The History of the First & Second Battles of Cynthiana
UNITS AT THE FIRST AND SECOND BATTLES OF CYNTHIANA, KY
Used with permission from Rattling Spurs and Broad-Brimmed Hats: The Civil
War in Cynthiana and Harrison County, Kentucky, (William A. Penn, 1995).
Introduction: Although Rattling Spurs and Broad-Brimmed Hats is
temporarily out of print, William A. Penn may be contacted at Pennwma@aol.com
or, 423 Mill Road Dr., Midway, KY, 40347, (859-846-4128) and he would like to
correspond with anyone with questions about or information pertaining to the
Civil War in Harrison County, Kentucky. For the next printing of his book, Mr.
Penn is looking for unpublished diary entries, letters, maps, or photographs
about this subject. He especially is trying to locate a photo of Provost Marshal
Col. George W. Berry, from Berry, KY, and maps of the battles by participants.
Correction Note: Corrections to Rattling Spurs and Broad-Brimmed
Hats(William A. Penn):
P. 85: "About 3 P.Mů" should read, "About 5 P.Mů"
Confederate Units at First Battle of Cynthiana - July 17, 1862
SECOND KENTUCKY CAVALRY, CSA (370 soldiers)
Colonel John Hunt Morgan
Lt. Col. Basil W. Duke
Lt. Col. St. Leger Grenfell, Adjutant to Col. Morgan
Gordon E. Niles, Adjutant
Captain Thomas Allen, Surgeon
Boswell Partlow Yates Gorham, Surgeon*
A - Captain Jacob Cassell
B - Captain John Allen
C - Captain James Bowles
D - Captain John B. Castleman
E - Captain John Hutchinson
F - Captain Thomas B. Webber
G - Captain McFarland
|TEXAS CAVALRY, CSA (155 soldiers)
||Colonel Richard M. Gano
||A - Captain Hamilton
B - Captain Huffman
C - Captain McMillan
|FIRST REGIMENT GEORGIA PARTISAN RANGERS, CSA (350 soldiers)
||Lt. Col. F. M. Nix, commanding six companies.
|Also with Morgan was one company of Tennessee Partisans, number unknown,
making the total estimated CSA troops at 875.
Union Units at First Battle of Cynthiana - July 17, 1862
Lieutenant Colonel John J. Landram, USA, commanding
(under Colonel Leonidas Metcalfe, who was not present).
18th Kentucky Volunteers, USA (detachment)
|Captain J. B. McClintock, Home Guards
|Captain Lafe Wilson, Harrison County Home Guards
|Captain John S. Arthur, Newport, Kentucky Home Guards
|Captain J. J. Wright, Home Guards, Cincinnati, O.
|Captain Pepper, Bracken County Home Guards
|7th Kentucky Cavalry, USA, Major William O. Smith,
Captain W. H. Glass, Cincinnati, Ohio, with artillery squad and one brass 12-pounder
|Total estimated USA troops at Cynthiana
Confederate Units at Second Battle of Cynthiana - June 11-12,
|First Brigade - Colonel H. L. Giltner
||Fourth Ky. Cavalry - Col. Tandy Pryor
Tenth Ky. Cavalry Battalion - Col. Trimble
First Ky. Mounted Rifles Battalion - Major Holliday
Second Ky. Mounted Rifles Battalion - Col. Tom Johnson
Tenth Ky. Mounted Rifles Battalion - Major Tom Chenoweth
Sixth Confederate Battalion - Lt. Col. George Jessee
|Second Brigade - Colonel D. Howard Smith
||First Battalion Cavalry - Col. Bowles
Second Battalion Cavalry - Capt. Kirkpatrick
Third Battalion Cavalry - Major Cassell
Third Brigade - Colonel Robert Martin
First Battalion - Lt. Col. Robert Alston
Second Battalion - Major Diamond
Union Units Commanded by General Burbridge - June 12, 1864
First Cavalry Brigade: Col. Israel Garrard
9th Michigan Cavalry - Col. George S. Acker
7th Ohio Cavalry - Lt. Col. George G. Miner
16th Kentucky Cavalry, First Battalion - Capt. Bachman
Second Brigade: Col. D. A. Mims
39th Kentucky (501 men)
11th Michigan Cavalry (357 men)
Third Brigade: Col. Charles S. Hanson
12th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry (784 men)
