THE BATTLE OF WILDCAT MOUNTAIN

THE BATTLE OF WILDCAT MOUNTAIN

BY DONEVON STORM

COPYWRITE 10/15/2013

Twas the fall of 61. October of Eighteen Hundred and Sixty One.

The War of Brothers and Fathers, Men and Boys. Sons of the South and Sons of the North.

Some wore Blue and some wore Gray;  their blood ran Red just the same.

Colonel Garrard at the Rockcastle River Ford. Outnumbered and outmanned at the dawn of a great Civil War.

Gaurding a mountain that contained a road, a Wilderness Road used for nigh a hundred years.

That road was carved out by that great explorer Daniel Boone.  In the County of Laurel these men’s fates were sealed.

General Zollicoffer also had his eye on that road.  Bringing his Army up through the Cumberland Gap.  His 5400 Sons of the South bore a heavy load.

When Old Zolly and his men routed the Homegaurd at Barbourville; Brigadier General George Thomas knew that Wildcat Mountain was where the North must make its stand, or Old Zolly would roll uncontested into Bluegrass Land.

That mountain was tall and that forest was thick, but beyond that ford lay open ground.  General Thomas knew if Zolly made it through; the Gray’s would have their way.

Garrard outnumbered seven to one. General Zollicoffer picked up his pace, to get to Wildcat Mountain before the setting of the evening sun.

Had Old Zolly known what was to come, he would have fought when he reached the vale.  For had he pressed his way up the hill, Garrard’s retreat would have sealed the deal.

The North’s retreat would have opened the way for Zollicoffers’ army to have taken the day.

Fate is fickle and war is a fog, and Zollicoffer ordered his men to make camp in the bog.  As night fall fell

Old Zolly would say “October 20th was not to be the day, but October 21st will surely go to the Gray!

The Sons of the South were tired from their march, but visions of victory danced in their heads as they lay down to sleep in their makeshift beds.  “Tomorrow holds victory the scouts have assured.”

But fate has a way of being uncertain; you never know what fate lay behind life’s next curtain.

You see Brigadier General Albin Schoepf’s brigade rode all night from Lancaster towards the fray.

Their Blue Coats looked black in the October moonlight.  Hell bent to reinforce Garrard by the first ray of light.

October 21st, 1861.  On Wildcat Mountain in the County of Laurel, many a family would meet with their sorrow.

For Husbands and Sons, Brothers and Lovers, would shed his life’s blood on that fateful day. The Ultimate Sacrifice for their countries they paid.

Where Schoepf and Zollicoffer engaged in a battle of wits.  Their men carried out their orders with muscle and grit.  With Sinew of Arm and Strength of Leg.  With groans and shouts and powder in Kegs.

Seven Thousand Union and Five Thousand Gray, would never be the same after this fateful day.

Schoepf had Hoosiers and Buckeyes to boot.

Zolly had Tennessee and Mississippi Infantry.

Kentucky had men on both sides of the battle, herded to War like so many Cattle.

Schoepf made his stand on Hoosier Knob, Colonel John Coburn was up to this job; he had four companies from the Indiana 33rd Infantry.

The Tennesseans rushed up the hill into the Abyss.  The Kentucky Blue Coat Cavalry and the Ohio Infantry moved in to assist.

Company D’s McFerrin was the first casualty that day. ”Captain I’m shot, I’m a Dead Man” he’d say!  His life’s blood commingling with the forest and the field.  His Spirit left his body, his Ghost he did yield!

Colonel Tazwell Newman led a Tennessee charge, but the 17ths gallantry was to no avail.  They couldn’t knock the Buckeyes and the Hoosiers off that forested knob.

General Zollicoffer wouldn’t give up the fight that easily, he still had the 15th Mississippi and the 2nd Tennessee Cavalry.

Up the Winding Road he ordered his men to go.  “Straight to Garrard’s Headquarters, I’ll end this fight!” But the 17th Ohio and the Kentucky Homeguard were fully entrenched.

They fought tooth and nail, the Blue and the Gray, no option left now, but to prevail.

At the most fortunate moment the 38th Ohio arrived on the road.  They saved Garrard’s Headquarters and all of its trove.

Zollicoffer’s men fought with their heart and their soul, but couldn’t break through those tough Union lines.  All over the hill and vale lay countless lives, the cries and groans rang out as soldiers lay there and died.

The South pulled back to their camp in the bog, and the Union dug in for a long sleepless night, expecting again another vicious fight.

That battle they waited for would never occur, General Zollicoffer retreated back to his home.  His brave men to rest and recuperate.

Twenty-Two casualties for the Blue, and Fifty Three for the Gray, was the tally for men killed and wounded that day.

All in all Kentucky’s first battle was won on that October Day.  Victory for the Blue and not for the Gray!

General Schoepf had his victory and Colonel Garrard was saved, but General Zollicoffer wasn’t done just yet!  “The Bluegrass state may be safe today, but I’ll be back!”  Old Zolly would say.

The people of Laurel County have made a decree. “Remember the men who fell on Wildcat Mountain!  Their life’s blood flows in Freedoms Great Fountain!”

