Papa Report #15


Papa Was A Boy in Gray Book Tour

with Prize-Winning author Mary w. Schaller


Report #15 from Robert E. and Abe

August 6, 2001

Dispatches from Perryssville & Hodgenville, KY

Wecome to Kentucky!
Robert E: After a very restful night in Bardstown, Kentucky, we used our second "free" day to jaunt around the back roads of central Kentucky.

Abe: My home state is exceedingly beautiful with green-clad hills and deep, wooded hollows between them. During the Civil War, Kentucky was a border state separating the Confederacy and the Union. The eastern half of Kentucky was Union sympathizers.

Robert E: While the western half wanted to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy.

Abe: That is why I stated "to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game" in September, 1861, following the disastrous Federal defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run in July.

Robert E: Ahem, Mr. President, it is properly known as the First Battle of Manassas. Northerners often get confused and call battles by the names of the nearest river while we Southerners call them by the name of the nearest town. That is why the Battle of Sharpsburg is sometimes named the Battle of Antietam, and the Battle of Stones River in Tennessee, should be known as the Battle of Murfreesboro. Photo: Cannon at Sharpsburg/Antietam.

Abe: Thank you, General. I stand corrected. History often does have two faces to it.

The Battle of Perryville:
Robert E: The first stop of the day was to visit the Civil War Battlefield at Perryville.

This engagement is another one of the many conflicts of that War that is labeled "one of the bloodiest battles." Speaking from personal observation, every battle or skirmish in the War Between The States was bloody. Photo: Me at the Perryville Battlefield. Notice how the land rolls behind me?

Perryville is a pleasant little town nestled in rolling countryside. In the fall of 1862, this area of Kentucky was suffering a drought. All of the creeks and runs had dried up. Both sides, but particularly the South, were very low on water.

The search for water led the Confederates, under the command of General Braxton Bragg, to Perryville where they encountered the entire Federal Army under Union General Don Carlos Buell, who had seized the only available water in the area at Doctor's Creek.

On the afternoon of October 8, 1862, the two armies clashed, not only over the meager water supplies, but for the State of Kentucky. The Confederate force of 16,000 men was heavily outnumbered by the 36,940 Federal troops. Nevertheless, the Confederates attacked over the steeply rolling terrain.

Two of the men who are profiled in PAPA WAS A BOY IN GRAY fought on the Southern side in Perryville that day.

PAPA Story -- Frank Hurlbert:

Frank Hurlbert, a private in the 3rd Florida Infantry, was only sixteen years old at the time. His unit was in the forefront of the Confederate battle line where they kept up a withering fire throughout the afternoon. This was Frank's first taste of war, and he never forgot it. Happily, he survived the day without a scratch. Photo: Me at the Confederate Monument (at the bottom) that marks the spot of the Confederate front lines where Frank Hurlbert and John Gunn fought. The wreath of red and white carnations was there when we arrived.

Read about Hurlbert's daughter, Mrs. Aurelia Hurlbert Hannon.

PAPA Story -- John Gunn:

John Gunn, a member of the 37th Tennessee Infantry, also survived the day without a scratch. Like Frank Hurlbert, Perryville was the twenty-year-old's initiation into war.

Though the Confederates technically won this battle, they retreated before the Union regrouped. In short, it was a draw. Photo: Postcard of the Confederate Monument.

On the day of our visit, the fields were green with ripening corn, the creeks flowed with water, and the sky was blue. Looking at the peaceful scene it was hard to imagine what a horrible sight it must have been 139 years ago.

Danville, Kentucky:
Abe: After enjoying a quick lunch in Danville, Kentucky -- the original capital of this state before it was moved north to Frankfort -- we drove on scenic back roads through small villages and farms that looked the same today as they must have looked a century ago.

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace NHS (Hodgenville, Kentucky):
Our next stop was the National Park Visitors' Center at Hodgenville, Kentucky -- my birthplace.


Photos: Mary and me at my Birthplace (left) and National Park Passport Cancellation to show we were actually there (right).

In December, 1808, Thomas and Nancy Lincoln purchased Sinking Spring Farm for $200 -- a lot of money nearly two hundred years ago. They moved into a one-room log cabin near the Sinking Spring.


Photos: Me at the Sinking Spring (left) and Postcard of the Sinking Spring (right). The sign states: "THE SINKING SPRING. The Thomas Lincoln family obtained its water supply from this spring; the infant child, Abraham, had his earliest drinks of water from this source. When Thomas Lincoln moved here in 1808, the 300-acre farm already was variously known as 'Sinking Spring,' 'Rock Spring,' or 'Cave Spring" Farm, taking its name from this spring of water."

This simple home measured only 18 by 16 feet, had a dirt floor, one window with no glass, one door, a small stone-lined fireplace, a shingle roof, and a low chimney made of clay, straw, and wood. The reconstructed cabin is now sheltered from the elements inside a Greco-Roman Memorial. Some of the wood and the hearth are original from the days of Lincoln.

Photo: Postcard of the Lincoln Birthplace cabin inside the Memorial Building. Flash photographs were not allowed.

On February 12, 1809, the Lincoln family of Thomas, Nancy, and little Sarah "welcomed into a world of blood and battle, of whispering dreams and wistful dust, a new child, a boy," wrote noted Lincoln biographer Carl Sandburg. The family lived in this home for two years.

Abe Moves to Knob Creek, Kentucky:

Then Thomas moved his family 10 miles north of Sinking Spring and over a small mountain to Knob Creek where the soil was much richer for farming. Photos: Me at the reconstructed log cabin at the Knob Creek Farm. We arrived there ten minutes after the Visitors' Center closed for the day.

Life here was better for the Lincolns. My earliest memories are planting pumpkin seeds on this farm and going to my first school run by a rural school teacher named Caleb Hazel. However, Thomas eventually became embroiled over a lawsuit involving the title to the land he lived on. Losing the farm, Thomas packed up his family and moved across the Ohio River into Indiana, to my boyhood home that we visited in June. Read more in Report #3.

Robert E: In short, we have been going backward in your life from Springfield, Illinois; to Pigeon Creek, Indiana; to Knob Creek and finally to Sinking Spring Farm at Hodgenville, Kentucky.

Abe: Exactly. It has been a great pleasure for me to have seen each of my old homes again. Each one was beloved to me.

Next Stop -- Bardstown, Kentucky!