Caney Creek Civil War Skirmish

Caney Creek Civil War Skirmish, Ohio County, Kentucky
by James Taylor

According to students of Mrs. Amy Bratcher (Arthur) Wilson, a teacher at Horse Branch School in the elementary grades, there was a skirmish near the curved bridge area on Highway 62. Her grandfather was captured and taken to Tennessee, also some of the soldiers were buried on top of the hill near the skirmish site. Family lore further states he had to walk to Tennessee. Currently unable to specify whether this was her maternal Grandfather James Wilson or paternal Grandfather Isaac Bratcher. His Union allegiance made him susceptible to capture by the remaining fleeing Confederate troops. The skirmish site would have been above Horse Branch near the Grayson County line. This article is an effort to document this community legend.

From Ohio/Grayson border history—November 23, 1860, William Henry Burden married Mariah Ellen Renfrow, daughter of Albert and Nancy Pierce Renfrow, who lived in the Richland community. William Henry Burden enrolled in the Civil War, 17th Kentucky Infantry, Company B of the Union Army. Foy Burden, a grandson, tells of an event that took place following his grandfather’s return from the War. Kentucky being a border state, loyalties were divided between North and South. Soldiers from both sides were returning to their homes when a dispute broke out one night in the Caneyville community of Grayson County. A Union sympathizer was killed, the Confederate soldiers then mounted their horses and headed toward Ohio County. Union soldiers, bent on revenge, gave chase. They stopped to pick up William Henry Burden who reportedly tried to dissuade the angry men. Being unable to do so, he joined the hanging party.

The Confederate soldiers were soon found, having taken refuge in a home at the foot of Leach Hill. This was home to a Union sympathizer, thus the women were being forced to prepare food. During the shoot out that followed, the women lay on the floor until a Confederate was hit. Then the Union men entered the home, produced a rope and dragged the dead soldier across the road where he was quickly buried. Mr. Foy Burden says that he often heard his grandmother tell this story, knew the location of the grave and seldom passed that way, as a boy, without stopping, even though his grandfather was on the opposite side. The other Confederate bodies were reportedly buried nearby on the same Pierce farm.

The above mentioned gravesite was actually on the side of the Leitchfield to Hartford Road. Reference to Hopewell is a community of southern Grayson County near the Ohio County line. Richland is also located in Grayson County.

From Collins, Annals of Kentucky, February 20, 1865—Captain Bates and some Grayson County home guards attack a camp of gorillas…Ohio County, and after a brief skirmish kill 6, wound 4, and disperse the balance; home guards lose 1 killed and 1 wounded.

February 16, 1865, A Fight with Guerillas—A Brilliant Affair. From Headquarters, Provost Marshal, Third District, Bowling Green, Kentucky, February 12, 1865. To the editors of the Louisville Journal.

Captain William Bates, commanding the Home Guards of Grayson County, has made a report to these headquarters of eleven captured guerillas, taken in Grayson County (Ohio County), who were turned over to the commander of the post at Bowling Green today.

On Friday, February 10, a band of guerillas, commanded by Captain John L. Webster, in raiding through Grayson County, killed three men. Captain Bates heard of them, and learning the road they were on, gathered his forces together, numbering 31 men, and followed in pursuit. The outlaws were on the road leading from Leitchfield to Hartford. They camped near the house of Mr. Pierce. Captain Bates made a reconnaissance of their position, and found they had out a double line of pickets about 2 o’clock Saturday morning. A brisk and determined resistance was made by the guerillas, who numbered 33 men, but the Grayson boys soon proved too much for them. Captain Bates captured 11 of the guerillas and left 6 dead on the field, one of them Lt. Bayless. The remainder, with Captain Webster, made their escape. Captain Bates and his men captured 29 horses. He lost one man killed and one wounded.

The names of the captured guerillas are as follows: J. C. Oats, of Muhlenberg County; W. R. Baldwin, of Lyon County; J. C. Nickolds (Nichols) of Caldwell County; H. B. Holder, of Lyon County; J. A. Rodgers, of Meade County; J. W. Martin, of Lyon County; H. T. Walker, of Crittenden County; J. G. Morris, of Webster County; J. A. Webster, of Stewart County, Tennessee; R. Smith, of Montgomery County, Tennessee; G. H. Williams, of Stewart County, Tennessee.

This is quite a brilliant little affair—more so than any other we have heard of lately. This makes the second or third engagement Captain Bates has conducted equally successful. He and his men are entitled to much praise.

Submitted by A. G. Hobson, Captain and Provost Marshal, 3rd district of Kentucky.

Following is an account of an apparently soon after skirmish involving the same groups as above, as they moved on through the area.

Louisville Press, February 19, 1865—A squad of guerillas numbering 33 men of Brigadier General Hylan B. Lyon’s command, have been operating in Grayson and Edmonson Counties, and murdered 4 citizens a short time ago. Captain William Bates, in command of the Home Guards of Grayson County attacked their camp.

Louisville Journal, Thursday, February 16, 1865—A band of 21 guerillas, that had been operating in Ohio County the past few days, on Sunday night last crossed the dividing line between Butler and Ohio Counties, and camped about 6 miles from Morgantown. The Grayson County Home Guards learned of their presence, and speedily effecting an organization, mounted their horses and started on a vigorous pursuit. The guerilla camp was attacked about daylight on Monday morning…taking them by surprise, offered but feeble resistance.

On the Boundary line between Ohio and Grayson Counties Kentucky (Some Early Settlers of the Hopewell Community) by Natalia Decker Mallisee.

History of Kentucky, Volume I, Lewis Collins, Richard H. Collins, 1874

Kentucky Soldiers and their Regiments in the Civil War, Volume V, 1865, Abstracted from the pages of contemporary newspapers, Steven L. Wright.

Ohio County Historical Society
PO Box 44
Hartford, Kentucky 42347


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