Civil War pic


Except for some serious fighting in Augusta, there were no great Civil War Battles in Northern Kentucky.  The Confederacy sent some troops north to see how Cincinnati was defended, and it was defended very well with the forts noted below.  There were skirmishes up and down what is now the Dixie Highway, but no battles.  The generals involved at the time are these men: (Links are to Wikipedia)

The Confederate Generals The Union Generals

Braxton Bragg
In charge of the
Confederate troops
in Kentucky

Civil War pic

  Civil War pic Don Carlos Buell
Headed up Union
Troops in Kentucky
Edmund Kirby Smith
 reported to Bragg, sorta
Civil War pic   Civil War pic Horatio Wright
Headed up Union
Troops in Ohio
Henry Heth reported
to Smith, and tentatively
moved into Northern Kentucky,
but finding it guarded, withdrew.
Last in his class at West Point.
Civil War pic  

Civil War pic

Lew Wallace
 was appointed by
Wright to defend Northern
Kentucky and Cincinnati. 
He did.
You can read a piece on Bragg's efforts in Kentucky, in 1862 (when troops would be in
Augusta, Walton, and Crittenden, by Basil Duke, here (pdf)

Bragg and Buell would eventually clash at Perryville, in the bloodiest battle in Kentucky
(and what one historian called “simply a useless slaughter, without special advantage to either side.”)
Read about it at this site: the Battle of Perryville.


“President Lincoln, in a conversation in Washington city with Hon. Garret Davis, of Paris, Ky., states distinctly that he would make no military movement upon any state or section that did not offer armed resistance to the authorities of the United States, or the execution of the laws of Congress; that he contemplated no military operations that would require him to march troops into or across Kentucky, and therefore he should not attempt it; that if Kentucky, or her people, should seize upon the U. S. post at Newport, it would be his duty, and he might attempt, to retake it; that it was the duty of Kentucky to have furnished the quota of troops for which he made the requisition on her, but that he had neither power, not right of disposition to coerce her; and if she made no war upon her own government of the United States, it would make no war upon her.” from The History of Kentucky, by the Late Lewis Collins, Judge of the Mason County Court, Revised, Enlarged Four-Fold, and Brought Down to the Year 1874 by His Son, Richard H. Collins, A.M., LL.B.


We like this short film from Cam Miller about the Civil War in Northern Kentucky


Northern Kentucky Civil War Defense Fortifications

  Civil War Fort Civil War Fort Civil War Fort Civil War Fort

Bates Battery


Perry Battery


Fort Mitchel


Kyle Battery


Civil War Fort Civil War Fort Civil War Fort Civil War Fort Civil War Fort

Hooper Battery


McRae Battery


Burbank Battery


Fort Wright


Carlisle Battery


Civil War Fort Civil War Fort Civil War Fort Civil War Fort Civil War Fort

Hatch Battery


Harrison Battery


McLean Battery


Larz Anderson Battery


Holt Battery


Civil War Fort Civil War Fort Civil War Fort Civil War Fort Civil War Fort

Shaler Battery


Phil Kearney Battery


Fort Whittlesey


Vicinity of Fort Whittlesey


Kirby Smith Battery


You can locate the forts and batteries above on the three maps below.

Civil War Fort Civil War Fort Civil War Map
You know Fort Wright and Fort Mitchel,
but can you place Northern Kentucky's
Fort Rich?  Fort Perry?
"Map showing the military defenses of Cincinnati, Covington and
Newport Constructed under the direction of Brig. O. M. Mitchell,
by Col. Charles Whittlesey in 1861: repaired and extended under
the direction of Major Genl. H. G. Wright commanding Department
of the Ohio, by Maj. J. H. Simpson, Chief Topogl. Engr. of the Dept.
Bvt. Capt. W. E. Merrill, & Lieut. J. A. Tardy, Corps of Engs., and
Col. Chas. Whittlesey, in 1862. Complied by order of Maj. Genl. H.
G. Wright commanding Department of the Ohio, chiefly from surveys
made under the direction of Maj. J. H. Simpson by W. H. Searles, G.
A. Aschbach, O. P. Ransom, and J. R. Gillis, in Septr. & Octr. 1862.
Published by authority of the Hon. the Sec. of War, in the office of
the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army."
Thanks to Jeannine Kreinbrink for sending
us this chart (pdf) she compiled about all the forts,
their style, and who they were named for.
  Guerillas at Shaler Battery.
Here is a site with contemporary
pictures of the Civil War Forts. 



