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History: Direction of Wind saved Courthouse from burning

Confederate General Lyons carried box of matches with him and after he left Burkesville and Campbellsville, Cumberland and Taylor Counties were without courthouses. A wind and a favor to his hotel keeper saved the Adair County Courthouse from destruction by Confederates.

Click on headline for complete story plus photo of old ledger page, unrelated to this story, but proves rebels were here

By Tiffany Hadley Kessler

Concerning Columbia/Adair County and Civil War - This is a most wonderful account of an event before the war ended from Judge H C Baker...recalled in the 1918 issue of the Adair News. We found this newspaper falling apart. This particular issue is not archived in the KY Virtual Library and was afraid the story would be lost forever. According to Judge Baker, "It is said the direction the wind was blowing saved the courthouse in Columbia."

Adair County News, Wed. June 12, 1918

"Sketches of Adair County" ~ Historical and Biographical that will be of interest to all Readers of the News No. 19.

By Judge H C Baker

General Lyons was in command of the last body of Confederate troops that passed through this section of the state. He carried a box of matches with him, and after he had gone Taylor and Cumberland counties were without courthouses. It is said the direction the wind was blowing saved the courthouse in Columbia. He spent the night at the Winfrey Hotel, and the next morning, when he was about to set fire to it, the wind was blowing in the direction of the hotel building. Mrs. Winfrey told him that if he burned the courthouse her property would burn, and also other houses near it. As he did not desire to destroy private property, he listened to her entreaty not to burn it.


This destruction of property was said to be in retaliation for property burned by the Federal troops in the South.

This was in the winter of 1864-65. It was at this time that Maj. T.C. Winfrey and myself made our run to escape Sue Munday and his gang. Sue Munday was the leader of a band of guerrillas that operated in the State during later part of the war. [Unreadable due to deterioration of the newspaper - concerns 'Clark' and guerrilla warfare]. It was not safe for federal or ex-federal soldiers to fall into his hands, for he paid no regard to civil or military law.

About the close of the war, he was captured, carried to Louisville, tried by court-martial and executed as an outlaw.

Major Winfrey had been an officer in the 5th KY Cavalry, and was at the time of our adventure, living in Burkesville. He came to Columbia on his way to Louisville. I had arranged to go to Frankfort to be gone for indefinite time. The stage coach then ran through from Columbia to Lebanon, stopping over night at Campbellsville. We left Columbia on a Sunday afternoon, the coach well-filled with passengers. The old coach lumbered on its usual way, uphill and downhill, by the historic battle ground at Green River, where Col. Chenault, Maj Brents and others fell, by the Fort where Col. Moore, the Union officer planned his memorable defense had penned the answer to Morgan's demand for surrender, "that the fourth of July was not a suitable day for a Union officer to surrender his command". On by the bridge until near what is now known as Burdick. Here we were met by a negro man who told us that Sue Munday's gang was in Campbellsville, robbing and breaking open stores, and committing other depredations.

After a hasty consultation, we concluded to drive back a short distance, get off the road, and remain until we could secure further information. We turned and drove back half mile or more, when, coming in front of the residence of Mr. Caldwell, whom I knew to be a hospitable gentleman, I suggest to Maj. Winfrey that we get out and go down to his house, and remain until the way should be clear for us to continue our journey. The suggestion was accepted, and grip in hand we walked down to his house some hundred yards distant from the pike. Just as we were passing over the steps into the yard, Winfrey happened to look up the road in the direction of Burdick, and exclaimed "Yonder they are now, come on," and instead of going into the house, we went around it, and through the back yard at double quick. I followed at a like pace. We ran out by the negro quarters, the negroes taking the alarm and scattering as we passed, and through a stable lot until we came to a bluff overlooking a little creek.

How the Major got down it, I do not know, for he was down before I got to it. I slided down, feet foremost, face down.

We climbed the other bank, and entered a large field - the Major leading at a good distance. There was a down tree about half across the field, and when he reached it, he stopped, and seated himself on it. I did not for moment understand what made him stop, and looking back I saw another man coming, an old man, who had kept about as near to me as I had to the Major. When he reached us Winfrey asked at once, "Uncle Tommie, haven't you got a bottle of brandy in your pocket? Get it out."

