Richmond, Ky. Battlefield Will Soon Open
A Visitors & Heritage Center

By Kathryn Jorgensen

(October 2008 Civil War News)


RICHMOND, Ky. — A laser topographical map, battlefield film and artifacts will greet visitors when the Rogers House opens as the Battle of Richmond Visitors & History Center the weekend of Oct. 4.

Visitors will get a good taste of the Aug. 29 and 30, 1862, battle, says Phillip Seyfrit, the historic properties director and battlefield superintendent.

The first-floor theater will show a locally produced 12-minute film that tells the military and civilian story.

One of the first battlefield laser topographical maps, “kind of like something out of ‘Star Wars,’” will explain the battle with the help of laser beams shone from the ceiling. The map will show the armies’ movements before, during and after action on the battlefield.

The Richmond Battlefield is unusual in that it was 10,000 yards wide and 8 miles long. Seyfrit says the battle was fought in three stages along this swath, with the same troops fighting in each stage.

Richmond battle artifacts will be displayed in a second-floor gallery. They are on 30-year loan from the Blue Grass Army Depot which occupies much of the battlefield. Among these artifacts are shrapnel, fired and unfired minie balls, cannonballs and horseshoes.

Another exhibit will honor Union commander Brig. Gen. Mahlon D. Manson whose papers and artifacts were donated to the Battle of Richmond Association by his great-great-granddaughter. The documents are on permanent loan to Berea College’s Hutchins Library. The battlefield center will exhibit Manson’s saber, pistol, china, footlocker, field desk and several pieces of personal furniture.

A gallery for temporary exhibits is opening with a quilt display.

Because the new visitors center is a house and cannot accommodate large crowds, Seyfrit says the grand opening will be a low-key affair. Visitors are invited on Saturday, Oct. 4, from 10 to 5 and Sunday from 12 to 5 to see the film, map and exhibits and have refreshments. The building is on Battle Memorial highway between Richmond and Berea.

The Rogers House witnessed much of the morning and early afternoon fighting, according to Seyfrit. The house and grounds held wounded for days after the battle.

Later it was the Army depot post commander’s house. In 2005 the Army transferred ownership of the house and three acres to the Madison County Fiscal Court, which owns the battlefield park and restored the house to its 1862 appearance. The Army still owns 400 acres of battle land.

Because the battle action was strung out in three phases, the land that has been preserved as the Battle of Richmond Battlefield Park is similarly broken up. Seyfrit says 450 acres from the first phase are preserved. A Federal artillery tract is on another three acres.

Last year a 300-acre farm, some of which is battle land, was bought. The county’s Battlefield Golf Course also encompasses some battleground.

In the past seven years Richmond preservationists, who include the Battle of Richmond Association and Friends of the Richmond Battlefield, have come a long way.

“In 2001 all that commemorated the battle were three Kentucky state historical markers,” recalls Seyfrit. “In a short amount of time and through the hard work of a lot of people we have come leaps and bounds and we want to continue that.”

Negotiations for additional land purchases continue and Seyfrit sees the potential for the 600-acre park to expand to more than 1,000 acres of preserved land.

Visitors center hours will be seasonal, so people interested in visiting are advised to check first at (859) 6224-0013 or www.battleofrichmond.org. A 16-mile driving tour, more than a mile of walking trails and interpretive signs describe the battle.

The battlefield’s Pleasant View House on the former Herndon Farm, which was the park’s first purchase, is open by appointment and is the site of occasional special events. Restoration of the 1824 house and slave quarters, one of the last ones in Kentucky, are planned. Another house that survived the battle is the Palmer House, which is the golf course pro shop.

The Battle of Richmond was Kentucky’s second largest battle (Perryville was the largest). The Federals were routed and lost more than 85 percent of their men and materiel. Seyfrit says most Civil War historians consider it to be “the most complete victory one side had over the other in the entire Civil War.”