Battle of Sacramento

Historical marker #523 in McLean County recounts the surprise attack by Confederate forces on Union troops near Sacramento, Kentucky. The Battle of Sacramento was Confederate Colonel (later general) Nathan Bedford Forrest’s first significant victory.

In the fall of 1861, Union forces, led by Brigadier General Thomas L. Crittenden, took position on the Green River at Calhoun, Kentucky. Federal troops hoped that this position would help counter Confederate troop movements near Bowling Green, the site of Kentucky’s provisional Confederate government. On December 26, 1861, Confederate Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest moved out from Hopkinsville, Kentucky, with his cavalry to determine the strength of the Union forces in the area.

On December 28, the Southern cavalry engaged Union soldiers under the command of Major Eli H. Murray just outside of Sacramento. Murray’s troops, comprised of about four hundred men, had just been sent from the Union camp at Calhoun. Forrest used the element of surprise to ultimately come out victorious at Sacramento. Forrest divided his forces to surround the enemy and personally led the front cavalry charge. These tactics became Forrest’s signature fighting style during the Civil War.

Forrest repulsed the Union cavalry and the rebels pursued the fleeing Federal troops for four miles. After this chase, Forrest and his men returned to their position at Hopkinsville. T. L. Crittenden wrote of the Battle of Sacramento, “I am afraid that the gallantry of the officers has cost us the services of several of them.” In the end, two Confederates were killed and three wounded. Union troops suffered a loss of ten men killed and thirteen captured, but, according to Confederate sources, nearly one hundred Union men were killed and thirty-five captured.

In 1962, this historic highway marker was erected and became the first to be dedicated in McLean County.