Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Confederate Images: Private Ninian Oliver Bell

On May 6, 2006 a dedication of Pvt. Ninian Bell’s marker was held by members of the Gen. Lloyd Tilghman Camp #1495, Paducah, KY in the Mount Hope Cemetery at Belleville, IL. A Battle Flag was flown from the cemetery’s main flag pole during the dedication. Pvt. Bell’s grave had been unmarked, but research by Gene Beals led to the placement of the marker. The story was covered very favorably by the Belleville News Democrat.

By Gene Beals

Ninian Oliver Bell was born April 15, 1847 at Adams, Robertson County, Tennessee. He was of Scottish-German ancestry and the youngest of four children born to Richard W. Bell and Eliza (Orndorff) Bell. His father was a successful farmer and a constable for many years.

Ninian enlisted as a Private in Company E 8th Kentucky Cavalry on October 4, 1864. The 8th Kentucky was part of Thompson’s-Crossland’s-Lyon’s brigade, Buford’s Division, Forrest’s Cavalry Corps. Company E consisted of Kentuckians and Tennesseans. His service record states he was 5 feet 10 inches tall, fair complexion, light hair and gray eyes. He was seventeen years old at the time of enlistment.
The 8th Kentucky Cavalry at the time of Ninian’s enlistment was busy preparing to take part in John Bell Hood’s 1864 Tennessee Campaign.

Gen. John Bell Hood’s plan was to use the Army of Tennessee to attack Gen. William T. Sherman’s line of communications and hopefully pull Sherman back up north to protect his line of communications. The unit participated in the battle at Spring Hill, Tennessee on November 29th and seemed poised to defeat General John Schoefield ‘s Union forces, but through a series of blunders the Confederates allowed Schoefield to escape .Hood’s army was almost completely destroyed the following day at the battle of Franklin by Schoefields’s entrenched forces. The 8th Kentucky also took part in the battle at Nashville on December 15 and 16. The Union Forces led by George H. Thomas routed the Confederate army thus ending the Hood’s 1864 campaign The 8th was part of Buford’s Division, Forrest’s Cavalry Corps during the entire Campaign.

The 8th Kentucky merged with the 12th Kentucky Cavalry in January 1865 following the death of the 12th Kentucky’s Colonel, William W. Faulkner. The reorganized unit was now part of Crossland’s Brigade, Forrest’s Cavalry Corps. The reorganization was needed to meet the next challenge in the form of Gen. James H.Wilson’s Raid into Alabama.

Wilson’s plan was to drive deep into Alabama and give relief to the Union forces engaged at the siege of Mobile Bay. Wilson began his raid on March 22, 1865. Wilson was met with little resistance in the initial phase of his raid. Forrest was busy trying to gather his forces of some 10,000 scattered over parts of Alabama and Mississippi. Wilson reached the outskirts of Selma on April 1, 1864 forcing the Confederates back inside the city. The battle continued the next day and into the night. The Confederates were flanked and overrun by superior numbers & manpower.

Ninian was able to escape in the cover of night by swimming across the Alabama River to avoid capture. Selma was looted and burned by the Union forces. He was captured near Selma on April 18, 1865. He was one of many separated from their units trying to escape the Union onslaught. He was released on April 28, 1865 following the surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston on April 26, 1865, which ended hostilities for the most part in the western theater.

He returned home to Adams soon after his release & began farming once again. He married Rose Roberts on April 29, 1869. Two children were born from this union, Lennie in 1870 and Floyd in 1878. He moved to nearby Springfield around 1900 & took a position as a mail carrier. His wife Rose died in 1903 and was buried in the Elmwood Cemetery in Springfield.

