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Battle of Richmond, KY
in the American Civil War

Union Battle Summary

Richmond, Ky., Aug. 29-30, 1862. 1st and 2nd Brigades, Army of Kentucky. The battle of Richmond was one of the incidents of Bragg's invasion of Kentucky. When it was known that Bragg was moving northward a force of en had been hurriedly collected at Louisville and organized into the Army of Kentucky, under the command of Maj.-Gen. William Nelson. The Union forces at Richmond consisted of the 1st and 2nd brigades of this army, respectively commanded by Brig.-Gen. M.D. Manson and Brig.-Gen. Charles Cruft. Manson's brigade was composed of the 16th, 55th, 69th and 71st Ind. infantry, and Lanphere's battery. Cruft's was made up of the 12th and 66th Ind., 18th Ky. and 95th Ohio infantry and Andrews' battery. Many of the men were new recruits, unused to army discipline and unskilled in the arts of war. In the absence of Gen. Nelson the command of the two brigades devolved on Manson, who had established his headquarters about 2 miles from the town of Richmond. Here he received word at 11 a.m. on the 29th that Munday's cavalry had encountered the enemy, some 5,000 strong, in the vicinity of Kingston. Manson sent word to Munday to hold the Confederates in check as long as possible, and ordered his whole brigade under arms. Reinforcements were sent out to the pickets, but about 2 p.m. the entire picket line was compelled to fall back toward the main body. South of Manson's camp were some high hills that completely commanded his position, and he determined to move out and occupy these, to prevent their falling into possession of the enemy. When he had advanced about three-fourths of a mile a heavy column of Confederate cavalry was discovered some distance east of the road. Lieut. Lanphere was directed to open fire with the artillery, and a few well-directed shots scattered the enemy in all directions. The brigade then moved forward and took up a position where the artillery commanded the road as far south as Rogersville, and awaited the appearance of the enemy. Again the battery opened fire and after a skirmish of about an hour the Confederates were forced to retire from the field, with a loff of a number of captured, together with several horses and a piece of artillery. Manson then moved his command to Rogersville, where the men bivouacked for the night, with orders to sleep on their arms. Col. Metcalfe, with his cavalry, was sent out to pursue the retreating enemy. After following them for some 6 miles he encountered a cavalry picket, who after a slight skirmish retired. Metcalfe lost 2 men killed and 2 wounded.

That evening Gen. Kirby Smith, commanding the Confederates, was reinforced by the arrival of Churchill's division, and decided to move to Richmond the next day, "even at the cost of a battle with the whole force of the enemy." Manson had sent word to maintain a strong picket on the Lancaster road, and to hold his command in readiness to move at a moment's notice. At 6 o'clock a.m. on the 30th he found that the Confederates were advancing. He at once sent an order to Cruft to bring up his command as soon as possible, and placing himself at the head of the 55th Ind., moved out with his brigade to meet the Confederate column. About half a mile beyond Rogersville, near Mt. Zion church, the enemy's advance was encountered and after a sharp skirmish was driven back. Manson then took possession of some woods and high ground on the left of the road and formed a line of battle. Skirmishers were thrown to the front and the enemy was held in check over an hour, when it was discovered that a movement was under way to turn the left of the skirmish line. This was McCray's brigade of Churchill's division, which had almost gained a position on the flank before its presence there was discovered. At this juncture Cruft's brigade came on the field and Manson ordered him to send the 95th Ohio to the support of the skirmishers, while the 69th Ohio was sent against a battery that the enemy was trying to plant on a hill a short distance to the front and right. In attempting to take the hill the regiment was subjected to an enfilading fire that threw it into some confusion, and the enemy, prompt to take advantage of this circumstance, pressed forward with a heavy force, driving the right of the line from the field. At the same time the left was turned and for a short time it looked as if the Union troops were hopelessly defeated. But Manson, who was a veteran of the Mexican war, inspired confidence in his men by his heroic example, and after falling back for about a mile a new line of battle was formed on White's farm, with Cruft's brigade on a ridge to the right of the road, the 1st brigade being formed some distance to the rear on the left of the road, with its battery in front. The first attack on this position was made against Cruft's left, but it was repulsed by the 95th Ohio and 66th Ind., which formed that part of the line. The enemy now moved up through the woods and attacked the right of the brigade. Here the 18th Ky. and 12th Ind., who had not been engaged in the first fight, stood their ground for some time, but finally yielded to overpowering numbers and fell back in disorder. The 1st brigade had already been driven from the field, and in a short time the whole army was flying toward Richmond. Manson and Cruft both rode to the front and tried to rally the men, but in vain. At Richmond Gen. Nelson was met and he assumed command. Most of the men had fled through the town, but about 2,500 were rallied and a third line formed, the left resting on the state road near the toll-gate, occupying the cemetery and thence running back into the woods on the right. The line was scarcely formed when the Confederates, elated by their first victory, again advanced to the attack. For a time the enemy was held in check by the skirmishers, but in a little while the attack became general and the Union lines broke and fled in confusion. It was now a case of "every fellow for himself." Before the attack was made at the cemetery the Confederate cavalry had gained a position in the Federal rear and as the fugitives rushed back into this enemy they were either killed or captured in large numbers. Gen. Cruft in his report says: "The account of the whole battle may be summed up in a few words. It was an attack by at least 15,000 well disciplined troops, under experienced officers, upon 6,250 citizens, ignorant of war, without officers of experience. The wonder is that the latter fought so well for a whole day, could be twice rallied after being panic-stricken, and that any escaped slaughter or capture."

The Union loss at Richmond was 206 killed, 844 wounded and 4,303 captured or missing. Gen. Manson himself was among the captured, and all the artillery fell into the hands of the enemy. Kirby Smith reported his losses as being 98 killed, 492 wounded and 12 missing.

Source: The Union Army, Volume 5, Cyclopedia of Battles, 1908


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