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The Fight to Preserve the First Significant US Victory of the Civil War Ranger Andrew Miller, Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument

February 3

On Saturday, February 3rd. Declaring armed neutrality to avoid allegiance to either side at the beginning of the Civil War, the Commonwealth of Kentucky was ironically teetering towards civil war itself. Pro-Confederate state troops began training while US-backed home guard units organized to oppose them. After Confederate forces invaded the state and voided that neutrality, both US and Confederate forces began to maneuver for controlling this vital border state. On January 19, 1862, US troops encamped around Logan’s Crossroads (present day Nancy, Kentucky) were surprised by a large Confederate force that was intent on their destruction. A combination of the misunderstanding of the disposition of the US forces in the area, miserable winter weather, and the emergence of George H. Thomas as a successful battlefield leader led to the rout of the Confederate forces out of eastern Kentucky. Speaking for President Abraham Lincoln, the new Secretary of War Edwin Stanton wired a message stating that the Battle of Mill Springs as “a brilliant victory.” This first significant US triumph, in tandem with the victories at Forts Henry and Donelson, enabled the large scale forward movement of US military power deep into Tennessee, pushing the Confederacy on its heels at the beginning of 1862.

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February 3