Ninian moved to East St. Louis in 1913 working as a Gateman for the Illinois Central Railroad. He later worked as a watchman for the American Range & Foundry Company on State Street in East St. Louis. He died on May 30, Decoration Day (Memorial Day), 1940 at St. Mary’s Hospital. His final resting place is now marked with a Veteran’s Administration headstone, and research led the author to find his grave unmarked. Ninian was a 17-year-old when he joined the cause for Southern Independence and was a captured 3 days after his 18th birthday. Today’s youth of 17 to 18 years of age are busy planning to attend various school activities such as sporting events, the prom & graduation. Ninian spent this time participating in some of the bloodiest battles in American history and had the honor of serving under Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. Forrest is considered by many to be the greatest cavalry commander this country has ever produced. The general once stated, “ I’ve got no respect for a young man who won’t join the colors!” He went to war a boy and left it a man with the respect of General Forrest and his fellow countrymen.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I Could Not Resist My Country's Call Part 3

The journal of James Paton is one of only a handful of surviving manuscripts written by a member of the Confederate First Kentucky Brigade, known to posterity as the “Orphan Brigade.”

Paton and his comrades embraced the Confederate cause as their own and the Confederacy became their adopted country. Therefore, Paton felt “I could not resist my country’s call...to defend her rights.”

James E. Paton was born in Bourbon County, Kentucky, in 1837, the son of James and Elizabeth Paton. Working as a clerk in Paris, Kentucky, he joined a group of friends who, in June 1861, went south to join their fellow Kentuckians at Camp Boone near Clarksville, Tennessee, who were enlisting in the Confederate army. On July 7, 1861, Paton and his comrades enlisted in the 2nd Kentucky Infantry. Their company, the Hamilton Guards, became Company G.

His journal, written in Camp Morton, Indiana, while a prisoner of war, covers his service from July, 1861, until his exchange from prison in August, 1862. It is not known if he continued his writing after this period. Original grammar has been left intact. This is the final section of that journal. Transcribed and edited by Sam Flora; original manuscript in the possession of Elizabeth Clay Witt.

We were marched aboard the steamer “Dr. Kane”, all ignorant of our destiny, guarded by a Co. of the 20th Ohio – Capt Updegrass – who did all in his power to make us comfortable. This however was policy on his part, for if we had been so disposed we could easily have taken the Boat and would have done it, had not Col. Hanson and other commissioned officers of the 2nd Ky opposed it. Nothing of importance transpired on our passage. The Boat landed at Paducah, Ky., Cairo, Ill. and just before day on the morning of the 22nd Feby. We landed at the wharf in St. Louis, Mo. At the break of day the roar of cannon and the music of a dozen bands greeted our ears – Not in honor of our arrival. But in celebrating the birthday of the one who set an example in bursting the bonds of tyranny – Geo. Washington.

From almost every window and every house waved the once honored and beloved, but now forever desecrated and dishonored Stars and Stripes. I conversed with gentlemen on the wharf in St. Louis who expressed the warmest Southern sentiments and assured us that the majority in that city were with us in our views.

We remained on board the Boat at the wharf in St. Louis until the following morning – Saturday – when we were taken to the Ill. Side and landed at Illinoistown, a small town opposite St. Louis, where we took the cars and on Sunday evening arrived at Indianapolis, Ind. Via Terre Haute. That night we remained in a large Depot where we obtained repose which we so much needed, having been six days traveling and having had but very little sleep during the time.

On the morning of the 24th Feby., we were marched to “Camp Morton”(that Hell on earth) about one mile from the city. There never was a more broken down and dejected set of men than we both physically and mentally. Here for the first time since leaving home I felt the hand of disease laid upon me , which lasted for about ten days, at the end of which time I was so reduced that when I looked into a glass, I often wondered if “this was Geems”. The weather was the gloomiest I ever saw. But spring, after wading through two months of almost incessant rain and mud, made her appearance and with it came recruiting health.

About this time the darkest cloud that ever overhung a new-born Nation, was plainly visible hovering over the South. Nashville had surrendered to the Federals, York Town evacuated and New Orleans surrendered. News from every source was of the most discouraging kind to the Confederates, but we never for a moment lost the confidence we had placed in our Generals and army and would find great consolation in the old adage that “The darkest hour is just before the break of day.”

