The Bullitt County History Museum

Museum Newsletter - 3 Oct 2006

Friends of the Bullitt County History Museum
October 3, 2006 (Volume 2, Number 14)

Dear Friends,


>> Bullitt County Genealogical Society Meeting October 19 with guest speaker David Strange (me!!) on Pioneer Salt Making.

The subject for the October Bullitt County Genealogical Society presentation will be "Pioneer Salt Making in Bullitt County". The speaker will be me, Museum Executive Director David Strange. Salt Making was the first industry in Kentucky, and the Bullitt County area provided salt for pioneers as early as 1775 and eventually to settlers as far away as Illinois. Natural salt licks still exist in Bullitt County today and often were the focus of fights between Pioneers and Native Americans...and between Pioneers themselves.

David will be discussing the process and the stories, as well as his trip to Saltville, Virginia.

Meeting is at 7 p.m., October 19, at the Shepherdsville City Hall, 170 Frank E. Simon Avenue in Shepherdsville.

Admission is free and everyone is welcome.

>> Roby Elementary School 50th Anniversary

Roby Elementary School will be celebrating fifty years of service on October 10. Toni Unser is seeking photos and remembrances for the event. Contact Toni at or 502-558-4218 for more information or if you have anything.

>> Lewis & Clark Exhibit at the Museum

The Kentucky History Museum will soon be hosting a large exhibit in Frankfort about the famous Lewis & Clark expedition as part of a celebration of the anniversary of their return through Kentucky. Well, thanks to them and their "Museums to Go" program, our little museum will also have an exhibit on the subject. Starting next week, we will be showing a special Lewis & Clark exhibit consisting of informative and interesting posters on the men and the expedition. Did you know a couple of men that were on that grand exploration were from our own West Point, Kentucky, area?

Museum Activity.

>> Civil War books donated to museum

Ray & Louise Armstrong have donated 21 books on the Civil War to the museum. Book titles and subjects include biographies on Mary and Abraham Lincoln; "Weapons of the Civil War"; "Civil War Collector's Encyclopedia"; "The Orphan Brigade"; "Civil War Battles"; "The Civil War Dictionary"; "Civil War Prisons"; "Lee & Grant"; "Reconstruction 1863-1877", and others.

The museum doesn't consider itself a library. We have a top-notch county library system for that. But sometimes it's useful to have focused research collections on hand. Many thanks to the Armstrongs for thinking of us.

>> Genealogy book donated.

Author Dorothy Garr Helmer has donated a copy of her large, hardbound, book, "Netherton's Beginning". Along with the extensive coverage of the Netherton name, it includes several Bullitt County families such as Pope and Helm.

>> Volunteer Hours

Volunteer time at the museum this year so far total 1,614 hours by 17 volunteers. Great work! This does not count untold, unrecorded hours outside the museum just doing what is needed. I am happy to say that hours are being spread out a bit more over more volunteers compared to last year. High service numbers include Dub and Alice Armstrong, who each logged over 100 hours, and Barbara Bailey (our faithful Friday person at the museum) who has logged over 200 hours so far this year.

If you live in the area and can spare some time, consider joining us. We'd love to have you!

>> Friend Carmon Stencil visits museum

One of our long-distance newsletter Friends, Carmon Stencil, visited the museum last week from Edgar, Wisconsin. She was researching family names of Melton, Kirk (especially Dr. George Kirk), and Woodsmall, and I think she found some good stuff! It's always great to put a face to one of our newsletter readers. Come again Carmon!

"The Civil War in Bullitt County", as promised.

The last newsletter promised a story on the three attempts during the Civil War to burn the L&N Railroad bridge in Shepherdsville. I have been learning that there is a lot more Civil War history in Bullitt County than I realized. There is more than enough for a really good book and I am surprised no one has yet, to my knowledge, written one. There is a lot of information floating around but it has apparently never been gathered together. And it should be. I am learning more every day, but there are many more who know far more than I do. I am by no means an expert on the subject. For example, I only recently realized why it was so hard to "burn and destroy" the bridge...unlike many bridges of the time, it was mostly iron!

