Monday, October 06, 2008

Camp Wildcat: Civil War in Kentucky

A GarysWorld 'Appalachia' Series
American Civil War October 21st, 1861
On September 23rd, news reached Union forces near Lancaster, Ky., where Colonel Garrard was assembling his forces, about the Barbourville skirmish. Advance units of Zollicoffer's forces had already reached the Laurel River outside of London, Ky.
Garrard's soldiers were sent to the Wilderness Road to guard a ford across the Rockcastle River in the rugged Hills. The 1st Kentucky Calvary, was sent ahead of them, their only training being how to shoot a musket.
The troops set up camp on a ridge and named it Camp Wildcat. On September 29, Garrard reported that the Laurel home guard had been beaten back and were coming into camp. The next day he sent a request asking for supplies for his 975 men.
While Camp Wildcat was being fortified, the Confederates continued their advance northward. Travel was slowed by lack of food and poor road conditions. Still by October 17, Zollicoffer's forces had reached the Laurel River.
As the Confederates advanced, Garrard's requests for help became more desperate. On October 19, with time running out, Brigadier General Scheopf was ordered to take command of Camp Wildcat. With him were th reinforcements Garrard had asked for. In order to reach Camp Wildcat before the Confederates, they had to negotiate roads so deep with mud that it reached the axles of their wagons.
Zollicoffer's Confederates entered London on October 20th, and advanced toward Camp Wildcat. Fortunately for the Union forces, reinforcements began arriving late that morning. By that night, Camp Wildcat had a new commander and more than triple their original number.
Early on the morning of October 21, Confederate troops began making their way up wooded slopes toward the 33rd Indiana Infantry. The woods were filled with smoke from the firing as firing from both sides was intense. As the fighting continued, the 1st Kentucky Calvary came up to assist the Union troops. The men dismounted, but wavered and almost panicked before rallying. Later the Ohio Infantry moved up and joined the battle.
After 90 minutes of fierce fighting, Confederate Colonel Newman, who was leading the 17th Tennessee Infantry, ordered 4 companies to charge. They were forced to withdraw as they almost ran out of cartridges.
A second offensive was tried in the afternoon. According to one account, Confederate forces, supported by artillery, made an attempt to move up the Wilderness Road toward Camp Wildcat but were repelled.

Result(s): Union victory
Location: Laurel County
Campaign: Kentucky Confederate Offensive (1861)
Date(s): October 21, 1861
Principal Commanders: Brig. Gen. Albin F. Schoepf [US]; Brig. Gen. Felix Zollicoffer [CS]
Forces Engaged: Camp Wildcat Garrison and Schoepf’s Brigade (approx. 7,000 men) [US]; Zollicoffer’s Brigade [CS]
Estimated Casualties: 78 total (US 25; CS 53)
Tags: Battle of Wildcat Mountain, Kentucky, Civil War, Appalachia
Resources: Cornell University: Making of America, United States War Dept, National Park Service, US Forest Service

Official war records correspondence links

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