Civil War Discovery Trail in Bowling Green, Ky

Download a printable Discovery Trail brochure

1. Lost River Cave Historical Marker & Two Wayside Exhibits

2818 Nashville Road (US 31W) Lost River Cave and Valley served as a camp for both Union and Confederate troops in this area. Lost River offered a natural water supply and the beauty of the cave provided a diversion from the ugliness of war. On one of his “lightning raids” into Kentucky, John Hunt Morgan allegedly hid in the cave when escaping from pursuing troops. There is an admission fee to tour Lost River Cave. For more information call 270-393-0077 or visit From I-65, take exit #22, US231, heading north. 0.7 miles turn left at intersection # 9 on Cave Mill Rd./Dishman Lane 3 miles turn right on US31W North 0.1 miles turn right into visitor parking at Lost River Cave.

*Also visit Octagon Hall, about ten miles south of Lost River cave on US 31W. This is the site where the Confederate army camped after evacuating Bowling Green.

2. “Jonesville" Historical Marker

WKU Campus This marker denotes the original site of Jonesville, an African American community that was founded in 1867 by Charles L. Jones, an emancipated slave. This reconstruction era settlement grew to include several hundred residents, an elementary school, businesses, and two churches. Turn right on US 31W North/Nashville Road 1.9 miles turn left on BUS 231/University Blvd. 0.5 miles continue straight at Hwy 68/80/Big Red Way intersection The marker is just ahead on the right and permitted parking on the left. There is room for a short-term pull-off.

3. The Kentucky Building

US Highway 68 This building houses the Kentucky Library, the Kentucky Museum and the Civil War and Southern History Research Collection. In addition to the vast resources including manuscripts, books, newspapers and artifacts, the Museum previously hosted a Civil War exhibit, “A Star in Each Flag: Conflict in Kentucky.” The Museum currently offers free admission to the public. A historical marker noting Bowling Green's role as the Confederate Capital of Kentucky was placed in front of the building in 1952 but recently removed to be relocated off-campus. For more information about the Kentucky Museum, call 270-745-2592 or visit Continue on Hwy 68/80/College Heights Blvd. intersection 0.7 miles, on right side.

4. Fort Lytle

WKU Campus Once known as Fort Vinegar, this fort is located at the summit of the hill on Western Kentucky University’s campus. The Confederate army began construction of this fort during its occupation of Bowling Green, but it was completed by Union forces. There is no readily available parking on weekdays. Turn right leaving KY Building parking 0.3 miles turn right on E. 12th Ave.; turn right on Center St; turn left on E. 13th Ave.; turn right on College St.; 0.3 miles turn right on College Heights Blvd. stay left to enter hilltop campus at Gordon Wilson Hall; 0.1 miles take the first left, just past Van Meter Hall, to reach hilltop parking lot.

5. Grider House Private Residence

1320 Park St. This antebellum home owned by a Union sympathizer, was captured by the Confederate Army. A garrison of soldiers was stationed to protect this house, which served as Kentucky’s Confederate Capitol Building. It was the residence of the Confederate Governor, and provisional government meetings took place there as well. This hill also contained a “lunette fort” and three mounted cannons. 0.2 miles follow the one-way lane down from the hilltop; turn left on Normal/State St. 0.1 miles turn right on 14th Ave. 0.1 miles turn left at Park St. Go 1? 2 block, 1320 Park St. on right. No public parking.

6. “College Hill" Historic Marker

Main & Park Streets at the entrance to Reservoir Park Fort C.F. Smith was located south of town on College Hill, now known as Reservoir Hill. Still visible are some of the earthworks constructed under the command of Colonel Benjamin Harrison, who later became President. This was the largest and most elaborate fort in the Bowling Green defensive system. It was described as a “bastion fort” and was designed to mount up to 25 cannons. A historical marker is located at the corner of Main and Park Streets, and a wayside exhibit is located to the right of the picnic pavilion at Fort C.F. Smith. 0.4 miles turn right at 4th stop sign onto Main Ave. continue 0.2 miles around the reservoir to the picnic pavilion (Fort C.F. Smith)

