16 March 2006 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 9 comments

Those of you who know me, know that I love obscure battlefield sites most of all. From my perspective, the more obscure, the better. They fascinate me endlessly. In the past two days, I have added two more such sites to my list of places visited.

Last night, I spoke to the Clarksville, TN Civil War Roundtable, which is run and operated by our friends Greg and Karel Lea Biggs. It was a quick trip, down yesterday and back today, as poor Susan needs help with running our business and with managing Rory. It was made clear to me that I had to be gone as short a time as possible. However, I had a chance to do a little bit of battlefield stomping while I was gone.

Yesterday, Greg took me to see Fort Defiance, the earthen fort in Clarksville. The fort itself is completely intact. It overlooks the Cumberland River, and was build to defend the town and the river during the early stages of the war. It faced only the river. Then, after it surrendered to Grant after Donelson and Henry fell, Union troops built another side to it to defend from the land side. The entire fort is there, you can see where the heavy guns were located on the river side, and see where the light guns were placed on the land side, the magazine is there, and it’s one of the most nicely preserved earthworks I’ve seen in a long time. There is interpretation on markers all around the fort to help visitors understand what happened where inside the fort, and it’s got plenty of parking. And it’s a city park. Kudos to the City of Clarksville for preserving the fort and for making it a nice place to visit.

Today, I took a detour to take visit the battlefield at Corydon, Indiana. My route of travel was by way of Louisville, and Corydon is twenty miles west of Louisville along I-64. Since I have no idea when I will be that way again, I decided to take the opportunity and visit the battlefield. By way of background, John Hunt Morgan and his 2400 raiders crossed the Ohio River and entered Indiana on July 8, 1863. By the next day, they were closing in on Corydon, which was the first state capital of Indiana. It’s a lovely little town, bissected by a river, and with towering bluffs overlooking the town from the south. The local militia commander decided to defend the town in the hope that regular Union forces would catch up to Morgan’s force if they delayed him long enough. So, with about 400 men to try to stop Morgan’s division, the local militia prepared a defense.

They constructed some rude breastworks of logs atop a ridge overlooking the town, and they waited. Morgan approached, and a stiff firefight occurred. Basil Duke, Morgan’s brother-in-law and chief lieutenant, praised the defense by the militiamen, noting that they had “zealously defended their log piles.” Eleven of Morgan’s men were killed in the fighting, and several were wounded. Three of the home guardsmen were killed and over 350 of them were captured. They were then paroled, and Morgan entered the town, ransoming it, and then moving on. In the big scheme of things, it was a pretty small engagement, but it was the only Civil War battle fought in the State of Indiana. It being the middle of the day on a Thursday, it’s not much of surprise that I had the place to myself.

The folks at Corydon are, rightfully, quite proud of their battle. The battlefield itself is small, and it’s almost perfectly preserved. Why? Because the town owns it, and it’s a public park. The park consists of about five acres. There’s a walking trail, and there’s a six pound howitzer there. There is some interpretation there, a log house that was apparently on another part of the battlefield and relocated, and a marker to commemorate the dead of both sides. There are no maps, and not much tactical detail, but someone with experience in evaluating terrain will have little problem figuring out what happened there. The position was eventually flanked, as the Union line was too short to hold for long. At the same time, appears that the town holds interpretive talks at the site, as there are a number of wooden benches in front of the log house that are obviously aligned to hear a talk by someone on the front porch of the log house.

It really is a very nice little park, and I was very impressed by it. Hats off to the folks of Corydon for their terrific treatment of their little battlefield.

It stands in stark contrast to Ohio’s only battlefield. I have mentioned the disgraceful treatment received by the Buffington Island battlefield here in a previous post. Although nearly 12,000 cavalrymen fought there over several hundred acres, only four of those acres have been protected. In short, a space smaller than that at Corydon is protected even though it was a full-scale battle that ranged over hundreds of acres. All I can say is, “what’s wrong with this picture?” Obviously, the powers that be here in Ohio have a lot to learn and even more to be ashamed of for letting such a thing happen.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Mike Peters
    Thu 16th Mar 2006 at 11:50 pm

    Eric:

    Corydon — You know I’m envious.

    Mike

  2. Fri 17th Mar 2006 at 3:18 am

    Eric,
    have you read “Corydon the Forgotten Battle of the Civil War: The Forgotten Battle of the Civil War” by W. Fred Conway? I leafed through it in a bookstore a while ago but can’t recall a thing about it. Maybe that alone is telling me something….

    As for Indiana battles, I suppose we can’t call Stovepipe Johnson’s raid on Newburg(h) a battle… more like a shopping trip.
    Drew

  3. Fri 17th Mar 2006 at 9:21 am

    Drew,

    I do own a copy of it, as well as of another little book that was done on Corydon. It’s useful.

    I agree with you about Johnson’s shopping excursion. I’ve seen that site, too.

    Eric

  4. Fri 17th Mar 2006 at 1:39 pm

    Eric,
    what’s the title of the other Corydon book?

    when I finished the Johnson raid book I just had to wonder to myself if it was really worth writing a book length study. I appreciated more the recounting of events on the Kentucky side of the river.
    Drew

  5. Fri 17th Mar 2006 at 2:34 pm

    Drew,

    Here’s the full bibliographic citation for it:

    Funk, Arville L. The Battle of Corydon. Corydon, IL: ALFCO Pubs, 1975. 24 p.
    E475.18F86.

    The author was apparently the dean of interpreters at the battlefield site. There’s a plaque and a tree to his memory there that says as much.

    Eric

  6. Fri 17th Mar 2006 at 5:45 pm

    Thanks, Eric!

  7. Charles Bowery
    Sun 19th Mar 2006 at 1:58 pm

    Eric,
    Ref. an earlier discussion we had about the Franco-Prussian War, if you contact me via email I have some monument photos to send you.
    Charles

  8. Ray
    Sat 25th Mar 2006 at 2:16 pm

    Morgan supposidly also burned the Mill outside of Corydon. Does anyone know anything about this?

  9. Sat 25th Mar 2006 at 2:24 pm

    Ray,

    I’ve heard that, but I’m not far enough into my research to know that for sure yet.

    Eric

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