Kentucky played a major part in the American Civil War, as the site of the decisive Battle of Richmond, the bloody Battle of Perryville and the boyhood home of Abraham Lincoln. Today, many of these places are commemorated with monuments and museums that tell the tales of the Civil War in KY.
Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site - Danville
On October 8, 1862, cannon explosions shattered the rural peace of this tranquil countryside, along with the death moans of young soldiers. Perryville became the site of the most destructive Civil War battle in the state, which left more than 7,600 killed, wounded, or missing. The park museum tells of the battle that was the South’s last serious attempt to gain possession of Kentucky. The battlefield is one of the most unaltered Civil War sites in the nation; vistas visible today are virtually those that soldiers saw on that fateful day in 1862. A self-guided walking tour on the battlefield interprets battle events.
Battle of Richmond - Madison
The Battle of Richmond Kentucky was fought on August 29 and 30, 1862, and was part of the Confederacy’s most concerted effort to capture the Commonwealth of Kentucky, its men and much needed material, for the Southern cause, as well as forcing the Union to retreat out of middle Tennessee and other key Confederate states.
There are four historic buildings located in the Battlefield Park area where much of the 1862 Battle of Richmond took place.
Battlefield Visitor's Center - This brick, stately Federal style home on a high knoll was constructed around 1811 by Adam Rogers, and was his family’s home during the Battle of Richmond. As well as the Rogers dwelling, it served as a roadside inn for many years.
Pleasant View – a home in south-eastern Madison County built by Joseph Barnett, a large landowner and Madison County magistrate, in approx. 1825. The name, Pleasant View, comes from the name of a creek (aka Mound of Mount Branch) which runs through the property, and also to the beautiful, or pleasant, view the home has to the south.
Palmer House - The William Butner-Thomas Palmer House is a brick, story and a half hall and parlor plan structure built prior to 1834. The residence was used as a field hospital and landmark during the Battle of Richmond, Kentucky, on August 29 and 30, 1862.
Madison County Courthouse – designed by Col. Thomas Lewinski and built in 1848/1852 at a cost of $40,000. It is an excellent example of an antebellum public building in Kentucky. Federal army medical director Dr. Bernard J.D. Irwin commandeered the courthouse (along with the Madison Female Institute) as a hospital in August 1862.
Mt. Zion Church - One of the key events in the 150-year-plus history of Mt. Zion Christian Church was its use as a Federal field hospital during the U.S. Civil War Battle of Richmond. Mt. Zion was used as the chief hospital for both Union and Confederate troops.
White Hall State Historic Site - Richmond
White Hall was the home of Cassius Marcellus Clay: emancipationist, newspaper publisher, and friend to Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln appointed Clay as minister to Russia. Clay's restored 44-room Italianate mansion was built in 1799 and remodelled in the 1860s. In addition to the heirloom and period furnishings, White Hall has many features which were unique for its day, including indoor running water and central heating.
Civil War Fort at Boonsboro
A Union Civil War Fort built in 1863 for the Defence of the Kentucky River. The earthwork fortification was built by Union Soldiers to defend the ford and ferry at Boonesboro. A scenic trail provides a beautiful view of the Kentucky River.
National Underground Railroad Museum
The National Underground Railroad Museum helps retrace the footsteps of countless fleeing African slaves as you visit one of Kentucky’s most notable historic routes to freedom along the path that became known as the Underground Railroad. Discover the owners of the remarkable home, the Bierbower family. Descendants of German immigrants, who had left the abolitionist state of Pennsylvania in 1837 to settle in the slave-holding frontier lands of Kentucky in the busy river town of Maysville, where they became successful local entrepreneurs and international history makers.
National Underground Railroad Freedom Centre
Just a short scenic walk across the bridge from Covington and Newport in Northern Kentucky you will find the National Underground Railroad Freedom Centre. Located in downtown Cincinnati, on the banks of the Ohio River the centre gives you the opportunity to discover the stories of freedom's heroes from the era of the Underground Railroad to contemporary times, challenging and inspiring everyone to take courageous steps for freedom today.
Civil War Museum of the Western Theatre
The Civil War Museum of the Western Theatre features extensive exhibits and artefacts related to what were then known as the "western" states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and others. Key artefacts include the flag of the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry, the presentation sword of Confederate Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman, and a silver flask presented to Confederate General John C. Breckinridge just after he joined the Confederate Army. Visitors can also enjoy the nearby reproduction colonial village and Women's Civil War Museum.
Camp Nelson Civil War Park, Nicholasville
Camp Nelson, located south of Nicholasville in Jessamine County, was the largest African American recruitment camp in Kentucky and the third largest in the nation. Many of the black recruits, who were emancipated upon enlistment, brought their families with them to Camp Nelson in the hope that they would also be freed or at least escape slavery. About 5,400 slaves enrolled at Camp Nelson. Designated a U.S. cemetery for Union dead in 1867, Camp Nelson remains a military cemetery.