40th Kentucky Mounted Infantry (425 men)
37th Kentucky Mounted Infantry (detachment) - Major Tyler
52nd Kentucky Mounted Infantry (detachment) - Major Tyler
First Kentucky Artillery, Co. C ( with one section of mountain howitzers) - Lt. McReynolds
Fourth Brigade: Col. John Mason Brown
||45th Kentucky Mounted Infantry
|The 13th Kentucky Cavalry and 47th Kentucky Infantry, assigned to Burbridge
are not mentioned in the official reports of the June 11-12, 1864, engagements
at Cynthiana. A detachment of the 47th Kentucky was detached to Hobson as noted
earlier, and both they and the 13th Kentucky Cavalry were apparently on an
assignment elsewhere, probably as bridge guards, and did not participate in the
Cynthiana battle. OR listed as shown above troop strength of some units
several weeks before the Cynthiana engagement.
The First Battle of Cynthiana
July 17, 1862
The story of the First Battle of Cynthiana began in early July
of 1862 when John Hunt Morgan, then Colonel of the 2nd Kentucky
Cavalry of the Confederate States of America, began what came to
be known as The First Kentucky Raid. Entering the Commonwealth
from Tennessee, he moved north toward Lexington, reached
Georgetown, beyond Lexington, and, after a brief pause, moved on
We learn about the Battle of Cynthiana from the book, "The
Bold Cavaliers." by Dee Alexander Brown (1959).
"A battle was certainly overdue for the 2nd Kentucky, but
after John Castleman reported early on the morning of July 17
that Lexington was defended by three thousand Federal troops,
Morgan definitely decided that his home town was not the place to
challenge combat. Instead, he proposed to his officers that they
strike to the north and destroy Federal stores reported to be
concentrated at Cynthiana, then swing south through Paris and
Winchester, drawing a half circle around Lexington. At Winchester,
they could choose from a number of routes back intto Tennessee.
To screen the main movement toward Cynthiana, Captain
Castleman was ordered to lead D Company in a daring diversionary
march down to the outskirts of Lexington. Castleman was to make
every effort to create an impression that D Company was the
entire raiding force of the 2nd Kentucky. He was to avoid close
enemy contact and take no prisoners. Whereever possible, he was
to cut telegraph wires and destroy railroad bridges, and some
time on July 18-the following day-he was to bring his company
into Winchester and rejoin the regiment.
While Company D was distracting the Federals outside Lexington,
some of the veteran companies of the 2nd Kentucky, twenty-five
miles away at Cynthiana, were engaged in their bitterest fighting
of the war.
About three o'clock in the afternoon, the regiment's advance
flushed out a Federal picket guard, chasing them back to the
Licking River and the narrow covered bridge which led into the
town. Colonel Morgan knew the terrain well, and had already
planned his attack. As usual, he sent Gano's Texans in a sweeping
hook around one end, the other arm of the pincers on this
occasion being Captain McFarland's Company G. They were to cross
at fords a mile or so above and below the covered bridge and get
in the rear of Cynthiana.
While these wing companies were galloping away, companies A
and B moved to the right of the road, E and F to the left. These
men dismounted while C Company held its position back down the
pike, prepared to charge as soon as the bridge was cleared.
William Breckinridge's inexperienced recruits, Company I,
remained in the rear as reserves.
