Civil War troop movements through Berea were common prior to the Aug. 29-30, 1862, Battle of Richmond. Military traffic in and near Berea caused villagers to hear the Civil War "knocking at their east door." At Big Hill on the Old State Road (U.S. 421), the Merritt Jones Tavern/Grant House, later owned by Berea College, served as a hospital for Confederate wounded who were returning to Tennessee. Thirteen soldiers who died there are buried in the woods behind the area where the building was located. Over
On Aug. 27, prior to the Battle of Richmond, Matilda Fee, wife of Berea College founder John G. Fee, was stopped, along with her two older children, while driving her carriage from Richmond to Berea. She assured Union pickets she was not a Confederate spy; a Union flag painted on the carriage helped to convince them and she was allowed to pass. On the battle's first day, Fee and son Howard rode from Richmond to Berea, but were forced to turn back after meeting retreating Union troops at Kingston.