We've made a stab at doing an overlay of the Whittlesey 1861 Civil War map above, with a contemporary map of Northern Kentucky. We're not sure if it's enlightening or confusing, but here it is; two maps in one.


In 1868, a reporter from a Cincinnati newspaper toured Northern Kentucky to get citizens’ views on the upcoming elections.  Civil War and Reconstruction feelings were still running strong, and he gets an earful.  We think it's fascinating. You can read it here, but if politically incorrect language upsets you, you should pass.


Cincinnati's famous Black Brigade and their help building fortifications in Northern Kentucky are detailed by Steve Preston at this site.


“January 10, 1866 - Gen. Henry Heth, late of the Confederate States army, while on a visit to Cincinnati, examines the earthworks thrown up in the rear of the cities of Covington and Newport, in Sept., 1862, to check the progress of his army. He said he was constantly advised to the accessions of the U. S. forces, and their exact situation, and was abundantly able to capture the three cities. The Cincinnati Commercial reports him as saying that ‘he was fully aware of the absence of veterans, and knew when [Union] Gen. Granger came in with his regiment from Corinth. He telegraphed to Gen. Kirby Smith, at Lexington, that he could take Cincinnati with the loss of perhaps a hundred men, and asked for instructions. General Smith's reply ordered him to take the city. He promptly prepared to mass his forces and break the greatly extended and imperfect Federal lines - fixing the time and place to do so. But a second telegraph from Gen. Smith informed him that Gen. Buell's movements made it necessary for Gen. Bragg to concentrate his whole army; that a division could not be spared, even to hold Cincinnati; and after Buell was whipped in Kentucky, the cities on the Ohio river would fall into their hands without further fighting. This compelled a countermand of the order to advance upon the Federal entrenchments, and the Confederate troops moved off rapidly to the center of Kentucky.’” from The History of Kentucky, by the Late Lewis Collins, Judge of the Mason County Court, Revised, Enlarged Four-Fold, and Brought Down to the Year 1874 by His Son, Richard H. Collins, A.M., LL.B.

Heth, above is correct that he was ordered back from northern Kentucky to Lexington. On the other hand, we believe he's delusional to think his 8,000 troops could have prevailed over Gen. Wallace's estimated 60,000. Especially since the place in the lines Heth thought he would attack was actually a trap laid by Wallace, which would have opened a deadly crossfire of cannon and muskets on Heth's troops.

“July 9, 1863 - The archives of Ky., about four wagon loads in all, sent from Frankfort to Covington for safekeeping.” from The History of Kentucky, by the Late Lewis Collins


Orders issued prohibiting the exportation of hogs out of the state of Kentucky. Disgruntlements ensue.” from The History of Kentucky, by the Late Lewis Collins

We highly recommend Roger Adams' paper, Panic on the Ohio (pdf) on Heth's approach and withdrawal from Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati,



From the top, those are men signing up in Cincinnati to resist the approaching Confederates, the pre-pontoon bridge bottleneck, and a position being created somewhere in Northern Kentucky. from Harpers Weekly, September 9, 1862. H. Mosler was the illustrator.


Ohio River Bridges, Covington, Kentucky Ohio River Bridges, Covington, Kentucky Ohio River Bridges, Covington, Kentucky
Federal volunteers crossing the Ohio River from Cincinnati to Covington on a pontoon bridge of coal barges on September 5th, 1862 to defend Cincinnati against advancing Confederate troops. That’s a partially completed pier of the Suspension Bridge in the background.


Garden of Hope

Wesley Cameron is the man that actually designed and built the pontoon bridge. In 48 hours.