Altho under a heavy guard and under the strictest orders, the brave spirit of the 2nd Ky was never known to droop. We claimed the right of expression of opinion and exercised it freely. Every conceivable idea of making an escape was adopted and in many cases executed. Numbers ran the guard lines of nights and were almost invariably fired at, they would frequently, after being fired upon tantalize the guard about their bad marksmanship. Several escaped by obtaining Federal uniforms and passing the guard in the day time. Those caught trying to escape were always sent to jail and kept in close confinement. The guard was constantly on the alert for a chance to shoot into our camp, which they did a number of times. A prisoner was seen looking through a crack in the fence and without a word the guard fired , the ball striking in a few inches of his head. Another time a prisoner was shot in the head for the same offense. Another time at night some one of the prisoners, without thinking of the consequence, threw a bone over the fence. The guard reported that the rebels were stoning them. They were ordered to fire into the camp which they did, wounding three men who were lying in their beds asleep, one of whom died. For a while not a night passed that minnie balls were not heard whistling through our camp. At this time I did not consider my life my own, but entirely at the disposal of the guard. (The 60th Ind. Regt., mostly Dutch.)

Being goaded almost to desperation and maddened by the many wrongs that we have received here at their hands, we will if ever released fight them with a desperation heretofore unknown to a civilized world.

Time passes. The pleasant days of spring are gone and the warm days of July are upon u. Yes, today is the 4th, the Federal National birthday. Is jus t one year ago today since I left home. Since I left those I loved to enlist in the cause of the glorious South. As I sit and think over the past year, sad thoughts intrude themselves upon me. How many family circles have been broken! How many firesides, that just one year ago today were cheerful and gay, now present a scene of sadness and mourning! And how many friends have gone to “That bourne from which no traveler returns.”

This is a dry old 4th with the prisoners. The Federals around camp (of whom there are about 1200) are exceedingly jubilant and all the artillery in the surrounding country are belching forth their thundering notes. Fears are entertained in camp that the battle so long impending before Richmond has finally been fought and that the Federal arms were victorious. Painful thoughts to us!

July 5th

Not a yell is heard from the Federals. A melancholy silence pervades their camp. The guard with a down cast look walks slowly and silently upon his “beat”. Soon the Cincinnati papers arrive in camp. The mysterious silence is soon explained. Long details of a great battle before Richmond are found in the papers. Defeat of the Federals acknowledged and McClelland retreating. It was our time to exult. As long accounts of the battle and McClelland’s inglorious defeat were read, prolonged cheers of the Rebels filled the air. The Rebel Camp throughout the day was a scene of tumultuous uproar. From all we can learn of the battle, we are led to believe that the federal lion has been bearded in his den. That the “Grand Army of the Potomac” had been put to flight and that the Confederates had won a most brilliant and glorious victory.

The prisoners had placed such confidence in the success of our arms at Richmond, that they for days past had been saving candles with which to illuminate the camp when the announcement was made and as soon as night came thousands of lights were seen scattered promiscuously over the camp – a more beautiful sight never met my eye and until “taps” loud cheers for our army and Confederacy filled the air.

July 14th

If I had ever wanted to commit some startling act or create great alarm & excitement, I should have selected just such a night as last night was. The heavens were a vast sheet and one continual blaze of lightning and the almost incessant peals of heaven’s artillery presented altogether a scene of almost inexpressible terror. At about ten o’clock when the thunder pealed the loudest and the lightning flashed most vivid, a number of at least fifty musket shots in quick succession were heard on the guard lines. A number of prisoners had attempted to escape and had been betrayed by someone in camp, a trap had been set for them, into which they unfortunately ran, altho finding themselves foiled they rushed past the guard. One was brought down by a musket shot, the rest pursued one was killed and another severely wounded. Several however made good their escape. I suppose there were not less than 50 who made the attempt to escape.

I will here remark that there are traitors and spies in camp who watch the movements of the prisoners and keep the Federal officers posted. They will meet with but little mercy at the hands of the prisoners if they are found out.

July 24th

This morning about 9 o’clock two more prisoners were shot. In fact shooting inoffensive prisoners has become almost an every day occurrence. Without the slightest provocation they are fired upon, insulted in almost every conceivable way and treated with all the inhumanity that a savage would scorn to resort to. Clothing sent to prisoners stolen and scarcely enough rations issued to sustain life tell me you admirers of Christian virtues , you lovers of justice and humanity, if any tortures are too great to be inflicted upon such tyrants! Tis useless to tell me that we will not reap a tenfold vengence. That the day is now fast approaching when we will breath upon them the sweet spirit of revenge.

