As with the Cholera epidemic, when I set out on this journey, I had no intention of covering the Civil War in Barren County, except for a few odds and ends. Then someone suggested I write of Fort Williams, which sits on the hilltop inside the city cemetery. The late Jimmy Simmons, a former Glasgow High School history teacher, did a great coverage of the Civil War era in the Glasgow Daily Times from 1961-1964, as a 100-year commemoration. Simmons shared a wealth of knowledge on the subject, and covered the Battle of Glasgow in 4 articles. I wish to also cover the occupation by the Confederates in the year previous to the fort’s construction.
Confederate General Braxton Bragg was the first to bring troops into Glasgow. Most Civil War historians agree on the opinion that Bragg was the worst of Confederate generals. He was most despised by those who served under him. He seemed to carry a special dislike for Kentuckians, and it is certain the feeling was mutual. In the late summer of 1862, he was sent to recapture Kentucky.
Bragg’s column entered Kentucky by way of Tompkinsville, crossing the Cumberland River near Gainesboro, Tennessee. At Glasgow Bragg halted for supplies. No large army had ever stopped here and the county was rich in corn, forage, hogs, and cattle, and several mills in the county ground day and night.
Bragg set up his headquarters in the large 2-story brick home (the Sam Fowler place) that stood at the corner of Front and Broadway for many years, until it was finally torn down and replaced by a service station. One needs to remember that at the start of the Civil War, the population of Glasgow was only about 500 people, and the main part of town covered the square and down East Main to Broadway, then down Broadway to its confluence with Front Street and Columbia Road.
The army itself occupied where it could find space, but the major part of it camped from the cemetery down to Cleveland Ave. This was quite a large encampment, and every spring bullets were plowed up in the gardens of that neighborhood for many years.
Hospitals were everywhere that space could be found. Dr. Thistletwaite’s house on North Race Street and the Presbyterian church were 2 places used for that purpose. The army had considerable sickness, and after the battle of Munfordville (September 1862), a convalescent hospital was established in the Thistletwaite home. A number of Confederates died here, but the only grave with a known location is on Dr. Harvey’s farm, on the bluff over Dog Creek, across the creek near Twyman Park, and accessed off Hwy 249. A number of soldiers were buried somewhere to the rear of Dr. Thistletwaite’s home. There are 2 cemeteries near there, the Tompkins one behind the house, in an open field, and the Crutcher Cemetery, directly behind the Garnett house two doors up, which had a rock wall around it, but several unmarked graves in it.
Bragg’s occupation of Glasgow was not drawn out, but interesting things can happen when it involves an army of this size and repute.
In 1862, the Huggins family operated a large distillery here. Their peach and apple brandy was quite famous far and wide, and at one time their operation was said to be the largest of its kind in the world. They had large orchards of apples and peaches located some 2 or 3 miles out Old Bowling Green Road. The little branch which crosses Hwy 1297 at that point still bears the name Huggins, but no trace of the vast orchards remain.
The Edwards home, facing the triangle at Brown, Leslie, and Cleveland had a rather large cellar underneath that the Huggins’ had set up to store their brandy to age. On the way to the encampment Bragg’s army had set up between Cleveland and Grandview Aves., the wagon train got caught up in a traffic jam in front of the Huggins place and in the melee an enterprising rebel soldier stumbled across the liquid treasure. He made quite a turn selling brandy out the back door until he was caught out.
In another incident, probably stemming from this occurrence, a Confederate soldier broke into the Smith home on Cleveland Ave. and put quite a fright in the women of the house. Mr. Smith complained to the Provost Marshal and the guilty one was quickly arrested, tried, and ordered to be shot. The soldier had been intoxicated at the time of the incident, and no actual harm had been done, so Mr. Smith tried to intervene on behalf of the soldier. The soldier was brought to the place of execution, at the foot of Washington Street where the Big Spring crosses Franklin Street, riding atop his own coffin in the back of a wagon. He was stood up in front of his comrades and shot by a firing squad. The soldier was buried on the spot. His grave, though unmarked, is still there. I’ve been given to understand it is on the property of Franklin Manor Apartments.
After Bragg’s occupation of Glasgow in 1862, Union authorities constructed the fort, which occupies the hill above the city cemetery, now almost completely surrounded by said cemetery. It is really only a trench with earthworks thrown up in front of it. The skirmish trench is crescent shaped, and located below the fort. It is still visible, though now only a shallow depression. A number of gun positions were located within the fort but it is uncertain whether any cannon were ever placed in them. The only buildings were a quartermaster warehouse and a magazine. These were located within the fort and the soldiers were quartered outside in tents. Why this particular hill was chosen remains a mystery. Standpipe hill, across the railroad tracks, is much higher.