Here again, as at Lebanon, Tennessee, this was to be a fight
largely between Kentuckians. The Union defenders of Cynthiana,
under Lieutenant Colonel John J. Landrum, consisted of Kentucky
infantry and cavalry units and one artillery piece, a twelve-pounder
howitzer manned by a company of firemen from Cincinnati. The
firemen had their howitzer set up in the Cynthiana square, and
they opened up on the 2nd Kentucky while the men were taking
positions on either side of the bridge. Tom Berry, who was
preparing to charge the bridge on foot with Quirk's scouts, said
afterward that the Cincinnati firemen 'went to work with that gun
as if they were trying to put out a fire.'
It soon became apparent to Morgan's men that they could not
take the bridge by frontal assault. In addition to grape and
canister flying through the air from the howitzer, heavy rifle
fire was now pouring from buildings just across the Licking River.
While E and F moved up to the riverbank on the left, Quirk's
scouts and A Company dropped down into the stream, and holding
rifles and ammunition above their heads, the men began swimming
across. Bullets spattered around them like rain. Some men were
hit, some drowned, but most of them gained the east bank and dug
in. For a few minutes it looked as if they could not hold their
position, with Landrum's defenders concentrating upon their
little bridgehead, but B Company quickly shifted upstream and
opened with flanking fire on A Company's most dangerous
At this moment, Captain James Bowles' Company C came charging
down the pike, St. Leger Grenfell's scarlet skullcap bobbing as
he raced with the leaders. They hit the bridge with a thundering
of hoofs on board planking and dashed headlong up the main street
toward the enemy howitzer. And while the Federals were off
balance from the shock of this mounted charge, Morgan's
dismounted companies swarmed through the bridge tunnel, each
company moving in a different direction through the town. Company
A, which had borne the brunt of the assault, charged up the bank
from the river, ammunition virtually exhausted. Tom Quirk,
noticing a Union soldier taking close aim on Ben Drake, downed
the man with a stone.
Meanwhile Gano's Texans and G Company had swept in from the
rear, and the Cincinnati firemen seeing Morgan men approaching 'by
every road, street and bypath ... were compelled to abandon their
'Old St. Lege,' as the boys now called their British comrade,
led a second mounted charge against the last enemy stronghold,
the railroad depot. Eleven bullets pierced his clothing, his
talismanic cap, and in some places his skin, but his attack ended
the fighting, and he required no surgeon to patch his wounds. 'I
cannot too highly compliment Colonel St. Leger Grenfell,' Basil
Duke wrote in his report of the action, 'for the execution of an
order which did perhaps more than anything else to gain the
battle. His example gave new courage to everyone who witnessed it.'
Duke also noted that Company A 'covered itself with glory.'
These former Lexington Rifles, veterans of Green River, Shiloh,
and Lebanon, also suffered the most casualties. Private William
Craig, first to swim the Licking River, was the first to die, as
he mounted the bank. Sergeant Henry Elder, one of the five who
drove the hay wagons from Lexington, was too badly wounded to be
moved. Tom Berry of the scouts also had to be left behind. All
the officers of A Company, except Third Lieutenant Samuel D.
Morgan, were wounded.
Lieutenant Colonel Landram, the Federal commander, made his
escape on a fast horse. Returning to Cynthiana after the 2nd
Kentucky withdrew, Landram reported: 'I can give no accurate
account of the rebel dead, Morgan having taken off eight burial-cases
from this place and his men having been seen hauling off their
dead toward Lexington after the fight....Since Morgan left,
thirteen of his dead have been taken from the river.'
Colonel Morgan reported only eight killed and twenty-nine
wounded (the thirteen dead later recovered from the river were
probably considered as missing). His estimate of enemy casualties
was 194 killed and wounded. As for the damage done to military
supplies, he listed the capture of three hundred cavalry horses,
a large number of small arms, and the destruction of commissary
and medical stores, tents, guns, and ammunition. 'Paroled
prisoners were sent under escort to Falmouth where they took the
train for Cincinnati.' John Morgan always made it easy for
paroled Federal soldiers to find their way home.
