Battle at Lebanon

Historical Marker #600 notes a Civil War battle that occurred in Lebanon on July 5, 1863.

During the Civil War, Lebanon’s location in central Kentucky proved to be a strategic point for both Union armies and Confederate raiders. The town was located on a spur-line of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, which ran from north to south. This spur line proved to be an advantage to Union forces moving toward Cumberland Gap for communications and supplies, and was a ready target for Confederate cavalry intent on capturing military equipment.

In early 1862, Union General George H. Thomas led soldiers who had trained at Lebanon toward Pulaski County. There, they defeated Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer in the Battle of Mill Springs. Lebanon remained an important location after this early Union victory and Federal troops were frequently stationed in the community.

In the summer of 1863, Confederate General John Hunt Morgan sought to replicate the success of his earlier raids into Kentucky. That July, Morgan entered Kentucky near Burkesville and pushed into Adair and Taylor counties. On July 4, his command ran into a stubborn garrison at Tebbs Bend commanded by Colonel Orlando Moore. Morgan unsuccessfully assaulted Moore’s fortified position, which cost the Confederate cavalryman a good number of men and precious time. Unable to force the surrender of the Tebbs Bend garrison, on the morning of July 5, Morgan’s men moved north into Marion County.

The Union force at Lebanon was commanded by a Kentuckian, Lieutenant Colonel Charles S. Hanson. The war had divided Hanson’s family. His brother, Roger W. Hanson had been a Confederate general and had been killed at the Battle of Stones River six months earlier. Charles’s command at Lebanon, numbering about 400 men, primarily consisted of members of the 20th Kentucky Union Infantry. Therefore, at Lebanon, Kentuckian would fight Kentuckian.

After Morgan’s Raiders pushed Hanson’s men through town, the Union troops took up a strong defensive position in Lebanon’s Louisville and Nashville Railroad depot. After refusing to surrender, the Federals held off Morgan’s attacks for about five hours. Finally, Morgan’s forces set fire to the depot and the Union troops surrendered. In the fight, Morgan’s brother, Thomas, was killed.

As at Tebbs Bend, Morgan’s forces suffered more casualties than they inflicted. These delays cost Morgan time, made his ventures north of the Ohio River more difficult, and ultimately ensured his capture in Ohio.