The Civil War lasted barely a month for Private Lewis McFerren of the Union Army. He died on the morning of October 21, 1861, less than twenty minutes into his first battle. He was one of 15 men listed as killed in the fight at Camp Wildcat, the first engagement of regular troops in Kentucky.
Camp Wildcat wasn't one of the great battles of the Civil War. Yet, for the inexperienced soldiers who faced fire for the first time it might as well have been Gettysburg.
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In the summer of 1861, Kentucky was officially neutral, but both the North and South were recruiting soldiers from the state. The South was concerned that Union troops being recruited would invade east Tennessee. The North worried that Confederate troops would move into Kentucky in an effort to control the Bluegrass region, thereby gaining access to the Ohio River.
The main artery of travel in eastern Kentucky was the Wilderness Road. Control of this artery also meant control of mountaineers whose sentiments were pro-Union.
In July of 1861, General Felix Zollicoffer assumed command..