Civil War Incidents in and around Meade County, Kentucky

Dr. Marshall Myers


Copyright 2003
Dr. Marshall Myers
Eastern Kentucky University
Richmond KY 40475
(Posted on this web site with author's permission.)

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Published by:
Jane Marlow Willis
321 Main Street
Brandenburg, Kentucky 40108
(270) 422-2405

To Joe David Claycomb
who first aroused my interest in the Civil War


This booklet would not have been possible without the help and support of a number of important people. Pat Bowen’s faith in this project was the engine that turned the wheels. Without her help, the manuscript would still be sitting in the hard drive of my computer. Rita Thompson also helped immeasurably by supplying me with essential materials from which I drew my conclusions. She provided a wealth of information and was the prime motivator for looking at these raw bits of information carefully. The staff of the Meade County Library also performed yeoman’s work in guiding me toward relevant materials. Professor Carrie Cook, a colleague of mine at Eastern Kentucky University, carefully proofread the manuscript and offered important suggestions. Melissa Wilson, also of Eastern, typed the manuscript and patiently dealt with my questions and requests.

The staff at the Texas Tech, Filson Club, Tennessee State, National Archives in Washington, D.C., and Eastern Kentucky University libraries also provided me with important materials. Charles Hayes and his staff at Kentucky Explorer published some of these articles earlier and were gracious enough to treat them with respect. I would like to thank Jane Marlow Willis, too, for her help in bringing the manuscript to light. Finally, I wish to thank my wife, Dr. Lynn Gillaspie, for her infinite patience and constant encouragement.

Table of Contents



General Sherman at Muldraugh Hill...................................3

General Nathan Bedford Forrest:
A Meade County Connection............................................9

It All Started Right Here:
Morgan’s Crossing at Brandenburg

The Terror of the Black Flag:
Guerrilla Warfare
in Meade County..................................25

African American Troops from Meade County.................37

"Sue Mundy’s" Capture at Guston:
George Prentice’s Personal War......................................43


The history of Meade County is rich in Civil War tradition. One Meade County legend, for example, says that Thomas Lincoln, the President’s father, helped build Doe Run Inn, near Brandenburg. In addition, three very important Civil War generals were associated with the county in the course of the war. General William Tecumseh Sherman, whose sweep through the South later broke the back of the Confederacy, served for a time near Meade County soil. General Nathan Bedford Forrest, arguably the best cavalry leader this country has ever produced, began his assembly of soldiers in Meade County. General John Hunt Morgan and his command used Brandenburg as the place to cross the Ohio River to begin the deepest penetration of the Union by the Confederacy during the war. Meade County was also the scene of numerous bloody guerrilla raids, a tactic of Confederate troops so prominent in Kentucky during the war. In fact, one of the state’s most notorious guerrillas, "Sue Mundy,"was captured in a barn near Guston. And, as was true of much of the state, a number of African Americans from Meade County proudly served the Union cause. Only Louisiana provided more black troops than Kentucky.

But to Meade County and the Civil War itself. What follows in this booklet is not an attempt to record all of the episodes of the Civil War in Meade County. Rather, what is covered are the key events that happened in Meade County and their effects on the citizens. Descendants of those both black and white who were affected by the war could surely add another important dimension to any history of the war in the county. The story of the awful night that was the Civil War serves to remind us of the importance of history in helping us to sort through these perilous times to glean lessons that may make for a brighter day.


General Sherman at Muldraugh Hill

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The eventful fall of 1861 found Kentucky embroiled in a great debate over the Civil War. On one side were those proud Southerners, led by then Governor Beriah Magoffin, who openly supported the Confederate cause. On the other side were members of the state legislature who manifested their pro-Unionism by summarily stripping Magoffin of most of his governing power.

Wild rumors floated from one community to another about forthcoming attacks on key cities and towns from both the Union and Confederate forces, terrifying Kentucky residents who mostly just wanted to be left alone.

No event in the state symbolized this mass confusion and hysteria in the Kentucky countryside more than the events of September and October on Muldraugh Hill near Meade County soil.

Muldraugh Hill, before Dixie Highway carved out its great gap, was laced with a steep road that scaled the side of an imposing hill, forming a natural rampart, that is, a strategic position for any entry into the flatlands that stretched out toward Louisville, the Commonwealth’s largest city and a hub for river and railroad commerce.

Assigned to General Robert Anderson, who only recently had surrendered Fort Sumter to the rebel forces in Charleston, South Carolina, was the battle-tested General William Tecumseh Sherman, fresh from a respectable showing at Bull Run.

Sherman biographer Lloyd Lewis tells an interesting story about Sherman’s stay in Kentucky.

With headquarters in Louisville, Sherman was to assist Anderson in raising, equipping, and training an army to defend the border states.

Shortly after arriving in Louisville on September 17th, Sherman received news that the feared Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston was even then invading the Commonwealth and sending an advance guard under Kentucky native General Simon Bolivar Buckner to take Louisville. In fact, Buckner’s men had burned a vital railroad bridge across the Rolling Fork of Salt Creek, just thirty miles south of the city.

With the rawest of troops, 1800 Home Guards under the direction of a fire marshal, as well as 1200 half trained troops, Sherman set out for Muldraugh Hill to ready troops to defend the Louisville area from what he thought was an impending attack.

Wildly overestimating the strength of the enemy, Sherman constantly begged his superiors for more troops, once estimating that it would take 100,000 men to defend the Bluegrass State. But even though Sherman was uneasy, he had to settle for between 4000 and 5000 men to train on Muldraugh Hill, for that was all Anderson could raise from his contacts in Indiana and Illinois.

Biographers outlining the character of Sherman use adjectives like "excitable" and "nervous" to describe the red-headed West Point graduate from Lancaster, Ohio. At the very least, he was quite different from his counterparts, often pacing for hours and smoking cigar after cigar before he could make an intelligent military decision, seemingly the perfect leader for the Commonwealth at this crucial and frantic time. Several events that occurred at Muldraugh Hill illustrate the general’s nature and his response to these turbulent times.

According to Lewis, upon arriving at Muldraugh Hill, Sherman set out to bring order to the chaos of this mass of poorly trained troops, a group colorfully described as "motley crew" by a local historian. According to one of his biographers, Sherman began by insisting on all troops wearing uniforms--if they had any.

One raw recruit, a medical student named Griffiths, paraded before the general in civilian clothes. Sherman first thought the young man was a rebel spy, for the area was largely sympathetic to the South’s cause and Sherman was paranoiac. Then, the commander discovered, after some spirited questioning, that the young man had been mustered into service so quickly that he did not have time to dress in the proper uniform.

Sherman accepted the explanation, but insisted that the soldier present himself in full uniform. As the recruit started back toward his unit, he mumbled something under his breath that another officer overheard.

Sherman, suspecting disrespect, asked the officer to repeat what the recruit had said.

"Well," the officer reported, "he said that a general with such a hat as you have on had no right to talk to him about a uniform."