A telegram in this mornings paper announces that “arrangements have been effected for the immediate exchange of prisoners. Our almost stifled hopes and drooping spirits are again cheered and we look forward with many anticipations when we will bid a farewell to Northern polluted atmosphere and when we shall again arrive in the consecrated land of Dixie.

August 4th

The rumors, probabilities of an exchange are now reduced to a certainty. Gladly we hail the happy day!

I willingly go again to mingle in the bloody scenes of the battlefield and I now say to the Indianaians Beware of the 2nd Ky. They know how to resent the many wrongs they have received from you and they will do it.

The oath of allegiance is again offered. But I am happy to say that there are very few here who will resort to such depths of degradation & cowardice as to accept the offer.

Friends in Kentucky, adue for a while, I willingly go again to lend a helping hand for Southern rights, Southern independence, Southern Liberty. Should I fall bleeding upon the altar of my adopted country, I do so knowing that I fall in defense of southern homes, of honor and of all that is just & right, battling against a merciless and invading foe. But I hope soon to hail the happy day when National troubles will have ended when the “Confederate States of America” will be a victorious Nation & the brightest star among all the great Nations of the earth and when honest men can live in Kentucky free from the clanking chains of Northern despotism.

James E. Paton

Indianapolis, Ind.

August 4th 1862

A list of officers and privates in Co. G when first organized.

Capt. John S. Hope, Promoted Major.

1st Lieut. E. F. Spears, Promoted Capt., wounded.

2nd Lieut. S. B. Hawes, Wounded, killed at Murfreesboro.

3rd Lieut. W. H. Skillman, Resigned

1st Sergt. J. L. White, Killed Camp Morton by D. Webster.

2nd Sergt. D. E. Turney, Promoted 1st lieut.

3rd Sergt. R. E. Hewitt, Killed Resaca.

4th Sergt. J. A. Allen, Elected 3rd Lieut., wounded at Chickamauga.

1st Corp. Eli Cheshire

2nd Corp. P. Punch

3rd Corp. J. E. Paton, Promoted Sergt.

4th Corp. F. Hurley


Allen, G. W.

Ardery, J. D., Died.

Allison, J. A.

Barry, Jno., Killed at Dallas, Ga.

Batterton, B. F., Promoted Sergt.

Bills, Lafayette, Promoted Corp.

Barlow, J. T., Died at Nashville.

Bickley, J. S., Died of wounds Hartsville, Tenn.

Butler, Wm.

Barnett, C. A.

Ballengal, J. F., Killed at Jonesboro.

Browning, Wm.

Biays, P. A.

Brooks, S. A., Killed at Murfreesboro.

Corrington, J. J. , Promoted to Sergt.

Crouch, John R.

Clark, Frank, Killed by Skillman.

Chiles, Jas. M., Killed at Dallas, Ga.

Davis, John C., Wounded & discharged

Fitzpatrick, W. P.

Gilvin, E. L.

Griffin, J. D.

Griffin, Anthoney, Wounded.

Howarth, J. H.

Howard, F. J.

Hibler, Geo. W., Wounded slightly.

Hite, Wm. O., Wounded at Mufreesboro.

Hite, Jno. W.

Hendricks, S. H.

Ivey, Chas. C., Pomoted 2nd Lieut. Breckinridge’s Staff.

Kirkpatrick, J. A.

Leer, W. H., Wounded Ft. Don.

Leggett, J. M.

Mann, Madison, Deserted.

Murphy, Peter, Killed at Chickamauga.

McIntire, G. W., Wounded slightly.

McGuire, J. M.

Mahone, Jno., Wounded 5 times.

McDonald, J. A.

McGhee, Jno. W., Promoted to 2nd Lieut.

Mernaugh, Jas., Wounded, promoted to Corp.

McKinney, Frank

McLane, Wm.

Nelson, H. R., Killed Ft. Don.

Nash, J. H., Wounded Ft. Don.

O’Neal, Wm., Killed Murfreesboro.

O’Brien, Mike, Wounded.

Purnell, W. J., wounded mortally.

