Thursday, December 18, 2008

Columbus, Kentucky

The day I visited Cairo and Mound City I started my adventure at Columbus Kentucky. This is a nice state park that also doubles as a picnic area. Actually most people there were probably there for picnics. But there was a small museum (though nicely done) and a gift shop.

I was impressed at the amount of markers around the park, plus these markers offered a ton of text. I've been places that have a simple "entrenchments" sign but these markers offered much more interpretation.

There was a nice view of the Mississippi River and the lower ground of Missouri. When I was there the ferry was not operating. I'm not sure if this was a permanent or temporary decision. So I was not able to tramp the battlefield of Belmont, but it is the low ground across the river. Specifically what ground I'm not sure as the river has moved since then and I was not able to wander around Belmont. I could have gotten over there but it would have been quite the detour and from what I heard there is only a marker or two over there.

One of the more interesting things to see was a section of the chain defenses the Confederates strung across the river to prevent (or slow) the Union gunboats from passing the bluffs here. You can try to pick up a link of chain but it is very heavy.

Then of course there are the guns that made Columbus a formidable position for the Union navy. While this particular gun may not have been here during the battle it was here afterwards as the Union used Columbus as a depot for captured cannon. It would later fall in the river as the bank eroded and was found again in 1998. In any respect it is similar to guns that would have been here.

The problem with Columbus is that while it provides a strong defense against the Union navy it is easily outflanked by land. When Forts Henry and Donelson fell the Confederates had to abandon this spot. That is why when General Polk invaded Kentucky he made a fatal error by stopping at Columbus. If he had secured Paducah the invasion might have been worthwhile. Gaining Columbus was not worth opening up much of the rest of Kentucky to Union forces, who now could come in claiming that they were rescuing the state from the Confederates, never minding that both sides had been recruiting in the state since the initial neutrality proclamation. Polk invading the state ended the sham neutrality.

1 comment:

dw said...


Thanks for all the great Columbus photos. I've always wanted to visit this site, and somehow never made the time when I had the opportunities. I was particularly excited to see the chain, which we all read about here and there. Great post!