Bullitt County History

Minnesota Civil War Regiment in Bullitt County

By 1890 the legislature of Minnesota had authorized the publication of a record of the state's role in the Civil War. It was published at St. Paul under the title of Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars, 1861-1865. Within that volume a narrative of the Third Regiment was written by General C. C. Andrews which included information about its presence in Bullitt County. While it does not depict significant action, it does paint a picture of the area at that time. We have transcribed it below.

Additionally, Chauncey Hobart, chaplain for the Minnesota unit, wrote about his experience in Bullitt County in his book, Recollections of My Life: Fifty Years of Itinerancy in the Northwest. These comments are given after the following.

It was an uncommonly clear and beautiful day, Saturday, Nov. 17, 1861, that the Third Regiment, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Smith, embarked at Fort Snelling for its Southern field of duty. The boats were detained several hours at the Mendota sand-bar, and did not reach the upper landing in St. Paul till afternoon; the regiment there debarked, marched up Eagle street to Third, down Third to Jackson, and thence to the lower levee and re-embarked on the three steamboats, Northern Belle, City Belle and Frank Steele. It arrived at La Crosse at 7 A. M. Sunday, left there at noon on a train of twenty-five cars, and at Portgage partook of a generous supper tendered by the ladies. It left Chicago Monday noon, arrived at Jeffersonville, Ind., Tuesday morning, November 19th, the same day crossed the Ohio River to Louisville, where it was treated to a fine lunch served by prominent Union people of that city. It had been greeted with cordial expressions of sympathy by large crowds at various cities in its progress, and particularly at La Fayette, Ind. After lunch at Louisville it marched five miles out on the Oakland turnpike to Camp Jenkins, where it was attached to a brigade commanded by General Mitchell. It there remained about two weeks, during which time it was supplied with arms and equipments, the former being a poor lot of Belgian muskets; also, with army wagons and teams. At that time a six-mule wagon was allowed to each company, one for headquarters, one for the hospital, and probably a few more for quartermaster supplies. The following year transportation was reduced to six wagons for a regiment, and later still, when the army got down to business, to several less. Even at Camp Jenkins, regimental, company and squad drill was diligently practiced.

Leaving Camp Jenkins December 6th it first marched to Louisville and then out on the road toward Shepherdsville, camped at 3 o'clock P. M., and arrived at Shepherdsville, on the Louisville & Nashville railroad, at 4 P. M. the next day. With six companies at the latter place and four at Lebanon Junction it was charged with the responsibility of guarding against injury the railroad and turnpike bridges at Shepherdsville, of holding Lebanon Junction, and of guarding the bridge over Wilson's Creek a few miles in advance of the Junction. It was brigaded with the Thirteenth and Fifteenth Kentucky and Ninth Michigan regiments as the Sixteenth Brigade of the Army of the Ohio. At this time General Buell had just relieved General Sherman of the command of the Department of the Ohio, headquarters at Louisville. General George H. Thomas with a small force was at Peach Orchard, Lincoln county, eighty miles southeast of Shepherdsville; while the principal Union force was on Nolin Creek (near Abraham Lincoln's native spot), sixty miles south of Shepherdsville, under General McCook. In his front at Bowling Green was General Albert Sidney Johnston with 19,000 Confederates. The Confederates also held Columbus, Ky. The armies in the field on both sides were constantly being reinforced, and a battle seemed impending.

At Shepherdsville the colonel, Henry C. Lester, who had been a captain in the First Minnesota, arrived from the Army of the Potomac, and took command of the regiment. He was a man of prepossessing appearance, being of average height, strongly built, with a fine intellectual head and pleasant black eyes, and proved to be a well-informed, modest and hospitable gentleman. He at once started an evening school of tactics and the manual of arms for the commissioned officers, and organized that instruction and drill which, rigidly adhered to for many months, gradually brought the regiment to an unusually high degree of discipline and efficiency. This, with his care for the material wants of the men, and his uniformly just and dignified conduct, won for him the admiration of officers and enlisted men alike, so that probably the very misfortune of the 13th of July following was partly owing to such an extreme confidence of some of the company commanders in him as to deprive them of independent judgment in that crisis. Headquarters were shortly moved to Belmont, a deserted iron-producing village, whose vacant workmen's cottages afforded ample shelter. It was a hilly, brush-wooded, and lean region, but had enough level ground for knapsack battalion drill. Four companies were separately detached a week at a time, guarding railroad bridges at Elizabethtown, Colesburg, Lebanon Junction and Shepherdsville. There were thus always six companies at the main camp being habitually exercised two hours every afternoon in battalion drill. Each company, likewise, wherever stationed, spent two hours every forenoon in squad and company drill. In very wet weather the manual of arms and marking time were practiced under cover. One of the first things the colonel did at Belmont was to establish a bakery, by which the regiment was supplied with excellent bread. The bugle band which he organized, and compared with which the ordinary brass band is but parlor music, was a novel and attractive feature. To make sure that commissioned officers would not shirk the morning roll call, which was at daylight, company commanders were required to immediately report the result of it, in person, at headquarters, which was frequently done before the adjutant was up. Company D, being mostly Swedes, followed the practice in the Swedish army of singing the "Doxology" immediately after the evening roll call, and it sounded so well and seemed so appropriate that Company I, which was camped nearest to D, adopted the same practice. No one will forget the thin pies that were brought into camp and sold by poor country people. But those, probably, will have the pleasantest recollection of the pies who enjoyed them by the exquisite sense of sight. Once, as a company officer was about visiting Louisville, he was authorized by the colonel to call on the commanding general to see if better muskets could be had. General Buell, a large and fine-looking man, in the prime of life, was found in his rooms in the Galt House, in the evening, at work in his shirt sleeves. He asked a number of questions about the regiment, the answers to which appeared to gratify him, and a few days afterward it received a supply of rifle muskets that were entirely satisfactory.