Sherman carefully removed his hat and studied it momentarily. It was a battered stovepipe hat that had seen better days and was hardly U.S. Army issue.

Looking back at the young man, with a glint in his eye and a smile on his face, Sherman retorted, "You’re right about the hat, but you still ought to have on your uniform!"

As Lewis tells it, another time, Sherman was nervously walking up and down near the railroad station on Muldraugh Hill. Forever pacing, Sherman often was so self-absorbed that he paid little attention to what was going on around him.

When his ever-present cigar had lost its fire, the general abruptly asked a sergeant for a light off his newly lit cigar. Puffing vigorously until his cigar was lit, the general absentmindedly threw the sergeant’s cigar to the ground and continued his monotonously pacing, lost somewhere in thoughts about training his troops.

Even though his men perceived him to be a tough commander, they soon saw a more human side to him. At first, they called him "Old Pills" because he was in their words, " a bitter pill to take." But when he secured blankets and tents for them to fight off the cold and rain, his troops relented partially on their criticism and dubbed him "Old Sugar-Coated."

Once when he perceived that his troops were short of rations, he buttered two slices of his own bread and gave them, along with an apple, to his sergeant, remarking in sympathetic tones, "There, this will put some fat on your ribs."

Based on what Lewis says, all during his stay at Muldraugh Hill, Sherman worried about his troops. Many were sick, underfed, and ill-prepared for the long war ahead. In order to protect his men, he developed a lifelong distrust of the press, seeing newspapers as providing too many secrets to the enemy.

One young newspaper reporter showed up on Muldraugh Hill with a letter of introduction from a friend of the Sherman family. In tones hardly capable of being misinterpreted, the general barked at the reporter: "It’s eleven o’ clock; the next train for Louisville leaves at half-past one. Take that train! Be sure to take it; don’t let me see you around here after it’s gone!"

The reporter stammered a reply: "But General, the people are anxious. I’m only after the truth."

"We don’t want the truth told about things here," the general snapped. "That’s what we don’t want. Truth, eh? No sir. We don’t want the enemy any better informed than he is. Make no mistake about that train!"

General Sherman’s work on Muldraugh Hill came to a sudden halt when his commander General Anderson, suffering from what Anderson described as "mental torture," asked to be relieved of his duties, an act that thrust Sherman in command, a position the red-headed leader accepted with much reluctance. Sherman was then forced to leave those troops on Muldraugh Hill.

Later, he burst into the national spotlight as the man who led troops who cut a sixty-mile swath of destruction through Georgia and South Carolina. He was to become, for the South, at least, a symbol of Yankee oppression and interference. In the North, he was now bonafide presidential material.

Yet, at time, while he was leading his army triumphantly through the heart of the South, this time with those 100,000 troops he wanted, he must have reflected on some of those early experiences of training a meager 4000 to 5000 troops on Muldraugh Hill.

General Nathan Bedford Forrest:
A Meade County, Kentucky Connection

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In the P.B.S. series, The Civil War, noted Civil War authority Shelby Foote calls Confederate Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest "one of the two authentic geniuses" of the war. The other was Abraham Lincoln.

To be in such select company, Forrest had to outdistance a cast of noted generals like U.S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson, just to name a few.

Even Forrest’s sworn enemy General William Tecumseh Sherman called him " the most remarkable man our war produced on either side," but Sherman also said that Forrest "should be hunted down and killed if it costs 10,000 lives even if it bankrupts the federal treasury" and concluded by cursing Forrest as "that devil Forrest."

Called "The Wizard of the Saddle," Forrest is dubbed "the most colorful man of the war," by the highly respected Civil War historian Ed Bearss. In the course of the war, Forrest killed 31 men in hand-to-hand conflict and had 30 horses shot from under him.

According to biographers John Allan Wyeth and Jack Hurst, surprisingly, this military genius has a Meade County, Kentucky connection. In fact, the first men who ever enlisted with Forrest were, in large part, from Meade County.

But first some background on this giant of the war.

Nathan Bedford Forrest rose from relative obscurity in western Tennessee to become a millionaire in a time when having a million dollars was quite a considerable sum of money. Wealthy landowners in Meade County at the time declared themselves some of the richest men in the county with fortunes of merely $8,000 to $10,000.

Regrettably, Forrest made his money, in large part, trading in human flesh. In Memphis, he acquired his fortune from selling slaves, and used those profits to invest in plantations in the South. An avid racist, he could not bring himself to see blacks as anything more than human property.

So, like many others in the South, when the Civil War began, he saw the war as a threat to his source of income and his way of life.

After Tennessee seceded from the Union, Forrest soon joined the Confederacy as a soldier. Beginning as a private in the Tennessee Mounted Rifles, he quickly realized his bent was certainly to be a part of a cavalry unit, but he was fit to be a leader, rather than a mere private. About a month later, in early July, Tennessee Governor Isham G. Harris commissioned Forrest a lieutenant colonel of a cavalry unit.

Forrest then set about the business of raising a cavalry battalion. He advertised in the newspaper The Memphis Avalanche for men to serve under him: "I desire to enlist five-hundred able-bodied men, mounted and equipped with such arms," he wrote, "as they can procure (shot-guns and pistols preferable) suitable to service. Those who cannot entirely equip themselves will be furnished arms by the state."

Forrest concluded by stating that he "wish none than those who wish to be actively engaged. (C’mon, boys, if you want a heep of fun and kill some Yankees!)"

His biographers note he quickly realized that men from the area would not have the appropriate firearms and saddles. At that point, Forrest remembered his business connections in Louisville and Lexington.

He set out for the Bluegrass State, hoping to put his money toward getting suitable equipment for his future soldiers. But before leaving Memphis for Kentucky, he scattered his agents throughout Mississippi, North Alabama, Middle and West Tennessee, and made his way alone to Louisville, mainly for equipment, but hoping that he might find some men wanting to fight for the Confederate cause, too..

In Louisville on July 20, 1861, with his own money, Forrest bought 500 Colt’s Navy pistols, 100 saddles, and a smattering of other equipment.

But the thought came to him that Kentucky had not joined the Confederacy, and Louisville was crawling with Union soldiers and sympathizers. How was he going to get all this equipment out of Louisville and back across Confederate lines? He was even more cautious when he heard Union supporter J.J. Crittenden call for Forrest’s arrest.

But Forrest also heard some good news in Louisville. A regiment of ninety men, called Boone’s Rangers and commanded by Captain Frank Overton from Meade and Breckinridge counties, had been organizing and was eager to join up with him.

Not much is known about this group of men which, of course, invites speculation.

During the War of 1812, a unit from Missouri called themselves Boone’s Rangers and fought valiantly in that war, distinguishing themselves in several crucial battles. The unit from Meade and Breckinridge counties could have named themselves in honor of this historic unit.

