Explore KY's War of 1812

By Kentucky Historical Society

The War of 1812, which pitted the fledgling United States against Great Britain, greatly impacted Kentucky. Approximately sixty percent of the war's total casualties were Kentuckians, meaning that the Bluegrass State suffered more casualties than all other states combined. Furthermore, nearly 25,000 Kentuckians--about one in six--had some type of military service during the war, which impacted the Kentucky home front.

The War of 1812 was a political proving ground for many of the state's future political leaders, and military experience helped multiple governors, legislators, and other leaders attain higher office. As the war was the first major event after Kentucky achieved statehood, the conflict coalesced Kentucky's identity and placed a national focus on Kentuckians, who were influential soldiers and political leaders during the conflict.

Today, more than thirty Kentucky counties are named after War of 1812 veterans and casualties. Through "Explore Kentucky History," you can experience how the people and places of Kentucky were affected by the conflict that has been called "America’s Second Revolution."

The Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) is the administrator of the Kentucky War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission. This KHS curated tour takes information from many of our War of 1812 related historical markers, adds artifacts and items from our digital collections and combines them to paint a more complete picture of the War of 1812 in our Commonwealth.

Locations for Tour

1. Governor Charles A. Wickliffe

Historical Marker #1604 in Bardstown notes the home of Governor Charles A. Wickliffe, one of several Kentucky governors who served in the War of 1812. Born near Springfield, Kentucky, in 1788, Wickliffe was a Bardstown attorney. There, he…

2. Russell County, Kentucky

Historical Marker #954 in Jamestown commemorates Russell County being named for a War of 1812 veteran. Born in Virginia in 1758, William Russell had been an officer in the Revolutionary War and had fought at the Battle of Kings Mountain before…

3. Spencer County, Kentucky

Historical Marker #837 in Taylorsville recognizes that Spencer County was named after a veteran killed at the Battle of Tippecanoe, which some consider to be the first battle of the War of 1812. Captain Spear Spencer moved to Kentucky from…

4. Pike County, Kentucky

Historical Marker #808 in Pikeville commemorates Pike County being named for a War of 1812 general who was killed in action. Born in New Jersey, Zebulon Pike joined the army in 1794 and fought on the frontier. An explorer, in 1805 he traced the…

5. McLean County, Kentucky

Historical Marker # 1123 in Calhoun notes that McLean County was named in honor of a War of 1812 veteran who became a state legislator. Born in North Carolina, Alney McLean moved to Kentucky when he was twenty years old. A surveyor in Muhlenberg…

6. Lawrence County, Kentucky

Historical Marker #886 in Louisa commemorates the naming of Lawrence County after a naval hero of the War of 1812. New Jersey native Captain James Lawrence had been in the U.S. Navy since 1798. He advanced steadily through the ranks, and, on June…

7. Jackson County, Kentucky

While many Kentucky counties are named for Bluegrass State residents who served in the War of 1812, Jackson County was named after President Andrew Jackson, who was a War of 1812 hero from Tennessee. Today, Historical Marker #1145 in McKee…

8. Daviess County, Kentucky

Some historians consider the Battle of Tippecanoe, fought in Indiana in November 1811, to be the unofficial beginning of the War of 1812. A casualty from that battle, Kentuckian Joseph Hamilton Daviess, was the namesake for Daviess County. …

9. Clay County, Kentucky

Historical Marker #836 in Manchester commemorates the naming of Clay County for Green Clay, a War of 1812 veteran. Born in Virginia, according to one biographer, Green Clay "moved to Madison County in the 1780s and established himself as one…

10. John J. Crittenden

Historical Marker #1160 in Marion commemorates the namesake of Crittenden County, who was a War of 1812 veteran. John Jordan Crittenden was born in Woodford County in 1787. Called "one of Kentucky's great statesmen," he was…

11. Owen County, Kentucky

Historical Marker #831 commemorates Owen County for being named after a casualty of the Battle of Tippecanoe, a fight that some consider to be the unofficial beginning of the War of 1812. Born in Virginia in 1769, Colonel Abraham Owen moved to…

12. Meade County, Kentucky

Historical Marker #845 in Brandenburg commemorates the naming of Meade County after a War of 1812 casualty. James M. Meade of Woodford County saw active service throughout the early nineteenth century. As a member of the 17th United States…

13. Hickman County, Kentucky

Historical Marker #895 in Clinton commemorates Hickman County being named for a War of 1812 casualty. Paschal Hickman moved to Kentucky in 1784. The family settled in Frankfort, and Paschal's house was supposedly "near the railroad…

14. Leestown, Kentucky

Historical Marker #103 in Frankfort commemorates Leestown, a supply base during the War of 1812. The former site of Leestown, located near Wilkinson Boulevard in Frankfort , was first surveyed in 1773. Although pioneers visited the area, in 1775…

