Constant Confederate Raids Forced the Union Army to Take Action
In the spring and summer of 1863 Confederate raids led by Col. Roy S. Cluke, Gen. John Pegram and Col. John S. Scott crossed and recrossed the Kentucky River. Their mission was twofold - to confuse the Union command and to obtain needed supplies for the Confederate army.
Union troops in central Kentucky were ordered to do everything possible to stop the Confederate raiders. The raids kept the soldiers' attention engaged elsewhere, which slowed the efforts to construct fortifications to defend the bridges, fords and ferries on the Kentucky River.
Cluke's Raid - February 1863
On February 19, 1863 Confederate Col. Roy S. Cluke left Tennessee with 750 men. Cluke, a native of Clark County, Kentucky, was ordered to move into central Kentucky and gather military equipment and horses before returning to Tennessee.
Cluke crossed the Cumberland at Port Isabella and proceeded to Somerset where he captured Federal supplies. From Somerset, Cluke made his way to Richmond where he dispersed his force, sending detachments to Winchester, Paris, and Mt. Sterling. This action confused the Federal command regarding Cluke's intentions.
Col. Benjamin Runkle, commander of the 45th Ohio Infantry, pursued Cluke. Runkle barely missed catching Cluke at the Boonesboro ford. On February 24, 1863, Runkle attacked Cluke at Mt. Sterling. After a brief fight Cluke retreated to Tennessee.
Pegram's Raid - March 1863
Brig. Gen. John Pegram, with 1,550 men and three pieces of artillery, rode into Kentucky to procure cattle. On March 22, 1863 Pegram crossed the Cumberland at Stigall's Ferry and proceeded to Danville. Pegram fought a Union force under Runkle at Danville, driving off the Federals.
Pegram moved north to Hickman Bridge on the Kentucky River. After a lively skirmish with Union troops under the command of Brig. Gen. Samuel P. Carter, Pegram withdrew toward Somerset.
The Confederates were slowed by the hundreds of cattle they had "liberated" from Garrard, Lincoln and Boyle Counties. Union troops under the command of Brig. Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore caught the Confederates at Dutton's Hill near Somerset. The Confederates retreated, abandoning over 400 head of cattle.
Scott's Raid - July-August 1863
On July 25, 1863 Confederate Col. John S. Scott left Tennessee with 1,000 men and eight pieces of artillery. He had two goals - to capture supplies and to relieve the pressure on John Hunt Morgan, who was in Ohio, by drawing Union troops back to Kentucky.
Scott was harrassed constantly, fighting four battles in as many days at Williamsburg, London, Rogersville and Richmond. At Richmond Scott defeated a Union force under Col. William P. Saunders, forcing Saunders across the Kentucky at Clay's Ferry. The Federals retreated to Lexington and Scott proceeded to Winchester.
For the Confederates, the capture of Winchester was the high point of the raid. Union reinforcements from Camp Nelson, Louisville and Cincinnati poured into central Kentucky. Col. Saunders attacked Scott about five miles south of Winchester, forcing the Confederates to abandon the city. On August 1, Scott's troops fought their way across the Cumberland River near Somerset, abandoning most of the supplies and animals they had captured in order to cross the river.