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Elizabethtown in Hardin County, Kentucky — The American South (East South Central)
 

The Battle for Elizabethtown

December 1862

 
 
The Battle for Elizabethtown Marker image. Click for full size.
By Darren Jefferson Clay, April 10, 2021
1. The Battle for Elizabethtown Marker
Inscription.  (side 1)
"The Parrott gun was placed in the pike; it was opened as soon as the last message from Colonel Smith was received; and, as suddenly as if its flash had ignited them, Palmer's four guns roared out from the hill on the left of the road, about six hundred yards from the town, where General Morgan himself was superintending their fire... The enemy had no artillery, and ours was battering the bricks about their heads in fine style. Palmer, who was a capital officer--cool and clearheaded--concentrated his fire upon the building where the flag floated and the enemy seemed thickest, and moved his six pounders into the very edge of town." ---- Colonel Basil Duke

December 1862 was a momentous month for John Hunt Morgan. Fresh from a signal victory over Federal forces at Hartsville, Tennessee, on the 7th, Confederate cavalry leader Morgan was promoted to Brigadier General on December 11. On December 14 Morgan married Tennessee belle Martha "Mattie" Ready.

Morgan's force encamped near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was one of the best-equipped and best-led cavalry forces in the Confederate Army. Composed mostly of Kentuckians,

The Battle for Elizabethtown Marker image. Click for full size.
By Darren Jefferson Clay, April 10, 2021
2. The Battle for Elizabethtown Marker
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Morgan's division now consisted of two brigades of seven regiments, with seven artillery pieces and a detachment of scouts. The men were armed mostly with English Enfield rifles, and they normally operated as mounted infantry, using their horses for transportation and dismounting to fight on foot (although they did make mounted charges on occasion, such as when they overran the Federals at Hartsville).

Confederate General Braxton Bragg, commanding the Southern forces in the Murfreesboro area, considered that the Federal forces arrayed against him were operating on an extended supply line from Louisville, Kentucky, and he ordered Morgan to take his force into Kentucky and disrupt this supply line. Morgan's main targets were bridge trestles on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, as the tracks crossed various streams south of Louisville. The most promising targets were two huge wooden trestles on the tracks crossing Muldraugh's Hill, just north of Elizabethtown.

Morgan's force left their camps near Alexandria on December 22, and were in Kentucky by the 24th. They skirmished at Glasgow, losing some men who were mortally wounded, and captured a huge supply wagon bound for that place, full of Christmas goods, which made a merry holiday for the Southern troopers.

On December 26 Morgan's forces burned the L&N bridges over Bacon Creek and Nolin Creek as they moved up

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the railroad north of Munfordville, and captured the Federal soldiers in the wooden stockade forts there. They camped that night a few miles south of Elizabethtown.

On the morning of December 27 Morgan moved his forces against Elizabethtown. The town was defended by some 650 men of the 91st Illinois Infantry regiment, under the command of Lt. Col. Henry S. Smith. In an audacious bluff, Lt. Col. Smith sent Morgan a message as he approached, advising him that he had Morgan surrounded and demanding Morgan's surrender. Morgan replied that, in fact, the Union force was surrounded and that he would order an attack unless the Federals surrendered immediately. Lt. Col. Smith declined, stating that it was his business as a United States officer to fight.

Morgan had several Elizabethtown natives in his forces, including Capt. William Bell, Joe Gray, Henry Brown, Joe Haycraft, James Montgomery, Frank Wintersmith, and Sgt. Richard Wintersmith, and was thus well-informed on the layout of the town and its approaches. Morgan's forces advanced up both sides of the road (now Dixie Highway), with the 1st Brigade on the right and the 2nd Brigade on the left. The 10-pounder Parrott rifle of White's Battery was placed in the road itself. Palmer's Battery was positioned on this hill, commanding the entire town. Gen. Morgan made his command post on this hill.

Upon the Federals' refusal

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to surrender, Morgan immediately opened fire on the town with Palmer's four pieces and the Parrott rifle in the road. The 8th and 9th Kentucky Cavalry regiments dismounted and moved against the wooden stockades and buildings at the edge of the town. Mounted men had been thrown out to either flank to surround the town. One of Corbett's 12-pounder mountain howitzers. affectionately known as "Morgan's Bull Pups" due to their diminutive size, was placed where the railroad tracks crossed the road, with a company of the 9th Kentucky Cavalry to support it.

