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Pursued by Garfield after his strong defensive position on Hagerís Hill was outflanked, Marshall decided to fall back to Prestonsburg, move up Middle Creek, and lure his adversary into an ambush.


After abandoning his fortified position on Hager Hill south of Paintsville on January 5th, Marshall marched westward in an attempt to intercept Col. Jonathan Cranor's 40th Ohio and defeat him before he could unite with Garfield. However, the muddy condition of the roads slowed Marshall's supply train to a crawl, so he decided to fall back to Prestonsburg. While Marshall made his futile march to intercept Cranor, Garfield threw his cavalry forward and clashed sharply with Marshall's rearguard at Jenny's Creek on January 6th.

On January 7th Garfield occupied Paintsville, and on the following day his forces reached Marshall's abandoned fieldworks at Hager Hill. On January 9th, determined to overtake the fleeing rebels, Garfield set out for Prestonsburg with his cavalry and 1,100 selected men from his infantry regiments. Marshall reached Abbott Creek at nightfall on January 9th and sent a squad of men to May's Mill in order to grind corn for his hungry army. However, they were driven off by Garfield's advancing bluecoats. After camping on Abbott Creek, Marshall moved his men across the ridge to the Forks of Middle Creek, where he deployed them on the surrounding slopes and waited for Garfield's columns to advance up the Middle Creek Valley.

Marshall's command consisted of approximately 1,950 men and was made up of both Kentuckians and Virginians. The 5th Kentucky Infantry, organized at Prestonsburg in the Fall of 1861, was largely composed of Eastern Kentuckians. It was augmented by the 1st Battalion Kentucky Cavalry, composed of men from Central Kentucky; Colonel Alfred C. Moore's 29th Virginia Infantry; Colonel Robert C. Trigg's 54th Virginia Infantry; and Captain William C. Jeffress' sixty-man battery of four six-pounder and twelve-pounder cannons.


One of the officers on Marshall's staff drew this map, which shows the positions of his regiments during the battle. The W's mark the position of Col. John S. Williams' 5th Kentucky Infantry, and the M's show the position of Colonel Moore's 29th Virginia Infantry. The C's and T's show the position of Clay's and Thomas' companies of the 1st Battalion, Kentucky Cavalry.
The Confederate
Waiting Game
For an enlarged version, click here.
Carte De Viste of General John S. Williams, courtesy of The Historical Shop, Matairie, Louisiana. In the Summer of 1863, following his service as commander of the 5th Kentucky, Williams was promoted to Brigadier General and given command of the Department of Southwestern Virginia and Eastern Tennessee. Later that year, though badly outnumbered, he and his men valiantly resisted the advance of Burnside's Corps into Eastern Tennessee. Williams' military career reached its climax at Saltville, Virginia on October 4th, 1864, when he successfully defended Preston's Saltworks from an invading Union army commanded by General Stephen G. Burbridge.
Middle Creek
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Foundation
Samuel May House
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Why They Fought Here
The Opposing Commanders
The Artillery That Failed
The Union Command Post
The Confederate Command Post
The Union Assault
Monroe's Bayonet Charge
A Desperate Fight, But Few Casualties
The Mount Sterling-Pound Gap Road
The John M. Burns House
The Samuel May Farm
The Middle Creek Foundation
Colonel George W. Monroe
Colonel Ezekiel F. Clay
Colonel Lionel A. Sheldon
Colonel Don A. Pardee
Colonel Hiram Hawkins
Colonel John S. Williams
Colonel Alfred C. Moore
Colonel George W. Gallup
Dr. Stephen M. Ferguson
Eastern
Kentucky
Civil War
Battles
The Skirmish
at Abbott Shoal
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