Historical Marker #556 in Johnson County remembers a Civil War skirmish at Paintsville, which led to the subsequent engagement at Half Mountain in Magoffin County.
On April 12, 1864, Union Colonel George W. Gallup arrived in Paintsville, determined to drive Confederate forces from the area. Although Gallup had a large number of Union troops at his disposal, he believed that a Confederate attack at Paintsville was likely. Col. Gallup reinforced the town and posted lookouts at every approach.
On the same day, Confederate troops also began moving toward Paintsville. Marching in darkness, they hoped to surprise Gallop's command. Conflict ensued when Confederate troops approached Union pickets just outside of Paintsville on the morning of April 13.
The Union forces resisted the attack at Paintsville, which caused Confederate Lieutenant Colonel Ezekiel Clay, a nephew of Kentucky emancipationist Cassius Marcellus Clay, to send in a flag of truce in order to retrieve the dead on the field. Following the truce, the Confederates fled with the Union troops in pursuit.
Finding the Confederates in the valley of the Licking River just south of Salyersville, Gallup ordered his men to attack, which they did "with a yell." The fight at Half Mountain, which lasted more than four hours, ended with the Confederates retiring from the field. Several rebels were wounded, included Ezekiel Clay, who was blinded in one eye.
By April 20, there were no Confederate forces of any considerable size left in eastern Kentucky. Only small-scale military actions occurred in the region following the withdrawal of the Confederate troops.