Nerve Center for the Union Army
The area around you and along the trail was the headquarters camp of one of the senior Union commanders at Camp Wildcat, Colonel Theophilus T. Garrard.
A Kentucky Soldier
Garrard (1812-1902) was from nearby Manchester, and a veteran of the Mexican War. He was the son of a prominent Kentucky family, and had three cousins serve as senior commanders in the U.S. Army during the Civil War. In 1861 he recruited the 7th Kentucky Infantry (US), and led them here at Camp Wildcat.
A Key Position
This hill and the road intersection below (near where the battle monument is today) was the Confederate objective during the battle. Federal units camped in this area in tents, and dug earthworks to protect this key position. Many of these fortifications remain visible today.
Gateway to the West
In front of you stands a part of the historic Wilderness Road, which is the reason the Battle of Camp Wildcat was fought.
The Wilderness Road ran from Cumberland Gap northward over Wildcat Mountain and the hills along the Rockcastle River. Not far north of where you are standing, the road turned northwest, crossed the Rockcastle River, and ended 60 miles away at Harrodsburg. Today the route is approximated by portions of US Routes 127, 150, 25, Kentucky State Route 229, and US 25E.
Route of Settlement, Route of Invasion
The Wilderness Road was a key route of settlement in the late 18th Century. It was considered so important to Kentucky that, in 1795, Kentucky's first Governor, Isaac Shelby set up a tolling system to pay for regular maintenance, making the road one of the first toll highways in the United States. Revenues fell short of expectations, and by 1860 the road was in poor repair. During the Civil War the Wilderness Road twice carried Confederate armies into Kentucky: Zollicoffer's army in the fall of 1861, and Major General Edmund Kirby Smith's Army of Kentucky in the summer of 1862.
"(Moving along the Wilderness Road was) a feat rivaling the passage of the Alps."
Major General E.K. Smith, August 1862
Artillery Anchors the Federal Defense
You are standing at the position of two Union cannons, part of Captain William Standart's Battery B, 1st Ohio Light Artillery from Cleveland. The cannon pits before you were probably dug after the battle. Standart's men played a key role in the Federal victory at Camp Wildcat.
A Buckeye Stand
Standart's Battery was supported by Colonel James B. Steedman's 14th Ohio, which had been recruited in Toledo two months before. Both units arrived while the battle was in progress, and found Federal campsites blocking their way. The Ohioans tossed the tents aside, and took position along this ridge. Standart's artillery silenced the Confederate cannon after two shots, and shelled the Confederate infantry for the rest of the day.
"The Rebels were making efforts to drive the 33rd Indiana from their position (on Hoosier Knob). Every shot from our guns told with good effect."
Private O.P. Catser, Battery B, 1st Ohio Light Artillery
(Left Illustration Caption)
The 33rd Indiana on Hoosier Knob. This drawing by a participant shows Standart's guns and the 14th Ohio in the background supporting the defense.