Confederate hero John Hunt Morgan escaped his imprisonment in Columbus Ohio, came south to Cincinnati, crossed the river into Ludlow, wound through Boone County to Napoleon in Gallatin County, and then through Owen County.  You can read more details on his route here, (pdf) and here. “From general observation, when we consider the natural feeling of a white man that is born and reared in the State of Ohio, regarding the rights and privileges due our race, especially if he is engaged in business in Kentucky, or an employee, his greatest aim is to stir animosity and impede the Negro.  But the Kentuckian will assist the Negro, and you can find him what he professes to be.  A hint should be sufficient.” from Indianapolis' The Freeman, A National Illustrated Colored Newspaper, August 9, 1890 Appomattox may have officially ended the conflict, but hardly the hostilities.  Ghent's Bill Davis sent us this reference to a Gallatin/Carroll County post-Civil War episode that ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court.  Details at this site.  That site will give you a summary, and for all the gory details, follow the link at the top of that page.  Fascinating stuff.
This article talks about seeing General John Hunt Morgan in Sandfordtown. Unlikely. This article talks about Morgan's men - not Morgan - Owen and Gallatin.   Prisoners, brought to Newport Barracks.
“The Maysville, Kentucky, Eagle, asks the following very suggestive and pertinent questions, which are just as appropriate for California as for Kentucky: Did you ever hear any of these State rights men who talk about the expenses of the war, blame the Confederates for bringing the expenses on us? Did you ever hear one of them, when talking of Lincoln's unconstitutional act in calling out troops, say anything about the unconstitutionally of raising an army of rebels in the South? Did you ever hear one of them say that Jeff. Davis was trampling the Constitution under foot? In short, did you ever hear one of them express a patriotic thought, except when forced to!” Mariposa (California) Gazette, October 8, 1861 In 1861, a group of citizens from Warsaw, representing “Boone, Owin [sic], Gallatin, Grant and Carroll” complained to the Union that their home guards were insufficient to protect the citizens from “armed secessionists.” Charles Whittlesey was sent in to deal with the situation. His account is here. (pdf)
  Confederate ammo shipped from the North, thru Kentucky.  
From 1962, Clifford Specht writes on the Civil War defenses surrounding Cincinnati.  You can read it here(pdf) Civil war solder A. C. Dicken, C.S.A., kept a diary in his service days, the Northern Kentucky portion of which you can read here. (pdf) A status report on Northern Kentucky rebel troop movements from 1862, here.
“Col. J. R. Curry, judge of Harrison county court, Perry Wherritt, clerk, and Wm. B. Glaves, sheriff of same, and A. J. Morey, editor of Cynthiana News, arrested, 30th, and taken to U. S. Barracks, at Newport. All ‘charged’ with aiding the rebellion, or ‘affording aid and comfort to the enemies of the government.’”

“On Wednesday evening last, four guerillas were sent from Lexington to Pleasureville, Henry county, and there shot to death in retaliation for the murder of a Union man by one of the gangs of thieving outlaws now roving about the state. The names and addresses of the four executed men are as follows: William Long, Maysville (Ky.); Wm. Tithe, Williamstown (Ky); Wm. D. Darbor, Dallasburg [Wheatley], Carroll county (Ky.); and N.W. Yates, Bacon Creek, Hart county, (Ky.).” Sacramento Daily Union, December 9, 1864

More details on this story.

“Mr. Skiff, of Covington, Ky., is indicted for treason, the overt-act being the shipment of provisions to the South.” The Christian Recorder, July 6, 1861

1864 sees a jump in Northern Kentucky African-American enrollments in the Union army. More here.

Ulysses S. Grant passed from Louisville to Cincinnati in 1879,  His train schedule, showing every little town he came through, is here.  It's 2 years after his Presidency, and they still call him General Grant.

Rebels tend to go to Owen county, “a sanctuary for thieves and vagabonds” according to this item.


