BLUES TO BLUEGRASS SCENIC BYWAY - McLEAN COUNTY

McLean County was formed in 1854.  It is located in the Western Coal Field region of the state. The elevation in the county ranges from 345 to 660 feet above sea level. 

In 2000, the county population was 9,938 in a land area of 354.30 square miles, an average of 39.1 people per mile.  The county seat is Calhoun. 

McLean County is also the site of the Battle of Sacramento which draws thousands of re-enactors each year as well as visitors.  

A driving tour of interesting sites pertaining to this battle, as well as a driving tour of other worthwhile Civil War sites within the county, are easy to find due to two informative brochures and coordinating signage along the route.  

Sections of the scenic byway actually retraces the steps of the troops that led up to the battle that occurred in the winter of 1861 between Lt. Col Nathan Bedford Forrest and his Confederate forces and a  Union troop led Lt. Eli Murray.  It was Forrest’s first engagement and the first cavalry engagement in Kentucky. 

Both the Battle of Sacramento Driving Tour and the Civil War Driving Tour are provided. 

The Byway traveler will continue north into McLean County on Highway 81 into the community of Sacramento.  To the left is the actual battlefield of the skirmish between Forrest and Murray. 

One will also pass by Station Baptist Church (see right), another site on the driving tour, as well as Molly Morehead’s gravesite, a young lady that warned Forrest of enemy troops were up ahead.  

Continuing north, one passes numerous fields and farms and passes through the community of Rumsey, a river town that has all but disappeared due to numerous floods.  Still standing is the Gatton House, one of the oldest and most historical in McLean County.  Its history starts in 1833 when an engineer named Alonzo Livermore came and constructed the house just a few hundred yards away from where he was building the first lock and dam in Calhoun. Harry Gatton acquired the property in 1941 and in 1944, his son and daughter-in-law moved in and have lived there ever since.  

BATTLE OF SACRAMENTO DRIVING TOUR
While on the tour, drive carefully, signal before pulling over and respect private property.
  • 1. Greenville, Muhlenberg County Courthouse
    On December 27, 1861, Forrest assembled his forces in Greenville, the county seat of Muhlenberg County around the courthouse. There, Forrest gathered nearly 300 men for a march toward Ramsey the following day.

    In Greenville, Forrest was joined by Captain W. S. McLemore's forty man unit, James W. Starnes' Eighth Tennessee Cavalry, and Captain Ned Merriweather's First Kentucky Cavalry. That night Adam R. Johnson and Robert Martin were sent to scout the area for Union forces that might have crossed the Green River.

  • The morning of the 28th, Forrest's troops rose early and obtained breakfast and lunch for their carry sacks at the farm of a Southern sympathizer just north of Greenville. Forrest moved his men north toward Ramsey where they met Martin and Johnson eight miles outside of Greenville. The scouts reported sighting a Union force just south of Sacramento. Forrest pressed his forces quickly toward the small village nine miles south of Calhoun. KY Historical Society Marker 614
    2. Mt. Pisgah Church
    Forrest's troops camped on the grounds of the church the evening of December 28 after the Battle of Sacramento. At least three Union veterans of the Civil War are buried in the church cemetery. The following day Forrest and his men reached Hopkinsville. The entrance to the church is on KY 70, approximately 1.2 miles west of the intersection KY 70 and KY 181. The church is 1 mile from the entrance gates
    3. Kentucky 81 and 181
    Near here, Forrest and his troop met scouts Adam Johnson and Robert Martin who warned him of the Union troops in Sacramento. Forrest hurried to Sacramento to engage the Union troops before they moved on -- displaying what became his characteristic aggressiveness. Closer to Sacramento he met Molly Morehead, who gave him more precise information about the Union troops there.
    4.Garst's Pond
    Part of Major Murray's scouting party was watering their horses at a pond here when the advance party of Forrest's force, including Forrest spotted them. The two groups made visual contact and initially the Union troops were unsure whether Forrest's men were Con-federates or another Union scouting party. Any doubt was resolved when Forrest grabbed a rifle and fired at the Union troops. They quickly returned fire, mounted, and rode quickly to rejoin the main force. Garst's Pond is 2.3 miles North of the intersection of 81 and 181.
    5. Sacramento Battlefield
    The Union rear guard returned immediately to its main force. Forrest began his attack without his full force. Federal forces fired at 200 yards and Confederate troops returned fire at 80 yards. Realizing his disorganization, Forrest pulled his forces back waiting until all his men had caught up. At the same time, he dismounted some of his men to act as sharpshooters. Then, he sent detachments under Major  D.C. Kelly to the Union right and James W. Starnes to the Union left.
    Mistaking Forrest's withdrawal as a retreat, Murray began to advance his outnumbered force. But, with the reorganization of his entire force complete, Forrest began a second attack on the Union center at the same time Kelly and Starnes attacked the Union flanks. During the charge on the Union center, Captain Ned Merriweather fell as he was struck by two bullets in the head. Murray's troops held off the Confederate attack for ten minutes. Optimistic about their ability to withstand further attacks, the Union commander later reported that the Union force was doing well until a young private screamed "Retreat to Sacramento." The Union troops turned and ran toward Sacramento despite their officers' attempts to stop them. (KY Historical Society Marker 523.)
    6. Village of Sacramento
    Sacramento was not a safe haven as Southern sympathizers in the village fired on the Union soldiers forces from their businesses and houses. In Sacramento, Forrest's men caught up with a Union rear guard resulting in a great deal of hand-to--hand combat, including various saber fights. Proceed North on 81 through Sacramento.
    7. Sacramento United Methodist Church Cemetery - Molly Morehead's Grave
    Mary (Molly) Morehead was the eighteen-year old daughter of Hugh More head. She and her sister, Sarah, were on an errand when they saw Union troops near Garst's Pond. While her sister went to tell her father, she rode toward Greenville to alert Confederate troops there. In his report Forrest referred to her as "a beautiful young lady, smiling, with untied tresses floating in the breeze, on horse-
    back, met the column just before our ad-vance guard came up on the rear of the enemy, infusing nerve into my arms and kindling knightly chivalry within my heart." Her name, not in Forrest's report, was unknown until her story, maintained in her family, was published in McLean County News in 1962. She married Dr. George Stowers, a dentist, in 1866 and died in childbirth in 1870. The cemetery is on the east side of the highway, North of the church. Molly's grave is in the northeast section of the cemetery.
    8. Station Baptist Church -  Site of Saber Battle
    In the midst of the chase Forrest was engaged in hand-to-hand combat with a Union soldier and was unaware of a second soldier approaching him from the rear. Lt. Lane, CSA shot this soldier just as Forrest brought his foe to the ground.

