Magoffin County was formed in 1860 from parts of Johnson, Morgan and Floyd Counties. In 1860 the county had a population of 3,485. According to the listing of names on the Magoffin County Civil War Monument in Salyersville, a total of 431 Magoffin County men fought in the Civil War, with 308 serving for the Union and 123 for the Confederacy. Salyersville, the county seat, is located on the Licking River. A settlement was established in 1794, called Prather's Fort and then Licking Station, but the settlers were subsequently driven off by Indians and didn't return until 1800. It was later renamed Adamsville for William "Uncle Billy" Adams, a prominent local citizen. After the formation of Magoffin county in 1860, the name was changed to Salyersville, after Samuel Salyer.
During the Civil War, Salyersville was, according to a contemporary source, "a one store, cross-roads town, with a blacksmith shop and about 20 inhabitants". Its location on the Mount Sterling-Pound Gap road, the longest pre-Civil War state road and major overland passage from the Bluegrass region of Kentucky to the mountains of SW Virginia and the east, made the town strategically important and accounted for much of the activity the town saw during the war years. The present highway US 460 follows the approximate route of the original road.
Nearby Burning Springs, ca. 4 miles from the State Road, was noted for its Artesian oil well. It was also place of residence of the illustrious Home Guard Captain Reuben Patrick who played a major role during the Civil War in Magoffin County.
Licking Station was the place of residence of Sarah/Sallie Gardner, wife of the late Benjamin Gardner, who had been a wealthy merchant. Mrs. Gardner and her family welcomed Confederate General General Humphrey Marshall and his troops on more than one occasion on her farm during his campaigns in Kentucky.
When the Kentucky Legislature had taken steps that amounted to an adherence to the Union, Confederate General Sidney Johnston immediately crossed into Kentucky, and advanced as far as Bowling Green and thence dispatched General Buckner with a division toward Louisville. General Zollicoffer entered the State and advanced as far as Somerset. Licking Station served as a temporary camp for the constant stream of recruits as well as refugees from the interior of the state who were on their way to Virginia or intend on joining the CS Army at Prestonsburg where an additional Confederate force was gathering under "Cerro Gordo" Williams.
Union refugees from Magoffin Co. flee from the Confederates via Boone Furnace on Grassy Creek in Carter County, Kentucky, to the Ohio River in Boyd County.
October 23, 1861
During the month of October 1861, Captain, later Colonel, Andrew Jackson May set up a recruiting camp for the 5th KY Infantry (CSA) at West Liberty, Morgan County, Kentucky. After being surprised by General Nelson's Federal troops on October 23, 1861, May fell back from West Liberty on the state road towards Prestonsburg, via Salyersville.
Nelson's Eastern KY Campaign, Winter 1861/1862
Union General William "Bull" Nelson is instructed to collect all men available with the objective of dispersing the Confederate recruiting camp at Prestonburg and thus freeing Eastern KY from the threat of a Confederate presence. In late October, he gathers a force of about half a dozen regiments at Olympian Springs and begins his march toward Prestonsburg. After taking West Liberty in October, Nelson moves with his army to Hazel Green, Wolfe County, Kentucky.
November 2, 1861
General "Bull" Nelson marches with his forces from Hazel Green and cross the South fork of Licking River. Due to recent rains the river is flooded.
November 3, 1861
Nelson's Federal troops arrive at Licking Station and go into camp [Camp Crittenden].
November 5, 1861
Nelson's forces leave Licking Station and move toward Prestonsburg via Paintsville.
Three days later, on November 8, 1861, Nelson engages the Confederates at Ivy Mountain and the following day occupy Piketon in force. The Confederates under Col. John S. Williams fall back into South-West Virginia. Nelson's objective is accomplished. Eastern Kentucky is free from a larger Confederate force, at least temporarily.
December 15, 1861
John Hagins, of Magoffin County, Ky., is arrested in Montgomery County and charged with furnishing supplies of stock to the rebel army under General Williams.
