Posted: Mon Oct 20, 2008 5:01 pm Post subject: The "Siege" of Cincinnati
I recently had a few down hours in Cincinnati, and therefore decided to tour its defenses in Northern Kentucky. I had wanted to do this since the early 90s after seeing Plate 103 of the Official Atlas. Although called a siege by the locals, it was more of a reconnaissance in force by Henry Heth's division of 8,000 in early September 1862. Heth lingered for a few days, but began withdrawing around September 13 due to the strength of the defenses and the fact he was outnumbered by the regular forces and militia defending the city. I have seen various casualty reports but it appears the defenders suffered four dead and Heth suffered about 2 wounded and 16 captured. Many of the defenses survived into the late 80s, but the trend toward hilltop development has leveled all but 6. Blue and Gray did a tour which is linked below:
I only had time to travel from Battery Hooper to the present day city of Fort Thomas (the city is named after a post Civil War military base). Battery Hooper is well worth the stop and only about 5 minutes off of I75. The site is now a city park, and is the home of the James A. Ramage Civil War Museum.
The battery is undergoing archeological excavation. The view of the Licking River Valley is spectacular, and you can clearly see why this position, with it's adjacent battery sites, was chosen. As I was at the park on a Tuesday, I cannot comment on museum as it is only open Friday through Sunday. If you stop by the site, be sure you stop behind the adjacent church where you will get a spectacular view of Covington and the Cincinnati skyline, and further understand why this particular ridgeline was fortified. Unfortunately, there's not much to see if you continue east along the ridgeline, and while it may be perfectly safe, there is a public housing project before you get into the Licking River Valley and a parked police car seemingly every block. Thus, I would recommend getting to the valley floor by following Hilltop Road.
Another great viewpoint is across the river south of Newport. Going south of town along the river, you come to a street called Alpine which goes uphill to an apartment complex. From the parking lot, you can view the entire Licking Valley and the ridgeline to the west which formed the backbone of the City's defenses. From here you can understand why Heth thought the best route of attack was the western defenses along the Ohio River. A few blocks to the south is another road going uphill to a hilltop condo development and the site of Battery Holt. This property was for sale at the time of the General's Tour, and the condo development may have obliterated the battery, although it also may be in the underbrush behind the property manager's office and swimming pool. From the upper parking lot, you can see why this position was chosen as it covers a broad east west valley between the next ridgeline to the south all the way to the ridgeline on the western side of the Licking River. Also, you get a picturesque view of St. John the Baptist Church across the valley where you should also stop.
Battery Shaler is located in the Evergreen Cemetery in Southgate. I arrived there about 5:15 p.m, and the cemetary had already closed. As it was a rather large cemetery, I did not get all the way to the battery, but was able to follow the ridgeline which supposedly was covered with trenchlines. There is also a small Union cemetary plot with a number of Civil War headstones.
Going into Fort Thomas, you pass a Kentucky Historical Marker indicating the site of the Beverly Hills Supper Club where 165 died in a 1977 fire. The fire occurred when I was nine years old, and I remember watching those terrible events unfold on TV, but must have repressed the memory as it unexpectedly brought back a flood of emotion. The supper club was on the approximate site of Fort Burnside.
Fort Thomas was the site of several forts and batteries, but the city, unlike Fort Mitchell and Fort Wright, was named after a post Civil War military base built in 1867 for the 6th (?) U.S. Infantry.
I will try to upload a few pictures if anyone is interested in taking the tour.
Had a chance to stop by and visit the western side of the Cincinnati defenses earlier this month. The area where Heth skirmished with Union forces near Fort Mitchel and Fort Wright is mostly paved over, but you can still make out the major geographic features, and if you are ever driving on Interstate 71/75 through Fort Mitchell (the city added an extra "l"), look for the large white water tower, which is close to the site of the fort. At that point, you are between Fort Mitchel and Fort Wright. A little to the south, where the Dixie Highway crosses the interstate, Heth skirmished with the Union forces in the outerworks of the forts after investing the defenses on September 6, 1862. Battery Coombs and Battery Bates now have walking trail access, but it is hidden in a subdevelopment, and as it cuts through the backyard of a house, I was not sure if there was public access. After calling the city, I found out that it was part of the city park system, and will stop by next time I am in Cincinnati.
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