7. “Civil War Occupations" Historical Marker

Main St. in Fountain Square Park The marker describes the occupation of this area by both Confederate and Union troops. There is also a stone monument in Fountain Square Park that recognizes Bowling Green as the Confederate Capital of Kentucky. Turn around, return down Main Ave. for 0.2 miles Continue 0.1 miles on Main Ave. and keep left to circle Fountain Square Park

8. “Warren County's Chief USA Civil War Officers" Historical Marker

Warren County Courthouse, 429 10th Ave. East This marker recognizes Warren County’s Chief Union Civil War Officers and lists those who received the Confederate Medals of Honor in 1863. From the square, walk one block south on College Street to the Warren County Courthouse at the corner of College and 10th Streets.

9. “Baker Hill" Historic Marker and Wayside Exhibit

US 31W, Private Property Fort Baker stood on a hill north of the city on Barren River to defend Bowling Green against the troops coming from the north and east. From here, Union General Ormsby Mitchel launched his bombardment of Bowling Green while the Confederate army evacuated the city. A Wayside Exhibit is located across US 31W near the entrance to Weldon Peete Park. From the square, turn left at Old Louisville Rd./State St./US 31W 1.4 miles to Fort Baker on left (parking on right at Weldon Peete Park)

10. “Defending the L&N Railroad" Wayside Exhibit

River Walk Park, E. Riverview Dr. On this side of the Barren River, there once stood a fortified stockade to defend the L&N Railroad Trestle. The original trestle was destroyed by the Confederates to prevent the Union army from entering Bowling Green by rail. After the trestle was repaired by the Union army, a defensive stockade was also built to protect this important river crossing. Turn left onto Old Louisville Rd. 0.6 miles, turn right on E. Riverview Dr./31W 0.1 mi., parking on right. Wayside Exhibit located near the trestle.


A quick side trip from this location takes one to Pioneer Cemetery where a Jefferson Davis Highway marker was erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 2015. Turn right onto on E. Riverview Dr./31W and immediately turn left on College St. After crossing 5th Ave., park on the right side of the street and access the Pioneer Cemetery gate along College St. Follow the path and find the marker on the left.

11. Historic Railpark & Train Museum

401 Kentucky St. After confiscating ten locomotives and 200 boxcars in Nashville, General Buckner arrived in Bowling Green with 5,000 Confederate soldiers in mid-September 1861. The next February, Confederate forces burned the train depot as they evacuated Bowling Green before the Union's advance. This Train Station, built in 1925, lies on the trackbed of the original L&N Rail line. Permanent exhibits include: “The Great Locomotive Chase,” with a replica of the first Congressional Medal of Honor ever awarded for stealing the Confederate locomotive known as ‘The General,’ and “Lincoln, the Civil War and the Railroad” containing rare Matthew Brady Civil War Railroad photos. For more information call 270-745-7317 or visit Turn right onto E. Riverview Dr., drive 0.1 miles to turn left on Louisville/KY St. 0.3 miles turn right into Historic Railpark & Train Museum.

12. “A Civil War Defense Line" Historical Marker and Wayside Exhibit

Roland Bland Park This spot marks the end of a defensive rifle trench, first proposed by the Confederates then completed by the Union Army. This trench began next to the L&N Railroad tracks and then zig-zagged its way to the center of this park. This rifle trench represented additional defense for the L&N Railroad itself, as well as another defensive position halfway between Forts Webb and C.F. Smith. Turn right onto Kentucky St., drive 0.1 miles to turn left on 7th Ave. 0.1 miles left on Center St. cross over 6th. Ave. 0.1 miles, parking on left. Marker & Wayside Exhibit located just past the pavilion.

