Most known for its fast cars (Bowling Green is home to the National Corvette Museum), roller coasters and college sports, Bowling Green, Kentucky also has many entertaining stories to tell that include some little-known facts about the Civil War. Local attractions have interpreted those facts in “Bowling Green’s Civil War Experience,” which includes opportunities to hop aboard a train, dress in period clothing, ride a boat through an underground cave, travel by car along the Civil War Discovery Trail and much more.
The South Central Kentucky city’s convenient location (less than an hour from Nashville) and unique geography appeal to many travelers both presently and in the past. The Bowling Green area’s productive farms and its ample quantities of fresh water promised plentiful supplies for an army during the Civil War. Access to the Louisville-Nashville Railroad, a system of roadways and the Barren River allowed for quick and efficient movement of men and supplies. Rolling hills and underground shelters offered effective opportunities to defend those transportation routes, making the area a strategic post that both camps wanted to control. Visitors today still recognize those valuable geographic traits, and now they can be entertained while they learn about how Kentucky played an important role in the war and why the Bowling Green area was viewed as such a strategic post.
Bowling Green’s Civil War Experience includes:
“A Star in Each Flag: Conflict in Kentucky"The Kentucky Library & Museum on Western Kentucky University’s campus has introduced a new exhibit that encourages guests to walk through a simulated campsite, view a slave cabin, and step into a community post office. Examine period artifacts including John Hunt Morgan’s saddle, an original copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriett Beecher Stowe, actual letters between Kentucky residents written during the war, various medical instruments, Civil War flags, weapons and more. “A Star in Each Flag: Conflict in Kentucky” also includes a Victorian photo studio where visitors can dress in period clothing and have a picture taken. The exhibit is the first in the region to interpret South Central Kentucky’s Civil War story, with emphasis on the divided loyalties of regional families and the lives of slaves in Kentucky.
“Lincoln and the Railroad"The Historic Railpark & Train Museum will debut a “Lincoln and the Railroad” exhibit in mid-to-late March featuring rare Matthew Brady Civil War railroad photos from the National Archives and accompanying text from Smithsonian research assistant Peter Hansen. The exhibit will highlight Lincoln’s little-known 20-year career as a railroad attorney in Illinois and the expansion of the railroad during his administration. Also of interest are permanent exhibits ‘Segregation and the North American Railroad’ and ‘The Great Locomotive Chase,’ displaying a Civil War Medal of Honor.
Civil War Discovery Trail By car, visitors can listen to the newly developed audio tour for the Civil War Discovery Trail. Bowling Green was the Capitol of the Confederate State of Kentucky for approximately five months in 1861-62. Noted on the tour is the private residence that served as the capitol building. Historical markers interpret interesting facts throughout the city and Riverview at Hobson Grove Historic House & Museum offers a wonderful stopping place to learn more about how the house was used as a fort and an ammunition depot during the war. A free download of the interpretive audio is available online at http://www.visitbgky.com/ A CD .version is also available for purchase at the Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Bureau located on Three Springs Road, just off Scottsville Rd. from exit number 22 of I-65.
Lost River Cave & Valley Explore more Civil War secrets underground at another stop on the Discovery Trail, Lost River Cave & Valley, and hear stories about both camps hiding out and the mysterious deaths of soldiers there. Lost River offered a natural water supply and the beauty of the cave provided a diversion from the ugliness of war. It is believed that on one of his “lightning raids” into Kentucky, John Hunt Morgan hid in the cave when escaping from pursuing troops. Visitors can learn more by taking a boat ride through the cave. In the fall, Lost River’s Civil War Days recreates history and includes period re-enactors, demonstrations and interactive exhibits and activities.
President Abraham Lincoln emphasized the value of Kentucky’s strategic importance in an 1861 letter, “I think to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game.” Through “Bowling Green’s Civil War Experience,” visitors can step back in time and learn more about the legacy of a war that bitterly divided our nation, our state and our families. Area hotels and one-of-a-kind dining establishments, in addition to creative shopping venues and attractions, contribute to Bowling Green’s unique charm. To learn more about Bowling Green’s Civil War Experience and area tourism destinations, visit http://www.visitbgky.com/ or contact the Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Bureau at 800-326-7465.