To muddle history even more, a unit from Virginia, fighting for the Confederacy, also called themselves Boone’s Rangers, but they appear to have no relationship to the men from Meade and Breckinridge counties.

And, of course, descendants of Squire Boone lived and farmed in the Wolf Creek, and Little Bend area of Meade County. Men from that region of the county could have been, in part, descendants of Squire Boone and given themselves this name in honor of their ancestor.

However they came by their name, Forrest was happy to get them, so he left Louisville for a quick trip to Brandenburg to muster in this group of southern soldiers, a company that became the first regiment to join Forrest’s army (Incidentally, this group joined Forrest the day of the First Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861.).

Forrest then hurried back to Louisville to make plans to try to smuggle the arms and saddles back to Memphis.

Under the cover of darkness and meeting secretly and in a livery stable in Louisville with six supporters, none over 18 years old, Forrest detailed his plans to get the supplies across enemy lines.

That night, they loaded the equipment in coffee sacks, (another source says in sacks of potatoes). According to one of the soldiers, Charles W. Button, the young men then spread out and individually carried the sacks to the waiting farm wagons some two blocks away. Starting down the Elizabethtown Turnpike, the six heard that the Louisville mounted police were hot after them. But for some unknown reason, the police never attacked the wagons and Forrest and his men two days later arrived at Nolin, some forty miles south of Louisville.

That night, Boone’s Rangers and the accompanying families and friends joined Forrest and his small group of men. A Colt Navy pistol, a saber, a saddle, and a bridle were issued to each of these Kentuckians so that the soldiers took on what Button called "the finest military display [he] had ever seen." Button went on: "I thought that with that company, armed and equipped as it was, it was foolish to march South to organize. We ought to go back, take Louisville, and then Cincinnati, and I bet that the war would last no time with the Boone Rangers in the field." Although the group had a scare in Munfordsville with the Home Guards who seemed intent on attacking until they saw the size and strength of Forrest’s company of men, the group safely made its way to Memphis by the first week in August, leaving the family and friends of Boone’s Rangers in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

The group then went into camp at the fairgrounds in Memphis and were quickly joined by groups from Texas, Alabama, and Kentucky.

The Boone’s Rangers, with Frank Overton and John Crutcher as captains, became Company A, then later Company F of the Eighteenth Battalion, and finally Company E, with men from various places mixed in the original group to replace killed and wounded soldiers.

Forrest’s cavalry, of course, went on to great success in the war, fighting their initial engagement on Kentucky soil at Sacramento, where Forrest first displayed his double envelope maneuver, a frontal attack combined with simultaneous assaults on the right and left sides.

Forrest, a "master of the lightning raid," usually began the maneuver, according to Shelby Foote, by "standing in the stirrups, swinging his sword and roaring ‘Charge!’ in a voice that rang like brass." Complete that picture and combine it with a steely stare, and it is no wonder that Forrest instilled inspiration in his men and sheer terror in his enemies.

Virtually unschooled, this "natural genius," a man who garnered respect from friend and foe alike, owes part of his success to men from Meade County who fought with him.

Thus, the South’s two most important cavalry leaders, John Hunt Morgan and Nathan Bedford Forrest, have Meade County connections in a war that divided both the nation and, of course, Meade County.

It All Started Right Here:
Morgan’s Crossing at Brandenburg

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He represented the finest model of Southern gentility and honor that Kentucky produced. He dazzled the ladies with bright, expressive grayish blue eyes that glowed with warmth and dignity when a smile crossed a face, accented by a handsome mustache and neatly-pointed goatee.

At six-feet tall and 185 pounds, this middle-aged gentleman cut an impressive figure dressed in a flashy Confederate uniform sitting atop a beautiful horse named Black Bess, surrounded by just under 2000 men who gave their charismatic and colorful leader their undying devotion.

To the North, he was a common thief or a bank robber dressed in a Confederate uniform. They called him "King of the Horse Thieves" and even composed songs about his tendency to "replace" his tired horses with fresh ones and to fill his men’s stomach with food from whatever larder was "available."

But to the South, he was a legendary cavalier, a trusty knight who had come to rescue them from the shackles of Yankee bondage, this "Thunderbolt of the Confederacy," whose elite cavalry struck terror in the hearts of those bent on foiling the South’s dream of independence.

His brother-in-law, Basil Duke, chronicles his story in amazingly rich detail in a book about their exploits written after the war.

He was, of course, General John Hunt Morgan, and this Wednesday morning, July 8, 1863, at between 9:00 and 10:00 his mind was on a bold move, a sweeping grand design to take the Civil War to places and people who thought they were safe from invasion.

And Brandenburg, Kentucky figured large in his plans.

Historians disagree about just what Morgan’s orders were from his commander, General Braxton Bragg. Some say that Bragg approved this second Morgan invasion of Kentucky for supplies and fresh horses, but specifically ordered Morgan not to cross the Ohio River. Other contemporaries say that Morgan had secret orders from Richmond to penetrate as deeply as he could into the North. Certainly, Morgan knew that General Robert E. Lee was headed for Pennsylvania, something that prompted the ambitious Morgan to envision his cavalry troops bolting into southern Indiana, galloping east into Ohio, and finally linking up triumphantly with Lee somewhere in the Keystone State.

Whatever his orders, this day Morgan was headed north, and he had plans for Brandenburg.

First, he had sent Captain Thomas Hines, the man later to mastermind Morgan’s prison escape, to scout the territory around Brandenburg and to evaluate its fitness for a river crossing by Morgan’s main body of troops. Captain Hines had yet another mission: He wanted to assess just how much Southern sympathy existed in that part of southern Indiana, to see, in other words, how many Copperheads there were and to evaluate just how he could harness their sentiment to aid Morgan’s invasion.

As historian Lester V. Horwitz notes, next Morgan had ordered Captains Sam Taylor and Clay Merriwether and their companies to go on ahead of the main body to capture any boats suitable to transport the troops and horses across the Ohio.

Finally, Morgan had asked Captain William Davis to take Company D on a diversionary sweep around Louisville to cut telegraph lines and to burn railroad bridges, forcing the besieged city to conclude that Morgan would presently roll through Louisville on his way north.

Gradually, Morgan and his men made their way to Meade County. The day before they rode into Brandenburg, they spent the night in Garnettsville, a sizeable town, then, in upper Meade County. Meade County native Alice Bondurant Scott in her book The Doe Run Settlements records that that night the troops all sang around the camp fires, realizing that this would be their last night in Kentucky for awhile. Arising early, they rode through another Meade County community, Little York, shouting as they forded the creek. Some citizens were fearful, since they had heard various tales of Morgan and his wrath. Many Little York residents hid choice meats, thinking Morgan’s men might help themselves. But Morgan had a plan, and he hoped the plan would work.

Morgan’s planning had paid off because when he arrived in Brandenburg that morning with the main body of troops, he found a river town that either was sympathetic to the South’s cause or just plain apathetic, for there was no resistance at all.

