Born in Bourbon County, Clay was the son of Congressman Brutus J. Clay and the nephew of Cassius M. Clay, Lincoln's Minister to Russia. He saw action at Middle Creek and later served with Wheeler's Cavalry in Tennessee. Wounded and captured during the Battle of Puncheon Creek, he spent the last year of the war in an Ohio prison.
Captain Ezekiel F. Clay of the First Kentucky Mounted Rifles, C.S.A.
Captain Ezekiel Field clay was the son of U.S. Congressman Brutus J. Clay, Bourbon County stock-breeder and president of the Kentucky Agricultural Association. In October 1861, Clay organized a Bourbon County company of mounted men and took them to Prestonsburg, where they enlisted in the newly formed First Kentucky Mounted Rifles, C.S.A. Clay was one of the organizers of the regiment, and after its baptism of fire at the Battle of Ivy Mountain, he was singled out for praise by his commanding officer, Colonel John S. Williams.
During the 1862-63 period Clay and his men served with Marshall's Army of southwestern Virginia, participating in Marshall's fall 1862 invasion of eastern Kentucky and the abortive rain on Louisa in the spring of 1863.
Transferred to Georgia, Clay and his men served with General Nathaniel B. Forrest's cavalry after the Battle of Chickamauga and rode with Wheeler's cavalry during their famous raid through Middle Tennessee. At Shelbyville Clay was badly wounded and lost his horse, but he recuperated in time to participate in the Knoxville campaign.
In April 1864 he led a brigade of cavalry into Eastern Kentucky and, at Puncheon Creek in Magoffin County, was surrounded by a superior force of Union troopers and badly defeated. Wounded in the eye, Clay was captured and sent to a Union prison on Johnson's Island, located on Lake Erie near Sandusky, Ohio, where he remained until Lee's surrender.
After his release, Clay returned to his family estate in Bourbon County and spent the remainder of his life breeding horses. His farm, known as Runnymede, became famous under his management and is still widely celebrated as the home of many of Kentucky's finest thoroughbreds.
Colonel John S. "Cerro Gordo" Williams
A hero of the Mexican War, Williams led the effort to organize the 5th Kentucky Infantry in the fall of 1861. He was later promoted to brigadier general and placed in command of the Department of Southwestern Virginia. In the fall of 1863 he commanded the cavalry brigade which contested the advance of Burnside's Corps into Eastern Tennessee, and he played a key role in the Confederate victory at Saltville, Virginia in the fall of 1864.
Lieutenant Colonel Lionel A. Sheldon
Educated at Oberlin College, Sheldon was the principal recruiter of the 42nd Ohio. Following Middle Creek, he and his men saw action with Sherman's Corps at Chickasaw Bayou, Port Gibson, and Thompson's Hill. Wounded during the latter engagement, he spent the rest of the war building forts and repairing levees.