Even before quitting Belmont the regiment could well have been taken for a regular army regiment for the precision of its movements, general appearance and adherence to regulations. Even the leather neck-stock was not disdained, though finally it had a peculiar tendency for getting lost. The brass plates on the belts and equipments, the bugles and eagles on the hats, also the shoulder-scales, were as bright as gold. An enlisted man of the Third in full uniform, and especially with his shoulder-scales, was more striking than a commissioned officer, and was sometimes taken by the citizens for an officer of high rank. It was partly the effect of those gleaming shoulder-scales upon the plain people, probably, that caused the men to be so frequently invited out to tea. At the colonel's request (for not being required by regulations it could not be ordered), all the men, at their own expense, provided themselves with white cotton gloves to wear on parade, on guard duty, and at inspections. Here and there would be a few so averse to everything like style that they were slow to adopt the practice, and to see just these very men, after some weeks, washing their gloves, showed that willing spirit which is the source of good discipline.

The flank operations of the Union forces up the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, crowned with the victory of Fort Donelson, caused the retreat of the Confederate armies from Kentucky, and even to the southern borders of Tennessee. The general forward movement consequent took our regiment to Nashville, where, March 24, 1862, it went into camp, in Sibley tents, on the Ewing place, two miles out of the city, near the Murfreesboro pike.

Recollections of My Life: Fifty Years of Itinerancy in the Northwest by Chauncey Hobart, D.D., 1885, pages 314-316.

We had been in camp about a week, when we were ordered to guard the railroad, leading to Nashville, from Shepherdsville on Salt river, to Elizabethtown, a distance of about sixty miles. Head-quarters for our regiment were established at Belmont Furnace, five miles from Salt river, christened by Colonel Lester, "Camp Dana," and we occupied positions along the road.

Here we spent the winter of 1861-2, keeping up regular drill and camp duties with five companies in camp, while the other five were guarding the As road, these companies alternating each week. Kentucky winters are made up of raining, drizzling, freezing, snowing, sleeting and thawing, with a mixture of mud and sunshine, we went through with what is known as the "seasoning process," and the feeble ones were soon in the hospital or discharged. However, our regiment fared much better than many others, which spent that winter in Kentucky, having about twenty small frame houses which were utilized as barracks, and a church which was converted into a hospital.

The measles broke out largely in the army that winter. We had one hundred and ninety cases of which we lost but six, while many other regiments buried from fifty to a hundred and fifty. In caring for the sick, going back and forth to Louisville for such supplies as they required for nourishment, preaching on the Sabbath, holding prayer meetings Thursday evenings, and burying the dead - I was kept busily employed. We also had daily prayer, at dress parade; and I wish to say that at each of the graves of the boys whom I buried, I erected a head board, which I made myself, of white oak; charring the end driven into the ground, and placing in the center the name, age, regiment, and company of the deceased.

December 24, I was called on by a Mr. Leslie of Lebanon Junction, a staunch Union man, to perform the marriage ceremony for his daughter, Miss Catherine A. to Mr. J. R. Hale. Miss Catherine having declared, that no "Secesh minister" should ever marry her! And to make the matter sure, she had persuaded her father to come over to the Union camp and see if the chaplain would come and marry them. To this I had not the least objection, was on hand at the appointed time, and in the presence of a large company, united, as securely as the Ritual would permit, the happy couple. I was hospitably entertained over night, and returned safely to camp the next morning; although I was not unaware that I was in danger, at any moment, of being made a target for a Rebel bullet.

In January, 1862, in company with several of the officers, I was invited to dine at the home of Mr. Patterson, principal owner of Belmont Furnace. This gentleman claimed to be a strong Union man although a wealthy slaveholder. After an elegantly served dinner, I baptized the youngest child, a babe of five months.

(page 318) About the 11th of March, the sick of several regiments were sent to Belmont as a general hospital. And soon after we were relieved by the Eleventh Michigan and ordered to Louisville, preparatory to embarking for Nashville. By the 19th we were on board, passed Fort Donaldson on the 22d and reached Nashville on the 23d.

(page 319) Early in April I went back to Louisville to look after our sick, whom we had left in hospital at Belmont Furnace. I remained with them two days and procured supplies, clothing, etc., and left all improving but two. These I commended to "God and the word of His grace," and, with our last farewells sadly spoken, returned to camp.

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The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Saturday appointments are available by calling 502-921-0161 during our regular weekday hours. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 12 Jan 2024 . Page URL: bullittcountyhistory.org/bchistory/minnreg3.html