Well, here is a first-draft beginning that I may or may not complete. I will, as I often say, add it to my hundred-item list of things to do when I have time! Much of this particular information is drawn from the voluminous book, "They Died by Twos and Tens", by Kenneth Hafendorfer, and could serve as an outline to be expanded upon and corrected if there are errors.

Civil War Military Activity in Bullitt County, Kentucky
David Strange
August 2006

In Bullitt County, as in most of Kentucky, guerilla bands wreaked much havoc throughout the American Civil War, burning bridges and raiding towns and generally causing much trouble, but had limited real military effect.

But September and October 1862 was different. During that time Confederate General Braxton Bragg sent thousands of troops up into Kentucky from Tennessee, hoping for a general uprising of the citizens and the gain of Kentucky to the Confederate cause. Confederate cavalry swept up through Munfordville, Frankfort, Lexington, and Bardstown. Union troops withdrew to strongholds in Louisville and Elizabethtown.

On September 6, cavalry officer and famous guerilla John Hunt Morgan sent a small force to Shepherdsville to capture the stockade there and burn the L&N railroad bridge over the Salt River. Morgan sent Captain John B. Hutcheson, commander of Company E in the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry Regiment, along with four companies (300-500 men) of the 2nd Kentucky, and two howitzers, to perform the mission. Destroying the bridge would deny Federal forces a quick path for reinforcements to Lebanon Junction and deny the forces in LJ a quick path of retreat to Louisville.

At daylight on September 7, Captain Hutcheson arrived at the Federal stockade at Shepherdsville. The stockade was on the south bank of the Salt River, near the railroad bridge (there was no road bridge built at Shepherdsville until 1906), and the town was on the north side. About 85 men of the 54th Indiana Infantry Regiment manned the small fort. Hutcheson positioned his artillery and then sent a flag of truce, demanding the surrender of the fort. The Federal commander, Captain John Tinker, rejected the demand, but quickly changed his mind when the Confederates fired a volley from their howitzers. The Federals suffered one man wounded in the encounter. The Federals were paroled and the Confederates set to work on destroying the bridge. But destruction of the bridge proved more difficult and time-consuming than expected. The new bridge was part iron and thus resistant to the usual methods of burning. Newspapers reported one section burned and the iron section only slightly damaged. Learning that Federal troops were coming down the rail from Louisville to stop him, Hutcheson had to quickly leave Shepherdsville before being attacked, and before completing his mission.

This was the first of what would be three limited-success attempts to destroy the bridge at Shepherdsville.

But the news of Hutcheson's action on Shepherdsville, so close to Louisville, sent shock waves through the Federal high command in Louisville. With attacks now coming from Shepherdsville, Mt. Washington, and Shelbyville, an attack on Louisville seemed eminent. Trenches were dug to defend the big city and evacuations to Indiana were begun. Reinforcements were sent to Shepherdsville. Federal forces were withdrawn from Lebanon and based in Lebanon Junction to help defend the railroad at that point.

The Confederate army had problems of its own, though. The general uprising of citizens was not going as well as hoped. The Confederate ranks were thinly spread out over a large area. In this campaign there were not as huge of armies massed against each other as in the Virginia campaigns where thousands died in a day. In Kentucky, as author Kenneth Hafendorfer wrote, "They died by twos and tens". Bragg commanded 26,000 men, but they were scattered over large areas of the state. Rather than large battles, small fights or "skirmishes" were often all that could be mustered. It was often a game of "cat and mouse" with units from both sides trying to find and attack the other at a weak point, and each not knowing the other's true strength. Skirmishes of ten to a hundred men broke out all around the county.

