Battle for the Bridge – Munfordville

When I made this trip to Munfordville, I was making a delivery for my handcrafted business, but I knew there was Civil War history in the area. I decided to take a few minutes to explore and see what I could find. After driving up and down Dixie Highway several times, I finally spotted the sign marking the Battle for the Bridge Historic Preserve. I turned into the small gravel drive and I am so glad that I did.

Thomas & Anthony Woodson

Thomas Woodson received farmland in Kentucky as a land grant from Thomas Jefferson after his service in the American Revolution. His son, Anthony along with his wife, Eliza B. Chapline Woodson, took the land and created a very prosperous farm. It was considered to be one of the finest in the country.

Anthony, Eliza, and their nine children could enjoy the most beautiful view of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Bridge (completed in 1859) that crossed the Green River from their front porch.

Munfordville & the Civil War

The Civil War began on April 12th, 1861. It didn’t take long for the battles of the war to impact Kentucky, as the first battle occurred on September 19, 1861 in Barbourville, KY. By the end of the war, Kentucky would see 13 battles take place on its land, and three of those took place in or near Munfordville.

Why Munfodville?

The town of Munfordville was a strategic location because it sat along the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, which fed the Federal armies operating in the South and was supported by a bridge across the Green River. The rail line also provided a route for the armies to follow to either attack Nashville or Louisville. Since 1861, Federal forces had control over the vital bridge and thus could support their campaigns below Nashville. In the fall of 1862, Confederate forces under General Braxton Bragg attacked the Federal garrison defending the bridge on the south side of the river.

Woodson & the Civil War

Anthony & Eliza’s beautiful view would become a downfall during the Civil War. Both the Battle of Rowlett’s Station and The Battle and Siege of Munfordville (thought to be the most strategically important battle in the Commonwealth’s Civil War history) were fought on Woodson’s land, as both battles were for the L & N Railroad Bridge, right in Woodford’s front yard.

During these battles, Woodson and his family suffered great losses. Colonel Robert A. Smith was wounded and brought to their home to recover. He later died and was buried in the corner of their garden. His land was piled into fortifications. His barns and outbuildings were burned. His timber was cut down and used for lumber and fuel. All of his rail fencing was taken to be used as firewood. With no way to farm, Woodson had no income.

During this military occupation of the village [Munfordville], many citizens were inconvenienced and in most cases subjected to considerable monetary loss. Many resident’s homes and buildings were requisitioned by the Union military. Scores of acres of prime timber were cut for lumber and fuel; fortifications were built and a network of roads criss-crossed what used to be fertile fields.

To make things worse, the Woodsons lost their home to a fire sometime after the Battles for the Bridge.

War Reparations

At the end of the Civil War, the Federal Government offered war reparations to loyal civilians who were negatively impacted by the war. In 1864, Woodson filed a claim for $12,126.00, but his home was not part of the claim. At first, his claim was denied as a witness stated he was “a Southern man,” inferring he had not been a loyal citizen.

Many years later, Woodson accepted a settlement of $4,594.00 from the Federal Government. It was then that Anthony rebuilt his home that had been lost to fire sometime earlier.

The home standing today is the home that the Woodsons rebuilt on the original foundation and is pretty much the same design as the original. The Summer Kitchen behind the home is the original.

Visiting Today

The day I visited was a beautiful, warm, sun-shiny day. The home was not open, so I simply walked around the home, took pictures, and wandered down to the edge of the field. A sign was posted stating that the walking trails throughout the battlefield were now closed which contradicted the signage at the entrance to the site. It became clear that something had changed with the financial support of the preserve. (After returning home, some quick research showed that it is still cared for by the Hart County Museum.)

Just as I turned from the edge of the field, I heard a train whistle off in the distance. I found a small rock at the corner of the yard, sat down, and waited for the train I had heard. Sure enough, a train came down the L&N railroad tracks crossing over the very bridge that so many fought over. It was in that moment that I felt like I had been taken back in time. Looking out over the battlefield while watching the train go by, I could envision the fighting, the smoke, the gun fire, and a wave of sadness, and strangely peace, came over me.

I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. There was a reason a train came just as I was headed away from the field. There was a reason I was moved in such a way. I believe it was so that I would feel truly motivated to write this piece and tell this story. Maybe this history will be felt by my readers and have some ripple effect that I may never see.

Until next time, Happy Travels!

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