The July sun was still high when the 2nd Regiment marched out
of Cynthiana, back over the same covered bridge which they had
won at such high cost earlier in the afternoon. With their
coffined dead on wagons and their wounded in buggies, they moved
cautiously toward Paris.
For a more concise time line of events, please
The Second Battle of
June 11-12, 1864
June 11, 1864 - Covered Bridge:
Gen. Morgan [he had been promoted], with 1,200 men of the
Second Kentucky Cavalry and no artillery, began his last raid
into Kentucky. Entering Kentucky through Pound Gap, the
Confederates traveled to Mount Sterling and, after an engagement
with a Union garrison, moved on to Lexington and Georgetown.
Morgan's cavalry then traveled to Cynthiana to confuse pursuing
Federals (Union troops) and to gain access to eastern Kentucky
Morgan arrived three miles from Cynthiana on the Leesburg Pike
at dawn, June 11, 1864. Cynthiana was defended by Col. Conrad
Garis with 300 men of the 168th Ohio Infantry Volunteers.
Harrison County Home Guards under Col. George W. Berry provided
Similar to his July 1862, attack plans, Morgan divided his men
at Wornall Lane into two units to surround Cynthiana. Col. Smith
traveled through Lair Station to the east side of town, and
Morgan, with Col. Giltner, approached the town from the south on
the Leesburg Pike.
The primary attack was at the covered bridge where the Union
and Confederate soldiers faced each other across the river. The
Union troops first retreated to the depot, and then fled toward
Pike Street where they sought the protection of buildings. At the
depot Col. Berry was mortally wounded. Hiding in buildings,
including the Rankin Hotel [still standing at 111 E. Pike St.]
the Federals fired at the Rebels closing in on them.
To flush the Union soldiers from the buildings, a Confederate
set fire to the Rankin Hotel stables. The flames rapidly spread
west along Pike Street to adjoining Main Street buildings. A
total of 37 structures received damage. The Confederates
converged on the 168th Ohio remnants who then surrendered after
using the courthouse for protection. Except for the wings, the
courthouse appears today as it did during the Civil War. A
Federal staff officer, Edmund Wood, hid in the clock tower
undetected overnight after the covered bridge attack. From this
vantage point he could see the buildings burning on East Pike
Street and South Main Street. He said the courthouse square was
piled with merchandise taken from the stores.
Casualties from this engagement included 10 Union soldiers
killed and the capture of most of the 300 Union troops.
Confederate losses were not given for this skirmish separately.
June 11, 1864 - Keller's Bridge:
At nearly the same time that Morgan made his dawn attack, the
171st Ohio National Guard under Gen. Edward Hobson arrived by
train about one mile north of Cynthiana at Keller's Bridge, which
had been burned by a Confederate squad on June 8. Hobson planned
to support Col. Garis, but arrived too late. Soon after Hobson's
men arrived, the sounds of the attack by Morgan at Cynthiana
could be heard.
Some of the Confederates chasing the remainder of the 168th
Ohio toward Keller's Bridge stumbled upon the Union
reinforcements and reported back to Morgan. The Confederates met
Hobson in line of battle in the pastures of the farm that lies on
the west side of the Licking River, southwest of the railroad cut.
Hobson retreated north across the railroad cut to the adjoining
hill above Keller's Mill, leaving the deep railroad cut between
the two forces. [If one stands at the railroad crossing on the
Keller Dam Road facing northwest, the initial fighting took place
on the farm on the left. The Federals retreated across the
railroad cut in front of you to the hill on the right where
Hobson surrendered.] This rural area has not changed much since
the Civil War.