Marshall/Garfield Campaign 1861/1862
More than a month after Confederate Col. John S. Williams left Kentucky, following the fight at Ivy Mountain, Brig. Gen. Humphrey Marshall leads another force into the Big Sandy Valley to resume recruiting activities. From his headquarters in Paintsville in Johnson County, Marshall recruits volunteers and has a force of more than 2,000 men by early January, but is not able to but partially equip them.
In December 1861, Union Brig. Gen. Don Carlos Buell directs Ohioan Col. James A. Garfield to force Marshall retreat back into Virginia.
December 20, 1861
Capt. Shawhan [CSA], as part of General H. Marshall's command in Eastern Kentucky, is stationed at Salyersville and West Liberty, with 200 KY Cavalry, covering the roads which lead in from the direction of Lexington and Paris.
December 22, 1861
Marshall's mounted battalion, ca. 400 strong, at Salyersville.
December 28, 1861
Garfield dispatches a messenger from his Camp at George's Creek [Lawrence County, Kentucky] to Colonel Cranor, 40th OVI [part of Garfield's 18th Brigade],ordering him to proceed to Prestonburg via Hazel Green and Burning Spring. Cranor is accompanied by a cavalry force of 400-500 men which Cranor is instructed to send via West Liberty and Licking Station to drive in the rebel forces on that route and protect Colonel Cranor's flank, and join him again before he reaches Prestonburg.
January 1, 1862
Capt. Shawhan still reported present at Salyersville.
Early January 1862
The 40th OVI passes through Salyersville on their way to join Garfield's main force in the Big Sandy Valley. They rendezvous with Garfield at Paintsville on January 8, 1862.
January 31, 1862
Garfield sends Lieutenant-Colonel Letcher, of the First Kentucky Cavalry, with his command [six companies - 300 men] to West Liberty with instructions to keep up a series of scouting expeditions in that vicinity and towards Whitesburg and Piketon, and keep him informed of all movements of the enemy in that direction, and also to suppress any uprising in Magoffin and neighboring counties.
June 1862: William "Uncle Billy" Adams reports the Magoffin Co. militia force as 597.
Bragg's Invasion of KY, Summer/Fall 1862
Early in August, 1862, the Confederate forces under Gens. Bragg and E. Kirby Smith unite for an invasion of Kentucky in hopes of forcing the state to secede from the Union. General Humphrey Marshall is ordered to enter Kentucky from Southwest Virginia and move in support of Bragg and Smith. He arrives at Pound Gap September 9, 1862, enters the state on the 10th and moves through Whitesburg [Letcher County, Kentucky] and Beaver Creek [Floyd County, Kentucky] on September 12, 1862.
September 13 - 15, 1862
CSA forces under General Humphrey Marshall move from Prestonsburg to Salyersville. They march from Middle Creek to the head of Burning Forks of Licking River, down the valley of Licking, cross the State road, pass Burning Spring, through the town of Salyersville and down to Licking Station. The men pitch their tents near Mrs. Gardener's house and the staff camps in the Gardener's peach orchard. Colonel May's 5th KY Infantry holds a dress parade and Humphrey Marshall gives a speech.
September 15, 1862
General Marshall court martials Harvey Childress and 35 other Union Home Guards at Licking Station. Childress is condemned to death by the Court, pardoned by Marshall, but killed within a day by "some unknown, avenging hand."
September 18, 1862
The 43rd TN Inf. [CSA] moves from Salyersville to West Liberty.
September 21, 1862
CSA forces under General Humphrey Marshall are ordered from Salyerville to Mt. Sterling to join with CS forces under General Kirby Smith to intercept Federal General Morgan's march from Cumberland Gap to the Ohio River.
After the Battle of Perryville, Bragg's and Smith's forces begin their retreat from Kentucky. This includes Marshall and his little army who are reported back in Salyersville on October 25, 1862.
October 25, 1862
Marshall's troops reported at Salyersville [ca. 10, 000 men]
December 7, 1862
While the 39th KY Infantry [US] is recruiting on Beaver Creek in Floyd County, Confederate Col. Clarkson's force moves upon them. Co. F, 39th KY Infantry retreats from Beaver by way of head of Licking River. During the retreat, John Sizemore is accidentially shot and fatally wounded by his son Thomas Jefferson Sizemore, near Reuben Arnett's house, where he dies a few hours later.
Marshall's 1863 Eastern KY Campaign and Cluke's Raid
In early March 1863, General Marshall proposes to his superiors to make an expedition into Kentucky with his command, with a view of collecting supplies for the use of the CS Army, such as horses, mules, cattle, &c., Marshall's plans meet with favorable a response by the Confederate War Department and soon Marshall enters Kentucky by way of Pound Gap.
Marshall's Force [1,800 mounted men]
4th KY Cav = Giltner's
10th KY Cav = May's
11th KY Cav
1st KY Mtd. Rifles = Clay's
2nd KY Mtd. Rifles = Johnson's [Capt. Bradshaw]
Squadron under Capt. G.M. Jessee
March 19, 1863
Marshall arrives in Magoffin County. A US Cavalry force of about 2000 men is reportedly camped at Hammond's Mill, 5 miles below Salyersville on the Licking River [possibly the 10th KY Cav and the Second Battalion Ohio Cavalry]. Upon Marshall's arrival, the Union cavalry retreats to Hazel Green, pursued by Clay's 1st KY Mtd. Rifles, CSA. [He catches up with the Federals on Mar. 21, at Hazel Green. 2 CS killed, 7 US casualties]
Guerrant, Humphrey Marshall's adjutant, notes in his diary that he is camped in a cabin belonging to a man named Puckett.
Also in the vicinity of Salyersville is Confederate Colonel Roy Cluke, with the 8th KY Cavalry, one of John Hunt Morgan's units, who is also operating in Eastern Kentucky with the objective of collecting supplies.
March 20, 1863
General Humphrey Marshall's CS troops arrive at Ivyton and go into camp. During the night, Union Home Guard Captain Reuben Patrick, whose residence is only a few miles away, steals into Marshall's camp and waits until the sentinel falls asleep. Roaming through the sleeping camp, Patrick finds Humphrey Marshall's Williams Rapid Fire Gun and decided to relieve the general of this rare piece of artillery. Being afraid that rolling it out of camp would awaken the enemy, Patrick quietly unscrews the cannon from its frame, lifts it from its carriage and carries it into the nearby woods and lays it alongside of an old log, carefully camouflaging it with leaves.
March 21, 1863
The next morning the Confederates are astounded when they find the carriage but not a trace of the cannon barrel. A thorough search is conducted but nothing is found and thus Marshall grudgingly moves on empty-handed. Marshall establishes camp at Mrs. Gardner's house, at Licking Station, where he remains until March 23, 1863.
March 22, 1863
Captain Patrick returns, takes charge of the carriage that had been left behind, reassembles the cannon and rolls it to his home on Burning Fork.
March 23, 1863
Marshall leaves in direction of Louisa, Lawrence Co., KY.
[Marshall arrived near Louisa on the 25th. After a skirmish at Smokey Valley he advanced on Louisa but withdrew the next following day without firing a single shot. He retreated to West Liberty, Owingsville [where he encountered Cluke once more who had been much more successful obtaining supplies than Marshall], Winchester, Hazel Green and finally fell back into Virginia, basically empty-handed]
April 13, 1863
U.S. Cavalry at Salyersville
April 15/17, 1863
George M. Venters [Co. B, 5th KY Inf.] captured in Magoffin Co.
April 30, 1863
Ambrose Watkins [10th KY Cav, CS] captured by Reuben Patrick in Salyersville.
May 3, 1863
Lark Howard [Co. B, 5th KY] captured on Puncheon Creek.
William C. Riggs [Co. F, 13th KY Cav] captured by Lt. Gardener, 14th KY Inf. on Licking River.
May 4, 1863
Jonathan F. Jones [Co. C, 5th Ky Inf.] captured by Lt. Gardener, 14th KY Inf. and sent to Louisa.
October 10, 1863
On the evening of October 10, 1863, a detachment of the 14th KY Infantry, Co. I, [80 men]under command of Captain Wiley C. Patrick, on a scout through Magoffin County, arrives at Salyersville and encounters 150 men of Colonel Prentice's 7th Confederate Battalion. After a brisk fight of 1 1/2 hours, Prentice retreats and the 14th KY Infantry pursues the enemy to Breathitt County where Prentice makes his escape into Virginia. 25 prisoners captured by the Federal troops.
October 11 - 20, 1863
Federal reinforcements arrive from Louisa, 300 men under command of Lt. Colonel Orlando Brown, Jr., 14th KY Infantry. Brown's men march up the Burning Fork of Licking River and on to Quicksand in Breathitt County, and back to Salyersville. From here, Brown's men leave for Crackerneck and then return to Louisa on October 20, 1863.
October 16, 1863
A. J. Salyer [5th KY Inf., Co. C] captured in Magoffin County.
Nov. 8, 1863
John Wesley Barnett [Co. C/E, 5th KY Inf.] and Joshua Pennington captured in Magoffin Co.
Captain Everett's 1863 KY Raid
November 30, 1863:
During the latter part of November 1863, part of the 14th KY Infantry Infantry, namely companies A, D, F, and I are stationed at Salyersville, KY. A recruiting camp of the 45th Kentucky [Co. D] is situated nearby, at Ivy Point.
In the early morning hours of November 30th, 1863, a group of three or four hundred Confederate Cavalry under the command of Captain Peter M. Everett, Third Battalion Kentucky Mounted Rifles, arrives at Salyersville.
The first casualty is 2. Lt. Richard Minifee Elam, Co. I, 14th KY, who is shot by one of Everett's scouts while standing near the Gene Arnett store in Salyersville, fatally wounding him. Cpl. Jilson Power, Co. I, 14th KY, is wounded next, by a gunshot in the right breast, but not fatally.
Meanwhile, the main body of Everett's command begins crossing the ford of the Licking River, and advances toward the recruiting camp of the 45th KY which throws the men into utter disaray and panic, scattering the troops up the hill and into the woods.
Casualty reports listed 1 officer killed, 1 man wounded and 9 men of the 14th KY as missing. The loss of the 45th Kentucky was given as 1 man wounded and 17 missing. Most of the missing men are chased for miles, captured and subsequently transported to Southern prison camps. A great number of them died in Southern prisons.
December 4, 1863
John Jackson [45th KY Inf., Co. D] captured in Magoffin Co.
February 10, 1864
Scouts of the 45th KY Mtd. Inf. [US] at Salyersville
February 22 - 28, 1864
Captured by a detachment of the 14th KY Infantry, under command of Reuben Patrick, "15 guerillas and horse thieves"
April 4, 1864
Captain Reuben Patrick, with a detachment of 17 men from Co. I, 14th KY Infantry, are sent from Paintsville to watch the Magoffin County border
April 10, 1864
45th KY Infantry has a strong scout at Salyersville.
April 12, 1864
A small detachment of the 14th Kentucky Infantry in Salyersville
April 13, 1864:
A Confederate force, not exceeding 600, reported at Salyersville at night.
During the night, Colonel E. F. Clay, 1st Kentucky Battalion, [CSA] arrives in the vicinity of Salyersville after withdrawing from a battle with Federal forces at Paintsville.
In the afternoon, the Union forces at Paintsville under command of Colonel Gallup begin a pursuit of Clay. Gallup's command consisted of at least five companies of the 14th Kentucky Infantry, and between three to five mounted companies of the 39th Kentucky Mounted Infantry under Colonel David Mims.
