By Jan Sparkman
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — When the Civil War reached Laurel County in 1861, most able-bodied men enlisted in one of two companies: Co. K, 7th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry (formerly the 3rd Kentucky) or Co. A, of the 24th Kentucky Infantry. I will give information about Co. K this week and write about Co. A in next week’s column. As usual, I’ve depended on the good work of Russell Dyche and Dr. Thomas D. Clark for much of my information. I have also done personal research on Co. K because that is the company in which my own ancestor served.
This regiment was organized by Col. T.T. Garrard of Clay County, grandson of Kentucky’s second governor, James Garrard. Most records say that enlistment took place on August 26, 1861 in Laurel County and that the company was mustered into service on September 22, 1861 at Camp Dick Robinson.
Laurel County’s Dr. Thomas P. Coldwell was named second lieutenant of this company. In notes left by Dr. Coldwell (available to Russell Dyche in 1954), Coldwell says that Co. K was mustered in (his term for ‘enlisting’) near a well on North Main Street in London which was for many years called “the wash place” of General Jarvis Jackson. There were about 100 men, and during processing they camped on the grounds of Laurel Seminary. They then walked the 50-plus miles to Camp Dick Robinson in Garrard County where they were officially mustered in. Company officers elected from that initial group were: Philas Stratton, captain; Samuel Thompson, first lieutenant; and T. P. Coldwell, second lieutenant.
In “A History of Laurel County,” Dr. Clark says: “For Laurel County, Camp Dick Robinson was of the utmost importance. It was from this place that both commands and supplies flowed into the important Wilderness Road corridor. This camp . . . was essentially the anchor to the protection of Kentucky from invasion from the east and southeast.”
Officers of Co. K fluctuated as the war progressed, of course. Other Laurel Countians who held positions of authority at a later date were: Joseph F. Baugh, Jesse C. Speak, Sidney C. Baugh, James B. Lawson (who deserted in Dec. 1862, according to Dyche), Sparks Jones, Humphrey T. Jackson, and Evan K. Chesnut. The list of privates who served in this company is too long to publish here but you can find the list at the Laurel County Historical Society.
Co. K, 7th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry fought in several engagements of the Civil War, beginning with the Battle of Wildcat Mountain in northern Laurel County. (I’ll do a separate column on that battle at a future time.) After skirmishes at Cumberland Gap and retreat to Greensburg, Ky., Co. K began to move west and then south on the Mississippi River, fighting at various sites along the way and ending up at Young’s Point, Louisiana, in March of 1863. From there they worked their way up to Vicksburg, Miss., where they were part of the siege of that city in the spring and summer of 1863. A bust of T.T. Garrard may be found today on the Vicksburg battlefield. Much more about this unit that would be of great interest to descendants of the men of Co. K may be found at the Laurel County Historical Society.
My own research on Co. K resulted in a novel titled “A Memory of Summer,” written in 1981 and based on my great-grandfather’s service.
* * *
The Laurel County Historical Society is located at 310 W. 3rd St., London, (formerly the Laurel County Health Department). The library is open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 12 noon. For further information, contact 606-864-0607 during library hours, or 606-224-3767 at other times. Visit the historical society’s website: http://www.laurelcountykyhistoricalsociety.org. Email the society at email@example.com or Jan Sparkman at firstname.lastname@example.org.