15. Ballard County, Kentucky

Historical Marker #826 in Wickliffe notes the naming of Ballard County after a War of 1812 veteran. Born in Virginia in 1761, Bland Ballard moved to Kentucky in 1779. He quickly saw military service on the frontier, fighting Native Americans. …

16. Allen County, Kentucky

Historical Marker #760 in Scottsville commemorates the naming of Allen County after Colonel John Allen, a War of 1812 casualty. Born in 1771 in Rockbridge County, Virginia, Allen's family moved to Kentucky when he was a child. Allen…

17. Olympian Springs

Historical Marker #1342 in Bath County commemorates the site of Olympian Springs, a famous resort that was a War of 1812 camp site. Originally known as Mud Lick Springs, the springs' supposed medicinal properties made it a popular site. In…

18. Remember the Raisin!

Historical Marker #508 in Georgetown commemorates the Battle of the River Raisin, a War of 1812 battle that led to the deaths of dozens of Kentucky soldiers. On August 15, 1812, Kentucky volunteers rendezvoused in Georgetown before marching into…

19. Hart County, Kentucky

Historical Marker #43 in Munfordville commemorates the establishment of Hart County, which is named in honor of a War of 1812 veteran. Nathaniel Hart was born in Maryland and moved to Lexington in 1794. In Kentucky, Hart owned a rope factory and…

20. Shelby County, Kentucky

Historical Marker #1238 recognizes Shelby County being named for Kentucky's first governor, Isaac Shelby, who was also a War of 1812 veteran. Born in Maryland in 1850, Shelby fought in Lord Dunmore's War and the Revolutionary War. In…

21. Dr. Samuel Brown

Historical Marker #1595 in Fayette County recognizes Dr. Samuel Brown, a Lexington chemistry professor and physician who aided America's war effort during the War of 1812. A Virginia native, Brown was exceptionally well-educated for his time,…

22. Metcalfe County

Historical Marker #799 in Edmonton commemorates the naming of Metcalfe County for Kentucky Governor Thomas Metcalfe, who was a War of 1812 veteran. Born in Virginia in 1780, Metcalfe lived in Fayette County before settling in Nicholas County. He…

23. Perryville, Kentucky

Historical Marker #1284 in Boyle County highlights the community of Perryville and notes that this town was named after a War of 1812 veteran. Originally established in a cave located near the Chaplin River, Perryville was first called…

24. William Bratton

Historical Marker #1194 at the Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort commemorates William Bratton, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition who later served in the War of 1812. Born in Virginia in 1778, Bratton moved to Kentucky with his…

25. Letcher County, Kentucky

Kentucky Historical Marker #809 recognizes Letcher County being named for Governor Robert P. Letcher, a War of 1812 veteran. Born in Virginia in 1788, Letcher moved with his family to Garrard County. After studying law, he opened up a practice in…

26. John Littlejohn

Historical Markers #871 and #2275, both in Logan County, commemorate the life and burial site of John Littlejohn, the "Guardian of the Declaration of Independence" during the War of 1812. Born in England in 1756, Littlejohn immigrated to…

27. Edmonson County, Kentucky

Historical Marker #797 in Brownsville commemorates Edmonson County being named for a War of 1812 veteran. Born in Virginia in 1764, John Edmonson was a Revolutionary War Veteran who fought with Virginia militia at the Battle of Kings Mountain in…

28. George Croghan

Historical Marker #2086 at Locust Grove in Louisville commemorates the family of George Croghan, a War of 1812 veteran. Born in Louisville in 1791, George's mother, Lucy Clark Croghan, was the sister of George Rogers Clark and William Clark…

29. Graves County, Kentucky

Historical Marker #869 in Mayfield commemorates the establishment of Graves County, which was named in honor of a War of 1812 veteran. Major Benjamin Franklin Graves was born in Virginia in 1771. He moved to Kentucky with his family at age…

30. General Joseph Winlock

Historical Marker #1409 in Shelby County commemorates soldier and statesman General Joseph Winlock. During the Revolutionary War, Winlock joined the American army at age eighteen. Although he enlisted as a private, he quickly moved through the…

31. Hopkins County, Kentucky

Historical Marker #849 in Madisonville commemorates Hopkins County being named in honor of a War of 1812 veteran. Samuel Hopkins, a soldier and politician, was born in Albermarle County, Virginia, in 1753. Hopkins fought in the Revolutionary War,…

32. General William O. Butler

Historical Marker #823 in Jessamine County commemorates the birthplace of General William O. Butler, a War of 1812 veteran. Born in Jessamine County in 1791, Butler was raised near present-day Carrollton. Military service was in William's…

33. Brownsville, Kentucky

Historical Marker #802 in Edmonson County notes the establishment of Brownsville, a city that was likely named for a War of 1812 veteran. During the War of 1812, General Jacob Brown was charged with defending portions of New York State from the…

34. Bellevue, Kentucky

Historical Marker #1351 in Campbell County commemorates the city of Bellevue, Kentucky, which was named for property owned by a prominent War of 1812 veteran. James Taylor was a banker, politician, extensive land owner, and War of 1812 officer who…

