September 19, 1861
By Charles E. Hayes
During the civil war, Kentucky was a microcosm of the United States. The loyalties of Kentucky citizens, and even family members, were divided. The lifestyle of many living in the bluegrass typified the antebellum south. Some citizens of the western part of the state were also southern sympathizers. Most of the people living in the eastern part of the states were Union sympathizers.
Union Troops held control of most of Kentucky.
Many Kentucky Union sympathizers had trained at Camp Andrew Johnson, in Barbourville, throughout the summer of 1861. Despite northern losses at the Battle of Bull Run in July, most recruits still viewed the war as a lark that would last only a few months.
Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer entered Kentucky in mid-September on an operation to take pressure away from General Albert Sidney Johnston’s forces by threatening Union sympathizers in Kentucky. On September 18, 1861, he dispatched Colonel Joel Battle with 800 troops to attack Union forces at Camp Andrew Johnson. They entered Barbourville on the morning of September 19 to discover the troops had departed to Camp Dick Robinson.
They also discovered a force of 300 home guard led by Capt. Isaac J. Black. They immediately skirmished. Confederate forces dispersed the home guard forces, destroyed the Camp Andrew Johnson. Confederates seized arms, munitions and supplies from the camp.
The Union lost 20 casualties and the Confederates lost 5.
The Battle of Barbourville was the first civil war conflict in Kentucky. The Confederacy was demonstrating their ability and intent to reclaim its southern sister, Kentucky.
The Battle of Barbourville was re-enacted September 13th and 14th. The area where the re-enactment took place was perfect. No imagination was required to find yourself in Barbourville, Kentucky in 1861. The enthusiasm and approachability of the re-enactors equals the best that I have ever observed.