Thursday, June 2, 2016

Battles of Cynthiana Preservation Group?

Yes, you did read that correctly, I wrote battles not battle as there were two battles that occurred in this Kentucky town nestled in Harrison County, about sixty miles south of Cincinnati. Most Civil War battlefield trampers have never heard of Cynthiana, yet it played a significant role in two of John H. Morgan's raids (1862 and 1864). It was the 1862 raid that led Morgan to wire to Edmund Kirby Smith "Lexington and Frankfurt...are garrisoned with Home Guard. The bridges between Cincinnati and Lexington have been destroyed. The whole country can be secured and 25,000 to 30,000 men with join you at once."  This leads to the 1862 Kentucky Campaign, in which the Kentuckians join the Confederate army, but in the hundreds, not the thousands Morgan (and others) claims will rise up and join the southern cause.  This is a possible point of contention that leads Braxton Bragg to seemingly hold Kentuckians in contempt for the remainder of the war (see Stones River).

While my primary passion will always be for Perryville, I live just over an hour from Cynthiana and the drive is along a scenic stretch of U.S. 27 (once one gets past the suburbia and strip plaza hell of northern Kentucky), while the drive to Perryville twice as far.  Of course, Perryville has 1100+ acres of interpreted battlefield to explore, saw the deaths and wounding of thousands of men, and is a state park.  Cynthiana has none of that.  There is a fourteen stop driving tour that covers both battles (very small affairs by Civil War standards), a couple of cemeteries, and an 1861 Federal camp that was occupied by the 35th Ohio.  To go along with the tour is a well done CD available from the chamber of commerce, but the chamber is only open Monday through Friday during business hours, and most battlefield visitors are weekend warriors.  That does make it difficult for weekend visitors to fully enjoy the tour experience.  

There is also a well-done book that covers Cynthiana and Harrison County during the Civil War, written by William Penn.  Published in 1995, copies are going for at least $150.00, but Mr. Penn has informed me that he is working on an expanded second edition that will be published by the University of Kentucky Press, hopefully later this year.  

The 1864 battle is included in the American Battlefield Protection Program's study.  There was also a specific battlefield study completed by a local (Cincinnati) firm some years ago that covers all the Civil War related sites and gives recommendations for further battlefield preservation and interpretation.  But what is missing is a "friends" or preservation group to act upon the recommendations made in those two studies.

For the last few months I have sent a slew of emails to various folks I thought might be interested in helping to form some sort of group that would help develop Cynthiana's Civil War history even further than what has been accomplished by the current driving tour.  Those emails went to the chamber of commerce, reenactment units, and others I thought might be interested in driving this project.  I also started reaching out to the various agencies that might assist with formation, preservation, and funding.  Alas, I received very little response from the folks I thought might be interested until recently when Bill Penn provided another name I might try.  Luckily, the email exchange with this latest individual has been fairly frequent, and they seem to have similar thoughts when it comes to forming some sort of group for the Cynthiana battles.  I believe we will meet sometime this summer and see what we can do to drive local interest in the Cynthiana story.  More to come on this subject in future posts!


  1. I've bern through Cynthiana many many times (usually headed to Lexington) and have been over the John Hunt Morgan bridge frequently. I have stopped at the historical msrkers a couple times and tramped through one of the cemeteries but have never done the driving tour or much exploring. Lease update any progress you make. If you need help, I don't know what. Can do, but it sounds like sn in interesting project

    Harrison County was a Confederate hotbed during the war from what I understand do there may be a lot of interesting stories to find. .

    1. You can help if we get this thing started by helping to spread the word! I will keep the blog updated with future info (meetings dates, etc.).

      As for Harrison County, six companies went rebel, two went Union, early in the war. Being so close to Cincinnati, having a county so pro-south is very interesting. The northern part of the county, being hilly, was pro-Union, while the flatter southern part of the county, having larger farms, was pro-southern.

  2. I'm a Scott County resident and frequent visitor to Cynthiana - count me in!

    1. That is great! Just watch the blog from time to time as I announce meeting dates, etc. We need all the local support we can get as local connections are extremely important. Thanks!!!



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