35. President Zachary Taylor

Historical Marker #1849 in Jefferson County notes the boyhood home of "Old Rough and Ready," Zachary Taylor. A veteran of several wars, including the War of 1812, Taylor was the 12th president of the United States. Born in Virginia,…

36. Governor Joseph Desha

Historical Marker #2021 in Scott County notes the home of Kentucky Governor Joseph Desha, a general during the War of 1812. The Pennsylvania-born Desha moved to Kentucky in 1781. By 1792, Desha was farming in Mason County. After fighting Native…

37. Ephraim Brank

Historical Marker #1609 in Greenville recognizes war hero Ephraim Brank, a sharpshooter during the War of 1812. A native of North Carolina, Brank moved to Muhlenberg County in 1808. Known as a "crack shot," Brank served in the Kentucky…

38. John P. Gaines

Historical Marker #1194 in Boone County recognizes the home site of John Pollard Gaines, a War of 1812 veteran who became governor of Oregon Territory. Born in Virginia, Gaines moved to Kentucky when he was a child. While little is known about…

39. William Whitley

Historical Marker #1067 in Williamsburg commemorates Whitley County's namesake, Colonel William Whitley. Arguably one of Kentucky's hardest-fighting settlers, Whitley was born in Virginia in 1749. He came to Kentucky in 1775. Although…

40. McCracken County

Historical Marker #918 at Paducah in McCracken County notes the county's namesake, Virgil McCracken, who was killed during the War of 1812. Virgil McCracken's parents were early Kentucky settlers who lived near present-day Frankfort and…

41. General John Edward King

Historical Marker #1403 near Burkesville in Cumberland County commemorates John Edward King, a War of 1812 general. Born in Virginia in 1757, King fought in the Revolutionary War, serving in the 3rd Virginia Regiment. In 1780, he moved to…

42. Matthew H. Jouett

Historical Marker #1888 in Fayette County recognizes the work of master portrait painter Matthew Harris Jouett, who was also a War of 1812 veteran. Born in Mercer County in 1788, Jouett graduated from Transylvania University before studying law…

43. Great Saltpeter Cave

Historical Marker #715 in Rockcastle County commemorates the importance of the "Great Saltpeter Cave," a large cave located south of Mt. Vernon. There, organic materials were mined to create gunpowder during the War of 1812. Sulfur,…

44. Governor George Madison

Historical Marker #1896 in Franklin County commemorates Governor George Madison, an 1812 veteran who only held office for a few weeks. Born in Virginia in 1763, George was second cousin to U.S. President James Madison. While he had some militia…

45. Ghent, Kentucky

Historical Marker #911 in Carroll County commemorates the community of Ghent, Kentucky, which is named for the treaty that ended the War of 1812. The town traces its roots back to 1809. At that time, about thirteen families lived in the area, and…

46. Captain Isaac Cunningham

Historical Marker #2302 in Clark County commemorates Captain Isaac Cunningham, a War of 1812 veteran who was among the first to cultivate bluegrass in Kentucky. A Virginia native, Cunningham commanded a company of Clark and Bourbon county soldiers…

47. Captain John Simpson

Historical Marker #1128 in Simpsonville commemorates Captain John Simpson, a War of 1812 casualty for whom both Simpsonville and Simpson County are named. Born in Virginia, John Simpson moved to Kentucky when he was a child. The family settled in…

48. John M. Bibb

Historical Marker #1205 in Frankfort commemorates the home of John B. Bibb, a War of 1812 officer who is also credited for developing the Bibb variety of lettuce. Born in Virginia, Bibb's family moved to Kentucky, where he became a lawyer. …

49. Solomon Brandenburg

Historical Marker #1652 in Meade County recognizes Solomon Brandenburg, an 1812 veteran for whom the town of Brandenburg is named. An early settler to present-day Meade County, in 1804, Brandenburg purchased 3,000 acres on the Ohio River. There,…

50. Vice President Richard M. Johnson

Historical Marker #1125 in Johnson County commemorates the county being named for War of 1812 veteran and U.S. Vice President Richard M. Johnson. Born in 1781 in what is now Jefferson County, Johnson's formative years were spent in Fayette…

51. Newport Barracks

Historical marker #599 commemorates the Newport Barracks, which was a military prison during the War of 1812. Built in 1804 at the juncture of the Licking and Ohio Rivers, the Newport Barracks was an arsenal and recruiting ground. When the War of…

52. Governor John Adair

Historical marker #1139 in Columbia commemorates the naming of Adair County for John Adair, a War of 1812 veteran and Kentucky governor. Born in South Carolina, Adair, a Revolutionary War veteran, moved to Mercer County in 1787. He soon became…

53. Bourbon Iron Works

Historical Marker #993 in Bath County notes the history of the Bourbon Iron Works, which was built by Jacob Myers in 1791. Myers moved from Virginia to what would become Kentucky in the early 1780s. Upon his arrival, he purchased thousands of…