Battle of Richmond, Kentucky, 30 August 1862

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The first battle during the Confederate invasion of Kentucky in 1862 (American Civil War). General Edmund Kirby Smith, commander of the Confederate forces at Knoxville, launched his expedition on 14 August and quickly entered Kentucky. Late on 29 August his advance guard encountered a Union force, near Richmond, Kentucky. At this point, Kirby Smith had around 6,000 men with him, having sent part of his force on a different route through the mountains that guarded east Tennessee. The Union force he faced was 6,500 strong, potentially quite large enough to badly wound the Confederate army. Despite this, Kirby Smith judged that it was worth risking an attack. One major aim of the invasion of Kentucky was to win that state over to the Confederate cause. Backing away from the first Union army encountered would hardly encourage potential Confederate supporters in the state.

Unknown to Kirby Smith this force was almost entirely composed of new recruits. This was probably fortunate. The Confederate attack was delivered in two waves, starting with General Cleburne’s two brigades before being joined by another two brigades and Kirby Smith later in the day. The arrival of these reinforcements ensured the Confederate victory. The Union right wing was turned, and their first line collapsed. Two attempts were made to form new defensive lines, but each time the line was forced back.

The new troops had fought well, but after the third line was breached they began to surrender in droves. Of the original 6,500 men, 206 were killed, 844 wounded and 4,303 captured. Only 900 or so men escaped to fight on. Kirby Smith had lost 78 dead and 372 wounded, very small losses for the victory he had achieved. However, this was only a minor engagement with little impact on the overall campaign. That would be decided at Perryville, much further north in Kentucky.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (6 September 2006), Battle of Richmond, Kentucky, 30 August 1862 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_richmond_1862.html

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