One of Kentucky’s most vicious Civil War engagements has been largely forgotten for more than 152 years.
On January 25, 1865, Company E of the 5th USCC was transporting a herd of 900 cattle to Louisville, Kentucky. These troops, based at Camp Nelson in Jessamine County, had previously fought at the Battle of Saltville, Virginia, in October 1864, where at least 50 African-American soldiers were captured and then executed. Nearly all of the soldiers were former slaves.
When the troopers neared Simpsonville, they were attacked by Confederate guerrillas. During the fight, which the Louisville Journal called “a horrible butchery,” twenty-two of the USCC were killed and eight were severely wounded. Four of the injured African American men later died from their wounds. The ambush was called “one of the bloodiest tragedies” of its time. No medical professionals or ambulances were sent to the location until three days after the battle. The citizens of Simpsonville helped care for the wounded and buried the dead nearby in a mass grave.
Members of the Simpsonville Trim #2 United Brothers of Friendship Lodge, an African-American fraternal organization, created a cemetery at the site of the mass grave and maintained it until 1965 when the last member died. About 180 graves have been located in the abandoned cemetery. However, the incident was largely unknown, to modern day local residents and historians.
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Well told story that was lost in time.