On the dark night of December 30, 1862, thirty-nine hundred Confederate cavalrymenled by John Hunt Morgan--overwhelmed the little Kentucky town of Springfield in Washington County.
On Tuesday morning, December 30, Morgans regiments and companies flowed out of Bardstown for Springfield making every effort to beat the Union to the Cumberland River crossing site at Burkesville. The weather, however, turned foul. The cold drizzling rain turned into sleet and the road began to freeze. Upon arriving in Springfield, the weary Confederates were directed to encamp on the Lebanon Road where they slept the best they could. The soldiers lit fires in the street and out in the fields. The men slept on anything they could find.
A few men found more pleasant accommodations. Lieutenant George B. Eastin was among the men enjoying a square meal at the hospitable home of Confederate sympathizer C.T. Cunningham. One of the several charming young women present stated to Lt. Eastin that she would marry any Confederate soldier who killed Colonel Dennis Halisy, a hard eyed Union officer and respected physician from Manton in Washington County.
Union troops were closing the trap on Morgans forces in Springfield while he anxiously lingered in Springfield. With the distraction of the near blizzard conditions and under cover of total darkness, a Union Calvary patrol boldly advanced down East Main to within fifty yards of the courthouse, opened fire on Confederate artillery, and then hastily withdrew.
Realizing the danger of the Unions close proximity, Morgan decided upon a night marchblizzard or noand impressed two local citizens, including hotel keeper J.C. Rolling, to guide them down the Elizabethtown Pike to the Campbellsville-Lebanon Road. Young Will McChord says that prior to Morgans departure from Springfield, the Confederates "swiped every horse that could be used in the cavalry service"; except for his pony which Young Will had hidden well around the plump thicket.
Morgans selected route passed around the Union forces at Lebanon on an old dirt road between St. Marys and Lebanon. By 11 p.m., Morgans whole column was fairly in motion on this dark and freezing night proceeding on a road rough and intricate.
The next morning, Washington County native Col. Halisy discovered Morgans route and pursued him recklessly. Halisy met his fate at New Market, killed in hand-to-hand combat by none other than Lt. Eastin. It is unknown if Easton returned to Springfield to claim his bride. But it is known that another Washington County native, rebel Oscar Walker, witnessed the bloody battle between Halisy and Eastin. Walker, a member of Confederate Captain Patrick Simms (of Springfield) Company K, 8th Cavalry, "watched the thrashing about in the water, hearing the shouts, groans, and pistol shots, sat silently on his horse for a brief moment as he observed Halisys wet, bloody corpse lying on the bank."
The realities of the War Between the States had indeed touched this quaint town of Springfield. The five hundred residents of Springfield were vividly experiencing the harsh realities of the Civil War. This war had brought two Kentucky cavalrymen on opposite sides from the same county together as a deadly tragedy played out. The community realized that many friends and acquaintances that were yesterdays neighbors were now bitter enemies.
Elias Davison House This house was owned by C.T. Cunningham during the Civil War. The Cunningham family entertained Confederate soldiers on the evening of December 22, 1862. One of the young ladies in attendance told Lt. Eastin that she would marry any Confederate soldier that killed Washington County resident Col. Halisy. (House was located at 209 East Main and has been razed.) Illustration by Martha Ann Haydon, 2003
30b - Morgan in Springfield First Raid July 4 August 1, 1862
John Hunt Morgans first trek through Springfield in July 1862 during his first raid into the Blue Grass Region of Kentucky generated significant anxiety and fear in this tiny village of 500 residents.
Word of Morgans raid in Lebanon on July 12, 1862 quickly reached Springfield. E.L. Davison, prominent local planter and businessman, heard about the raid on Lebanon and sent Springfield resident John Meeks to the neighboring town to ascertain the facts. Nineteen-year-old Meeks got close enough to see the smoke from the burning military depot, assumed the worst and raced back to Springfield.
Meeks charged back into town with bloodied spurs to tell everyone that Morgan was burning Lebanon to the ground, killing everyone and was on his way to Springfield. Davison arrived in Springfield shortly after Meeks proclamation and found that the residents of town were terrified! The residents were panic-stricken upon hearing the news that rebel Morgan was on his way to Springfield. People hid their valuables, locked up their houses and left town for fear that Morgan would too destroy their homes and businesses. They also turned their horses loose in the woods lest they be "requisitioned" by the Confederates. Unionists made themselves scarce while other prayed for deliverance.
These precautions proved unnecessary. A few tired Cavalry horses may have been "swapped" in Springfield but the column passed through without halting, en route to Maxville (Mackville) where it passed the night.
As illustrated by the interpretive sign in Mackville, located ten miles northeast of Springfield, Morgan and his men did bring considerable havoc to their small communitybut nothing to the degree that young Meeks predicted would occur in Springfield after witnessing Lebanons smoke and terror. Morgans July 12th strike in two locations in Washington County KY brought much fear and trepidation. Folks were glad to see him proceed on to Harrodsburg and Danville early Sunday morning, July 13th.
30c - A Busy Day in Springfield
July 5, 1863
On the morning of July 5, 1863, Springfield awoke to the roar of cannon fire coming from Lebanon. That afternoon John Hunt Morgans column reached Springfield with over 300 Federal prisoners in tow.
Young Will McChord, then eleven, described the events of that day 60 years later in his memoirs, "we knew that Morgan and his men were coming to Springfield. Rumors were flying on every side and Main Street was in the wildest confusion. I was seized with an uncontrollable desire to see Morgan and his men. I went to Cross Street where I could see up the pike towards Lebanon. Morgans Calvary was coming down the hill into Springfield. My mind was made up; not to run away from the rebels but to run toward them - regardless of the consequences. I drew myself up to my full height and gave the leader (Col. Basil Duke) a military salute. With all the grace of a valiant knight he returned my salute and extended his hand, which I eagerly grasped."
Accompanying Col. Duke was Maj. William J. Davis from South Carolina. After paroling the prisoners at the Courthouse, Davis was invited to the residence of Cleland Cunningham for refreshments and entertainment. Here, Davis met his hosts two charming daughters, "Miss Frank" and "Miss Belle." It seems to have been a case of love at first sight between the Major and "Miss Frank," and before the enamored officer left Springfield he submitted a "proposition" to the lady to carry her "off to Columbia, S. C. before or after the war."
Upon leaving Springfield, Morgan instructed Davis forces to create a diversion, hoping to cover his crossing of the Ohio River at Brandenburg. While attempting to do so, Davis and his men encountered Union troops and Davis was captured. During his fifteen-month incarceration Davis wrote many letters to "Miss Frank." The courtship of Major Davis and Miss Frances Cunningham culminated in their marriage on December 16, 1866.
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