General Sherman in Bullitt County

Historical Marker 1324 in Bullitt County notes that General William T. Sherman brought a Union force to Lebanon Junction in September 1861 to counter the Confederate capture of Bowling Green.

The end of Kentucky's neutrally in September 1861 marked the beginning of the state's occupation by both Union and Confederate armies. Early that month, after Confederate forces captured Columbus, Kentucky, Union troops crossed the Ohio River and held the strategically-important cities of Louisville, Paducah, and Maysville. Soon, the Kentucky legislature voted to remain in the Union and more Confederate troops moved into the state to establish a defensive line across southern Kentucky.

Union Brigadier General Robert Anderson, the hero of Fort Sumter, was in charge of Union forces in the state. Under Anderson's command was Brigadier General William T. Sherman.

After Confederate troops captured Bowling Green on September 18, Sherman reacted by moving south to secure high ground at Muldraugh's Hill. As part of this movement, he established his headquarters at Lebanon Junction in southern Bullitt County. For the next several months both armies were content to stay where they were and no significant fighting occurred.

Citing fatigue and illness, Anderson resigned on October 8, 1861. A reluctant Sherman was tapped to replace him and took command of the department. Full of self doubt, and disappointed in the lack of Union recruits, a frustrated Sherman complained to President Abraham Lincoln, "Kentuckians, instead of assisting, call from every quarter for protection against local secessionists." Inspector General Lorenzo Thomas, after visiting troops in Louisville, echoed Sherman when he wrote Secretary of War Simon Cameron that, "the [Kentucky] Union men, the aged and conservatives, would not enroll themselves to engage in conflict with their relations on the other side."

When Cameron visited Sherman in Louisville on October 17, the general explained that he needed 200,000 more men to protect Kentucky. Word leaked to the press that Sherman’s demand was "insane." Other Union officers concurred. Since the Confederate forces were just as disorganized as the Federals, they thought that the estimate was delusional. Union authorities determined that Sherman had exercised bad judgment and that stress and depression had severely affected his ability to command. Therefore, on November 8, Sherman was replaced by General Don Carlos Buell. Sherman's first effort at command ended ingloriously with a transfer to St. Louis, Missouri.