Christmas Raid, December 27, 1862
In December 1862, Gen. John Hunt Morgan was sent by the Confederate command to shut down the L&N Railroad, thereby cutting off one of the Union's major supply lines. Morgan's target was one of the railroad's most vulnerable points, the trestles at Muldraugh Hill, five miles northeast of Elizabethtown.
On December 27, 1862, Morgan's cavalry attacked Elizabethtown, which was defended by some 600 men of the 91st Illinois under the command of Lieut. Col. H.S. Smith. Because Morgan outnumbered the Union defenders almost five to one, Smith felt that his best chance lay in occupying the buildings in and around the town square. He hoped to be able to hold out against Morgan until other Federal forces could come to his aid.
When Smith refused to surrender, Morgan's artillery opened fire and battered the town both solid shot and canister. Morgan then ordered detachments under Col. Basil Duke and Col. William C.P. Breckinridge into town where they would make, as Morgan phrased it, "a street fight out of it." The Confederates moved into town, fording the freezing waters of the swollen Valley Creek, as artillery shells screamed overhead. The fighting was soon street-to-street and building-to-building. The Federal troops, divided among many buildings, were unable to concentrate their fire or coordinate their defense and were soon overcome. Lt. Col. Smith, who was slightly wounded, attempted to maintain command and control, but had no way of communicating with his scattered troops.
One by one, surrounded and overcome, pockets of Federal troops hoisted the flag of surrender. Troops nearby, seeing the surrender flag in one building, believed a general order of surrender had been issued and they too, surrendered. After several hours Smith realized he had no hope of holding Elizabethtown until help arrived. Smith surrendered to Morgan, freeing the Confederates to advance and destroy the trestles of the L&N the following day. The captured Union soldiers were paroled and sent marching to Louisville.
Caption for the image at the bottom of the marker: Morgan ordered his artillery, which had been placed at several locations around the city including atop of Cemetery Hill, to fire upon Elizabethtown.