    Union Captain Arthur Davis killed Confederate Private William H. Terry with his sword and then turned and attacked Forrest from behind. His horse fell, however, and dismounted and with a dislocated shoulder, he was forced to surrender. Another Union Captain Albert G. Bacon next engaged Forrest, but his shots narrowly missed. Forrest turned returned fire, wounding Bacon, who refused to surrender, fighting to his death. Two Union officers charged at Forrest with drawn sabers at the same time. He shot one and hit the other with his sword. Their now riderless horses collided into a heap at the bottom of a "abrupt hillock."

    In pursuit of the retreating Union troops Forrest rode into the pile of men and horses and ended up off his own horse. The pursuit of the Union troops had extended some two miles north of Sacramento toward Calhoun. By the time Forrest was back on his horse the Union troops were out of sight and close to the larger force in Calhoun. He decided to abandon pursuit and return to Greenville. As soon as he had heard of the engagement Crittenden had sent a 500 man relief force under Col. James Jackson of the Third Kentucky Cavalry, but by the time they arrived in the area Forrestwas gone, well on his way back to Greenville. Station Baptist Church is 5.1 miles North of Sacramento on Highway 81.

    9. Calhoun Lock and Dam Number 2

    Union troops were sent to Calhoun to protect the original lock and dam at this site, which was located across the river on the Ramsey side. The lock and dams promoted navigation on the Green River and had allowed the region around the river to become a major source of food for the lower south as it became more involved in growing cotton. These same lock and dams allowed the Union army to move men and supplies along the river. Go across the Green River on Highway 81 around the curve to the stop sign. Turn right onto KY 256 to the Lock and Dam

    10. Crittenden's Headquarters - Griffith Franklin House

    Located at 390 Second St., in Calhoun. Union commander Thomas L. Crittenden made this house his headquar-ters when he arrived to protect Lock & Dam No. 2 in November 1861. The house was built in 1854 by the heirs of John Calhoun, for whom the city is named, and was purchased by W.W. Franklin in 1859. On February 9, 1862 Crittenden and his troops left the area. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. KY Historical Society Marker 665

    This driving tour was developed for the McLean County Fiscal Court by the Forrest C. Pogue Public History Institute, Murray State University with funding provided by the Kentucky Heritage Council, the State Historic Preservation Office, through the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended.

    The Battle of Sacramento was not the only way the Civil War affected the people of McLean County. Men from the county went to fight for the Union or the Confederacy as their consciences led them. Troops were recruited in the county by both sides throughout the War.

    After the War, veterans returned home to resume their lives and at the end of their lives they were buried in the many cemeteries in the county. This tour includes cemeteries with a significant number of Civil War soldiers or individual soldiers whose lives represent an important aspect of the War.

