KENTUCKY (FOX 56) — During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared, “I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.”

11/19/1863-Gettysburg, PA-ORIGINAL CAPTION READS: Abraham Lincoln at the Gettysburg Address. Painting by J.L.G. Ferris. (Getty Images)

Despite being a neutral state, Kentucky played host to 13 battles during “The Second American Revolution.”

According to Legends of America, few states were as deeply divided during the Civil War as Kentucky. Families, friends, and neighbors were pitted against each other as the state was forced to take sides. In fact, six of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln’s seven brothers and half brothers fought for the Confederate cause against her husband.

Across the 13 battles, over 10,000 people perished, including more than 6,600 Union soldiers and around 3,400 Confederate soldiers.


  • Sept. 19: The Battle of Barbourville, which marked the Confederates’ first victory in Kentucky.
  • Oct. 21: The Battle of Camp Wildcat, also known as the Battle of Wildcat Mountain, marked the Union’s first victory in Kentucky and halted the Confederate advance.
  • Nov. 8–9: The Battle of Ivy Mountain, During the battle, Brig. Gen. William “Bull” Nelson stood upon a large rock and claimed, If the Rebels could not hit him, they could not hit any of them, and began the climb to the top of the mountain.
  • Dec. 17: The Battle of Rowlett’s Station saw less than 500 Union soldiers confront 1,300 Confederate troops. To this day, the winner of the battle is unclear, as both sides claimed victory.


  • Jan. 10: The Battle of Middle Creek was fought between the future president, Col. James Garfield, and Mexican War hero Brig. Gen. Humphrey Marshall. His victory in the battle earned Garfield the title of Brigadier General.
  • Jan. 19: The Battle of Mill Springs saw the Confederates charge a Union camp despite no element of surprise and wet gunpowder from overnight rain. Mill Springs marked a major loss for the Confederates.
  • Aug. 29–30: The Battle of Richmond featured a major win for the Confederacy, as they killed around 200 Union soldiers and captured around 4,300 more.
  • Sept. 14–17: The Battle of Munfordville saw another big victory for the Confederacy as 4,148 Union soldiers were killed. Confederate forces boasted 45 cannons and over 25,000 infantry soldiers.
  • Oct. 8: The Battle of Perryville, also known as the “Bloodiest Civil War Battle in Kentucky“, earned its title. Within about 30 minutes, the Union lost 219 of its 370 men as echoes of Confederate Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Cheatem’s shouts of “Give ’em hell, boys!” blanketed the battlefield. With some 30,000 Union soldiers ready to fight nearby, it remains a topic of controversy why the soldiers were not ordered into battle. Some claim the rolling hills muffled the sounds of the battle, while others think the commander believed the Union was practicing with artillery. Regardless, the Union did manage to win the battle, but it cost them nearly 900 men.
A cannon called a “brass Napoleon” stands on a knoll at the site where an artillery battery fought during the Battle of Perryville in Kentucky in October 1862. The Perryville Battlefield State Historic Park now preserves much of the original Civil War battlefield. The park is about an hour’s drive from Lexington, Kentucky. (Getty Images)


  • March 31: The Battle of Somerset, also known as Dutton’s Hill, was a decisive victory for the Union forces. Confederate soldiers had rounded up hundreds of cattle when they were attacked. Their losses neared 300, while Union losses totaled only 10.
  • July 5: The Battle of Lebanon only took roughly six hours to complete. Confederate forces overwhelmed an undermanned force of 350–400 men and pushed through the streets, setting fire to surrounding buildings.
Location of Battle of Somerset (Kentucky Historical Society)


  • March 25: The Battle of Paducah was a victory for the South as Confederate forces marching from Mississippi drove Union forces from Eden’s Hill into Paducah. After gathering much-needed supplies, the Confederate forces unsuccessfully tried to overtake Fort Anderson.
  • June 11–12: The Battle of Cynthiana, also known as the Battle of Keller’s Bridge, was a back-and-forth affair. Confederate Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan quickly trapped Union troops near the Licking River, forcing their surrender. The next day, 2,400 Union men attacked Morgan’s forces, pushing them back. Although Keller’s Bridge was a win in the history books for the Union, both sides lost over 1,000 men in the process.