Richmond, Kentucky today is located on I-75 about 10-15 miles south of Lexington. It’s in the heart of the Bluegrass Region of the state landscaped with soft rolling hills covered by occasional woods and grassland. Today it boasts a population of about 33,000 people, but in 1860, the population was only about 850, and in 1862, it became the site of an important battle between Union and Confederate troops.
On August 29, 1862, Union General William Nelson commanding the 1st and 2nd brigades of the Army of Kentucky tried to hold off the forces of Confederate General E. Kirby Smith and the Confederate Army of Kentucky. At the time, Kentucky was considered a border state that belonged to the Union although many in the state sided with the Confederacy.
Nelson’s Union army consisted of around 7,000-9,000 hastily gathered and inexperienced troops. Smith’s force of around 19,000 trained confederate troops were moving through the Kentucky heartland in search of supplies when they happened to encounter Nelson’s Union forces at Richmond.
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Initially, Confederate cavalry began to charge, but were driven back by Union forces and heavy artillery fire. Skirmishes continued to take place between the two forces until dark settled in.
On this day, August 30, 1862, the fighting resumed and ended. The Confederate forces charged the right side of the Union line, which gave way to the charge. As Nelson and a couple of his fellow officers tried to rally their troops, they were routed out by the overwhelming Confederate forces.
When the battle ended, Nelson’s Union forces had suffered around 4,000 to 5,000 casualties and the remaining forces were captured by Smith’s Confederate troops. Smith’s Confederate forces suffered only around 500 casualties.
The Battle of Richmond, KY, was over in a day and half with the Confederates claiming a huge victory of the Union forces commanded by General Nelson. It was the first major battle in the Confederate Kentucky Campaign in the Civil War and turned out to be a significant victory for them.