Shepherdsville mural features Confederate general

Oct. 20, 2013

Written by
Patrick T. Sullivan
The Courier-Journal

The Confederate general who organized three unsuccessful raids on a Shepherdsville railroad bridge is now a permanent fixture under one of the city’s railway overpasses.

A new mural on a wall of the CSX Railroad underpass on Old Preston Highway in Shepherdsville shows Gen. John Hunt Morgan derailing a train. Artists from the Bullitt County Arts Council completed the mural last month.

The railroad company gave the council permission to paint a mural on the underpass in 2010, mural coordinator Karla Gruber said. The railroad company and the Edith Grigsby Trust paid for the materials used to paint the mural.

When the council began soliciting the community for ideas, Shepherdsville Mayor Scott Ellis suggested that it feature Morgan, who attempted to burn a similar L&N railroad bridge in Shepherdsville during the Civil War, Gruber said. (The L&N, for Louisville and Nashville, was the predecessor to CSX.)

“Shepherdsville has a lot of Civil War history,” Ellis said. “I thought it would be neat to put (Morgan) on the bridge that he tried to destroy three times.”

Gruber and the council liked his idea.

The north wall of the underpass features Morgan on his horse, Black Bess, in the foreground and a derailed train in the background. The south wall features an old L&N Depot.

On Sept. 6, 1862, Morgan sent a small force to Shepherdsville to capture the stockade there and burn the L&N railroad bridge over the Salt River. Destroying the bridge would deny Union forces a quick path on which to send reinforcements to Lebanon Junction and an easy way to retreat to Louisville, according to information compiled by the Bullitt County History Museum.

But because the bridge was partially iron and resistant to most burning methods, destruction of the railway proved to be more difficult and time consuming for the Confederates. Newspapers reported that Morgan’s men burned one section of the bridge, and the iron portion was only slightly damaged, according to the history museum.

Morgan sent his troops back to Shepherdsville later that month with the intent again to destroy the bridge, but the cavalry was met by Union forces, who were regrouping in the city when Morgan’s men arrived.

Union soldiers killed five of the Confederate troops and captured 28 during the attempted bridge attack.

A week later, Confederate troops again tried to destroy the bridge but were met again by Union forces. The bridge was damaged in the final raid, but Union troops repaired in it in less than a week, according to the history museum.

While Morgan was never present for the raids, he was the mastermind behind them, said David Strange, the history museum’s executive director.

Morgan’s likeness on the mural represents the guerrilla and cavalry attacks in Bullitt County that occurred during the Civil War. The county endured the attacks rather than traditional battles, Strange said.

The painting also symbolizes the divide of Union and Confederate allegiances among Kentuckians during and after the war, Strange said.

“Bullitt County is very emblematic of what the state was — are you for the Confederacy or for the Union?” Strange said. “Some people loved Morgan, some people hated him.”

Copyright © 2013

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