Marker #627, "Morgan's Men Here"

Historical Marker #627 at Shaker Village highlights how the Confederate invasion of Kentucky in the summer and fall of 1862 impacted the Shaker community at Pleasant Hill. Though generally supportive of the Union cause and the preservation of the nation, Shakers at Pleasant Hill fed soldiers from both sides during the Civil War. This story from the Pleasant Hill community reveals how some Kentuckians confronted the marching, hungry armies of the Civil War while simultaneously attempting to protect their own property and lives.

Pleasant Hill traces its roots to December 1806, when Shakers established their first permanent Kentucky settlement, Union Village, in Mercer County. Six years later, they moved their settlement to higher ground nearby, naming it Pleasant Hill. From a small settlement to a thriving community, Pleasant Hill continued to grow over the next several decades. On the eve of the Civil War, as tensions simmered between the North and South, the approximately 343 residents of Pleasant Hill watched with nervous anticipation as, in the words of one Shaker diarist, the “Crisis now at hand in the Federal Government, growing out of the question of Negro slavery,” led to the Southern states threatening to secede from the Union.

When the Civil War began, the Shakers at Pleasant Hill recorded their support for the maintenance of the Union and the national government. They deplored secession as well as the outbreak of violence between current and former citizens of the United States at the onset of the war. They feared that war would threaten individual lives and the future prosperity of the nation. Despite their support of maintaining the Union as it was, the Shakers did not permit their members to join either army.

In the late summer of 1862, the Confederate generals Braxton Bragg and Edmund Kirby Smith launched dual invasions of Kentucky. The Confederate Heartland Offensive lasted from mid-August to early October 1862. Smith, pulled by the potential glory of capturing central Kentucky, and Bragg, intent on gathering recruits and establishing a permanent Confederate hold on the Bluegrass State, marched into the Commonwealth and secured much of central Kentucky. While the invasion was haphazard at best, Confederate forces defeated Union troops at Richmond and Munfordville, captured Lexington, and attempted to install Provisional Confederate governor Richard Hawes in Frankfort. Ultimately, a lack of coordination between Bragg and Smith undermined their efforts to hold the state. Pressed by General Don Carlos Buell’s Union forces out of Louisville, the Confederate Army retreated south, eventually fighting the Battle of Perryville on October 8, 1862, before they left Kentucky all together.

Civil War armies brought thousands of mouths to feed and soldiers eager to seize horses or mules, foodstuffs, wagons, and other tools to sustain their military operations during the Confederate Heartland Offensive. The Shakers at Pleasant Hill went to great lengths to hide away their horses when Bragg’s Confederates moved into the area; doing so would ensure that they could continue to tend fields and pull wagons for the community after the armies left Mercer County. In keeping with their religious principles that hospitality toward strangers, the Shakers also charitably fed Union or Confederate troops when they camped near Pleasant Hill. For example, on August 17, 1862, the Shakers fed 100 Union cavalry troops who encamped near their village.

A few weeks later, on September 3, Confederate forces passed through the area. According to a logbook maintained by the community’s leadership, the Confederates “stole two horses from the West family in their transit, and if others had not been secreted, they would have robbed us of them all.” After searching for more horses or mules, the Confederates asked for food. Pleasant Hill’s residents grudgingly fed those Confederate soldiers before they continued toward Lexington. Between August and October, similar scenes played out at Pleasant Hill and in the surrounding Mercer County as Confederate troops passed through the area. Like other Kentuckians, Pleasant Hill’s Shakers worried about the presence of a large army near their homes and fields. Local residents continued to hide their horses and mules to prevent their capture. And yet, they also fed Confederates when they passed through the area or camped in the vicinity. Only after the Battle of Perryville did the worried state of the Shakers at Pleasant Hill abate.

The Civil War brought conflict to individual homes throughout the Commonwealth, whether through the mobilization of Kentucky’s men into the military, the transit of opposing armies through countless communities, or the ramifications of guerrilla violence. The presence of Confederate troops in Mercer County in late 1862 highlighted the challenges that many Kentuckians faced regardless of their religious background, as Shakers responded to the invasion of Kentucky and the occupation of their community by feeding Confederate soldiers as they advanced toward battle or retreated toward Tennessee. This small window into the war demonstrates the memorable impact that marching and fighting armies had on multiple Kentucky communities, even those miles away from the battlefield, as ordinary individuals confronted the difficulties of ensuring their own survival and acting charitably towards the soldiers who visited Pleasant Hill.



3501 Lexington Road, Harrodsburg, KY 40330