The artillery concentrated their attention on the headquarters building where they could see the Federal flag flying, and their severe fire damaged several buildings in the town (today you can see a cannon ball from that fight embedded in a wall of the Depp Building). After a battle of about 45 minutes, with no artillery support and greatly out-numbered, the Federal soldiers wavered and sent up a white flag (one account stated this "flag" was actually a lady's undergarment pressed into service). One of Morgan's staff officers rode into town waving a white handkerchief, and although Lt. Col. Smith was not ready to surrender, his men had given up the fight. (Smith himself, who had taken cover in a cellar, was said to have been incensed when he learned that his men had surrendered without his permission, to which one of his men replied, "Well, I don't guess they knew you were hiding in the cellar, or they would have come and asked you.") Morgan captured 652 prisoners, along with their rifles and supplies. Morgan and his men went "shopping" in town for supplies of clothing and hats, paid for with Confederate money.

A special thanks to the following for their contributions: Mr. John LaRue Helm IVi County Heritage Council, Hardin County Historical Society, Mary Cofer-liigg Trust Fund, Lawson Inc.. Mr. & Mrs. Jerry Bruckheimer, Kentucky Division. SCV. Elizabethtown Tourism Center. City of Elizabethtown, Colonel Robert Spiller Family, The Raymond Addington Family, Capt. John VI. Hamby Descendants.

(captions)
The destruction of the bridge near Bonnieville, Ky

"At this point I wish particularly to notice the excellent service done on this occasion and his battery, to whose rapid and accurate fire (nearly every shot striking by the enemy) the quick reduction of the place is in great measure due" -- Gen. John H. Morgan

Wedding photo of General John Hunt Morgan and his wife, Mattie

...General Bragg had ordered Morgan and his command into Kentucky to destroy the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. They left on December 20th and camped that night in Dekalb County at Alexandria. General Morgan had married Miss Mattie Ready of only a week before, on December 14th.

"On this expedition Captains Palmer and Corbett handled the artillery with consummate skill and bravery. Their well directed shots in a brief while brought both garrisons to terms." -Bennett H. Young 8th KY Cavalry

This marker is presented to the City of by the General Ben Hardin Helm Camp #1703, Sons of Confederate Veterans

(side 2)
The next day, December 28, Morgan attacked the stockades guarding the two large wooden railroad trestles on Muldraugh's Hill, at Sulphur Fork and Broad Run (tributaries of Clear Creek). The defenders surrendered and Morgan's men burned the trestles, each of which was over 500 feet long and 50 feet high. During the next couple of days Morgan's men also tore up and burned the railroad at several places, destroyed the bridge and stockade at Boston (Nelson County), and captured and destroyed several caches of commissary and military stores. Following a brisk skirmish at the Rolling Fork River (northeast of Elizabethtown) and a daring bypass of the Federal forces gathering in Lebanon, Morgan turned back toward Tennessee. In all, Morgan's forces had destroyed six railroad bridges and captured 1,877 prisoners and many military supplies, against a loss to his own command of two killed and 24 wounded (none killed or severely wounded at Elizabethtown).

Morgan was back in Tennessee by January 3, 1863, having accomplished his mission of destruction along the L&N Railroad, which remained closed for five weeks. However, the disruption did not have the desired effect on the Federal forces at Murfreesboro, whose supply stock piles in the area were already sufficient, and they repulsed an attack by the Confederate Army in a battle fought from December 31, 1862, to January 2, 1863 at Murfreesboro (this battle was called Stone's River by the Northerners). Nonetheless, the courage of Gen. Morgan and his men was rewarded by a vote of thanks from the Confederate Congress in May 1863 in recognition of the "Christmas Raid."