    A listing of known McLean County Civil War soldiers and their burial places can be found in Edith L. Bennett and Eldon Ray Eaton, Our Own USA CSA McLean County, Kentucky (Fordsville, KY: Wendell Sandefur Printing for the McLean County Historical Society, 1995).

    SITES ALONG THIS DRIVING TOUR INCLUDE:
    1. Calhoun Cemetery, Calhoun

    Many Union and Confederate soldiers are buried in this cemetery, including four African-Americans who served in the Union Army.

    2. Sacramento, Methodist Cemetery

    George Mayes, one of the Union soldiers killed in the Battle of Sacramento, is buried here as is Molly Morehead, the young woman who warned Nathan Bedford Forrest that Union troops were at Sacramento immediately before the battle. (on KY 81 just north of Sacramento)

    3. Baptist Cemetery, Island

    Many Union and Confederate veterans from the Island are buried in the Island community's cemeteries. Most notable is Col. Absalom Redmond Shacklett, CSA, the highest ranking officer buried in the county, who rests in the Baptist Cemetery. Shacklett was born December 7, 1826 in Meade County, KY. He served in Company A, First United States Volunteer Rifle Infantry during the Mexican War and was wounded at Molino-Del-Rey.

    In 1859 he and his family settled in McLean County. He enlisted in Company H, 8th Kentucky Infantry, CSA on October 13, 1861 and in November was elected its captain. He fought at Fort Donelson and was among those captured. After seven months at the Johnson's Island prison camp he was exchanged and fought at Corinth, Mississippi. In September 1862 he was promoted to Lt. Colonel. In February 1864 his regiment was mounted and served with Nathan Bedford Forrest for the remainder of the War. In July 1864 he was promoted to Colonel. When he surrendered with Forrest at the end of the War he broke his sword rather than surrender it. After the War he returned to McLean County, serving two years in the legislature and four years as postmaster of Island. He died on August 27, 1910.  Island Baptist Cemetery is on KY 85 one-half mile east of US 431. Shacklett's grave is in the southeast corner of the cemetery. The cemetery entrance is not marked and the driveway is not paved, so be alert.
    4. Hackett Cemetery, Livermore

    Few places remind us more powerfully of the divisive nature of the Civil War among families in Kentucky than the Hackett Cemetery in Livermore. Member of the  Hackett Family served on both sides during the War, including: Solomon Hackett who enlisted as a fifty-two year old private in September of 1862 and served first in Company E, First Kentucky Cavalry (CSA) and later in White's Battery; Colonel Rowland Eaton Hackett, who served in the Twenty-Sixth Kentucky Infantry (USA) and was wounded leading a decisive charge at the Battle of Nashville.

    The twenty-sixth was raised in McLean County and fought with distinction at Shiloh and Perryville as well as at Nashville; and Rufus Hackett, who served as a corporal in the Union Army. Eight other Civil War veterans are buried in the Hackett Cemetery and another eight in other Livermore area cemeteries - Crow Cemetery on Sandhill Road and the Oak Hill Cemetery. Livermore also has a number of buildings in its business district from the years following the Civil War that are excellent examples of the commercial architecture of the period. To Hackett Cemetery - From US 431 go to downtown Livermore, at the intersection of Third and Mulberry turn right (uphill) take a left on Fourth Street to the entrance of the cemetery. These roads are narrow be cautious.

    5. Pleasant Hill Methodist Church Cemetery

    One of the most notable Confederate units raised in the Green River area was the Orphan Brigade, which saw service in many battles until the end of the war and sustained heavy casualties. One of the survivors of this group, Stephen W. Rowan is buried here. His tombstone briefly summarizes his long service to the Confederate cause. Rowan was born July 7, 1838 and enlisted in September 1861.

    He fought at Shiloh, Vicksburg, Murfreesboro, and Chickamauga as well as in  the campaign between Dalton and Atlanta as Confederate troops tried to stop Sherman's march through Georgia. He was discharged at the end of the War with the rank of Sergeant, Company C, Ninth Kentucky, and returned to Livermore. He farmed until 1873 when he established himself as a merchant in Livermore. He died August 8, 1910. From US 431 take KY 1081 East about 2 miles. The church is just before the junction of KY 1081 and 136. Rowan's grave is near a tall white marble obelisk.

    6. Battle of Panther Creek

    On September 19, 1862 Union troops stationed at the Old Fair Grounds in Daviess County refused the demand for their surrender by Confederate troops based in Owensboro. A Union soldier swam across the Ohio River for assistance from the Indian Legion. Confederate forces had retired to this area where the Indiana Legion attacked and forced them to retreat. KY Historical Society Marker 745. On US 431 approximately 8 miles north of the county line.

