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Battle for the Bridge

Posted on Thursday, November 8, 2018 at 7:26 pm

While at the reenactment of the Battle of Sacramento, Chris Sanders approached me and asked if I could attend the reenactment of the Battle of Munfordville, also known as the Battle of Green River Bridge. He stated they were trying to rebuild it and would deeply appreciate my assistance. Without checking my schedule, I agreed. I do believe I made a wise choice, even though I missed a couple of events I love on that date.
As I entered the sleepy little villa, I was amazed at the number of historical markers on almost every corner. They reminded me of the markers in Gettysburg. When I stopped at the courthouse square, I was impressed with the hustle and bustle of individuals working as a team while in the process of setting up the event. I knew I was in for a special affair filled with history, heritage and our American legacy.
On Friday morning, I went to find my station and was greeted with great fanfare by those organizing the event. Nurse Christina Sanders, dressed in a nursing uniform, greeted me and took me to my station. The stations were scattered throughout the town and I was enthralled by the reception. At nine in the morning, an estimated thousand students descended upon the different stations. The presenters included General Buckner (Greg Baize), Governor Buckner (Don Elmore) and Mrs. Buckner (Susan Elmore), Mrs. Macy McDowell discussion at the Munford house, Joe Grayson and Paul Whithington presentation on Surgeons and surgical procedures during the war, Mrs. Davis (Joan Howard), Mr. Lincoln (Larry Elliott) and General Lee (David Chaltas). The camp was open to the public and the students were given a glimpse into the soldiers’ world during that period. The 52nd Regimental String Band performed and shared the stories behind the creation of the songs.
Friday evening, Harold Cottrell offered Mrs. V. Davis, General Lee, and General Buckner a guided tour of the old Buckner home place and the surrounding area. After the grand tour, they were treated to a fantastic dinner at the Masonic Lodge #88. From 8 to 10 PM, a lantern walking tour was offered. It started at the Woodson House, toured the actual battlefield and ended at Fort Craig. This fielder thought it was a wonderful way to begin such a historic event.
Saturday began with an all you can eat pancake breakfast, presented by the Lion’s Club at Munfordville Elementary. At 9:00, a special flag raising ceremony was conducted at the Courthouse lawn. Guided tours were conducted through Fort Terrill, Fort Willich and Fort Craig. At 10 o’clock, a parade through town was held, followed by a stirring performance by the Hart County School Band. Lee Millar Band held a concert under the big tent. During that time, reenactors and living historians did a ‘meet and greet’ with the large crowd. At 1 o’clock, a shuttle system, courtesy of the Kentucky State Police (Trooper Island bus), began taking the audience to the actual battleground for the reenactment.
The battle represented the battles that took place on September 14-17, 1862. The Confederate victory at Richmond, Kentucky in August of 1862, bolstered their resolve and confidence. General Braxton Bragg advanced towards Munfordville, eyeing the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. The objective was to secure the 1800’ long bridge over the Green River. It was one of the main arteries for supplies and whomever controlled it possessed a strategic vantage point. Under the command of Colonel John Scott, the fortification known as Ft. Craig was under siege. On September 14, 1862, Brigadier General James R. Chalmers sought the fort’s surrender. Colonel Scott attempted to obtain a surrender from Colonel John Wilder, commander of the Union forces entrenched behind the ramparts. Colonel Wilder refused stating that if Chalmers wanted to end the loss of blood he should ‘stay out of the front of his guns’. After a series of attacks, the Confederate forces continued to lay siege.
In the evening hours of September 16, 1862, Federal Commander Wilder agreed to be taken behind Confederate lines under a flag of truce, to see for himself the futility of further conflict. He was blindfolded, escorted by Major General Simon B. Buckner, who was instrumental in achieving the victory because he was from Munfordville and had extensive knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the fortifications. Once the blindfold was removed, Colonel Wilder realized the hopelessness of his situation. He consented to surrender.
On September 17,1862, the garrison was surrendered. The Confederate forces had won a grand victory. The Confederate forces had over four thousand Union prisoners, five thousand rifles, a large stockpile of ammunition, horses, mules and wagons. Estimated casualties for the Federal forces were 4,148. Confederate losses were 714. Three weeks later the tide would turn at a place known as Perryville.
After the reenactment, a special tribute to 911 was offered. Upon returning from the battlefield, the crowd was entertained with Bluegrass music, performed by Dave Foster and Barren Heart, on the courthouse lawn. At 7 o’clock the Blue Gray Ball was held with the fabulous 52nd Regimental String Band playing. Lantern tours were also available at the Woodson House and featured touring the battlefield and Fort Craig at night. The next morning, church service was held at the Presbyterian Church built in 1829. During the war, it was used as a hospital. Reverend Steve Watkins welcomed the congregation and special music was provided by several groups.
While driving home I kept reflecting upon the event and have to say that rarely have I seen a community come together in such a manner. Every agency and organization pulled their weight to make the event a success. The students and teachers were exemplary in conduct, and questions. The people were friendly and genuinely grateful for those in attendance. On a one to ten, this reporter must give the event an overall nine+ out of ten! For more information about next year’s event to be held on the second weekend in September (13-15) 2019, visit Hart County Civil War Days @ https://www.visitmunfordville.com/events/hart-county-civil-war-days/

Resources
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Munfordville
https://www.battlefields.org/learn/civil-war/battles/munfordville
http://military.wikia.com/wiki/Battle_of_Munfordville
civil-war-journeys.org/munfordville_ky.htm
http://blueandgraytrail.com/event/Battle_of_Munfordville
https://www.nps.gov/abpp/battles/ky008.htm
https://www.battlefields.org/learn/maps/munfordville

Munfordville, Kentucky’s Civil War Heritage – Nov. ’96 America’s Civil War Feature