Hobson's position was now enclosed by a horseshoe-shape
section of the Licking River. About noon, after three hours of
fighting, Morgan finally arrived with reinforcements, having
crossed the river at the Keller's Mill Road and crossing the
river at a ford below the dam. Completely surrounded, Hobson had
no choice but surrender. Many of the Union muskets were burned on
the surrender site. Being low on ammunition, the Confederates
could have taken advantage of the Yankee weapons. The Union
prisoners were marched out on the Claysville Pike and held
Union - 13 killed, 54 wounded and 700 captured. [Confederate
losses were not listed for this engagement separately].
June 12, 1864 - Millersburg Pike:
Morgan's men slept in line of battle the night of June 11,
expecting to be attacked the next morning by Gen. Stephen
Burbridge. Burbridge was then in Paris, and was trying to cut off
Morgan's eastern Kentucky escape route.
Morgan placed his men about one mile east of Cynthiana in a
line extending from the hills near Claysville Pike, south across
the Millersburg Pike on each side of the house of John W.
Kimbrough, Poplar Hall [still standing next to the hospital], and
the vicinity of the present Battle Grove Cemetery; Col. Smith was
deployed on Magee Hill overlooking the New Lair Pike near the
present Harrison County High School property. Battle Grove
Cemetery, established in 1868, has long been recognized as being
on the main site of the battle.
Burbridge, with 2,400 men composed of Kentucky, Michigan and
Ohio units, formed a line of battle on each side of the
Millersburg Pike facing Morgan's dismounted cavalrymen. The
attack was signaled near dawn by the firing of a cannon. Morgan's
center and left wing were driven back at or near the site of the
present cemetery, and the Confederates then turned and ran for
their horses after being flanked on the north by Union cavalry.
Col. Smith, separated from the main Confederate line a small
distance south, held Morgan's right line somewhat longer behind a
stone wall. Both a determined Union frontal attack and a cavalry
flanking movement from the south forced Smith's last resisting
men to retreat. [An existing stone wall could be at or near the
site, but most stone walls have been destroyed since the Civil
War, making it more difficult to locate the actual site].
The fleeing Confederates attempted to cross the Licking River
at both the covered bridge and the point on South Church Street
where it crosses the railroad on a narrow piece of land below a
bluff. Here a number of Confederates were captured, wounded or
killed attempting to cross at the river's steep banks. Many of
the soldiers who managed to cross the Licking River to the Lucius
Desha farm [behind post office] had to fight their way through
squads of Union soldiers who were attempting to cut off the
Confederate retreat. Fleeing on many different roads leading west
and south toward central Kentucky, the Rebels eventually made
their way back to Virginia. Morgan, with several hundred of his
men, escaped on the Claysville Pike. Following the parole of
Union prisoners held there since the previous evening, the
Confederates outpaced the Union cavalry and reached the safety of
Union - eight killed, 17 wounded and 280 missing (probably
part of the paroled prisoners). Morgan did not report casualties
for this specific engagement, but Union officers estimated 300
killed, 300 wounded and 400 captured. The Union estimates appear
high, for Morgan reported for the entire June 1864 Kentucky raid
80 killed, 125 wounded, and 450 captured and missing, most
probably from the Cynthiana raid.
Ever-watchful Federal soldiers threatened to arrest
Confederate sympathizers for any act that could be interpreted as
aiding or giving assistance to the Confederacy. Existing treason
laws were supplemented by various presidential and military
proclamations and general orders that suspended the writ of
habeas corpus in certain cases and made citizens subject to
In Harrison County, arrests were often by the 18th Kentucky
posted at Cynthiana under Col. Landram. Citizen arrests peaked in
the fall of 1862 when Union forces in Kentucky reacted to the
Confederate invasion of Kentucky by Bragg and Smith. During the
Civil War, at least 60 Harrison County citizens received various
prison terms - some up to three months. Although most were not
formally charged, the citizens generally were accused of
recruiting, spying or associating with Confederate soldiers. The
arrested citizens were taken to various locations, including
Louisville Military Prison, McClean Barracks, Cincinnati, and
most often, Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio, where about 37 were
The first arrests occurred on Sept. 30, 1861, soon after the
35th OVI arrived in the county. Major J. R. Curry, judge, Perry
Wheritt, county court clerk, William B. Glave, sheriff, and A. J.