'Uncle Tommie' that proved to be his name produced it, hasty refreshments [unreadable] and we then started in the same order and with better speed for the cover of the woods at the far side of the field. Arriving we sat down between two fallen trees. Where we were, we could hear the tramp of the horses on the pike as they passed. After some time we heard the crash of the bridge as it fell in, the soldiers having set fire to it after crossing.

As it was getting dark, and supposing the was way clear, we concluded we would go back to Mr. Caldwell and find lodging for the night. We recrossed the field through which we had passed, and coming to the fence near the creek, we seated our-selves for a moments rest. Just then we heard, or imagined we heard, a movement on the opposite bluff. In a second we were off the fence, and making tracks in the opposite direction, feeling that Sue Munday and all his force were after us, or in wait for us. By this time it had grown very dark, and a gentle rain was falling. Out in the field, or before we entered it, another man who had been on the coach, a refugee from Tennessee joined us, and here we took counsel together. We were agreed that it would not be safe to go in the direction of the pike, as doubtless sentinels were posted and ready for our capture, so we concluded the wise thing was to go the other way until we could find a place to spend the night.

We moved off in the dark, and after crossing a field we came up to two hay stacks near a barn, and down to the left a short distance [sentence unreadable, newspaper falling to pieces due to age]...down to the house possibly be robbed or shot by the outlaws, for by this time we were satisfied that some of them were at every house in the neighborhood. We discussed this question in all of its bearings, and finally concluded that age and the prospect of of life ought to determine the matter. We gave our respective ages. Winfrey and the TN man were each a little under forty, Uncle Tommie was seventy-three, and I was a little past my majority, so, logically, the risk fell on Uncle Tommie.

We impressed on him the fact, as best we could, that he could not expect to live longer than five or eight years at most, whereas we had a prospect of thirty, or with good luck and no guerrilas, possibly double that time, and that a little slice of five or eight years amounted to very little anyway. Uncle Tommie accepted our reasoning, and agreed to go, which showed a very liberal spirit on his part, and leaving us, he started down towards the house.

After going about fifteen steps, he halted, stood for a moment while his courage evaporated, then turned, came back to us, and said: "Gentlemen it is true I am 73 years old, and may not have long to live, but I'll be blamed if I don't stay out here all night before I will go down there and be shot."

That eliminated Uncle Tommie. We knew he meant what he said.

The TN man who had fallen in with us, seemed to think he was next in order. He spoke and said [unreadable]...My home is in Fentress County, Tennessee. I have no one dependent on me, but some of my folks live over there. I am a refugee, and I don't know that I will ever get home again." With that he drew out his pocketbook, and offered it to Winfrey, saying: "Here is my pocketbook with what money I have, I will go down to the house, and if I am shot, you inquire for my people, and give it to them, and tell them what went with me."

That was too much for us, we could not permit the Tennessean to sacrifice himself for us, even though he was a refugee. He was too much of a hero to go in that way. We then agreed that we would go in a body which we did. Arriving at the yard gate, we called and the owner of the house came to the door, surprised to see four strangers before him, and surprised to hear that there were guerrillas in the neighborhood. He invited us in, had supper prepared, and kept us over night.

The next morning two soldiers belonging to the rear guard of L[unreadable] company came to the [unreadable] got breakfast, and from them we learned that they were soldiers of his brigade that passed by the evening before and not Sue Munday's gang.

Uncle Tommie lived out his allotted time. I met him occasionally attending the Clinton County [unreadable] while shaking my hand, he would say in answer to my good wishes for his health, "Yes, I am still here, and just as fond of life as when you made me believe I ought to go down to the house to be shot."

Compiled by Tiffany Hadley Kessler


This story was posted on 2012-01-24 05:19:14
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1863 Ledger is real proof Union were here!



2012-01-24 - Columbia, KY - Photo photo by Tiffany Hadley Kessler.
Real proof Union Army were here "The photo (not pertaining to the article) is an actual Civil War document (from our personal collection) pertaining to Columbia ~ It is an invoice from Capt Asa Gregory of 3rd Brig 1st Div 9th AC from June 3, 1863 where they gathered supplies from stores in Columbia, including 2,106 pounds of bacon, 44 gallons of pickles, and 294 pounds of soap. Real proof they were here!," writes Tiffany Hadley Kessler.

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