Smith Invaded Ky. 130 Years Ago

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Smith Invaded Ky. 130 Years Ago


In August of this year, Madison County will celebrate the 130th anniversary of the Battle of Richmond. An enactment will take place at White Hall Historic Site. In 1862, Major General Edmund Kirby Smith met with General Braxton Bragg. The two men planned an invasion of Kentucky. Smith was commander of the Department of East Tennessee for the Confederacy. The hope of success for the invasion was triggered by glowing reports by John Hunt Morgan, after a raid near Georgetown. Morgan said that all bridges between Lexington and Cincinnati had been destroyed and he expected a great rallying around the Confederate cause if a Southern army were in the area. Under the plan developed, Bragg was to move towards Glasgow with his Army of the Mississippi, while Smith invaded Kentucky near Cumber-land Gap. Troops were sent to neutralize the Union force occupying the Gap while a subsistence train and artillery moved through Big Creek Gap toward Barbourville. Kirby Smith led two divisions, totalling 6.000 men, up Powell's Valley, crossing into Kentucky at Rogers' Gap. After a difficult, 60-hour climb over the Cumberland Mountains, Smith arrived in Barbourville on August 18. The town was very pro-Union. The gray troopers captured 50 U.S. soldiers and a like number of supply trains bound for Cumberland Gap. On August 17, Col. John Scott's cavalry captured London for the Confederacy, opening the road to the Bluegrass for the invaders. Smith was anxious to move out of the pro-Union area. The Knox Countians had taken to heavy sniping and bushwhacking. Heavy Union reinforcements were expected in Richmond on August 23. The Confederates captured Mt. Vernon and Union troops were driven back to Crab Orchard, which was then bypassed. By midafternoon on August 23, Scott's horsemen arrived at Big Hill in southern Madison County. Union troops occupied this position, but when the Confederates charged a portion of the blue troops ran. The Federals retreated toward Richmond. Fearing to go forward without infantry support, Gen. Scott set up camp between Big Hill and the Rockcastle River. Back in Barbourville, Kirby Smith moved northward on August 25, with 12,000 infantrymen. Upon arriving at Scott's camp Smith sent cavalry scouts north of Big Hill, where they encountered heavy Union cavalry resistance. This was the beginning of the Battle of Richmond, about which more next week.


Dr. Fred Engle




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Dr. Fred Engle, “Smith Invaded Ky. 130 Years Ago,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed May 19, 2024,