Have a Civil War Experience
Bowling Green's convenient location and unique geography appeals to many travelers... both presently and in the past. The 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:
By car, visitors can listen to an audio tour accompanying the Civil War Discovery Trail, offering insights and unique perspectives. Bowling Green was the Capitol of the Confederate State of Kentucky for approximately four 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 on the Audio Tour & Letterbox page. 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. Kids can enjoy a letterbox hunt at many of the sites!
*NOTE: The Kentucky Museum is currently open to the public only on Wednesday-Saturday. The Kentucky Library & Museum on Western Kentucky University’s campus has introduced an educational 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 children's activities center and 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.
This two-story interactive museum housed in the 1925 L&N Depot features a "Lincoln and the Railroad" exhibit containing rare Matthew Brady Civil War railroad photos. The exhibit highlights 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. In the fall of 2011, the Train Museum debuted a 'Civil War and the Railroad' exhibit.
Explore more Civil War secrets underground at another stop on the Discovery Trail, Lost River Cave, 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. All of these attractions participated in a day of commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War on September 17, 2011, with special events and tours.
Just a short drive west will take you to another significant site at the South Union Shaker Village where community residents witnessed both armies marching through during the Civil War. Unlike the peaceful Shakers, the soldiers demanded horses, equipment, goods, services and meals. A large collection of journals with entries from the war help tell the Shakers' story.