In addition, waiting for Morgan’s troops at the Brandenburg wharf were two boats: a fast mailboat, the Alice Dean, the "Pride of Cincinnati;" and the steamboat, John B. McCombs, both commandeered by Morgan’s advance troops.

Witnesses claim that Morgan’s men had access to $10,000 in cash in the boats’ safes, but to the soldiers’ credit some historians record that the Confederates chose to return the money to the passengers and to quickly parole the passengers, giving them specific orders not to leave Brandenburg, an agreement they were readily willing to make.

Morgan picked the Buckner home in Brandenburg as his headquarters since Buckner was a relative of the Confederate General Simon Bolivar Buckner. From high above Brandenburg in what is now the Jimmy and Margie Watts home, Morgan could supervise the ferrying of his troops across to Yankee land.

But the crafty "Lightning" Ellsworth, Morgan’s expert at confusing the enemy by sending bogus telegraph messages, tapped into the lines and learned that General Edward Hobson with a troop of Union cavalry was some twenty-four hours behind Morgan and sprinting toward Brandenburg.

Morgan must hurry. While Morgan’s second in command, Basil Duke, called Morgan’s fear of Hobson and his troops "a wildly and utterly absurd" idea, there is little doubt that Morgan did not intend to stay in Brandenburg long, Hobson or no Hobson. Morgan had visions of invasion of the North in his mind.

But curiously Hobson had every chance to catch up with Morgan’s troops. Under orders from General Ambrose Burnside to move quickly to cut off Morgan’s sweep through Kentucky, Hobson hesitated.

In fact, he and his troops were a mere twelve miles from Brandenburg at Rock Haven on the evening of July 8th, the very night Morgan was in Brandenburg. "I did not deem it prudent to attack the enemy with my force alone," he later wrote. "The night was very dark and my troops were very fatigued." Yet one historian later wrote that General Hobson had a case of the all too frequent "Morgan jitters," a condition not unlike many others in pursuit of the sly Confederate general.

Back in Brandenburg, so far Morgan’s plans were going well. But while the river valley was brimming with fog, a series of shots from the Indiana shore broke the silence. From behind haystacks and a rifled cannon mounted on a wagon, a mixture of the Northern military and regulars had opened fire on Morgan’s troops as they began ferrying themselves across the river in the two boats. For the most part, though, Morgan’s troops were out of range. So that when the soupy morning mist lifted the Indiana boys came clearly into view. Morgan’s single battery of Parrot guns, located at his headquarters, honed in on the Indiana troops, scattering them toward the cover of the wooded ridge some five hundred yards from shore, a move that Duke colorfully described as "a manifest disposition to retire."

But just as Morgan’s men had chased the Hoosiers back toward cover and the ferrying continued, from up river, the Elk, a gunboat, came into range and began firing on Morgan’s troops.

Boarded up with thick shields of solid oak, the Elk proved to be a worthy opponent, spraying shots from her three bronze twelve pounder howitzers at both the troops on shore and those attempting to cross the wide river. According to Duke, Morgan’s Parrott guns trained in on the small boat, scattering shot all around her, but leaving doubt as to whether or not she had been hit. The battle raged on for about an hour until apparently the Elk ran out of ammunition and puffed her way back up river to warn this part of Kentucky that Morgan had indeed crossed into the North.

That warning spread pandemonium as far east as Cincinnati. Several biographers note that the headlines in papers in Louisville and southern Indiana bellowed out exaggerated warnings like "Morgan Has 4,000 Men; Will Strike Frankfort," "Morgan has 7,500 Men: Target-Cincinnati," and "Louisville Objective of Morgan’s 11,000 Men."

With the Elk out of the way, Morgan’s troop again began ferrying troops across the Ohio, a job briefly interrupted by the appearance of the Elk and a similar boat. But a few shots from the Parrot guns, and the two gunboats scurried back up river.

The ferrying of the horses and men followed a logical pattern. First, a small group of men was transferred across in either the John B. McCombs or the Alice Dean. Next, that cadre’s horses were ferried across. Then, the pattern was repeated until all men and their horses were across, assuring a horse-bound fighting group like Morgan’s that they would be without their mounts the shortest length of time. Morgan certainly didn’t want his men to be without their horses if the gunboats or Indiana militia came back.

By midnight, all of Morgan’s men and horses were in Indiana, leaving the problem of two good boats that Hobson and his men could use in their pursuit of Morgan.

Morgan then ordered the burning of both boats, but the captain of McCombs, a man named Ballard, was a personal friend of Basil Duke, who intervened and only the Alice Dean was set on fire. According to a letter from N.B. Deatherage, a Morgan soldier, to Linni Hardaway, a Brandenburg resident in 1930, Morgan ordered the firing of the Alice Dean because the captain disobeyed Morgan’s order and "tried to run off and not finish setting the command all over" to the Indiana side. But Ballard did agree that he would take his boat up river out of the hands of Hobson and his men whose advance party had already arrived in Brandenburg in time to fire a few shots at the last of Morgan’s men just as the flames of the Alice Dean lit up the night sky and Morgan’s men scooted toward Corydon and out of range for Hobson and his troops.

At Corydon, Morgan and his men went on to fight only one of two battles on Yankee soil and went on the register as the deepest penetration into the Union by the Confederacy.

And it all began in Brandenburg nearly 140 years ago in what was then the sleepy little river town where the flashy Confederate general and his men began their historic mission into the North in the midst of the great Civil War.

Few tangible remnants of that July 8th dot the landscape to remind us that Morgan and his men were ever here, but the issues of human rights and states rights that tore this nation apart in those days still hover over us in our day like a thick fog over a brown river.

The Terror of the Black Flag:
Guerrilla Warfare in Meade County

Understanding fully what Meade County was like during the Civil War means understanding what role guerilla warfare played in the everyday lives of its citizens.

Often called "The Black Flag," guerilla warfare represents unconventional military tactics not usually associated with ordinary conflict.

Guerilla warfare, Spanish for "little war," is usually carried on by irregulars, who often are without formal military training, uniforms and pay; and who usually fight behind enemy lines and are motivated by ideology or rage.

Frequently, guerillas rely on isolation and surprise, preferring sudden assaults, sabotage, and terrorism to conventional battles where men face off at each other.

Because they many times know the landscape well, guerillas often hit and run, only to appear later at some other place to ravage the life and limb of local people.

In the early days of the Confederacy, the leaders realized that the South was out-manned nearly three to one and needed some advantage in order to win its war of independence.

Accordingly, in 1861, Captain R.C. Ranford of the Confederate Cavalry advanced the idea to Robert E. Lee to use "raiders" to harass the Union army and disrupt their supply lines.

The idea led to the formation of Mosby’s Rangers, a thoroughly authorized group of soldiers, referred to as "partisan rangers," whose tactics, during the war, had a significant impact on the Eastern theater.

However, other groups of undercover fighters evolved early in the war whose legitimacy was, at times, questionable.

