Born in Bourbon County, Clay was the son of Congressman Brutus J. Clay and the nephew of Cassius M. Clay, Lincoln’s Minister to Russia. He saw action at Middle Creek and later served with Wheeler’s Cavalry in Tennessee. Wounded and captured during the Battle of Puncheon Creek, he spent the last year of the war in an Ohio prison.

Colonel Ezekiel Field Clay was the son of U. S. Congressman Brutus J. Clay, Bourbon County stock-breeder and president of the Kentucky Agricultural Association. In October, 1861, Clay organized a Bourbon County company of mounted men and took them to Prestonsburg, where they enlisted in the newly-formed First Kentucky Mounted Rifles, C.S.A  Clay was one of the organizers of the regiment, and following its baptism of fire during the Battle of Ivy Mountain, he was singled out for praise by his commanding officer, Colonel John S. Williams.

During the 1862-63 period Clay and his men served with Marshall’s Army of Southwestern Virginia, participating in Marshall’s Fall 1862 invasion of Eastern Kentucky and the abortive raid on Louisa in the Spring of 1863.

Transferred to Georgia, Clay and his men served with General Nathaniel B. Forrest’s cavalry after the Battle of Chickamauga and rode with Wheeler’s cavalry during their famous raid through Middle Tennessee. At Shelbyville Clay was badly wounded and lost his horse, but he recuperated in time to participate in the Knoxville campaign.

In April 1864 he led a brigade of cavalry into Eastern Kentucky and, at Puncheon Creek in Magoffin County, was surrounded by a superior force of Union troopers and badly defeated. Wounded in the eye, Clay was captured and sent to a Union prison on Johnson’s Island, located on Lake Erie near Sandusky, Ohio, where he remained until Lee’s surrender.

After his release Clay returned to his family estate in Bourbon County and spent the remainder of his life breeding horses. His farm, known as Runnymede, became famous under his management and is still widely celebrated as the home of many of Kentucky’s finest thoroughbreds.

Colonel Ezekiel F. Clay of the
1st Kentucky Mounted Rifles
The Middle Creek
The Samuel May House
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Middle Creek Main Page
Why They Fought Here
The Opposing Commanders
The Confederate Waiting Game
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 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
Civil War
The Skirmish
at Abbott Shoal

Steel engraving from
E. Polk Johnson's
A History of Kentucky
and Kentuckians,

Vol. II (Chicago, 1912).