Glasgow was one of a series of garrison towns with similar fortifications. Heavily armed patrols and scouts went out from here to Cumberland, Monroe, Metcalfe, etc., but troops never stayed more than a few days in those counties. The only regiment ever mustered into service in Glasgow was the 37th KY Mounted Infantry. They numbered about 400 soldiers, and were on garrison duty at the fort when the battle of Glasgow was fought. They had only recently been recruited and were not fully organized when the attack occurred. Major Sam Martin and Lt. Isaac Chenoweth were veterans, but most of the recruits were inexperienced boys from Barren, Monroe, and Cumberland counties.
On September 30, 1863, Maj. Sam Martin, in command of the garrison at Glasgow, was ordered by General Jeremiah T. Boyle to send several detachments into the border counties. Maj. Martin sent one group of 30 men under Lt. JW Kerrick to Cumberland county, to Marrowbone Store, on to Center Point and Tompkinsville, returning to Glasgow. Captain JW Roark, a Monroe county boy who served in the 9th KY Inf., was sent with 30 men to Tompkinsville with orders to rendezvous with Capt. GP Stone at Gamaliel. Capt. Stone was ordered with 30 men to Jimtown (Fountain Run) and then to Gamaliel to join Capt. Roark. The 2 groups were to continue to Lafayette, TN, and on their return report to Maj. Martin.
Maj. Martin’s headquarters were located in a house facing the square, exact location unknown. Lt. Kerrick returned to Glasgow on October 3rd, and reported to headquarters. Capt. Roark, finding no Confederates, returned on the 5th, reporting upon his arrival. Capt. Stone also returned on the 5th, but did not report, going directly to the camp near the fort. Unbeknownst, a group of approximately 120 Rebels with the 25th TN Infantry, CSA, under command of Col. John M. Hughes, was headed their way.
About daylight on the 6th, Maj. Martin, who had been ill, was awakened hearing horses passing through town in direction of the fort. He assumed it was Stone’s detachment, until his father looked out the window and saw the Confederate uniforms. Gunfire broke out in the square. Capt. JO Nelson’s company of about 50 men were acting as Provost Guard and were camped in the courthouse yard.
Maj. Martin leaped from bed, dressed, and armed himself with his Henry repeating rifle. He went to the window and was joined by Lt. Isaac Chenoweth. The fight on the square was almost over and Capt. Nelson’s men were being herded into line by 15 or 20 Rebels. Maj. Martin challenged the Confederates, and getting no reply, he and Lt. Chenoweth opened fire. They wounded 3 or 4 men before the volley was returned. Several balls struck the house but injured no one. Maj. Martin sent Pvt. Frank Claiborne, an orderly, on horseback to try and warn the fort. He was captured on his way there and never made it.
Meanwhile, shots from headquarters drove the Southerners from the square, and Martin and company made their way to the stables, to get horses and ride to the fort. Martin, Chenoweth, and another orderly, William Griffith, saddled and mounted 3 of the 6 horses still in the stable and rode back through town toward the fort.
Upon approaching the fort, they heard gunshots and yelling from that direction. The party came within 200 yards of the fort. In the early morning light, Confederates were driving the Union soldiers into a line and sacking the camp. Maj. Martin was a brave man. and lowered his gun, prepared to fight. Lt. Chenoweth talked him down, afraid the Major might hit one of his own men.
Most of the men had been captured or scattered, and Martin’s party was the only group known to still be armed. After observing the fort for several minutes, the trio was spotted by Confederates, who gave chase. Martin eluded them and gathered up a few soldiers from their posts around town that had not been attacked. By then, the Southerners had set fire to the buildings at the fort and were marching back to town. Martin’s group retreated about 5 miles toward Cave City, and stopped while Lt. Chenoweth rode to Cave City to wire a dispatch to Gen. Boyle.
Most of the men of the 37th had been in bed when the early morning attack came, with the exception of a few mounted patrols and pickets around town, and the members of the Provost guard on duty.
Maj. Martin in his report accused the Southerners of shooting some of his men while they were unarmed and offering no resistance. Capt. George S. Nunn had been in command at the fort, and his men had mostly been asleep in the camp below the fort, and were unable to offer any real resistance to the Confederates. The sentries did fire and according to Maj. Martin, mortally wounded one of the enemy. Otherwise, there was no resistance. Some did make their escape in the confusion.
Maj. Martin reported 142 men and officers captured and paroled, 200 horses and equipment carried off; 3 wounded (1 mortally), 2 wagons of clothes, etc., carried off. He also reported $9,000 taken from the bank, and one store robbed of about $400 worth of goods. The Confederates also carried off about 100 guns. Maj. Martin reported 11 enemy wounded (4 mortally), all of whom were taken away in wagons and buggies commandeered from the civil population.