A Civil War Defense Line

Historical Marker #538 in Warren County commemorates the Union capture of Bowling Green on February 14, 1862.

On September 18, 1861, Confederate General Simon Bolivar Buckner and nearly five thousand troops marched on Bowling Green. Capturing the city, Buckner's men began to build fortifications to protect the center of a 400 mile east-west line of defense across Kentucky. A month later, Confederate commander Albert Sidney Johnston set up his headquarters in Bowling Green, which was a significant railroad hub and a port city on the Barren River.

Fort Henry in Tennessee fell to Union troops on February 6, 1862. Shortly thereafter, Fort Donelson also capitulated. The fall of these Tennessee forts forced Confederate troops in Bowling Green to evacuate toward Nashville.

Union General Ormsby Mitchel and his troops occupied the city of Bowling Green on February 14, 1862. Although the Confederates departed without a fight, they left a wave of destruction behind; the rebels burnt the bridge across the Barren River, a train depot, and numerous other buildings. The fires were so widespread that one advancing Union soldier commented, "That big black plume of smoke out there is Bowling Green!" From that point on, Bowling Green stayed in Union hands for the remainder of the Civil War.