One group was a bevy of guerrillas who may be more properly designated as renegades, cutthroats, or outlaws, a group like William Clarke Quantrill’s band, which included outlaws like Frank and Jesse James. The trail of blood these groups left behind attests to their lack of respect for even the most elementary forms of human dignity and conventions of warfare.

Still another group of fighters who operated in Meade County is more difficult to characterize, for they often were indirectly tied to units like General John Hunt Morgan’s Second Kentucky Cavalry, which was frequently described as a guerilla unit itself.

But those fighting for the Stars and Bars were not the only guerrillas operating within the Commonwealth. Another group, local citizens supporting either the Union or the Confederate cause, also sometimes formed small groups who took advantage of the situation and spread destruction and death in the state.

Across Kentucky, guerilla raids were so common that State Historian Dr. James Klotter calls these skirmishes the "everyday experience" of the citizenry during the Civil War.

To counteract these raids, most Kentucky counties and northern bordering states organized what were called "Home Guards," who tried to protect the life and property of local residents using crude and occasionally chaotic defense tactics, frequently with disastrous results.

Across the Ohio River in Indiana, Home Guards from Corydon, for example, shot at and generally tried to disrupt the progress of Morgan’s Raiders as they crossed at Brandenburg on the seventh and eighth of July in 1863.

While they soon scattered as the bulk of Morgan’s troops crossed the Ohio, the Home Guards at least represented a valiant attempt to defend home and residents of that part of Indiana.

But affairs in Meade County were not painted in simple black and white because the county contained citizens with both strong pro-Union and pro-Confederacy sympathies, which complicated the question of just who the enemy was and how best to fight him.

Truly, the threat of guerilla war loomed large in Meade County.

An event in Brandenburg in August of 1864 illustrates how tension-packed and confusing the times really were.

Just after dark, just inside the city, a town guard shot and killed a man who failed to reply to the guard’s order to identify himself. His appearance and demeanor convinced the guard that the man might have been a guerrilla attempting to enter Brandenburg for less than honorable purposes.

The Louisville Journal quoted an unidentified source from Brandenburg who observed that "this region is full of wandering guerrillas, the people everywhere [are] filled with terror, and a person is in danger continually by his own friend, so nervously is everyone to the perils around him. We are threatened with every species of vengeance, murder, fire and so forth. But though an innocent man may be occasionally sacrificed through our vigilance, we will hold the town against every band of robbers or bury them under ruins."

The Stith-Moreman papers at the Filson Club in Louisville include a journal kept by Lizzie Schreiber, a Meade County resident who was about 15 years of age when the Civil War began. The journal relates how frequently guerrillas from outside and from within the county visited Brandenburg. She notes that on June 25, 1864, two companies of rebels, under the command of Captain Sim Horsely, got drunk, threatened to shoot Wood Malin, broke into his storage room, gathered up all the whiskey and "poured all [of it] out and let it run in the street."

On October 14, 1863, she reports that guerrillas under the command of a Captain Steele robbed the citizenry. Just a few weeks later, on November 23, she relates that "a band of Union robbers came in today and robbed the town," going even so far as to steal her gloves.

Guerrillas of Southern persuasion on New Year’s Day of 1865, under Captain Horsely again, attempted to capture a boat on the river that contained 15 Union soldiers. She summarizes that "Captain Horsely’s men have been coming in every day."

Nor was the rest of the county exempt from this scourge. The 36th Kentucky Federal Cavalry surrounded a group of rebel guerrillas on April 29, 1863, near Meadville, a small community about eight miles south of Brandenburg. Guerrilla activity was also reported in the Doe Run, Otter Creek, and Garnettsville area.

A military dispatch, dated May 13, 1864, quotes Captain Hendrick Baker of the Thirty-fifth Kentucky Volunteers (Union) as concluding that "loyal men of the county have had many horses, pistols, and guns taken from them by those guerrillas, and some of them were entirely robbed of their money. It is clear that the rebel sympathizers are harboring [guerrillas] and keeping them concealed."

Things in the rest of Kentucky were so bad as early as June of 1862 that General Jeremiah T. Boyle, the military commander of the Commonwealth, ordered that those with Southern sympathies would be responsible for damages done to those who supported the Union. By the summer of 1864, General Stephen G. Burbridge ordered that four rebels would be shot for every Union man killed, which meant that legitimate prisoners of war were executed in clear violation of the rules of civilized warfare.

But possibly the most horrendous instance of guerrillas who went too far centered on a prominent Meade County farmer, David Henry, an ardent Union supporter, who lived near Meadville, but who owned property in the Doe Run area, too.

A guerrilla leader known only as Captain Bryant and seven of his men arrived at Henry’s home in late August of 1864, and demanded to be fed dinner and given feed for their horses.

As they rode away, Henry shot at them and shouted for a certain Union lieutenant to flank the guerrillas from the rear.

Bryant and his men, thinking that the enemy was in the area, put the spurs to their horses and made a swift getaway.

Upon learning that Henry had tricked them, Bryant swore revenge.

A few days later, on August 28th, Bryant, along with 35 men, surrounded the Henry house and demanded that Henry come out.

Henry, who hid upstairs, heard his daughters pleading with the guerrillas to spare his life. Finally, after some time, Henry started down the stairs, while Bryant secretly waited on the back porch.

When Henry came within range, Bryant fired and mortally wounded the farmer.

General Burbridge, upon hearing of Henry’s murder, selected four prisoners from the stockade in Louisville, with the intention of carrying out the Union policy of executing Confederates in reprisal for such gruesome acts.

He directed Lieutenant John Enoch of the 54th Ohio Infantry to take the hapless prisoners, John Brooks from Jackson, Mississippi; Robert Blinco from Hawesville; Frank Holmes from Cloverport; and Julius Brodis from Louisville, to the Henry farm for execution. Although they were regular Confederate soldiers, they were unlucky enough to draw black beans from a box containing hundreds of white ones.

In a note of uncharacteristic objectivity, George Prentice, editor of The Louisville Journal, whose sympathies were definitely Union, but whose son fought for the Confederacy, described the four young unmarried men as having received "many advantages in younger days."

The pastor of the Brandenburg Baptist Church, George H. Hicks, was ordered to accompany the four men to the Henry place to offer them comfort.

At about two o’clock in the afternoon of September 4th, the four men were taken about 200 to 300 yards from the Henry home, where they knelt, bore themselves bravely, and thanked their captors for their gentle kindnesses.

Twenty Union soldiers were divided into four squads with five men each, with each squad having a gun loaded with a blank.

When the moment of execution arrived, each prisoner folded his arms across his chest, kept his eyes closed, his lips tight, and head bent gently forward. As the shots were fired, each man fell forward and "died without a groan."

Although no evidence ties him directly to the Henry murder, a mysterious guerrilla fighter with cutthroat ways got much of the blame for the murder and destruction in and around Meade County.