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Dedicated to the men and women who fought, and served on both sides of that great conflict known as the Civil War.

A Special thank you to Bill Branstutter who inspired me to write this poem in remembrance of the sacrifice made by those brave men and women that fought so selflessly and gallantly for their respective countries.

May God Bless those men and women who have laid their lives on the alter of freedom!

Donevon Storm

24 Comments

  1. Very good, Donevon. Very emotional and descriptive. Thanks

    Reply
  2. Hi Donevon: I loved your poem. I help do the Camp Wildcat program for the reenactment. Will there be a possibility of placing your poem in our program? Please let me know. Thanks again for such a beautiful poem. Judy

    Reply
    • Yes absolutely you can use the poem! Thank you for the comment! Donevon

      Reply
  3. Thank you Eldon I really appreciate that. Such great history right in Southeast Kentucky!

    Reply
  4. Excellent writing, Donevon! You captured the visceral energy and feelings of the participants as we would have believed to occur on those days so long ago. Thanks for sharing your talents with this poem. I’m sure many educators would enjoy having you spend time in their classrooms teaching young people the importance of words, imagery, and story telling through poetry.

    Reply
  5. Thank you Cheryl! I appreciate those great comments! I would love to spend time in school teaching children about history and poetry!

    Reply
  6. very good poem Dono i always knew you loved history and your kentucky heritage and this poem is testimony to your study God bless those who fell that day and you for writing about it . jenny and i are very proud of you.

    Reply
  7. Great poem Donevon! I spend a lot of time walking up there and always have to pause and listen, wondering if I’ll hear the cries that echoed those woods. You really made the battle come alive with your words.

    Reply
  8. Great poem! Written with vivid depiction of the horror and sorrow of the day. I could feel the emotions of desperation and determination. How the men knew what must be accomplished that day and how it would impact the outcome of the war.

    Reply
  9. Great job, Donevon! You really brought the battle to life. Your imagery was so vivid that one could visualize the battle with each and every line. A very emotional read. Thank you.

    Reply
  10. Great verbal description of such a powerfully emotional time, the Battle of Camp Wildcat. I love photographing the reenactors when they “recreate” the battle in October. You included in your writing the very same details and feelings I see in the facial expressions of the reenactors. Thank you for sharing your work.

    Reply
  11. Thank you all for the wonderful comments and encouragement. I take each one to heart. It is so nice when your work is appreciated!! Thank you. Donevon

    Reply
  12. Wonderful poem capturing the essence of the struggle and the fog of war. These words accurately reflect soldier hardships and constant pressure confronting the desire and will to endure the operational rhythm of the battle itself,and ultimately trying to protect the beliefs’,freedom,and ideas of all involved. Great job Donevon. As always I am very proud of you and your great family. God Bless.

    Reply
  13. My thoughts and wishes are that just a little of the spirit that coursed through the blood of these men still is alive today. The United States is the greatest, was the greatest, and will continue to be in the future, the greatest Country in the world,if the American people remember what our forefathers stood for and what they were willing to die for. God Bless you for this poem, and God Bless America. The poem was awesome and gave me a better appreciation of what our soldiers past and present have done for me and my family, thank you to all of our servicemen past and present.

    Reply
  14. When I was a teenager, I went with a group of friends and family to Camp Wildcat. I am now fifty five years of age. I remember reading a plaque on site that summed up the battle. Your story telling was more than poetic, it was enlightening, memorable and heartfelt. Way better reading than that plaque from years ago. Thank you for sharing your poem and allowing me to read it. I am very impressed, Donevan.

    Reply
  15. Thank you all for the wonderful comments. I am so humbled by each of you taking time to read the poem and leave a comment. I tried to do justice to the men who fought there so long ago on both sides of the conflict. After all they were all soldiers, sons of the South, and sons of the North. God Bless each of you! Donevon

    Reply
  16. As a result of the great response to the poem and the support of each of you that has read the poem and left a comment. I have been asked to speak at the history day event at East Bernstadt School on April 11,2014. Thank each of you for the wonderful comments. Tell others where they can read the poem as well. Thank You again. Donevon

    Reply
  17. Good job D-Storm.

    Reply
  18. I shared your poem with my class! We are studying about how our community has changed over time. Your poem sparked some interest in Camp Wildcat with my third grade students! Thanks Donevon

    Reply
    • Thank you Cindy for sharing this with your class! I am honored that you would do that. I really appreciate your comments and taking the time to share this poem with young people. They really need to know about the history that is right around us. Again Thank You. Donevon

      Reply
  19. Really enjoyed your poem Donevan…love to see such talent from southeastern KY!,

    Reply
    • Thank you Karen! I really appreciate you taking the time to read my poem and comment on it. I look forward to reading more of your poetry as well. Humbly, Donevon Storm

      Reply
  20. Dear fellow classmate, great job! Lots of details…..I enjoyed reading this poem.

    Reply
    • Thank you Rosemary for taking the time to read the poem and for commenting on the blog! I really hoped you enjoyed reading the poem. Thanks Donevon

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *