On this day in 1862, at the Battle of Logan’s Cross Roads, Union General George Thomas defeats Confederates commanded by George Crittenden in southern Kentucky. The battle, also called Mill Springs or Beech Grove, secured Union control of the region and resulted in the death of Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer.
Zollicoffer commanded a brigade that moved across the Cumberland River in November 1861 in order to control as much of Kentucky as possible. Crittenden was the key Confederate commander in the region, and he arrived in early January to supervise Rebel operations. Crittenden had initially ordered a withdrawal to the south bank of the Cumberland, butfound Zollicoffer’s force safely entrenched on the north bank of the river, which was running unusually high. Thomas’ Yankees were just10 miles north. Crittenden ordered Zollicoffer to advance, and Thomas’ scouts detected the move. Thomas sent his troops south, and the two forces collided early in the morning of January 19.
The Confederates attacked the Union left flank, then the center. As additional Federal troops arrived, the tide of battle turned. At one point, Zollicoffer approached a unit that he thought was part of his army. It was the 4th Kentucky, a Union regiment. Before he and his entourage could flee, a volley killed Zollicoffer.Union troops pressed all along the line and the Confederates began to break en masse. Fortunately for the Confederates, Thomas’ troops were low on ammunition and could not take advantage of the situation. That night, Crittenden withdrew his forces across the swollen Cumberland but had to abandon most of the Rebel artillery and horses. The Confederates lost some 400 men in the engagement; the Yankees lost about 250. Crittenden was heavily criticized for the defeat and he resigned that fall. The Union retained control of Kentucky, but the engagement was a prelude to the much larger Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee in April 1862.