Middle Creek Battlefield In Kentucky Opens In July
- Middle Creek Battlefield In Kentucky Opens In July
By Kathryn Jorgensen
July 2004 PRESTONBURG, Ky. — The battlefield where future president
Col. James A. Garfield made his name and earned promotion to brigadier
general will open to the public this month.
Middle Creek National Battlefield is the privately owned 450-acre
battlefield where Union and Confederate Kentucky troops fought in
hand-to-hand combat during the Jan. 10, 1862, action that drove
Confederates back to Virginia.
The site's expected June opening was delayed after one of the worst
floods in history struck the battlefield over Memorial Day weekend.
Frank Fitzpatrick is founder and president of The Middle Creek
National Battlefield Foundation Inc., the nonprofit formed in 1998
when the Fitzpatrick family donated the farm that their family owned
The farm, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992,
"has had very little change in 142 years," says Fitzpatrick. He
describes it as ridge and valley, hay fields and pasture. The house
that sat in the middle of the farm during the battle is no longer there.
High water isn't new to Middle Creek. It was high the night before the
battle. Fitzpatrick recounts soldier reports about Union troops
fording the chest-high creek and Garfield and his men being so wet and
cold they slept leaning against trees. On Feb. 1, a few weeks after
the battle, the area was under water from what Fitzpatrick calls a
Middle Creek is the largest and most significant Civil War battlefield
in eastern Kentucky, he says. It's within easy travel from major
cities in Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee and is included in the
Kentucky Civil War Trail.
The foundation has been working for two years to get the site ready
for visitors with walking trails and interpretive panels.
Tourists will find a parking lot large enough to accommodate buses and
trucks. Four large double-sided panels "explain almost in its entirety
about the battle, why it took place, where it did and who the players
were and what it meant to either side," says Fitzpatrick. The panels
also tell about the foundation and its preservation and interpretation
Two trails, Union and Confederate, offer full interpretation
explaining battle events and what occurred near each panel. The
Confederate Loop Trail is a little less than a quarter-mile, while the
Union Loop Trail is a little over a quarter-mile long. Together they
have seven interpretive markers, and two more will be set within the
Three interpretive signs in Prestonburg mark the Samuel May House,
which was a Confederate recruiting post; May's gristmill, which Union
troops raided the night before the battle; and the Garfield Place, a
home that Garfield used as headquarters after the battle.
The foundation welcomes private and public donations, grants and
members, as well as volunteers, now busy doing cleanup. The foundation
is raising funds for a 9,000-square-foot educational facility that
will include a research library, multi-media theater, restrooms and
Information is available at www.middlecreek.org.