    7. Pleasant Hope

    In July 1864 Company D, Thirty-Fifth Kentucky Mounted Infantry camped near here while protecting the area between the Cumberland and Green River. Company D was recruited in McLean County and included many local men. They later fought at Grubb's Cross Roads and Saltville, Virginia. The unit was mustered out at Louisville on December 29, 1864. The house to the north is an antebellum farm house and the landscape here is representative of the landscape of McLean County during the Civil War. Eleven Civil War veterans, both Union and Confederate, are buried in nearby Pleasant Hope General Baptist Cemetery. KY Historical Marker 830.  Pleasant Hope is on KY 250, between KY 136 (4.4 mi and US 431 (2.2 mi).

    8. Bethel Baptist Cemetery

    Seven veterans from both the Union and Confederate armies are buried here. Of particular interest is the tombstone of Jesse R. Henson, who carved it himself and which includes a brief description of his service in the War.

    9. Beech Grove

    Many Civil War veterans are buried in the Beech Grove area, many in family cemeteries. Details can be found in Edith L. Bennett and Eldon Ray Eaton, Our Own USA CSA McLean County, Kentucky (Fordsville, KY: Wendell Sandefur Printing for the McLean County Historical Society, 1995). Beech Grove is on KY 256 approximately ten miles west of Calhoun.

    10. Beech Grove - Home of Sue Mundy

    Jerome Clark (later known as Sue Mundy) was among the more well-known and feared guerrillas operating in West Kentucky during the Civil War. He was born in Franklin in Simpson County about 1845. His family moved to McLean County around 1858 and he lived with the Patterson family. He and his best friend, John L. Patterson, enlisted in the Confederate army when the war began. They were captured at Fort Donelson and sent to Camp Morton, Indiana.

    They escaped from the prison camp and joined Adam Johnson's cavalry company, successfully raiding Newburg, Indiana and capturing 300 federal troops, whom they paroled. Clark, Patterson, and a few others from this area came home on a brief leave soon thereafter. Near Slaughtersville, they encountered Union troops, some of whom they had paroled rather than send to prison camps after their victory. Patterson was overwhelmed and after he surrendered shot through the head at close range and then thrown over a fence for dead.

    He somehow survived, but lost both eyes from the bullet. Clark was so outraged by the treatment of his friend by men they had shown kindness to just a few days earlier that he vowed to never take a prisoner again. He left Johnson's command because he did not intend to follow the rules of war any longer and fought as a guerrilla showing no mercy those he encountered and stirring fear in the hearts of federal soldiers. He became known as Sue Mundy. He was captured near the end of the War, tried by a military court in Louisville, and executed in 1865.  From Beech Grove take KY 136 west to KY 56, just passed the junction of 56 and 136 turn right on McGee Chapel Road. The Patterson-Clark home is approximately 1.5 miles from the intersection.

    11. Camp Calhoun, Near Second St. and Poplar, Calhoun

    In November 1861 10,000 Union troops most from Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio were sent to Calhoun to protect Lock and Dam Number 2 and the Green River.  Commanded by General Thomas L. Crittenden, of the prominent Kentucky family, they remained in the area until February 1862 when the moved south as the active war moved south toward Vicksburg.
    KY Historical Society Marker 665. From Beech Grove, return east on KY 56 to KY 136. Camp Calhoun is west of downtown Calhoun.

    This driving tour was developed for the McLean County Fiscal Court by the Forrest C. Pogue Public History Institute, Murray State University with funding provided by the Kentucky Heritage Council, the State Historic Preservation Office, through the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended.

    Other sites to see while in McLean County include:

    Lock & Dam #2 on the Green River in Rumsey,  the site of Fort Vienna near Calhoun, historic gravesites of Confederate Soldiers located along Hwy 136 in Beech Grove and the Indian mounds located in close proximity to the McLean/Webster County Line. 

    The largest New Holland Farm Equipment in North America is also located in Beech Grove.  And in 1976, McLean County was part of the Centennial Bikeway which currently does not have signs marking the route.  A Genealogical Center and Museum is located in the heart of downtown Calhoun.  

    Travelers can turn on Hwy 56 North at Beech Grove if they so choose and pick up the BILL MONROE BLUEGRASS TRAIL which goes from Beech Grove, through Owensboro “Home of the International Bluegrass Museum”, Hancock County past the site of Abraham Lincoln’s acquittal and ending in Ohio County passing through Bill Monroe’s hometown, Rosine Kentucky.   Or one can continue on the EVERLY BROS ROCK-N-ROLL TRAIL through Webster County. 

    Click here for more information about this county.

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