On the morning of October 21, 1861, Confederate troops attacked the Union army here at Camp Wildcat. Brigadier General Felix Zollicoffer, leading 7,500 Confederate soldiers, was intent on driving the Union forces from their hilltop position here along the Wilderness Road.
"... the country is mountainous, the road rough and difficult, muddy and rocky, running over immense ridges, and winding along the edges of frightful precipices ..."
The Union's camp was aptly named. The rugged terrain of the Rockcastle Hills made travel hard. Zollicoffer later described Wildcat as "almost inaccessible."
"... They advanced with wild cheers and loud oaths, but were met with volley after volley ..."
By the time the Confederates reached Camp Wildcat, reinforcements under General Albin Schoepf had joined the single Union regiment encamped here. This raised the number of the Union's forces to 5,000. The Confederates attacked repeatedly. According to Zollicoffer, after being "... under heavy fire for several hours from heights on the right, left, and in front, I became satisfied that it could not be carried otherwise than by immense exposure, if at all." By nightfall, they ceased their attack and retreated back down the mountain.
"About midnight unusual noises were heard from the deep valley ... the beating of drums, the cries of drivers, the rumbling of (wagon) trains ... General Zollicoffer had begun his retreat."
After spending a restless night digging new entrenchments and sleeping on their guns, the Union soldiers discovered the next morning that they had successfully held their ground. The Confederates had gone in the night, and were on their way back toward the Cumberland Gap.
Quotations from the regimental history of the 33rd Indiana Infantry, written by David Stevenson, 1864.