In 1860, Bowling Green was a thriving city of about 2500 inhabitants with many local businesses, a woolen factory, a candle factory, several mills, an iron foundry, and a newspaper. This city was vital to the war effort of both sides because of its transportation network, including the L&N (Lousiville-Nashville) Railroad, road network and the Big Barren River and the hills that surrounded the city.
Beginning in mid-September 1861, a Confederate force of about 4500 men under the command of General Simon Bolivar Buckner entered the city and constructed eight forts on all the available hilltops. Fortified positions were also placed at key river fords and ferry crossings. Fort Webb defended parts of Big Barren River, a ferry crossing, and a boat landing and had mounted three cannons.
Unlike some of the more elaborate fortifications, made of limestone blocks like Fort Lytle and Fort C.F. Smith in Bowling Green, Fort Webb was a simpler earthworks fort (or redoubt). This kind of fort could be "thrown up" (a military engineering term) by large numbers of men with picks and shovels. Soldiers would dig a ditch and throw the dirt onto the parapet. With such earthworks before them, an attacking enemy must, charge towards the fort, descend or fall into the ditch, and then climb the high, steep scarp wall of the parapet in order to storm the fort... if possible.
Constructing a Lunette
The main structure visible at Fort Webb is an earthworks "lunette." Historically, this was a standard shape used by military engineers, and resembled a crescent moon or lunar shape, thus the name. Lunettes were often built to protect artillery.
If you observe the parts of earthwork wall where the soil has eroded away, you may notice some large pieces of limestone embedded in the dirt. These rocks were not placed there for extra strength or reinforcement; the earth wall in itself was enough to absorb shot and shell. They were placed there as a building guide. With rocks or logs outlining the size and shape of the lunette, the soldiers simply buried them using the soil dug from the outer ditch.