“The Raid on Confederate Captains Shacklett and Gorsuch at the Sheep Shed” Part 1&2

We have added a new blog by Gerry Fisher, Meade County Historian and one of the founding members of the Meade County Historical Archaeological Preservation Society. Visit us here for wonderful stories about the history and findings in Meade County Kentucky.

“The Raid on Confederate Captains Shacklett and Gorsuch at the Sheep Shed”

 Part 1 of 5

      At the beginning of the Civil War, in 1861 William Kendall Shacklett of Meadeville, Kentucky was appointed captain of the Brandenburg Home Guard.  The Home Guard was comprised of Union troops ordered to protect cities and towns, from rebel attack.  The problem for many of the Home Guard was that although they volunteered or were conscripted, their devotion to the Union became tenuous.  Friends, family, and business associations would influence the recruits, and in some instances entire Home Guard units resigned and became rebels.  So it was with Billy Shacklett and his cousins, Dan Morgan Shacklett, John Wimp, and a variety of their friends and relations.  In the summer of 1862 after leaving the Brandenburg Home Guard, and traveling to Big Spring Kentucky where there was a Confederate recruiting station, they officially became rebels.  One of Shacklett’s first duties was to recruit and train soldiers for the Confederacy.

      Across the Ohio River and some 50 miles north Mr. James Gorsuch had moved his family to the town of New Albany, Indiana.  Gorsuch was a Louisvillian from Portland, Kentucky directly across the river from New Albany.  He too became a Union captain of the Home Guard, although his sentiments also favored the Confederacy.  Captains Gorsuch’s and Shacklett’s similar allegiance  and experience would combine 15 months later in a pitched battle between the Union officer Christopher Hare and his hundred mounted infantry, with a purpose to end the military careers of Shacklett and Gorsuch.  Gorsuch knew that the Confederacy was not equipped with arms and ammunition to fight the Union army, which was even now occupying Kentucky’s neutral soil.  The hated Lincolnites were arming the Home Guard by shipping thousands of weapons to Kentucky with which to battle the already out-gunned Confederates.  The employment of their “Lincoln Rifles,” Gorsuch knew must be stopped.

      Although they were working independently of each other, both men Captains in their own right, began to put into place plans to strengthen the Confederacy by supplying it with well-armed trained men.  Gorsuch and a few trusted men conspired to launch a midnight raid to secure Louisville’s Lincoln rifles.  Meanwhile to the south, near the river town of Brandenburg, Billy Shacklett was recruiting a force of men, some of which were defectors from the Brandenburg Home Guard.  During this same 1861 summer Col. Nathan Bedford Forrest began recruiting cavalry in Meade, Hardin, and Breckenridge Counties.  The area was a rich source of rebel volunteers to fight what was considered a tyrannical government in Washington D. C.

Meade County held Confederate sympathies, but the county seat of Brandenburg was a Union town that persecuted those holding opposing opinions.  This urban proclivity toward the north and county sentiments toward the south would divide Meade County into two camps, townies versus counties, in a more personal but equally deadly microcosm of the Civil War.

Read Part 2, Gorsuch’s daring midnight Raid when he confiscated the Lincoln guns, and later captured a steamboat and yawl, becoming the first known man in Kentucky, to run guns to the Confederacy.

  

“The Raid on Captains Shacklett and Gorsuch at the Sheep Shed”

 Part 2

The Daring Raid of Captain Gorsuch

      In May of 1861 James Gorsuch was promoted to captain of the Newcomb Grays and ordered to Camp Shelby near Shepherdsville, Kentucky.  By June 5th, 1861 Gorsuch was a captain of the Armstrong Guard, sometimes called the Armstrong Rifles.  He was departing for an encampment at Mulldraugh Hill, near the L&N Railroad trestle at West Point, Kentucky, named Camp Daviess.  On September 4th 1861 Captain James Gorsuch made a midnight raid on the armory in Louisville, aided by Charles McCaffey, the Frenchman Michelle LaPielle, better known by his nickname Mitchell Pete, and about a dozen men.

At midnight, Gorsuch and his men drove to the Louisville armory where the Lincoln rifles were stored.  Mitchell Pete blew a horn three times when the wagon arrived at the door.  At this signal 12 men forced open the door and began loading the arms into the wagon.  The guns made a rattling sound as they were placed in the wagon bed.  From the armory Gorsuch and his company drove to the Ohio River, and took possession of the steamboat, “Masonic Gem”.  There they robbed the rooms of bedding and broke into the Captain’s state room and stole a valuable revolver.  They loaded the guns, bedding and any other plunder aboard the yawl John Raine, and departed south toward West Point.

On September 15th, James Gorsuch, Mitchell Pete, John Pope, Phil Victor, and the 12 raiders rendezvoused with about 50 rebels, and detained an L&N freight train at Mulldraugh. They loaded the arms and proceeded on the train to Elizabeth Town, where they made a scheduled stop.  There, Union Major A. L. Symmes, aware of the robbery of the Louisville armory, searched the train found and removed the arms to the Elizabeth Town Jail where they were secured.  Later Gorsuch and his men broke into the jail, retrieved the arms, and shipped what they didn’t need south to the Confederacy.  Gorsuch and his men escaped to places unknown, but some likely made their way to Big Spring, Kentucky about 20 miles north.   On September 21St, 1861, a party of 25 rebels forcibly took a portion of the Lincoln rifles from the Brandenburg Home Guard.

      Shacklett’s base of operations lay five miles north of Big Spring, at Meadeville, Kentucky.  Meadeville, originally named Good Springs, because of its large free flowing spring, became a stage coach stop.  With a hotel, stage coach station, two blacksmith shops, several stores, and a saloon, the town became a communication center.   Meadeville was Confederate territory except for James Irvin Newton, a Meadeville blacksmith who joined the 12th Kentucky Union Cavalry.  The 12th was a guerrilla hunting unit ordered to hunt down Confederate guerrillas.  Not more than three miles distant lived another northern leaning man named David Henry.  Information about Union movements and Home Guard depredations was provided the rebels.  Misinformation designed to confuse the Home Guard was leaked to persons suspected of furnishing intelligence to the Union army or Home Guard.  James Irvin Newton’s family was suspected of telling on the rebels.

Be sure to Read Part 3, Billy Shacklett trains his men and a sham battle almost turns into a real one.  Union Army Captain Christopher Hare makes plans to kill Shacklett.  Someone  informs on Billy.