One historian mistakenly reported that he was actually a Frenchman fighting for the glory of the South. Such was not unheard of since Frenchman Camille De Polignac, a veteran of the Crimean War in Europe, distinguished himself as the only foreigner to rise to the rank of major general in the Confederacy. His tie with Kentucky was that he fought valiantly at the Battle of Richmond, Kentucky, a Confederate victory that took place in August of 1862.

Although he had a French sounding name, the man who wreaked so much havoc in Meade County was not in reality a Frenchman.

Some tied him to the infamous Quantrill, the notorious Missouri renegade who spread death and destruction across the "Show Me State" before being shot near Bloomfield, Kentucky on May 10, 1865. He later died in a military hospital in Louisville on June 6th.

But there seems to be no evidence that ties this mystery man directly to Quantrill.

The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies contain a report of July 13-15, 1864, filed by the same Captain Hendrick Baker (U.S.A.) of the 35th Kentucky Volunteers who said the a guerrilla prisoner told him that the mystery man was "acting under orders from General John Hunt Morgan," receiving communication "almost daily."

Who was this figure who caused so much controversy?

Spelled variously as "Dupoister," he was Thomas Carlin Dupoyster from Ballard County, Kentucky, who, of all things, had a son, Joseph, who fought for the Union.

The father enlisted at Camp Boone, Tennessee in the Second Regiment Infantry on July 5, 1861, and was captured and imprisoned in Camp Douglas in Chicago. He later escaped and joined Woodward’s 15th Regiment Cavalry on December 9, 1862.

When he departed from regular service remains unclear, but there was no mystery about the harm he is reported to have done.

George Prentice seems to blame him for any guerrilla activity that transpired in Meade County, a tactic not unlike the editor’s campaign against "Sue Mundy," a notorious guerrilla, who, ironically, was captured in a barn in rural Meade County near Guston on March 12, 1865.

Captain Dupoyster was at times bold, at other times ruthless and unforgiving, vowing that he would match General Burbridge and kill four Yankees for every Southerner executed by Union firing squads. His first appearance in Meade County seems to have been before August 11, 1864, because the Louisville German language newspaper, Anzeiger, reported that Dupoyster had crossed the Salt River and again entered Meade County near Garnettsville, a small community near Muldraugh, now a part of the Fort Knox military reservation.

Apparently, Dupoyster and 20 guerrillas then set their eyes on Brandenburg, entering the town the next morning at daybreak and demanding its surrender. Five Home Guards opened fire and killed five of the guerrillas and wounded several more. The rest, the writer for Anzeiger notes, "fled in a wild, frightened flight."

About 10 o’clock, Dupoyster and his band met the Home Guards under a flag of truce and demanded that the Home Guards surrender the city or the guerrillas vowed to kill all the citizens.

The Home Guards told the guerrillas that the Home Guards had apparently already given the rebels "an awful scare" and the rebels should instead try to "make amends."

Leaving in disgrace, the guerrillas did not enter the city and remained out of range.

On September 6, The Louisville Journal, Prentice’s newspaper, reported that Dupoyster and his men had captured and killed a Union man eight miles from Brandenburg, near the Ohio River.

The Journal notes that the Home Guards in Meade County are "on duty night and day, determined not to allow themselves to be surprised" by the guerrillas, for Dupoyster had "pronounced vengeance upon the town and citizens of Brandenburg."

A week later Anzeiger announced that Dupoyster and his gang were still operating in Meade, Hardin, and Breckinridge counties. The group apparently met on a regular basis and split into bands of two to ten men. When they returned from their missions, they "divided up the loot."

On September 12th, The Louisville Journal reported that some of Dupoyster’s men tried to plunder Brandenburg, but again were driven off by the Home Guards.

The end came for Dupoyster in a bizarre way near Taylorsville in rural Jefferson county. The details of what happened are sketchy, but the outline seems fairly clear.

James McCrocklin, a man described as having been of "great use" to a fellow guerrilla band headed by someone identified only as Pratt, was murdered by a man named Garrett from Dupoyster’s band.

Local authorities caught Garrett and lodged him in the Taylorsville jail.

Several days later, Dupoyster rode into town alone and rescued Garrett. While there, he met a man named Hedge from Pratt’s band. After a bitter exchange of words, the three men entered a saloon and had several drinks together, apparently in Dupoyster’s mind having resolved their differences.

But as Garrett, Hedge, and Dupoyster rode out of town together, Hedge pulled a revolver he had hidden in his coat and shot and wounded Dupoyster in the arm, fracturing it. Dupoyster fell off his horse and started running. Hedge shot at him again, but missed. Hedge kicked his horse in the sides and took out after Dupoyster, firing at him still another time, only this time killing him. Amid all the excitement, Garrett escaped.

Disgusted, Hedge rode back to the saloon where he met a fellow guerrilla named Metz. After a few too many drinks, the two returned to where Dupoyster lay dead and "robbed the dead of every article and trinket of value that the robber chief possessed," including Dupoyster’s hat that Metz wore with "proud exaltation," so George Prentice reported in The Louisville Journal.

Prentice closes his account of Dupoyster’s death by saying that "as Dupoyster died, so perish every outlaw who defies the majesty of law and makes war upon defenseless citizens." A guerrilla who caused so much harm and inspired so much fear was dead. But the threat of guerrilla warfare in Meade County lingered on well after the peace at Appomattox until the long process of healing had begun, a process, in many ways, which continues even today.

African American Troops from Meade County

Before we can begin to understand the role of African American troops from Kentucky during the Civil War, we first need to know how slavery was viewed in the Commonwealth at this time. Of course, Kentucky’s citizens varied widely in their views on the "peculiar institution" with many in the eastern portion of the state, where there were few slaves, strongly opposed to the practice, while whites in the Bluegrass and the far western portion of the state strongly supported maintaining the institution as it was.

Taken as a whole, Meade County is an excellent case in point, representing the varying positions throughout the state, with many strong supporters of slavery in the county as well as others just as fervently opposed to it. Stands on slavery even divided churches in the county, much as it did in many other counties in the Commonwealth.

Truly, slavery was a very controversial issue in mid-nineteenth century Kentucky.

Including the rest of the state, Meade County was a different place in the years just before the war than it is today. According to Darrel E. Bigham’s Towns and Villages of the Lower Ohio, more people in the county were concentrated in the rich river bottoms and fertile rolling fields of the upper part of the county than there are today. Tobacco was certainly a major crop, with the county producing 210,000 pounds a year prior to the war. But like much of the state at the time, corn was an important agriculturally, amounting to 373,000 bushels a year. Yet only eleven farmers in the county controlled about half of the wealth. Meade County also boasted several flour mills and small manufacturing, valued at $67,000. Alanson Moreman, with a net worth of $20,000, was the wealthiest farmer, and Richard Graham was listed as the wealthiest merchant in the county, with assets of $12,975.