Parris, J. M., Promoted 1st Lieut.

Phillips, E. T.

Phillips, L. W., Killed at Chickamauga.

Powers, Mike

Price, Vezey, Wounded Cynthiana, Ky.

Piper, H.

Priest, Jas.

Prather, R. M., Wounded Ft. Don.

Richardson, W. J., Wounded Ft. Don.

Richardson, H. C., Amnesty, Camp Morton.

Spraggins, S. L., Died Bowling Green.

Shields, W. T.,Wounded, killed at Murfreesboro.

Shannon, T. H., Promoted to Corp.

Smith, J. T., Wounded Ft. Don., Killed at Dallas.

Skinner, W. W., Killed at Chickamauga.

Sanders, J. L. Amnesty at Camp Morton.

Stone, W. G.

Trigg, Joe L.

Tucker, W. J.

Winston, J. M., Died.

Watts, Oscar, Wounded slightly. Killed at Resaca.

Waddell, James

Webster, Dan

York, Thomas

Young, Price R.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Morgan Marker Placed at Ashland in Lexington

From the Fall, 2006 Lost Cause:

A large granite marker describing John Hunt Morgan’s brief capture of Lexington in 1862 and victory in the fighting that occurred at Ashland, the Henry Clay estate, was dedicated on October 14th at that site. The John C. Breckinridge camp helped raise funds for the marker, and Breckinridge members served key roles in the foundation created for the erection of the monument.

After Perryville, while Bragg was retreating, then Col. Morgan took his men behind the lines in an effort to keep federal troops preoccupied. As part of this, Morgan divided his force into two battalions and came towards Lexington from two directions (basically Tates Creek Road and Richmond Road for those familiar with Lexington).

Morgan’s two battalions converged on two battalions of Ohio cavalry (from the 3rd & 4th Ohio Cavalries) occupying the Ashland grounds and routed them. Among the casualties, Morgan’s cousin, Wash, was mortally wounded in the fighting. The “Battle of Ashland” is probably one of the least known actions in Kentucky from the War for Southern Independence. There has been little written on it; recently, noted WBTS author (and SCV friend) Kent Masterson Brown undertook to research the battle and now gives fascinating lectures on this Morgan victory (we hope he will publish this work at some point). His research provided the groundwork for the monument project, and led to the fundraising of the $9,000.00 required to make it a reality.

The dedication service was very well attended, with about 150 present, and included, in addition to a condensed version of Brown’s research on the battle, words from a Clay descendent (all but one of Henry Clay’s sons were Confederates), an artillery salute, and wreath laying by the Kentucky United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Now future visitors to the historic Ashland estate will know that Morgan was here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Confederate Images: Private John A. Kile, Co. C 18th LA Infantry

