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Civil War Sites Green River Iron Bridge

Green River Iron Bridge
Green River Iron Bridge
Bridge Builders: 8th Michigan and 79th New York

The 25th Michigan was not the only unit assigned to Green River Bridge. The 8th Michigan, together with the 79th New York Highlanders, were ordered there from Lebanon on April 26 and 27, 1863 to defend the site and rebuild the bridge.

The movement of the 8th Michigan by itself would have been commonplace, but the lively New Yorkers attracted attention on the march. The 79th New York Cameron Highlanders' uniforms—kepis, dark blue Scottish tailcoats with red pip­ing and cuff guards, dark blue or tartan pants—were traditional. A Scotch piper accompanied them, dressed in kilts. It is likely that the skirling of his bagpipes brought many onlookers as the Highlanders marched by.

They halted outside of Campbellsville the night of April 28, probably on Trace Fork of Pitman. Before departing from camp on the 29th, the men feasted on beef-steak, broiled on ramrods over the fire, coffee and crackers. When the 8th Michigan and the 79th New York arrived at Green River, they had to ford the river to reach the flat land on the bluff and set up their camp.

Lt. Col. Ralph Ely, commander of the 8th Michigan, who had arrived a day early, pitched his tent inside the old stockade. He recorded in his diary: May 1, 1863—Commenced to rebuild the bridge across the Green River, which the Rebel General Morgan burned in January last.... We are ordered to hold this Pass at all hazards.

The 8th Michigan worked for a month felling timbers and cutting stones to strengthen the bridge's abutments. The 79th also set to work as soon as their tools arrived. On some days, both regiments held company and battalion drills and occasionally Capt. George B. Fuller, his wife, and some other officers spent "jolly" evenings at the Johnstons, neighbors across from the stockade.

The 79th had been there but a short time, when it was ordered away on a scouting mission to Jamestown and the Cumberland River on May 11.

The 8th Michigan continued with the bridge building and, by May 21, had completed a temporary bridge, an uncovered structure, its floor made of split logs put down crosswise. Two days later, the men began work on the permanent cov­ered bridge. On Sunday, May 24, the regiment held a dress parade in celebration and the officers finished the evening back at the Johnstons with food and drink."

During the latter part of May, Capt. T.B. Brooks, U.S. Military Engineers, made a report on the state of "the important military route" from Lebanon to Columbia:

The Green River Bridge burned by the Rebels has been replaced by a temporary structure which is in turn being replaced by a permanent bridge built by the troops."

But most of the 8th Michigan was not to stay long at Green River. After an uneventful regimental scout to Jamestown, they left Green River Bridge on June 5 to return to Lebanon. They then went by train from Lebanon to Louisville to Cairo, Illinois, where the regiment was put on board a steamer to Vicksburg, Mississippi."

On special orders from General Boyle, 8th Michigan Lt. Michael A. Hogan, an experienced bridge builder for the Milwaukee Railroad, and 42-44 men were ordered to remain behind on detached duty to complete the covered bridge." Col. David Morrison, commander of the 79th New York, placed a number of men to remain under Hogan's command to also help build the bridge. Hogan also hired civilians, some from Michigan, with bridge-building experience."

Other military units camped there for brief periods during the time the bridge was being reconstructed. One hundred ninety men of the 11th Kentucky Cavalry stayed for an extended period. Their camp was on the bluff south of the river, on the west side of Tebbs Bend Road, opposite the Federal Stockade. The 11th Kentucky was responsible to defend the site of the damaged bridge, the bridge builders, and the fords over Green River, as well as send out scouts to the Cumberland River valley, looking for evidence of any Confederate approach. Supply trains from Lebanon to Columbia and on to southeast Kentucky had to be protected from roving guerrilla bands, especially Champ Ferguson's.