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Thoughts on the 13th Kentucky Cavalry: The Adair Co. regiment

Members of the 13th Kentucky Cavalry came to Columbia, KY, to Camp Boyle, to muster in. "This is why Camp Boyle and the Thirteenth Kentucky Cavalry are such an important part of Adair County History. . . the 13th Kentucky Regiment is our regiment," Chris Bennett writes. And, while there are Wayside markers with some information about the encampment, the writer, who successfully initiated a fast completed fundraiser to erect a monument to the history of the B-58 'Hustler' bomber crash at McKinney, now calls for similar action to erect Kentucky Historical Markers to better commemorate Camp Boyle.
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By Chris Bennett

I first learned about the Thirteenth Kentucky Cavalry (Union) several years ago, when I was researching family history. I had listen to many stories told by my grandfather Loy on my mothers side about his family, so I knew quite a bit about the Loy's. When I would ask my father about his side of the family he would say, "I don't know." My grand-paw Bennett died when I was fourteen, so I never asked him about family history. It took me several years to put all the pieces together, but I finally did. Luckily all my family settled in the southern part of Adair County and they stayed there. This made my family history easy to trace.

I was shocked to find out that the Bennett family were Yankees, I would have bet money we were Rebels! After I began to understand that most folks in this part of Kentucky were patriots, and wanted to see the Union stay together, I began to understand their Yankee-ness. My GGG Grandfather Elisha Bennett fought in the War between the States, and in the war with Mexico. His father John Bennett joined the militia in the war of 1812, and his father, William Bennett fought in the Revolution. So there was a long history of Military service in their family, and I could understand not wanting to leave something they had fought so hard to protect.

When we speak about the 13th Kentucky Cavalry there are some important facts to remember. It was, more than any other, an Adair County regiment. The men traveled here to muster in, and they trained at Camp Boyle to go to war. This is why Camp Boyle and the Thirteenth Kentucky Cavalry are such an important part of Adair County History. Some of the other Regiments had strong ties, and famous officers from Adair County, but the Thirteenth Kentucky is "our" Regiment. Several of its members came from surrounding counties, Russell, Cumberland, etc. I am not trying to make light of their service, but the Thirteenth Kentucky is "our" regiment.

I have given some thought to doing research on the 13th for my Masters thesis, but there is one major problem, there is not a lot of information on the 13th. This is all the more reason I should compile as much information on the regiment as I can. I have searched the archives at Frankfort, and have been unable to come up with a good set of primary sources on the subject. (enough information for a thesis or a book) Many of our accounts of Civil War history were written 30-40 years after the war ended. Many of the stories are second hand. This is not uncommon for Adair County history, after all it was almost 150 years ago, at a time when a large portion of the population was illiterate. Mike Watson's book An Adair County History, Vol. 1 has an extensive list of Civil War soldiers, I believe that the majority of soldiers listed were in the 13th.

At the same time my GGG Grandfather Bennett joined the Union army, I had three other GGG Grand fathers living in Fairplay. Piner Harvey, Cornelius Ross, and Sellars Loy. Not one of the three, nor their sons served in the Civil war on either side. I do not know where their loyalties were, I do know the Loy family were the only ones to own slaves, because of the 1860 census.

As to why my family joined the Union army, this is pure speculation, yet believable. During the Civil War, Kentucky was supposed to be neutral, yet we know that really did not happen. Kentucky was invaded from the North by Yankees, and from the south by Rebels. This left a bunch of mad Kentuckians in the middle. In July of 1863 Confederates came up from Tennessee, crossed the Cumberland river and followed Crocus Creek to the point they cut their way up the first Dug hill, near the present day, second Dug hill on 704. Legend tells us that the Confederates used slave labor to cut trees so they could move their supply wagons and artillery pieces to Columbia. I have been told the Confederates lost a supply wagon axle crossing a creek, so they left the wagon and the Turner family lived all winter off the supplies the wagon was carrying. (I don't know if this story is true, but I have heard it repeated several times over the years.)

As the Confederates passed through Fairplay they abducted a young lady, (One of Piner Harvey's Daughters) and made her be their cook. (Again this is a family story and I don't know if it is true or not) The Confederates bivouacked at Tabor, posting pickets on top the hill to watch for Union troops coming from either direction. They sent the Harvey maiden home and marched on in to Columbia the next day. There is also a story in Mike Watson's book An Adair County History, Vol. 1 concerning Young Bennett and William Hurt on page 371. (available at the Adair County Public Library) Young Bennett was Elisha Bennett's older brother, and if the old Bennett's were any thing like the present day Bennett's they had pretty bad tempers, and this incident in its self would cause several of them to join the fight. I guess my point is, when Confederates came here and harassed the local population, the Adair County folks got a little ticked off!

The regiment lost around 13 men and officers to battle, yet they lost more than 80 to disease. Others suffered the rest of their lives with dysentery and other intestinal problems. (This can be seen on the 1890 Adair County Veterans census) Most of these men had lived their whole lives never traveling more than a few miles from home. The Civil war changed this as it brought many men together, and they traveled in all types of weather and ate bad food, as typical with the whole war, disease killed many more than the enemy.

Currently a Kentucky Historical marker costs $2,500.00 The money has to come from private donations, the government will not pay for such a marker. If we could get 100 business and individual to donate $25 to the cause it would be rather easy. I think it would be fitting to put information about the 13th Kentucky on one side, and Information about Camp Boyle on the other. That would be a good start until a rich benefactor can be found to buy up some of the dilapidated buildings on the square, and tear them down to build the 13th Kentucky Cavalry park, complete with a bronze statue of a Kentucky Cavalry man, on a fine stallion.

I would bet that most families that have lived in Adair County several generations can trace at least one ancestor to the 13th Kentucky. Until I did the research I had no idea that I had at least 5 close relations that served in this regiment. I work as an Electrician with my business partners Nick and Lonnie DeVore. Their GGG Grandfather, Archibald Bailey served in the 13th Kentucky. Nick told me today that his Grandfather taught my Grandfather how to shoot at Camp Boyle, but I bet that isn't true. I would imagine that my Grandfather taught his Grandfather how to dig ditches, and shovel horse dung on the north shores of Russell Creek, Camp Boyle, Kentucky.

This story was posted on 2012-01-24 23:22:38
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Elisha Bennet(t) joins 13th Reg't Kentucky Cav. at Columbia, KY

2012-01-25 - Frankfort, KY - Photo by Chris Bennett.
Chris Bennett writes "This is photo of the microfilm record of my GGG Grandfather's enlistment in Columbia. This record came from the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, In Frankfort, KY. He mustered in on December 23, 1863. It kinda seems like they would have waited until after Christmas."

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Zollie Tree Marker at Mill Springs Battlefield

2012-01-25 - Near Nancy, KY - Photo by Chris Bennett. The Zollie Tree Historical Marker is decorated each year to commemorate Confederate soldiers buried in a nearby mass grave. Historian Chris Bennett has suggested that 100 people step forward with pledges of $25 each to get a similar marker for Camp Boyle, just across Russell Creek in Columbia, KY - an enlistment center where, according to Bennett's fellow historian, Derek Coomer, the Civil War changed vectors, and the Union was preserved.
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