Civil War Occupations

Historical Marker #1024 in Warren County discusses the occupation of Bowling Green by Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War.

Although Kentucky officially adopted a position of neutrality at the beginning of the conflict, the policy lasted for less than five months. In September 1861, troops from both sides moved into Kentucky. Confederate General Simon Bolivar Buckner took Bowling Green on September 18. Because of its location on the Barren River and proximity to the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, Bowling Green was a major gain for the Confederacy.

By the middle of October, more than 12,000 Southern troops occupied a fortified Bowling Green. Several weeks later, Confederate sympathizers held a "Sovereignty Convention" in nearby Russellville. There, they created a provisional Confederate government and named Bowling Green as its capital.

The new government was short-lived, however, as nearby Union victories pushed the Confederates to leave the region in February 1862, after five months of occupation. The evacuation began on February 11, and, two days later, the remaining Confederate troops lit fires that swept the business district, train depots, warehouses, and bridges of Bowling Green.

Arriving Federal troops bombarded the city as the Confederates slipped off toward Nashville. Northern soldiers seized Bowling Green on February 14, after civilians alerted them that the Southern army had departed. Union General Ormsby Mitchel, placed in charge of Federal forces at Bowling Green, secured the Union defensive line. Bowling Green stayed under Union control for the remainder of the Civil War.