The Civil War in Hardin County
During the Civil War, Hardin County was the site of several engagements between federal and confederate forces. It was also the location of numerous attacks and depredations by lawless guerrillas. Communities throughout the county supplied both armies with men. Both armies passed through and occupied the area at various times, although the federal army was the predominant force and established a number of camps. Interpretive and historical markers throughout the county relay the history of this turbulent time in America’s history.
When Kentucky’s neutrality ended, federal forces under Brig. Gen. Robert Anderson established a supply base at West Point. In the southern portion of the county, Federal forces strengthened their presence in with the establishment of a federal camp at Nolin. This camp, known as Camp Nevin or Nolin, grew to over 13,000 troops by late October.Most of the federal troops there withdrew southward the following February.
In November 1861, Brig. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman (who had taken over command of the federal forces at West Point)ordered that a hill overlooking West Point, the Ohio River, and Louisville and Nashville Turnpike, be fortified. Ordering a number of regiments to construct earthworks, the 9th Michigan Infantry was placed in charge. They named it Fort Duffield in honor of their regimental commander.The fort was never challenged was sporadically used throughout the war. In 1864 guerrillas burned the remaining quarters around the fort. Fort Knox gave the historic fort to the town of West Point in 1978 and it is now open to the public as a community park and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In August and September, 1862, confederates entered the state in hopes of gaining control and receiving recruits. Louisville was thought to be a confederate target and federals under Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell Union Army passed through Elizabethtown and other points of the county to get there. The main route taken was the L & N Turnpike, a portion which is preserved by Fort Knox and opened to the public.
In December 1862, confederates under Brig.Gen. John Hunt Morgan entered Kentucky en route to their objective, a 500 foot span of wood trestle rising 95 feet above Sulfur Fork at Muldraugh Hill on the L&N Railroad line. In the following days he would capture federals stationed at Upton, Nolin Station, and Bacon Creek. On the morning of December 27, 1862, the Battle of Elizabethtown commenced between Morgan’s confederates and eight companies of the 91st Illinois Infantry regiment. The urban battle resulted in numerous casualties. The following day Morgan’s men pushed on to the railroad trestle at Muldraugh Hill, then only guarded by a small stockade.
After another short engagement, the victorious confederates burned the trestle and paroled their prisoners. The following morning, federals under the command of Col. John Harlan caught up with Morgan’s troopers on the southwest bank of the Rolling Fork. The sharp rear-guard action from Harlan forced Morgan’s men out ofcounty. During the ten-day raid into Kentucky, and through the heart of Hardin County, Morgan had captured and paroled some 1,800 prisoners, killing 30 men, collecting much needed arms, supplies and horses. The raid prompted the federals to strengthen their positions along the railroad and Fort Sands, Jones and Boyle were established. Morgan would pass through Hardin County again during his July 1863 raid which would take him to Indiana and Ohio.
Guerrilla activity increased within the county during 1864 and 1865. Among the last actions by organized confederate forces within the county occurred in December 1864 as Gen. H. B. Lyon’s troops attacked and captured a federal train at Nolin and followed up with the capture of a small force guarding Elizabethtown.
The Hardin County History Museum, located in Elizabethtown, contains an exhibit area dedicated to the county’s involvement during the Civil War. In addition to artifacts are panels detailing the history of the Kentucky’s Orphan Brigade. Another exhibit area is devoted to President Abraham Lincoln and his strong ties to the county.
Hardin County History Museum
201 West Dixie Avenue
Ph. (270) 763-8339