KENTUCKY (FOX 56) — Despite officially being a neutral state, Kentucky hosted numerous battles and skirmishes during the Civil War.

Recognizing the importance of Kentucky to the Union, 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)

Families, friends, and neighbors were pitted against each other as Kentucky was pulled by both the Union and Confederacy. Legends of America claims the Civil War divided few states as deeply as it did Kentucky.

Six of first lady Mary Lincoln Todd’s seven brothers and half brothers fought for the Confederacy and against the Union her husband was trying to maintain.

Kentucky was the home of many fierce battles, but according to Middle Creek National Battlefield, these three were the deadliest.

3. The Battle of Perryville

In the fall of 1862, Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg and his troops made it to the outskirts of Louisville and Cincinnati, but they were forced to retreat and regroup, setting the stage for the largest major Civil War battle in Kentucky

On Oct. 7, Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell and his estimated 55,000 soldiers gathered in Perryville. Brief skirmishes between the two forces took place on the Springfield Pike. The main fight began at dawn on Oct. 8. 

A Union division traveled up the pike searching for water before running into a Confederate line. Bragg ordered his troops to attack what he believed was an isolated Union force, but the assault was stalled until around noon. By then, a new wave of Union soldiers arrived, led by Gen. Alexander McCook, numbered around 13,000. 

Arms were fired and attacks broke loose, with Bragg committing three divisions to the fighting. McCook’s forces struggled to survive for over five hours. Oddly enough, most Union forces could not hear the battle raging, as they were over two hours away. As such, Buell ordered the men not to engage. It’s believed that the rolling hills muffled the sounds of the battle

Confederate forces performed well all across the battlefield, even managing to capture seven Union cannons, along with Loomis’ Heights and the H.P. Bottoms Farm. Two Union brigades reinforced the lines, which stopped the Confederate advances in their tracks. 

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)

A Confederate brigade attacked the Union division on Springfield Pike but was quickly pushed back into Perryville.

Bragg’s forces continued to be pushed back and retreated under the cover of night, eventually passing through Harrodsburg and across the Cumberland Gap into Tennessee. 

The Confederate offensive was over, and the Union took control of Kentucky, but not without cost. 

Despite outnumbering the Confederate soldiers by 55,000 to 16,000, the Union lost 845 soldiers to the Confederates’ 510. 

2. Battle of Cynthiana, aka the Battle of Keller’s Bridge

One year after his raid into Kentucky, Confederate Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan approached Cynthiana with 1,200 men. As the sun began to rise on June 11, 1864, Morgan split his men into three columns and surrounded the town. He launched an assault on the bridge against Col. Conrad Garis and his 300 Union men, consisting of volunteer infantry and some home guard troops. 

Morgan’s troops proceeded to push the Union forces back north along a railroad. His men proceeded to set fire to Cynthiana, destroying around 37 buildings. As the fighting intensified, another crew of 750 men under the command of Brig. Gen. Edward Hobson arrived by train about a mile north of Keller’s Bridge but was quickly trapped between Morgan’s troops and the Licking River. Hobson was quickly forced to surrender. 

The next morning, 2,400 men under the command of Brig. Gen. Stephen Burbridge attacked Morgan’s forces, driving them back. Many of his men were captured or killed before the end, but Morgan managed to escape. 

FILE — In this Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015 file photo, a statue of Jefferson Davis, left, looks towards a statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Rotunda of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, Ky. Most of the 11 Southern states that seceded prior to and during the Civil War have rebel monuments on or near the grounds of their state Capitol buildings. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

The Union victory at the Battle of Cynthiana showed Confederate forces could no longer raid without consequence. However, an estimated 1,092 Union men perished in the fight, while around 1,000 Confederate men also died. 

1. The Battle of Munfordville, aka The Battle of Green River Bridge

In late August 1862, Bragg’s forces left Tennessee, with Buell’s Union Army in pursuit. Bragg’s forces approached Munfordville, a station on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, providing a location to cross the Green River. 

By mid-September, the forces ran into the Union garrison at Munfordville under the command of Col. John T. Wilder. 

A portrait of Confederate General Braxton Bragg, who had also served as an American army officer during the Mexican–American War. Bragg was born March 22, 1817, in North Carolina, and died September 27, 1876, in Texas. Illustration published in The New Eclectic History of the United States by M. E. Thalheimer (American Book Company; New York, Cincinnati, and Chicago) in 1881 and 1890. Copyright expired; artwork is in Public Domain.

On Sept. 14, Wilder refused Confederate Brig. Gen. James R. Chalmers’ demand to surrender, and the assault began.

Union forces repelled Confederate attacks, forcing Chalmers’ men to hunker down and surround the location. This did not come without great cost to the Union efforts, as an estimated 4,148 Union soldiers perished while only 714 Confederate soldiers died.

Realizing Buell’s forces were near and wanting to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, the Confederates issued another surrender demand. This time, Wilder entered the enemy camp under a truce flag, where enemy forces explained the futility of their resistance efforts.


Wilder agreed to surrender the bridge, granting the Confederate forces access to an important transportation center.

A formal ceremony occurred on Sept. 17, officially making the Battle of Munfordville a victory for the Confederacy.