Squirrel Hunter's MArch Squirrel Hunter's MArch Squirrel Hunter's MArch Squirrel Hunter's MArch
The men defending Cincinnati in the Civil War were called Squirrel Hunters, which inspired this march


George D. Cosgrove's Dixie Cavaliers in Kentucky has bio's and descriptions of a number of Northern Kentuckians in the Confederacy. Be aware that Cosgrove never came across a Confederate soldier with a fault, and you're getting what can be a very slanted view of history. Most accounts of Col. Jessee, for instance, are more likely to use the term “horse thief” than “hero.” See below. Except for Whipple, all are pdf's.
Lt. Col. Moses Tandy Pryor,
Capt. Bart Jenkins,
Lusby's Mills, Owen Co.
Lt. Col. George Jessee,
D. Brainard Bayless,
Covington, 16 years old.
Assistant Surgeon George S. Whipple,
Worthville, Carroll Co.
Looting at Sardis,
Mason Co.
  Major Nathan Parker,
Bedford, Trimble Co.


Camp King

Licking River to the right; James Avenue on the left. That's the Meinken Field ballpark and Marathon Petroleum, but in 1862 this was the location of Camp King, headquarters for the district provost marshall and a training round for new recruits. It would later serve as a gathering spot for African-American refugees. From a Facebook post by Rick Kessans

One of the dangers of the Civil War in Northern Kentucky, and throughout the border area, was guerillas. A lot of guys back from fighting, or avoiding the fighting, roamed the countryside robbing, stealing, and terrorizing in the name of the Confederacy. On the western side of the NKY Views area, the man leading the guerilla's was Col. George Jessee. These are some of the articles that describe his activities in the summer of 1864.
Camped in Owen County, July 8, 1864 Attack Averted in Henry County, July 16, 1864 Jesse's men in Trimble, July 20, 1864
In Carroll, headed for Vevay, July 25, 1864 Almost captured in Trimble, August 25, 1864 Attacks railroad in Frankfort, August 27, 1864
“16 colored soldiers, 117th U. S. captured at Jex's Landing, Carroll Co., 3 miles above Ghent on the Ohio river, by Col. Geo. M. Jessee's Confederate force.” Collin's History of Kentucky, August 23, 1864 Ghent Atrocity, undated, a version of the Ghent episode Atrocity in Ghent, was the 28th, this item is the 31st
Attack at Lock #1 on the Ky River, August 29, 1864 Official Atrocity Report from August 29, 1864 Atrocity report semi-retracted September 3, 1864
“Louisville, September 9. – Colonel Holman, of the First Kentucky Cavalry, captured the soi distant , Colonel Jesse, and 150 men yesterday afternoon.  They were encamped near Ghent, Ky., and being surrounded by Holman, surrendered without firing a gun.”  The Cincinnati Enquirer, September 10,  1864. Captured, story 2. September 12, 1864
Out. December 7, 1864. Jesse and a large mounted force capture a train in Shelby County, and threaten Frankfort.
Out, December 15, 1864. Out and stealing horses,
Jessee's men open fire on the steamboat Bostona, here, and here. December 12,1864 “Guerrillas in Carrollton, Kentucky.  On Thursday last, a band of Jessee's guerrilla's dashed into Carrollton, Kentucky, and carried off a few horses and  a portion of the records of the Circuit Clerk, which was in session at the time.” The Cincinnati Enquirer, March 31, 1865
 He was captured again on April 25, 1865 at Eminence, Ky.


The guerilla in the central part of Northern Kentucky (Owen, Grant, Kenton,
Southern Boone) was Grant County's Mose Webster. A number of clippings on his exploits are here.


Jesse and Webster both surrendered after the war, and asked to be give then same generous surrender terms that Grant had offered Lee. The Union general in charge of Kentucky, Major General J. M. Palmer said sure, unless there had been crimes against civilians. Which is to say, fat chance.


NKU students put together this video on the Civil War in
Northern Kentucky


In response to critics who said stories about post-war abuse of African-Americans was just some miscreant trying to “slander the sublime State and the angelic inhabitants thereof”, a reporter of the day, in 1867, cited examples of abuse from reports to the Freedman's Bureau. You can read them here, but if gruesome treatment of human beings upsets you, you should pass. There's an even longer list here.