Fought on August 29 and 30th of 1862 the Battle of Richmond is the second-largest Civil War battle fought in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and is the most decisive Confederate victory of the war.
The engagement, which was part of a larger Confederate invasion of Kentucky, pitted veteran southern troops under the command of Major Gen. Edmund Kirby-Smith against an inexperienced Federal force commanded by Major Gen. William “Bull” Nelson. Nelson, a native of Maysville, Kentucky, had only recently been placed in command of the newly formed Army of Kentucky and was charged with halting the Confederate advance into the Bluegrass region.
Beginning on August 29th Confederate and Federal cavalry units began a series of indeterminate cavalry skirmishes that set the stage for a larger conflict the following day. Early on the morning of August 30th, the vanguard of Kirby-Smith’s army under the command of Brigadier Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne engaged one of Nelson’s Federal brigades commanded by Brigadier Gen. Mahlon Manson just north of the village of Kingston.
Manson deployed his men in a line across the Old State Road just south of Mt. Zion Christian Church. Cleburne’s division pushed up the east side of the Old State Road and assaulted Manson’s left flank. With Manson’s attention diverted, 3,000 Texans and Arkansans under the command of Brigadier Gen. Thomas Churchill moved undetected up a hidden ravine to the west and slammed into Manson’s lightly defended right flank.
Manson’s beleaguered troops fell back to the intersection of the Old State Road and Duncannon Lane where they were met with a fresh Federal brigade under the command of Brigadier Gen. Charles Cruft. Manson and Cruft formed a second line battle but the Confederates, with momentum on their side, quickly broke the Federal line.
The inexperienced Federal troops fell back to Richmond in disarray.
By late afternoon, Gen. Nelson finally arrived on the field from Lexington and attempted to form the remnants of his shattered army into line in the Richmond Cemetery. After three volleys the Federal line buckled, and men streamed into Richmond hoping to retreat to Lexington. Their hopes of escape were dashed when they found the road north blocked by Col. John Scott’s Louisiana cavalry.
Of Nelson’s 6,500-man Army, 4,303 were listed as captured or missing, 844 as wounded, and 206 killed. The Confederate casualties are generally accepted to have been 98 killed, 492 wounded, 10 missing.
The Battle of Richmond Association (BORA) was formed in 2001 to lead the preservation efforts of the nearly 12-mile-long battlefield. Approximately 600 acres of battlefield land have been preserved along with several period structures that include the Rogers House, Pleasant View House, the Palmer House, and Mt. Zion Christian Church.
BORA host an annual reenactment the last weekend in August that features 200-300 reenactors, along with living history exhibits, food vendors, and sutlers with period wares. Held in what is now known as Battlefield Park the event attracts nearly 5,000 spectators from across the country.