Immediately before the war, Kentucky was a very enslaved state, with 20% of the population in bondage. According to Towns and Villages in the Lower Ohio, Meade County was close to that figure with 21% of its people in slavery. Only 1% of the African Americans were free in the state as a whole, indicating that there were probably a few freed blacks in Meade County, too. Kentucky had 39,000 slave holders in the state, the highest number of any other states except Georgia and Virginia. Only 70 in the state, however, had more than 50 slaves, with most of the slavery confined to the Bluegrass region and on the Kentucky-Tennessee border in the western part of the Commonwealth. In Kentucky, slaves were used for agricultural purposes, while some were loaned out to manufacturing. And, of course, the state exported many men, women, and children in bondage to the lower South. Sadly, Kentucky did not officially free her slaves until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in January of 1865, well after the close of the hostilities.

Early in the war, President Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet were under increasing pressure to enlist black soldiers. Consequently, by August 25, 1862, the War Department began enlisting African Americans, those freed by war and those already free in the fight that many in the Northeast saw simply as a war of emancipation. Yet there were pockets of strong resistance to enrolling African Americans in places like southern Indiana and southern Illinois, regions largely settled by Kentuckians. Unfortunately, many Midwesterners felt that blacks would not make good soldiers because African Americans were biologically inferior to whites, something many whites changed their minds about when they saw blacks in combat at places like Fort Wagner, guarding the entrance to Charleston, South Carolina, at the Battle of Nashville, and here in Kentucky at the Battle of Paducah.

When Lincoln finally gave in to the pressure to use black soldiers, he directed Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to enroll African American troops, with the stipulation that their commanders would have to be white. In March of 1863, the War Department responded by appointing General Lorenzo Thomas to raise troops in what was considered then the West. The response at first was overwhelming, with slaves and ex-slaves in other border states flocking to recruiting stations so that they, too, could fight for their brothers and sisters in bondage.

Wary of the black man’s prowess and courage under fire, many white commanders assigned black units to garrisons to either guard conquered territory or to build fortifications, roads, railroads, and other backbreaking work, hardly the kind of duty the blacks enlisted for. Kentucky, a slave state not in rebellion and thus not affected by the Emancipation Proclamation, did not welcome the thoughts of losing their slaves to the Union army.

But there was even more trouble for blacks looking to sign up for service. Joining the Union army was not only a chance to earn freedom from slavery, but, unfortunately, it could be quite hazardous, since many of the Confederate sympathizers in the state organized themselves into secret cliques that tried to discourage and intimidate those who supported the Union cause. Variously called the Sons of Liberty and other names in Missouri, Indiana, and Illinois, one such group in the Meade County area was called the Knights of the Order of the Golden Circle, who, according to an affidavit filed on November 1, 1862, by Meade County resident William Mounts, was "opposed to the United States Government and in favor of the Southern State Government and the Southern Confederacy and the present rebellion." Mounts goes on to say that this group was "aiding and abetting the cause by their counsel and advise [sic] to Rebels," and persuading "the young men of the county to join the Southern Army and in expecting others in the neighborhood to engage in treasonable actions." Such a clandestine group could obviously intimidate the black soldiers from enlisting since such an organization could and, perhaps, would interfere with blacks who tried to enroll.

However, according to Rita Thompson, Meade County historian and genealogist, the county had at least fifteen African Americans to serve in the Civil War. The vast majority, all but three, served in the 122nd Regiment of Colored Troops, a part of the regular Army. Indeed, for the most part, African American troops from Kentucky did not serve as a part of a Kentucky division, but rather the troops were mustered in as a part of the Union Army itself.

According to Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, the 122nd Regiment had a short, but colorful history. Organized in Louisville on December 31, 1864, they were ordered to Virginia on January 12, 1865, and were attached to the Army of the 25th Corps of the Army of the James. While in Virginia, these same troops were on duty at the Siege of Petersburg from February 1865 till April 2,1865, during the last months of the war when Lee and his battered Army of Northern Virginia left Petersburg on the road to Appomattox and surrender.

As was the custom of the day, the 122nd Regiment probably pulled garrison duty after Petersburg’s fall because the records show that they served in Virginia until the first part of June of 1865, well after the close of the war.

The 122nd Regiment then moved to Brazos Santiago, Texas until the end of June or early July. They later served at Brownsville and at various stations on the Rio Grande until February 8, 1866, when they were mustered out. Another African American soldier, Isaac Ditto, who served in the 118th Regiment, also served at the same locations in Texas and mustered out two days before the 122nd.

One slave from Meade County, George Stiff or Stith, served in place of his master, a practice fairly uncommon during the early part of the war. Usually if one man served in place of another, it was a white man substituting for a white man, but as the war dragged on, slaves, with the promise that they and their families would be freed, chose to enlist. Many of this group of black soldiers from Meade County suffered from disease and injury, much like their white and black counterparts in the state. Jesse Board died from typhoid fever, for example, and Alfred Carrico lost his hearing from war-related experience. Like many others in the state, a number of African American soldiers from Meade County ended up being discharged far away from their Meade County home.

The story of the awful night that was the Civil War serves to remind us of the importance of the study of history in helping us to sort through these perilous times to glean lessons that may make for a brighter day. For ex-slaves, like those from Meade County and others parts of the state, serving in the army that was fighting for their freedom offered them a beginning, a chance to take their rightful place in American society, a struggle that continues even today.

Sue Mundy’s Capture at Guston:
George Prentice’s Personal War

One of the strangest dramas of the Civil War featured a young rebel soldier who looked like a woman and a zealous newspaper editor who was frustrated by war. The setting was, in part, near Guston, in southern Meade County. L.L. Valentine records this fascinating story in a two-part series in The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society.

The characters featured were George Prentice, editor of the pro-Union Louisville Journal, and a young man named Jerome Clarke from Logan County. The tragic flaw was Prentice’s abiding desire to preserve the union and repair the deep divisions in his own family.

To understand and appreciate the strangeness of this drama, first imagine a state torn by division and strife, a state where brothers fought on opposite sides, where even neighbors in Meade County saw the war quite differently, a state where citizens had essentially lost most of their civil rights, and, most of all, a state that President Lincoln saw as pivotal to keeping the union together. That was Kentucky during the dark days of the Civil War.

The fall and winter of 1864-65 were especially hard in Kentucky. Known to the blue coats only as "guerrillas," Confederates in and out of uniform harassed Union placements throughout the Commonwealth, burned strategic railroad bridges, or raided the state for food and its fine horses.

For all intents and purposes, Kentucky was ruled by a cruel commander, General John M Palmer, one of a series of men appointed by Lincoln to maintain a strangle-hold on Kentucky and keep her in the Union.

Upon taking command, Palmer, like his predecessors, vowed to rid the state of these guerrillas. In Meade County, in fact, he ordered the execution of four rebel soldiers in retaliation for the death of one Union man killed by guerrillas.