13. Riverview at Hobson Grove Historic House Museum & "Hobson House" Historical Marker

1100 West Main St. Construction of Riverview began in 1857 but was not completed until after the Civil War. During the occupation by both Confederate and Union troops, the house’s foundation and four walls were used as a fort, while the basement was used as an ammunition depot for the entire fortification system in Bowling Green. Today this house is fully restored and open to the public for a small admission fee. Interpretive panel by the parking lot. For more information call 270-843-5565. Return on Center St. for 0.1 miles to turn right on 6th Ave. Take first left on Kentucky St. 0.2 miles right on Main Ave. 0.4 miles cross over Veterans Memorial Blvd. Continue 0.7 miles, left at second stop sign on Jackson St. Take an immediate right and enter “Hobson Grove Park” (Marker at entrance)

14. Hines Boatlanding Park

Boatlanding Road The Big Barren River was a major contributing factor to making Bowling Green a strategic location for both armies. The river offered a plentiful supply of fresh water for the troops and it was an ideal way to move men and supplies quickly and efficiently. This area was protected by the cannons of Fort Baker. Nearby was one of several military hospitals located in the Bowling Green area. This small park beside the river offers opportunities for fishing, boating and picnics. Interpretive panel on site. A Wayside Exhibit is located overlooking the Barren River on the Greenway Trail. Return to Jackson St. and turn left 0.2 miles turn left on Church St. 0.2 miles turn right on Power St. 0.4 miles turn left on Boatlanding Rd. 0.1 miles turn left at Boatlanding Park. Wayside Exhibit located up hill to left.

15. Fort Webb Park & "Fort Webb" Historical Marker

Beech Bend Road & Country Club Drive Now located in a city park, this fort has retained its original configuration since the time it was constructed by the Confederate army. A historical marker and an interpretive panel explain its unusual earthworks which were described as a “lunette fort with embankments” and three mounted cannons. This marker also includes a map of Civil War fortifications in Bowling Green. Turn left on Boatlanding Road 0.1 miles turn left on Hwy 185/Richardsville Rd. 0.2 miles turn right on Garvin Lane (or turn left here to see a restored one-lane bridge) 1.7 miles turn right on Beech Bend Road (or turn left here to see Beech Bend Park) 0.8 miles turn right at Country Club Drive (not a private drive) 0.2 miles to Fort Webb on the left

16. “Mt. Ayr & Fort Underwood" Wayside Exhibit T

Kereiakes Park Atop Underwood Hill to the northeast stood Mt. Ayr, the home of the Underwood family. Being supporters of the Union cause, the family was forced to evacuate their home in order to house Confederate Officers. Near the home, Fort Underwood was constructed to defend the Barren River and the Glasgow Road. Fort Underwood was described as a “lunette fort” and mounted six cannons. Return on Country Club Drive to Beech Bend Road; turn right 0.7 miles, continue on 31W Bypass 0.6 miles turn left on 234/Fairview Avenue 0.5 miles left into park 0.1 miles right, then immediate left. Wayside exhibit on right.

17. Mt. Moriah Cemetery

St. Joseph's Lane Mt. Moriah Cemetery is an African-American graveyard established in the late 1870s. It includes several graves of Union soldiers. To locate the graves of Civil War soldiers, look for rectangular monuments with the inscription in a carved “shield.” Common abbreviations are “C. Inf.” for Colored Infantry, “Col” or “Col’d” for Colored, “USCC” for U.S. Colored Calvary, “USCHA” for U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, “USCI” for U.S. Colored Infantry and “USCT” for Colored Troops. Charcoal or other types of “rubbings” of monuments causes deterioration of old stone. Instead, please use photographs as your souvenir. Return to take a right on 234/Fairview Avenue Take first right into St. Joseph Lane

18. Confederate Monument & "Home of Thomas Hines" Historical Marker

1209 Fairview Avenue The Confederate Monument, located in Fairview Cemetery’s older section, was dedicated in 1876 before a crowd of 12,000. Several hundred bodies, moved to this site, are believed to be buried in concentric circles around the obelisk carved from local limestone. Outside the cemetery gates, a historical marker identifies Thomas Henry Hines, a Butler County native and Confederate spy who was once known as the most dangerous man of the Confederacy. Return to take a right on 234/Fairview Avenue Take first right into Fairview Cemetery Marker located immediately to the right of entrance; parking where available.