June 11, 2012

Mill Springs National Battlefield Museum and Cemetery



Source:  http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3b49842/

This past weekend while in Somerset, my boyfriend and I decided to go to Mill Springs Battlefield Museum near Nancy, KY.  The Museum is less than ten years old, and is located right next to the Mill Springs National Cemetery on old Hwy 80.  Admission is only $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, and $2 for students.

From the historical marker outside:
"Late in 1861, Confederates sought to prevent Union forces from occupying strategic points in Kentucky and Tennessee, to maintain rail shipments of vital Confederate supplies from Virginia south and west, and to set up bases for future offensive thru Kentucky and Ohio to divide eastern and western Union states. With those aims the Confederate Defense Line was formed from the Big Sandy Valley in east Kentucky thru Cumberland Gap, Mill Springs on Cumberland River, Bowling Green on L & N Ry., to Columbus, Ky. on the Mississippi River. The Forces Move In Brig. Gen. Felix K. Zollicoffer in Nov. 1861 built CSA bases at Mill Springs and across Cumberland at Beech Grove, as part of plan. Maj. Gen. George B. Crittenden took command, Dec. 13, 1861. On Jan. 11, 1862, Union forces under Brig. Gen. George H. Thomas started from Lebanon, Ky. to join the Federals under Brig. Gen. Albin Schoepf at Somerset and to attack the Confederate base at Mill Springs. On Jan. 19 Gen. Crittenden moved out with his CSA troops to prevent the Union forces under Gen. Thomas from joining US army at Somerset.  
(Reverse) Battle of Mill Springs In first hour, Gen. Zollicoffer was killed, which threw his CSA regiments into confusion. Rallied by Gen. Crittenden, battle continued three hours. USA reinforcements arrived, CSA retreated, fighting all day to reach river. They evacuated camp during night and withdrew into Tennessee. Casualties: CSA 125 killed, 309 wounded and 99 missing; USA 39 killed and 207 wounded. Large quantity of supplies abandoned by CSA, as well as 150 wagons and more than 1,000 horses and mules. Battle also called Logan's Cross Roads or Fishing Creek. Aftermath The way was opened for the Union to advance into Eastern Tennessee. Lack of provisions, bad roads and difficulty of crossing river made such advance impractical. Gen. Thomas' command joined Gen. Buell's Union force in move on Nashville. This Mill Springs victory with defeat of Brig. Gen. Humphrey Marshall by USA Col. James A. Garfield in the Big Sandy Valley broke the right section of the Confederate Defense Line. Thus began a series of events bringing Union control of Kentucky and upper Miss. River in first year of war."

The museum had a locally produced 20 minute video about the battle, which I thought was quite good quality.  You have the option to skip it, but you'll get more out of the museum if you sit through it.  I was more impressed though with the quality of items on display.  Many were actually recovered from the Mill Springs Battlefield area.  I've been to one too many museums where the displays were only 'this is an example or replica of the type of item that would have been carried by soldiers in the war.' So it was cool to not only see 'the real thing', but also to see items recovered from nearby.  Most of the items had little plaques that said whether the item was recovered from Mill Springs or, if not, who was loaning it to the museum and where that person lived (usually from persons in Pulaski County).  I really appreciated that attention to detail.

During the summer the museum is open seven days a week from 10am to 4pm.  From October to April they are open Tuesdays through Saturday 10am to 4pm, closed on Mondays and only open on Sundays from 1:00pm to 4:00pm.

If you are in the area, I recommend stopping by.  It seemed like they could use the traffic.


Later that day we also went to the National Cemetery next door.  We took my grandfather with us to visit his brother's grave.  When I asked him if he wanted to ride out to the cemetery with us he was really excited.  So I knew he really wanted to go, because he flat out refuses to go anywhere he doesn't want to. He told me he hadn't been out to see his brother's grave since the 1970's.

Here's the headstone:

Augustus Quinton Decker, known as Quint to his family, but Gus or "Guts" to his fellow Marines, carried a flamethrower in the Pacific Theatre in WWII.  He was killed on Okinawa on May 10, 1945.  One of my grandfather's favorite storytelling topics is talking about how tough Quint was.  When he speaks about him you can tell he really admired his big brother.  I'm glad I got the chance to take him out to see Quinton's grave after so many years and hear all of my grandfather's stories about him again.  (I even got to hear a new one.)  And I'm glad my boyfriend got to hear them too, because I can never do them any justice.

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