Union Cavalry Picket Line
— Battle of Mill Springs —
Clearly visible in front of you is the roadbed of the original Mill Springs Road. Feel free to walk the old road to the creek, where you can see the original crossing. Near the creek, between the present road and the original road, is one of the few stands of river cane left in this area. As you return to this point, notice the old road bed in front of you, stretching to the south.
Confederate General George Crittenden believed that Union General George Thomas had less than 2,000 men at Logan's Crossroads. Crittenden, who had a force of 4,500, decided to press his advantage and attack. Crittenden's information was inaccurate. Thomas' reinforcements had arrived. Crittenden's troops would be facing a force as large as their own and better armed.
Image of Confederate cavalry struggling along a snow or mud-covered road.
Around midnight on January 18 the Confederates began the eight-mile trek from Beech Grove to Logan's Crossroads. Captain Willis Scott Bledsoe's and Captain Quincy C. Sanders' cavalry were in the front. General Felix Zollicoffer's brigade followed. The night was pitch black and heavy rain had turned the road into an almost impassable quagmire. About one o'clock the rain resumed. Men and horses floundered in the mud and progress was painfully slow.
Union pickets were posted in an arc extending from the Columbia Pike to the Mill Springs Road. Twenty men of Col. Frank Wolford's 1st Kentucky cavalry, commanded by Sgt. George C, Thrasher, were posted here, along Timmy's Branch, well in advance of the main Union force.
Around six o'clock, well before dawn, the Confederate cavalry approached Timmy's Branch. The pickets of the 1st Kentucky, on the high ground north of the creek, could not see the Confederates but they could hear them. Sgt. Eastham Tarrent (picture inset at right)
later reported that a challenge was shouted out but that it was ignored. Another reported that the challenge, "Halt! Who goes there?" was answered with a Confederate pistol shot. The Federal vedettes opened fire. The Battle of Mill Springs had begun.
Image of mounted Union pickets racing up the road, one firing his pistol rearward.
Under a hail of bullets, Bledsoe and Sanders moved their companies up. Thrasher's men fell back to their waiting horses and headed up the Mill Springs Road, stopping about one quarter mile north of here. Sgt. Thrasher sent word that the Confederate infantry was moving in force up the Mill Springs Road and then ordered his men to take up a defensive position around a small log cabin on a low rise west of the road. Bledsoe and Sanders did not pursue but sent word back to Zollicoffer that they had found the enemy.