April 14, 1864 - Battle of Half Mountain
In the morning Clay moved three miles to Licking Meadow and up Puncheon Creek where he established a temporary camp, about 13 miles above Salyersville. Meanwhile, Gallup's command had moved along Jenny’s Creek, then down Gun Creek and finally crossed Little Half Mountain to the mouth of Puncheon Creek. Four companies of Clay's men were out on scout, while other details were out foraging. Most of the men still in camp were lying asleep beneath the trees when Gallup suddenly attacked the camp around 3 P.M. from the front and rear. A fierce fight ensued, and the Confederates held on until near dark when their ammunition was nearly expended. The Confederates retreated up Puncheon Creek through Rough and Tough Gap and crossed into Floyd County, while some crossed over to Salt Lick Branch, the next creek south of Puncheon. An old log house located at some point along Puncheon Creek was used after the battle as a make-shift infirmary. It was said that until the house was torn down within recent memory, the bloodstains from the soldiers wounded in action here were still visible on the floorboards. Colonel Clay was struck by a pistol ball to the face, hitting about the bridge of his nose and passing below his right eye, destroying his sight in that eye. Miracleously, Clay survived and was escorted to Louisville as a prisoner of war! The Battle of Half Mountain lasted between three and five hours. According to Gallup, the Union forces captured over 100 horses, 200 saddles, 200 stand of arms; had killed and mortally wounded 25, took 50 prisoners, and killed many horses. Union loss was 4 wounded, 1 seriously, none killed. Local history claims that two of the Confederates were buried in the area and that their graves can still be located.
April 16, 1864
Skirmish at Salyersville
April 16 - 19, 1864
Colonel C. J. True, 40th KY Infantry [US] and the 11th Michigan are in Salyersville as reinforcements.
John Hunt Morgan's Last Ky Raid / Burbridge's Pursuit
In May of 1864, information reached the Federal commanders in KY that Morgan was planning another raid into Kentucky. Burbridge and Hobson worked on a plan to stop Morgan. They left the Bluegrass with the First Division, District of KY, [23. A.C.,] on the 20th and 22nd, respectively, and arrived in the Big Sandy Valley and moved down the river to set up camp at the mouth of Beaver Creek, Floyd Co., KY.
Hanson's Brigade had been ordered to move from Lexington and meet Burbridge's main force at Beaver Creek via Irvine, Mt. Sterling, Salyersville, etc.
He leaves Mt. Sterling around the 24th of May, proceeds through Salyersville and finally arrives at Beaver Creek on the 27th of May, 1864.
On May 31, 1864, Morgan set out from VA across the Cumberland mountains for his famous "Last Raid" through Kentucky. He entered the state through Pound Gap on June 4, 1864 after a brief skirmish with a detachment of General Burbridge's troops. Morgan then traversed more than 150 miles of rugged mountains in direction of the Bluegrass region, moving on a route parallel to the State road [Pound Gap/Mt. Sterling Road].
June 6, 1864
The 45th KY Mtd. Inf. and a detachment of the 39th Ky Mtd. Inf., sent out ahead of Burbridge's main army with orders to scout and to keep an eye on Morgan's movements, camp for a while at Grassy Creek of Licking
June 7, 1864
The 45th KY Mtd. Inf and a detachment of the 39th Ky Mtd. Inf. move through Salyersville.
June 7, 1864
Burbridge gives the order to move from Floyd Co. and pursue Morgan to Mt. Sterling
Burbridge's Division moves through Salyersville in direction of Mt. Sterling.
On June 12, 1864, General Burbridge finally engages Morgan's force in strength at Cynthiana. He completely routs Morgan with heavy loss, and drives him out of the State, via Flemingsburg and West Liberty and back to Abingdon, VA, where he arrives on June 20, 1864.
Burbridge's Saltville Expedition to Southwest Virginia
In September 1864, an expedition under General Burbridge was sent to destroy the salt-works at Saltville, Va.
Sept. 22, 1864
Burbridge, with 8,000 - 10,000 mounted men and 3,200 pack mules reported at Salyersville, ready to move for Pound Gap
He met the enemy on October 2, 1864 but after day-long fighting, Burbridge retired without accomplishing his objective.
Dec. 9, 1864
The 14th KY Infantry is reported with two companies at Salyersville, quietly holding the town.
January 16, 1865
Lt. David L. Evans leads a detachment of 25 men of the Sandy Valley Battalion on a scout through Johnson, Morgan and Magoffin County for guerrillas. The troops are attacked and skirmish repeatedly with rebels at Salyersville.
Ca. April 28, 1865
Part of Giltner's command [CSA] reported to be falling back from Mt. Sterling to Salyersville to disband and try to save their horses.
This specific article was researched and written by Marlitta H. Perkins, November 2011, and is under full copyright. Copyright © 2011, All Rights Reserved.