Jefferson Davis State Historic Site, Fairview
Completed in 1924, this 351-foot obelisk marks the birthplace of Lincoln's adversary, Jefferson Davi, President of the Confederate States of America. The site is now home to the Jefferson Davis State Historic Site, where visitors can tour a museum about Davis and ride an elevator to the top of the monument.
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, Hodgenville
The early 19th-century cabin, symbolic of the one in which Lincoln was born, is preserved in a memorial building at the site of his birth. Thomas and Nancy Lincoln settled on the 348-acre Sinking Spring Farm near Hodgenville in the Autumn of 1808. Two months later, on February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born. Here the Lincolns lived and farmed before moving to Knob Creek, a few miles away. On July 17, 1916, Congress established this memorial as a national park site.
Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort, Mount Olivet
Throughout history, the salt springs at Blue Licks have attracted pre-historic mastodons and formed a centre of Indian life. Salt was also a pioneer necessity. In 1778, Daniel Boone and a party of Boonesborough men were captured here by the Shawnee Indians during a salt-making expedition. Daniel Boone escaped in time to warn Fort Boonesborough of an impending Shawnee attack. But it was not to be Boone's last encounter with Indians at Blue Licks. In August 1782, Captain William Caldwell and an army of British and Indian troops attacked Bryan's Station, an outpost north of Lexington. To avenge the attack, members of the Kentucky Militia, under the command of Daniel Boone, John Todd and Stephen Trigg, set off in pursuit of Caldwell and his British and Indian army, retreating north along an old buffalo trail. On August 19, 1782, the Kentucky Militia was ambushed on the hill above Licking River by the British and Indian army in the Battle of Blue Licks, the last Revolutionary war battle in Kentucky. The battle ended in bitter defeat for the early Kentucky settlers. Daniel Boone survived the attack, but his son, Israel, and many brave Kentucky comrades were casualties of the battle.
During the 19th century, the mineral springs was a popular health spa for affluent Southerners who flocked to the luxurious Arlington Hotel to escape the summer heat and partake of the springs medicinal qualities. The spring was also the source of bottled water thought to have curative powers. Today, Blue Licks returns to its glory days with a quaint resort on the banks of the Licking River. A place where history, nature and fun await you.
Augusta and Brooksville in Bracken County, Kentucky
There are many Underground Railroad Sites in Augusta and Brooksville to explore.
Bradford/Payne House - Located at the western end of Riverside Drive, this home was a site of Underground Railroad activity according to oral traditions and newspaper accounts. Its close proximity to the cabins belonging to free people of colour lends further speculation that it was a site of coordinated escapes.
White Hall - Built by Arthur Thome in the early 1800's, is the home where Thomes' son returned from the West Indies to write his manuscript, Slavery In The West Indies. Local traditions point that the involvement of the Thome men aiding slaves to escape was so strong that the family was banished.
Augusta College - The female dorm, constructed in the early years of the college, was the site of a small hidden area where slaves were secreted until moved into skiffs on the Ohio River.
Slave Church - This church site, located on the north side of the hills surrounding Augusta and overlooking the Ohio River, was the site of services where the sounds of the spirituals inspired Stephen Foster to compose his lyrics. Stephen Foster was a regular visitor to Augusta in his younger years staying with his uncle, Dr. Joseph Tomlinson, who was installed as President of the Methodist Augusta College, the first such school in the world.
Slave Quarters - Located at the corner of Bracken and Fourth Streets in Augusta, this building is representative of the brick slave housing structures remaining in Kentucky.
Augusta Underground Railroad Conductors - Doctor Perkins, a free person of colour, was arrested for "enticing slaves" and sentenced at the age of seventy to the state penitentiary where he died three years later. Rev. Arthur Thome, built "White Hall" with the help of his slaves before freeing them in the 1830's. Rev. James Armstrong Thome, was the author of Slavery In The West Indies as well as several anti-slavery pamphlets. James Cripps, an Ohio school teacher, was arrested for "enticing slaves" but was bonded out of jail. James Cooper, tried along with Cripps for "enticing slaves," had to spend several months in the Bracken County jail. John Fairfield, an elusive conductor mentioned in Levi Coffin's Reminisces, was arrested for "enticing slaves" and held in the Bracken County jail one winter.
Augusta's Historic Jail - Completed in 1811, this National Register of Historic Places building has been preserved by the City of Augusta and the Bracken County Historical Society. Just recently completed was the reconstruction of the holding pen in the lower section of the jail building. Rebuilt using the description in the original blueprints, this log structure adds an element that had long been missed from the original building. Open for tours by appointment, please call the Bracken County Historical Society at 606-735-3337 to make arrangements.