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Posted on Sep 23, 2008 in War College

Fort Duffield, Kentucky’s Largest and Best-preserved Civil War Earthworks Fort

By Paul Glasser

The garrison force of 950 men of the 9th Michigan and 37th Indiana slept in small wooden huts and stood guard every three days. Although DeLand wrote “our new camp upon the mountain is paradise,” many soldiers thought otherwise.

John E. Robertson, of Company F in the 9th Michigan, wrote a song called “Old Muldrough’s Hill, a Soldier’s Complaint,” to describe the harsh living conditions inside the fort. Soldiers complained of the hard work and long hours on guard duty. Food included crackers “cut with a chisel” and bacon “smoked in the flues of the Ark.”

All that remains of the spring dug by troops for water.The soldiers drilled a spring out of the hillside to provide water year-round; however, it was insufficient to meet the needs of almost 1,000 men, so soldiers took daily trips with mules to bring water from the nearby rivers. 

The fort was abandoned in 1862 after it appeared the Confederates would never threaten Louisville. However, the garrison could have stopped a raid by John Hunt Morgan in 1863 that brought 2,500 Confederate troops into Indiana and Ohio.


The park hosted a reunion for the Grand Army of the Republic in 1895. From 1907 to 1918 it was used as a hunting club, and from 1918 to 1977 it was part of the Ft. Knox military preserve.

Several replica cabins have been built around the fort.Little remains of the fort itself today, except for portions of the large earthwork walls. A few reproduction cabins and outbuildings have been constructed to recreate the many small farms that dotted the area. A scenic overlook provides views of the Ohio and Salt rivers and the verdant Kentucky countryside. 

At one point, the park housed a small pavilion, which has been replaced by an amphitheater with wooden benches and stage.

The portion of the western route from Nashville, Tennessee, north to Louisville, Kentucky, is now U.S. Highway 31W. In most of the cities it traverses in Kentucky, it is still referred to as "Dixie Highway" or "Dixie Avenue." The western route generally follows the present-day route of U.S. Highway 31 from Louisville to Indianapolis. From Nashville to Indianapolis, the route parallels Interstate 65. Portions of this stretch were originally parts of the Louisville and Nashville Turnpike, which began construction in the 1830s.

Sections of the modern Dixie Highway, U.S. 31W, were originally part of the Louisville and Nashville Turnpike, which the fort protected.Visitors to the fort must park at the foot of Muldrough’s Hill and hike about one-fourth mile up one of two steep paths. One path is a wide, smooth paved access road; the other is a heavily wooded scenic trail, dotted with rocks and tree roots. There are also 10 miles of hiking and biking paths in the area.

A self-guided tour of the fort lasts about an hour. A small, memorial cemetery is located on a hill south of the fort.

Admission is free.

All photographs courtesy Paul Glasser.

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