According to General Stephen Burbridge, who left the job to Palmer, four rebels would die for every Union man killed by Confederates. Such a policy created a very tense situation.

So divided was Louisville that Prentice’s Journal was openly opposed by the pro-Southern Louisville Courier. And one of the bitter ironies was that Prentice’s own son fought on the side of the South; even Prentice’s wife was a Southern sympathizer. Prentice, indeed, was a man perplexed by war and family discord.

Amid all this chaos and confusion, Prentice fervently sought a story that would galvanize pro-Union sentiments.

According to Valentine, he began focusing particularly on a young rebel, Jerome Clarke, an enlisted Confederate soldier who sported long brown curls and a youthful face. One contemporary of Clarke described him as "a quiet, soft-spoken dandy, with his hair in love-knots six inches long, a hand like a school-girl, and a waist like a woman.".

Although Clarke was very much the consummate soldier who had distinguished himself in battle at Fort Donelson and under the command of fellow Kentuckian, General John Hunt Morgan, Clarke made good use of those feminine features.

Throughout the state, he and his men hit hard and suddenly, looking for a bank to rob, a railroad trestle to destroy, horses to exchange, often with Clarke posing as a woman who became widely known as Sue Mundy. Most people, in fact, did not even know that Sue Mundy was, indeed, the rosy-cheeked Clarke in disguise.

One writer of the time wrote that Sue Mundy "went as the wind that blew. So many were his shapes and disguises, so perfectly under control were his speech and bearing that in some quarters his identity was denied."

Valentine observes that Prentice now had that real story he had been waiting for. And he meant to make the most of it.

Prentice soon blamed Sue Mundy for almost every raid in every part of Kentucky, crimes that Clarke as Mundy could not have committed since he could not have been two places at once. This Sue Mundy, Prentice bellowed, was on a rampage, pillaging the Commonwealth, leaving only destruction and bedlam in his path.

Soon Clarke was a marked man who seemed to symbolize both the romance and frustrations of war. To Southern sympathizers, Sue Mundy was a swashbuckling hero, deftly evading capture and frustrating federal troops; to Union men and to Prentice, Sue Mundy was little more than a common killer, a desperado whose reign must be put to an end.

Leaving Bardstown the last few days of February of 1865, Clarke and three companions headed for western Kentucky on their way to Paris, Tennessee and safety.

But they were bushwhacked by eight pro-union Home Guards in Hancock County on March 3rd. One of Clarke’s men was killed; another, Henry C. Magruder, with a bullet in his left lung, begged Clarke to take him back to Meade County where a Dr. Lewis would tend to his wounds. Reluctantly, Clarke agreed, and the three headed back to Meade County.

There, in a mud-chinked tobacco barn near Guston, on a farm near the doctor’s home, Clarke and two companions holed up, waiting for Magruder to die or get well enough to travel again.

They knew full well that they were trapped should word ever get out about where they were hiding.

As Valentine notes, word did get out quickly, and Palmer assigned a miller from Larue County, Cyrus J. Wilson, a former Union officer, to capture Clarke and his men.

Meanwhile in his newspaper, Prentice crowed, "You have been a naughty girl Sue Mundy. Our Journal [sic] may bring you and your fellows to justice and thus be to you and them not only a newspaper but a "noosepaper." Many suspect that Prentice knew of Palmer and Wilson’s secret plans.

Arriving by steamboat at Brandenburg at nine o’clock the evening of March 11, Wilson and his men rushed to the tobacco barn where Clarke and his companions were still unaware of their fate.

At daylight, the soldiers surrounded the barn. One soldier sneaked forward and knocked on the barn door. There was no answer. Another two soldiers rolled a boulder toward the door. Twelve rapid shots answered and four blue-coated soldiers fell wounded.

Wilson ordered Dr. Lewis, under a flag of truce, to enter the barn and demand the rebels’ surrender. Dr. Lewis related Clarke’s predicament in quite honest terms, and Clarke decided to ask Wilson to discuss the situation. Wilson was determined to take Clarke alive, just as Palmer had ordered.

"You will kill me if I surrender," Clarke concluded.

Wilson confirmed that, but argued that if Clarke surrendered, it, at least, "would give him a few days to live."

Patiently, Wilson implored Clarke to surrender. Clarke finally consented after long negotiations, probably thinking that he would have a chance to escape, as he had so many times before.

With Mundy tightly bound, the troops marched into Brandenburg Sunday afternoon and boarded the steamboat, the Morning Star, as a crowd of interested citizens watched from the river bank. The passengers arrived in Louisville early on March 13, 1865, and deposited their prisoners at the military prison at Tenth and Broadway.

That same day Clarke was ordered hanged by Judge Advocate William H. Coyle. General Palmer made the order official later that afternoon by declaring that a commission that had never convened had concurred with Coyle’s verdict.

The trial of Marcellus Jerome Clarke, accused of many crimes attributed to him by Prentice, took place that next day. Clarke insisted that he was innocent of many of the acts he was accused of, but to no avail, for his fate had already been decided before his trial had ever started. He was not even allowed to call his own witnesses.

At four o’clock, the afternoon of March 15, 1865, in a hanging witnessed by thousands, and with full military ceremony, Jerome Clarke, alias Sue Mundy, died a hideous, and slow, and strangulating death.

Curiously, all the while, George Prentice, who had blamed much of the state’s havoc on the young Clarke, insisted that Jerome Clarke was not Sue Mundy.

Whether Prentice felt guilty as he watched the tragedy of Clark’s dying in front of him, the world will probably never know, for in a month the great civil strife that had torn Prentice’s family at the seams was over for his family, Kentucky, and the citizens of Meade County.

Meet the Author

Dr. Marshall Myers was reared in rural Meade County, near Battletown. After graduating from Meade County High School in 1961, he took bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English at Kentucky Wesleyan College and Eastern Kentucky University. After four years of college teaching at Elizabethtown Community College and Kentucky Wesleyan, he studied for a Ph.D. in American literature and linguistics at Kansas State University, but left graduate work there because of illness. He later returned to graduate work at the University of Louisville, earning a Ph.D. in rhetoric and composition in 1994. Having taught at the middle school, secondary school, and college levels, Myers is now an associate professor at Eastern Kentucky University where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in linguistics and rhetoric. Myers has authored more than two hundred articles, poems, academic pieces, and short stories, as well as three books: On the Inside, a collection of poems; Real Toads, a chapbook of poems on a single theme; and Barefoot, a collection of short stories. His articles and reviews on the Civil War have appeared in Kentucky Explorer, The Kentucky Civil War Journal, and The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society. He serves as president of the Madison County Civil War Roundtable and contributes a bi-monthly column on the Civil War in Kentucky to the organization’s newsletter. He is married to Dr. Lynn Gillaspie, also a member of the faculty at E.K.U. He has two daughters, Mitzi Kreisle and Marti Brown; and five grandsons. He is the son of Carol Clement of Brandenburg, and Clarice Myers of Battletown.