By Joey Oller and Ginny Tobin
   Owensboro, the county seat of Daviess county, has a distinctly southern atmosphere, which makes even the casual visitor feel welcome.  The beautifully kept Confederate monument on the courthouse lawn speaks volumes of the pride of Daviess countians feel in their past and the soldiers who cast their lot with the Confederacy.  The statue gleams brightly in the sun during the day and a spotlight is trained on it so that even the night does not hide it from the eyes of passersby.  In an era when most Confederate monuments are falling in despair and talk of removing them in some locations, such care and concern is refreshing.
   Also in the nearby beautiful Elmwood Cemetery lay more than fifty valiant Confederate soldiers-some who gave their lives in the great cause and others who outlived their country by many years.  Each stone has a story to tell, each grave holds a hero.  
    Owensboro citizens are uniformly friendly and welcoming to strangers, and when reading the history of the area, it is tempting to believe that it has always been so—consider the story of “Private  A. Kyle”,  whose tragic death was mourned by the city filled with people he had never met.
   After the battle of Shiloh, captured Confederate prisoners were transported by river to Louisville Military Prison.  The people of Owensboro saw many of these boats pass their shore on April 17, 1862.  One of these prisoners never made it to Louisville, but was left on the shipping dock-dead.
 A box was discovered on the dock with "A KYLE, CO C 18th LA. VOL. INF" and the words "DEAD REBEL" scratched on it.  Inside the box was stuffed a soldier measuring over 6 ft. in height.  The crew or Union guards apparently cared very little how the body was disposed of since it was abandoned in such a heartless manner.
   Many Owensboro citizens were incensed by this action.  They held a meeting to arrange a suitable burial for the dead soldier who was so far from home.
   Dr. Gustavus Tyler donated a grave in his own family plot at Elmwood Cemetery.  While preparing the body for burial, a scrap of paper was discovered in his pocket.  It could have been written by Kyle as an inspiration before going into battle.  Perhaps it was part of a letter some dear friend had given him or it may have been composed by a fellow comrade who watched the soldier die on the enemy prison boat.  Whatever the origin of the note, the words touched the hearts of those who read the words: "What more can a man do than to die in defense of his country"
   Private Kyle was not known to the citizens of Owensboro, but they made him one of their own as people gathered to watch the funeral procession.  It was reported that 1,500 citizens in a city of 3,000 attended the services at a local church.  A new coffin draped with a flag then made its way to its resting place.  Dr. Tyler would later make it his duty to purchase a large marble monument inscribed with Private Kyle's story.
   Louisville Journal Editor, George Prentice, a vocal opponent of the
Confederacy, though both his sons were fighting in the Southern Army, printed the Owensboro paper's account of the funeral and added his own statement: "The comments of the Owensboro paper explain and go far to justify the recently promulgated order forbidding the burial of the rebel dead in our state" (This venomous remark makes one wonder how Prentice arranged the burial at Louisville's Cave Hill cemetery for his own son Courtland after his death at the battle of Augusta.)
   More than 100 years later, the story of Private Kyle would again capture the heart of another Daviess countian.  After reading the inscription on the Kyle monument, a local youth contacted Louisiana State University to search for more information on this soldier.  It was discovered that the correct spelling of the soldier's name was Kile and that he had been listed as missing since the battle of Shiloh.   A search for Kile descendants conducted by the University at the time failed.
   On Confederate Memorial Day in 1964, a service was held for Pvt. Kile's gravesite in section A of Elmwood Cemetery.  The Civil War Round Table, reenactors and the ladies of the Owensboro United Daughters of the Confederacy joined together to honor their adopted son.  Among the floral tributes was an offering from Kile's home state of Louisiana.
   In 1995, a Kile family genealogist, Ginny Tobin, made contact with a librarian in Owensboro, looking for the gravesite of a John A. Kile, who had been left on the dock in 1862. This connection after 133 years gave us the missing pieces of the puzzle for us and his descendants:
   John’s parents, Jacob Kile and his wife Sarah (Airhart), came to Louisiana from Monroe County, Tennessee about 1839. Jacob and Sarah settled in Natchitoches Parish, just south of Cloutierville, and it was there in 1840, their first child John A. Kile was born. Sarah died in 1856.
   The Kiles were neighbors and friends of Francois and Sarah Elizabeth (Wrinkle) Adle. Their children were playmates. When Francois died, March 8, 1857, Jacob was administrator of his estate. On April 1, 1858 Jacob and Sarah Elizabeth were married.
   Sarah Elizabeth had six daughters with Francois, one of whom was Rosanna Francine. The childhood friendship between John Kile and Francine blossomed into love and on September 6, 1860, the then technically step-siblings  were married at Cloutierville by Justice of the Peace Adam Carnahan.
   On August 21, 1861, a daughter was born to John and Francine. The country was in the grips of the War and John, along with his boyhood friends from Cloutierville, was anxious to get into the struggle. On September 9th of that year Capt. John D. Woods organized the Natchitoches Rebels at Cloutierville, but John’s baby daughter was only nineteen days old and he did not feel he could leave Francine at that time.  According to family legend he named the baby Sarah Alease, probably for both grandmothers.
   When Sarah Alease was six weeks old John bade farewell to his family and traveled to Camp Moore where on October 5, 1861 he enlisted in Co. C (The Natchitoches Rebels) of the 18th Louisiana Infantry. From there the company went to New Orleans where three additional companies joined them, completing the regiment.
   In mid-February 1862, the Eighteenth Louisiana left New Orleans for Corinth, Mississippi, to defend the vital railroads in that area.
   Capt. Woods' Company of the Eighteenth Louisiana Regiment went into battle at Shiloh on April 6th with forty-two men; twenty-six were killed or wounded, including Pvt. John A. Kile. He, along with other Confederate prisoners, was put aboard a Federal gun boat for transport to a prisoner-of-war camp at Louisville, but during the trip up the Ohio River he died of his wounds. His body was deposited on the wharf at Owensboro, Kentucky, clad only in a red undershirt and stuffed into a box too short for Kile's tall frame.
   So now the tragic story of Pvt. John A. Kile is full circle, and though he is no longer unknown, he will always be Owensboro’s adopted “unknown soldier” of the Confederacy, Louisianan in life, a Kentuckian in death.
----Sources for this article:  Breckinridge Chapter UDC records, The Owensboro Messenger, The Confederate Veteran, The Daviess County Library.  A special thanks to Darlene Mercer for her help.
 (c) Kentucky Division SCV

