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Preservationists Score At Richmond, Ky., Battlefield
By Ed Ballam


RICHMOND, Ky. - Members of the Battle of Richmond Association (BORA) are delighted that they won the bidding on an 1825 homestead and 63 acres of land that played a significant role in the Aug. 30, 1862, battle. The property went on the block Nov. 3 in three separate parcels, said Rob Rumpke, executive director of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce and a leader of BORA.

"We were hoping that we'd get at least part of it, but we were very surprised that we got all of it," Rumpke said. "The Battle of Richmond was one of the most decisive victories for the Confederacy during the entire war." Now that the association has all the property and the house, it plans to preserve and interpret the battlefield and open a museum in the home
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The property sold for a grand total of $564,764 as two separate tracts of land and the house with 12 acres. "The house was the real surprise," Rumpke said, selling for $201,000. It was used as a Confederate hospital during the battle and has slave quarters that BORA hopes to interpret as well.

Developers were bidding on the property and Rumpke said a significant portion of the battlefield has already been developed as a golf course and housing subdivision. BORA was a very discreet bidder on the property, being represented by someone no one knew.

The elderly homeowner was thrilled to learn that a preservation group had bought the homestead. "When she was told who bought it and why, she started to cry," Rumpke said of Mrs. Alex Herndon. "She said that was what her late husband would have wanted."

The association was ready for the auction, which was conducted by Rick Hayes Auctions/Century 21 Joyce M. Marcum Realty. Interested citizens, the Madison County Historical Society, the Richmond Chamber of Commerce and others put up the money. Now, BORA has to come up with a plan to repay the loans.

Funds will be solicited from state and federal agencies as well as preservation organizations, Rumpke said. Some of it might come from tourism and economic development funds.

Auctioneer Hayes told the local newspaper that the Herndon home was built in 1825 by Joseph Barnett, a surveyor who came to Kentucky with Daniel Boone. It had been in the Gibbs family for 115 years prior to the auction and was in remarkably good condition.

In 1942, the 460-acre farm was divided in half when the Army created the Bluegrass Supply Depot. In 1987, the farm was divided in half once again and, finally, in 1993, all but the remaining 63 acres, which once produced tobacco, corn and Black Angus cattle, were sold.

In addition to the Herndon property, which is known locally as the Pleasant View Farm, BORA expects to receive a house and a parcel of battlefield land which was taken over when the Army created the supply depot. The house is strategically located at a major intersection and will serve well as a welcome and interpretive center for BORA activities. Rumpke said the Herndon property is not far away and will be used for displays.

Parties interested in interpreting the Battle of Richmond are now in the beginning stages of shaping an interpretive plan. One element of it will include the Mt. Zion Christian Church, built in 1852 and used as a Union hospital during the battle. The active church is open for public viewing on a by-appointment basis. With the development of the battlefield as a tourist attraction, Rumpke hopes the church will be available for visitors on a regular schedule.

Surgeons are said to have performed amputations inside the church and bloodstains remain on some of the pews. Evidence of the battle is visible on the brickwork high between two windows. It was caused by fire from Capt. John T. Humphrey's Arkansas Artillery Battery.

The principal commanders of the Battle of Richmond, were Union Maj. Gen. William Nelson and Confederate Maj. Gen. E. Kirby Smith with the Union 1st and 2nd Brigades of the Army of Kentucky and C.S.A. Army of Kentucky. The victory was clearly the Confederate's to claim with the Union suffering 4,900 casualties and the Confederates suffering only 750 during the two days of fighting.

The Confederate troops were headed for Lexington, Ky., under the lead of Brig. Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne. Nelson sent generals Malhon D. Manson and Charles Cruft to oppose the invasion. The armies confronted each other six miles below Richmond, near the Mt. Zion Church and the Herndon farm.

The Federals became a "retreating mob" and scattered as the more experience Confederate forces overran them and the CSA troops moved on to Lexington.

Rumpke thinks the Battle of Richmond area "could be as big as Fort Boonesborough," a nearby Richmond state park that interprets an area settled by Daniel Boone and the Transylvania Company and the nine-day "Great Siege" attack by the Indians and French. The state has a camping and recreation area with miniature golf course, water park, gift shop and museum.

Rumpke hopes the battle interpretation will entice tourists and people passing through to Berea, a college town and "craft capitol" a short distance to the south.

"I feel that this has some major, major potential," he said. "This property and this area is a diamond in the rough." He predicts, "once we get the program in place, with docents in the buildings and the visitors center and the museum operating, with some good basic marketing, I'm sure we could get a lot of people to pull off Interstate 75 on their way through."

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