Morey, editor of the Cynthiana News were imprisoned at Camp Chase.
All had probably publicly voiced pro-Confederate opinions and,
being in positions of leadership, were the first to be silenced.
All eventually were released, but they now knew that anyone
remotely supporting the Southern cause would face arrest. The
Cynthiana press was successfully shut down during the war and did
not resume publication until October 1865. Arrests were not
limited to men: Mrs. Minerva Rees, dressed as a male, was caught
carrying messages destined for Southern friends and was held two
months at McClean Barracks.
State Representative Lucius Desha, the father of Jo and Ben
Desha, and his son-in-law, John H. Dills, were both arrested and
charged with treason for recruiting for the Confederacy after
they accompanied a group of 30 Harrison County men to Virginia
who feared military arrest. Desha returned to Kentucky but was
implicated when Dills and some of the other men joined the
Confederate army. Both were acquitted after Federal trials,
however Desha was held at Camp Chase 100 days in 1862. Desha's
home still stands next to Eastside school.
Other Civil War sites
The Church of the Advent Episcopal, 120 N. Walnut, was the
scene of fighting during Morgan's 1862 raid when Landram's men
resisted the attack from the Falmouth Pike of Col. Nix. The
original Falmouth Pike entered North Main Street where it now
ends at the railroad next to the present-day viaduct. The
original road can still be seen, now abandoned, and went north
from the railroad crossing behind a post-Civil War brick farm
house [owned by Jess Burrier] to the present-day St. Edwards
Cemetery, where it intersected the now-abandoned Keller's Mill
Road. Dr. Joel C. Frazer owned the farms on both sides of this
part of the Falmouth Pike during the Civil War and his home is
still standing near the water tower [the Swinford home]. The
first two miles of the Old Lair Pike was not a public road until
after the Civil War. Travelers during the Civil War took a
portion of the Ruddles Mills Road, now abandoned, that connected
Magee Hill to the Old Lair Pike. It was this road and the New
Lair Road that Col. Smith was protecting during the June 12, 1864,
fight with Burbridge. A Civil War period church structure that
was replaced by the present Cynthiana Christian Church was used
as a hospital during Morgan's raids. The building at 126 South
Main St. is said to have been Morgan's headquarters. Buried at
the Confederate Monument at Battle Grove Cemetery are a few
soldiers from Morgan's raids and others from the 1862 Augusta, Ky.,
skirmish. Although many soldiers were buried at the old city
cemetery on North Main Street, the Federal dead were moved to
military cemeteries and the only known remaining soldier buried
there is Lt. Rogers, a Confederate. The Crown Jewel Mill building
[behind Papa John's] was used by Rebel soldiers to shield
themselves from Union bullets during the first battle.
The owners of the buildings that were burned by Morgan's men
during the June 1864 raid petitioned the Congressional Committee
on War Claims for damages totaling $231,500, but the
appropriation bills did not pass.
After the war ended, the Harrison County soldiers who survived
battles, prisons and disease returned to their farms and shops.
The burned-out downtown was gradually rebuilt. Upon resumption of
the newspaper in 1865, the editor pleaded for an end to the
dissension that divided "old Harrison" during the war.
Although most citizens probably resumed their prewar lifestyles,
two former Harrison County soldiers, on opposite sides during the
war, ended up fighting a duel. In 1866, Jo Desha and a Union
veteran, Alexander Kimbrough, had a scuffle and later fought one
of the last known duels in Kentucky.
In subsequent decades both blue and gray veteran organizations
held reunions at Cynthiana, and newspapers reported that these
former enemies could now march together in parades. The time had
come to forgive and forget the horrors of "the War"
that had so occupied their lives from 1861 to 1865.
- William A. Penn