Confederate Forces
Order of Battle, Morgan's Division
Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan, Commanding
Scouts, Capt. Thomas Quirk

1st Brigade, Col. Basil W. Duke
2nd Kentucky Cavalry, Lt. Col. John B. Hutcheson
3rd (7th) Kentucky Cavalry, Lt. Col. John M. Huffman
8th Kentucky Cavalry, Col. Roy S. Cluke
Palmer's Tennessee Battery, Capt. Baylor Palmer (2 12-pounder howitzers and 2 6-pounder guns)
2nd Brigade, Col. William C. P. Breckinridge
9th Kentucky Cavalry, Lt. Col. Robert G. Stoner
10th Kentucky Cavalry, Col. Adam R. Johnson
11th Kentucky Cavalry, Col. David W. Chenault
9th Tennessee Cavalry, Col. James D. Bennett
White's Kentucky Battery, Capt. B. T. White (1 10-pounder Parrott rifle)
Corbett's Kentucky Battery, Capt. C. C. Corbett (2 12-pounder mountain howitzers)

Total - 3900 men
Loss on the campaign - 2 killed, 24 wounded, 64 missing

Union Forces
91st Illinois Infantry, Lt. Col. Henry S. Smith

Surrendered and paroled - 652 offcers and men

Killed in action and mortally wounded at Elizabethtown - William Beathard, Francis M. Cameron, Nelson Filkins, Isaac Henson, James Martin, Flavius J. Sleezer (plus one other unknown killed, and several others mortally wounded)

(captions)
Col. Roy S. Cluke 8th Kentucky Cavalry
Col. D. Waller Chenault 11Kentucky Cavalry
Capt. Thomas Quirk Morgan's Scouts
Colonel Adam R. Johnson 10th Kentucky Cavalry
Colonel Basil Duke Commanding Morgan's First Brigade
Lt. Colonel James B. McCreary 11th Kentucky Cavalry "Served two terms as Governor of Kentucky"
Dr. John Allen Wyeth
"We camped that night, December 26th, a few miles from Elizabethtown, which place, we captured on the 27th. The town was surrounded, the artillery brought up, and after the raiders fired a number of shells and solid shot, which knocked great holes in the houses, the garrison surrendered." -- -- Dr J.A. Wyeth
Pocket bible stained with the blood the of Pvt. Flavius Sleezer, 91st Illinois Infantry, who was mortally wounded during the battle of Elizabethtown. (courtesy of Timothy D. Bowman)
Lt. Col. Robert G. Stoner 9th Kentucky Cavalry
Sgt. Kellion F. Peddicord 2nd Kentucky Cavalry
Capt. C. C. Corbett, Corbett's Kentucky Battery (courtesy of Kentucky Library and Museum, WKU)
Capt. Thomas Bronston Collins, Company F, 11th Kentucky Cavalry
Lt. Leeland Hathaway, Adjutant, 9th Kentucky Cavalry (courtesy of Morgan's Men Association)
Right: The surrender sword of Union Col. Henry Smith. The sword was presented to Capt. Baylor Palmer by Gen. John H. Morgan after the battle for Elizabethtown in appreciation of his battery's exemplary performance which led to the Confederate victory. The sword is now preserved at the Cannonball House Museum in Macon County, Georgia. Photo used with permission.

 
Erected by Gen. Ben Hardin Helm Camp #1703 Sons of Confederate Veterans.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil. A significant historical date for this entry is December 27, 1862.
 
Location. 37° 41.323′ N, 85° 51.244′ W. Marker is in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, in Hardin County. Marker is at the intersection of East Dixie Avenue (Kentucky Route 61) and South Crestwood Street, on the left when traveling north on East Dixie Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 418 E Dixie Ave, Elizabethtown KY 42701, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Bond-Washington School / Julius Rosenwald Fund (a few steps from this marker); Elizabethtown Battle (a few steps from this marker); Morgan's Second Raid (a few steps from this marker); Three Forts (a few steps from this marker); Elizabethtown City Cemetery (within shouting distance of this marker); Hardin County Confederates (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Lincoln-Haycraft Memorial Bridge (about 700 feet away); "Make a Street Fight Out of It" (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Elizabethtown.

 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on April 15, 2021. It was originally submitted on April 12, 2021, by Darren Jefferson Clay of Duluth, Georgia. This page has been viewed 59 times since then. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on April 12, 2021, by Darren Jefferson Clay of Duluth, Georgia. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.
 
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May. 13, 2021