Civil War 150: “Defending the L&N Railroad Wayside Exhibit.”

A sketch from Harper’s Weekly of Downtown Bowling Green after the Confederates flea the city and after they destroyed the L&N Railroad train trestle

By Admin, BuyLocalBG.com, BuyLocalBg@gmail.com/
Thursday, June 30th, 2011 10:00 AM CST

Obviously we love Bowling Green. Many of our partners and readers were born here. In fact some of my ancestors were here when it was in it’s beginning stages but, I didn’t know this till the past 2 years. Fact is, I chose Bowling Green. It’s convenient location and unique geography appeals to many people.Why do I mention this in a story about the Civil War and the L&N Railroad?

Bowling Green is a land that has always been great for farming and has a great source for fresh water. This making the “Gibraltar of the West” an attractive landscape for both Confederate and Union forces.  Access to the Louisville-Nashville Railroad, a system of roadways and the Barren River allowed for quick and efficient movement of men and supplies. Rolling hills and underground shelters offered effective opportunities to defend those transportation routes, making the area a strategic post that both camps wanted to control.

Railroad tracks, trestles and tunnels were frequent targets of Confederate Cavalry raids and of course infantry attacks. In fact Confederate General Morgan and his Raiders (Morgan’s Raiders) during their “lightning raids” would target and destroy bridges, tunnels and railroads trestles to disrupt the Union Army and their actions throughout the Commonwealth.

Before evacuating the recently named “Confederate Capitol of Kentucky” of Bowling Green in mid-February of 1861 the Confederate Army sensing the Union Army closing in destroyed the L&N train trestle that went over the Barren River. The Union to prevent losing the valuable L&N railways over the Barren river constructed a defensive stockade to protect the crossing.

In fact, Harper’s Weekly (The Nation’s #1 Press Outlet) covered the event and a photo of the destroyed L&N Line:

On the evening of the 12th General Mitchell learned that the rebels were preparing to evacuate Bowling Green, and had already shipped their artillery to Nashville. He immediately determined to march upon them, and At an early hour on the morning of Friday, the 14th, he started his men in fine spirits, and eager to avail themselves of the opportunity for which they had so long waited to show their mettle. The distance to be marched was twenty-nine miles, six of which were over such a road as only Kentucky can boast. But the march was easily made in nine hours, and At eleven o’clock in the forenoon of Friday General Mitchell Appeared before the city, and met the flag of truce which the rebels had the impertinence to send him, requesting six hours in which to evacuate the place. General Mitchell replied that he would not give them six minutes and, planting a rifled piece on the slope of Baker Hill, he threw a shell or two among the thousand rebels about embarking on the cars for Nashville. They hastily scrambled aboard the train, which was as hastily put in motion, and disappeared, Hardee and Hindman being left behind, and afterward escaping on horseback. Persons here assert that these generals were afraid to join their men aboard the cars, they having loudly declared their intention to have their revenge upon them for their harsh treatment. Many of Hindman’s men have often before been heard to declare their intention to kill him at the first opportunity.

At the time of the shelling of the few troops remaining at the depot in Bowling Green the buildings of the railroad company were fired, and are now a mass’ of ruins The depot and round house or machine-shop at this place were extensive and splendid buildings. The intention was doubtless to destroy the whole town; but the appearance of General Mitchell prevented this. The bridges across Barren River had been destroyed the day previous to the appearance of General Mitchell. He was compelled to wait until the day following, when he crossed and took possession of the city. The flag was raised over the Courthouse of a deserted city. I use the term in its literal sense. The rebels had for months been the only inhabitants. Many still find a home within the city limits. The pits where they lie are seen on every hill-side. It is estimated by the inhabitants here that not less than five thousand rebel soldiers have died of disease during the six months of occupation.

Bowling Green is described by the gazetteers as a pleasant and beautiful city, lying in the valley of numerous hills which ride above its loftiest buildings. But the gazetteers are not of late dates. Let those of the future write it down as one whose beauty has departed. The houses look dingy and dirty, and the streets like those of a country village during the muddy season. It looks as if the shadow had settled upon it, never to be removed. From the hills around it in every direction tile fortifications are frowning and, as it were, withering with a frown. Once splendid residences graced Mount Airy and Underwood’s Hill, a vineyard lay on the side of Baker’s Hill and the green wheat and yellow corn were once seen in the valley at the foot of Price’s and Webb’s. But Mount Airy has been despoiled of the handsome building that graced Its brow, and in its place a lunette fort frowns upon the river that glides silently by. The vineyard has been trampled under foot, and the yellow corn has been gathered, and the wheat dares not spring up. It seems as if the rebel presence had blighted the country and the city. Inhabitants have fled and left their dwellings to be transformed into hospitals or stables. Ruin and devastation have had their full away.

Here is what the area looks like today and some of the surroundings:

Great parking and a great pedestrian bridge to see the area.

The Pedestrian Bridge is also great for photos!

From the pedestrian bridge you can see the bridge for traffic on Louisville Road and the railroad as it exists today.

A section of the Barren River that shows how impossible to cross without a bridge or railroad.

If you want to skip ahead to get more detail or start learning more today, check out the Civil War Trail (website link for trail) via the Convention and Visitors Bureau or Kentucky Museum on WKU’s Campus.

Past Civil War 150:

Part 1: Mt. Moriah Cemetery, resting place of  “African American Union Soldiers.”

Part 2: The Confederate Graveyard and Monument of Bowling Green. Also, the Most Dangerous Confederate.

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