

Union troops again held their ground.

Zollicoffer Withdraws
General Zollicoffer finally ordered his troops to withdraw. The battle was over.
“Having reconnoitered it in force, under heavy fire for several hours.... I became satisfied that it could not be carrierd otherwise than by immense exposure, if at all.”
General Felix Zollicoffer

(Marker
Marker #6 - Wildcat Battle Map image. Click for full size.
By Duane Hall, May 23, 2015
6. Marker #6 - Wildcat Battle Map
#9)

The Battle Grew After Fighting Ended
“... donít be deceived as to the number killed by us;”

Colonel T.T. Garrard

Exaggerated Accounts

After the battle, stories grew regarding the number of soldiers killed and wounded.

“The loss of the enemy is not known to us, it is variously estimated at from fifty to three hundred.”
D.C. Scales, 20th Tennessee Infantry

“The people of London say that the rebels passed through that town with forty-three wagon loads of dead and wounded...”
Oliver Oglivie, 14th Ohio Infantry

The Boston Courier reported a thousand Confederate casualties!

The Official Toll

The official count was 15 killed and 60 wounded.

“Our loss was 42 wounded and 11 killed and missing.”
General Felix Zollicoffer, Commander of Confederate Forces at Wildcat

“Our loss yesterday was ascertained to be 4 killed and 18 wounded.”
General Albin Schoepf, Commander of Union Forces at Wildcat.

(Marker #10)
On To Other Battles

For these soldiers the Battle at Camp Wildcat was only the beginning of a long war that, in October of 1861, still lay waiting in the future.

Those who fought here
Marker #7 - The Battle Heats Up image. Click for full size.
By Duane Hall, May 23, 2015
7. Marker #7 - The Battle Heats Up
would go on to fight again in both minor skirmishes and important battles of the Civil War. Many never returned home.

Confederate Forces
Approximate Strength -- 4,700 Union Forces
Approximate Strength -- 3,700* * Does not include regiments that arrived after the battle
** Arrived after the battle
 
Location. 37° 15.88′ N, 84° 12.007′ W. Marker is near East Bernstadt, Kentucky, in Laurel County. Marker can be reached from Old Wilderness Road 0.1 miles south of Camp Wildcat Road (Sheltowee Trace), on the right when traveling north. Click for map. Marker is located at the Camp Wildcat Battlefield in the visitor pavilion next to the parking lot; directions to the battlefield are clearly marked from both Interstate 75 (Exit 49) and US Route 25. Marker is in this post office area: East Bernstadt KY 40729, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Hoosier Knob (a few steps from this marker); Infantry Ridge (within shouting distance of this marker); The Battle of Wildcat (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Camp Wildcat (about 500 feet away); Camp Wildcat and the Wilderness Road (approx. 0.3 miles away); Skaggs Trace (approx. 1.9 miles away); a different marker also named Camp Wildcat (approx. 2.2 miles away); Livingston Trail Head (approx. 2.5 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in East Bernstadt.
 
Also see . . .
Marker #9 - The Battle Grew After Fighting Ended image. Click for full size.
By Duane Hall, May 23, 2015
9. Marker #9 - The Battle Grew After Fighting Ended

1. Camp Wildcat Preservation Foundation. Official website of the organization preserving the battlefield and making visitor improvements to the site. (Submitted on June 11, 2015.) 

2. Battle of Camp Wildcat - Wikipedia entry. (Submitted on June 11, 2015.)
 
Categories. War, US Civil
 
Marker #10 - On To Other Battles image. Click for full size.
By Duane Hall, May 23, 2015
10. Marker #10 - On To Other Battles
Visitor Pavilion with Markers image. Click for full size.
By Duane Hall, May 23, 2015
11. Visitor Pavilion with Markers
Visitor Pavilion<br>as Viewed from Old Wilderness Road image. Click for full size.
By Duane Hall, May 23, 2015
12. Visitor Pavilion
as Viewed from Old Wilderness Road
Visitor Pavilion<br>as Viewed from Hoosier Knob Interpretive Trail image. Click for full size.
By Duane Hall, May 23, 2015
13. Visitor Pavilion
as Viewed from Hoosier Knob Interpretive Trail
Summit of Hoosier Knob from Afar image. Click for full size.
By Duane Hall, May 23, 2015
14. Summit of Hoosier Knob from Afar
Summit between the two tall trees as viewed from the visitor parking area
Summit of Hoosier Knob image. Click for full size.
By Duane Hall, May 23, 2015
15. Summit of Hoosier Knob
At end of Hoosier Knob Interpretive Trail
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Duane Hall of Abilene, Texas. This page has been viewed 311 times since then and 42 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. submitted on , by Duane Hall of Abilene, Texas. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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