The Battle of Mill Springs was fought in Wayne and Pulaski counties, near current Nancy, Kentucky, on this day in 1862, as part of the American Civil War. The Union victory concluded an early Confederate offensive campaign in eastern Kentucky.
In late 1861, Confederate Brig. Gen. Felix Zollicoffer guarded Cumberland Gap, the eastern end of a defensive line extending from Columbus, Kentucky. In November he advanced west into Kentucky to strengthen control in the area around Somerset and made Mill Springs his winter quarters, taking advantage of a strong defensive position. Union Brig. Gen. George H. Thomas, ordered to break up the army of Maj. Gen. George B. Crittenden (Zollicoffer’s superior), sought to drive the Confederates across the Cumberland River. His force arrived at Logan’s Crossroads on 17 January, 1862, where he waited for Brig. Gen. Albin Schoepf’s troops from Somerset to join him. The Confederate force under Crittenden attacked Thomas at Logan’s Crossroads at dawn on 19 January. Unbeknownst to the Confederates, some of Schoepf’s troops had arrived as reinforcements. The Confederates achieved early success, but Union resistance rallied and Zollicoffer was killed. A second Confederate attack was repulsed. Union counterattacks on the Confederate right and left were successful, forcing them from the field in a retreat that ended in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Mill Springs was the first significant Union victory of the war, much celebrated in the popular press.