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ft. Heiman Becomes a National Park

By Dr. Tom Hiter

At the beginning of the War for Southern Independence, while Kentucky was still debating whether or not to secede, Tennessee and the rest of the Confederacy noted a need for fortifications on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. Forts Henry and Donelson were constructed to seal these key waterways off to northern incursion. In July, Union forces occupied Kentucky from the north and Confederate troops replied by organizing a line of defenses across southern Kentucky. The western anchor of this defensive line was at Columbus, on the Mississippi River. In November, following a called secession convention at Russellville, in Logan County (well within Confederate lines), Kentucky formally joined the Confederacy, and Kentucky Col. Lloyd Tilghman was sent to Fort Henry. Tilghman immediately noticed what had apparently escaped the Tennesseeans, who had built Fort Henry: that it was located on a floodplain, and indefensible during times of high water. He suggested the construction of a supporting fort across the river in Kentucky. Work was begun immediately, but the fort - named “Heiman” for its builder Col. Adolphus Heiman of Alabama and elsewhere, was completed but never fully gunned. Thus it was that when Union Gen. U.S. Grant invaded the South and attacked Fort Henry (during a flood), the Fort Heiman garrison was unable to resist, and the fort was abandoned. Later used as a Union fort and freedman’s camp, it eventually fell into ruin and trees grew up on the site.

In 1998, a new SCV Camp was being organized in Calloway County, Kentucky. Among the members were two men who had long had an interest in Fort Heiman: Sandy Forrest and Charles Hiter. Both men had hiked and camped in the area, and both were interested in rescuing the site from development, which was starting to be evident in the area. They suggested “Fort Heiman” as the name of the new Camp. One of the first initiatives the new Camp undertook was to publicize the plight of the old fort.

In 1998, Sandy Forrest brought to the Camp an idea for writing a TEA-21 grant to obtain funds to buy up the remaining fort property. With the Camp’s support, he wrote that first grant. It was not given, but several people close to the Governor encouraged him to try again, and he did. Eventually, after much writing and considerable lobbying of government officials at both county and state level, the initial grant was approved. Then, with the encouragement of state and national legislators, Sandy went even further and wrote a grant for federal funds, noting that Fort Heiman was technically at the very beginning of the Vicksburg Campaign, and thus should be part of that overall effort.

Eventually, more than $1,000,000.00 was raised. That money was used to buy almost the entire fort and place it in the hands of the Calloway County government. Sandy, working with the West Kentucky Corporation and the Kentucky congressional delegation, and still supported by the Camp, embarked on an effort to have Fort Heiman added to the Fort Donelson National Battlefield. Other efforts were ongoing elsewhere to add Fort Henry to that Park, as well.

All this effort and all that money were devoted to the realization of an event that occurred on 30 October, 2006, on the high ground overlooking Kentucky Lake towards what used to be Fort Henry: The turnover of Fort Heiman to the National Park Service for inclusion in the Fort Donelson National Battlefield Park. The ceremony was held within the breastworks of one of the very few surviving Confederate forts. The men of Fort Heiman Camp and the Kentucky Division wish to report to General S.D. Lee that at in at least one place and one time, the mission he gave us has been accomplished!

(published in the Fall 2006 Lost Cause)