On Civil War Routes

Historical Marker #689 commemorates the night of December 30, 1862, when hundreds of Confederate cavalrymen—led by John Hunt Morgan--overwhelmed the little town of Springfield in Washington County.

On Tuesday morning, December 30, Morgan’s troopers rode out of Bardstown for Springfield, making every effort to beat Union pursuers to the Cumberland River crossing site at Burkesville. The weather, however, turned foul. The cold drizzling rain turned into sleet and the road began to freeze. Upon arriving in Springfield, the weary Confederates were directed to encamp on the Lebanon Road. The soldiers lit fires in the street and out in the fields. The men slept on anything they could find.

Union troops were closing in on Morgan’s forces in Springfield. With the distraction of the near blizzard conditions and under cover of total darkness, a Union cavalry patrol boldly advanced down East Main to within fifty yards of the courthouse. There, they opened fire on Confederate artillery but then hastily withdrew.

Realizing the danger, Morgan decided upon a night march and impressed two local citizens, including hotel keeper J.C. Rolling, to guide them down the Elizabethtown Pike to the Campbellsville-Lebanon Road. Young Will McChord said that prior to Morgan’s departure from Springfield, the Confederates "swiped every horse that could be used in the cavalry service,” except for his pony which he had hidden.

Morgan’s route passed around the Union forces at Lebanon on an old dirt road between St. Mary’s and Lebanon. By 11:00 p.m., Morgan’s whole column was in motion on this dark and freezing night. The next morning, Washington County native Colonel Dennis Halisy discovered Morgan’s route and pursued him recklessly. Halisy was killed at New Market in hand-to-hand combat with Lieutenant George B. Eastin.

The War Between the States had indeed touched the quaint town of Springfield. The five hundred residents vividly experienced the harsh realities of war. It had brought two Kentucky cavalrymen from the same county together on opposite sides as a deadly tragedy played out.