On September 21, a Confederate force made a second attempt at the railroad bridge in Shepherdsville, but had the bad luck of attacking just as the Federal forces, under General R. S. Granger, were regrouping in the town, creating a more powerful than normal defense force. The confederate raid was repulsed, killing five and capturing 28 with no loss on the Federal side.

On September 28 Baxter Smith and his 4th Tennessee tried again and this time took Shepherdsville with orders to remain and finally destroy the railroad bridge over the Salt River. He advanced through Shepherdsville to near Okolona, but held back to complete his main mission. Confederate units also advanced through Mt. Washington from High Grove, and occupied Fern Creek. Another confederate force advanced along the Shelbyville Road past Middletown to Howesburg, just a few miles from downtown Louisville. But the Federal forces in Louisville, now numbering some 50,000 strong, began to realize its numerical superiority and began to fight back with more confidence.

At Shepherdsville, Baxter Smith had bogged down because of difficulty destroying the railroad bridge. He could not obtain the powder and drills needed to carry out the job, yet he was under orders to not leave the town until the job was complete. A Federal force from Louisville skirmished with Smith's advance guard north of Shepherdsville. One Federal soldier and four Confederates died.

Federal cavalry began moving from Elizabethtown against the Confederate rear. Thousands of Federal cavalry and infantry began advancing from Louisville down Shepherdsville Road, Bardstown Road and Shelbyville Road. Several fights erupted in Fern Creek and continued as the Confederates withdrew south through Mt. Washington. Imagine hundreds of cavalry soldiers riding down the main street of Mt. Washington! First the wounded and hurting Confederates, so recently flushed with victory, and then the Federal troops, on the hunt and gaining confidence with each attack. Cannon fire coming from both sides, hitting two houses and taking the tops off trees, as each would pause and regroup.

Baxter Smith was forced to retreat from Shepherdsville by way of Cedar Grove Road, with the bridge still only partially destroyed. Though a Confederate general reported the bridge destroyed, it was not. The bridge would be repaired in only a few days. Three attempts without success!

Federal troops followed close behind, stopping at Cedar Grove Church to rest and decide which direction to go: continue on Cedar Grove Road east or follow Deatsville Road south. After exploring both directions, a local boy told them that a few Confederate cavalrymen had been watching them from Deatsville Road. Some of the Federal soldiers were sent cross country along Greens Branch to surround them. Two Confederate captains were captured, along with a lieutenant and nineteen privates.

Numerous such skirmishes occurred for several days all along the roads of Bullitt County as Federal troops pushed their enemy south to Bardstown and beyond, eventually meeting in force at Perryville on October 8, the biggest battle of the Civil War in Kentucky. The Confederate armies withdrew back to Tennessee after that and no such serious military campaign was ever brought to Kentucky again, though the guerilla wars had only just begun...

For Your Information...

>> Speaking of Perryville...

If you have never been to a Civil War battle re-enactment, this weekend might be the time. On the anniversary of that great battle, October 7 and 8, Perryville will be hosting it's biggest event in years and probably for years to come, hosting THOUSANDS of re-enactors. For more information, check out

>> Archaic Medical Terms and Remedies

Last month's Bullitt County Genealogical Society guest speaker was very interesting, in a sort of macabre way. He spoke about the diseases and medical terms of our ancestors. Knowing such terms can be quite helpful in historical and genealogical research. For example, someone suffering from "painter's colic" was actually suffering from lead poisoning. Abraham Lincoln's mother died of "sloes". Milk sickness. Two web sites might be helpful on these subjects. For archaic medical terms, check out For common remedies, try


I'll keep my philosophical wanderings to myself this time due to the length of the newsletter.

But do remember the museum when you can in your donation plans. As part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, we are a 501c3 non-profit organization, so donations are tax deductible.

Thank you for being a Friend of Bullitt County History.

David Strange
Bullitt County History Museum
Executive Director
Museum Phone: 502-921-0161
E-Mail address:

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 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday. 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 Sep 2020 . Page URL: