Kentucky's largest best preserved Earth Works Fort
West Point and the Civil War
Fort Duffield at the Mouth of Salt River
Fort Duffield Park and Historic Site is a 175-acre resource in North Hardin County, Kentucky. Once
part of the Fort Knox Installation, the land was given to the City of West Point in 1978 as part of the
National Park Service Lands to Parks Program to be used for public recreation.
The historic site, Kentucky's largest and best-preserved Civil War earthen fortification, sits within the
park high atop historic Pearman Hill, 300 feet above the City of West Point. The fort is a Kentucky
Landmark and on the Civil War Discovery Trail.
West Point and Fort Duffield played an important role during the American Civil War in the last quarter
of 1861 and throughout 1862. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman ordered fortifications built at the
historic Mouth of Salt River at West Point for several reasons. Once the neutrality in Kentucky was
broken, the training and movement of troops for the Union Army began with great urgency.
It was crucial that the Union Army maintain control of the rivers and roads in the area so that troops
and supplies could be moved.
Supplies from Louisville were sent by steamboats on the Ohio River and then off loaded onto wagons
at West Point. The wagons transported the much-needed supplies to training camps and troops further
to the south.
Beginning in the fall of 1861, regiments from Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan stopped at West
Point on their way south. At first, troops were ferried across the Salt River from Jefferson County into
Hardin County at West Point. Once Army Engineers arrived, a pontoon bridge was installed. The 9th
Michigan Volunteer Infantry is credited with the construction of the fort and before they left West
Point, they also built a wooden bridge across the Salt River for supply and troop movements which was
used to great advantage.
In the early spring of 1862, Brigades of Union troops were ordered to West Point to embark on
steamboats down the Ohio River. Brig. Gen. William “Bull” Nelson, Kentucky native, left West Point
with his 4th Division in February of 1862. In March of 1862, the 9th Michigan left with the 23rd Brigade
under the command of their own Col. William W. Duffield.
President Lincoln felt he must have Kentucky to save the Union. Fort Duffield's strategic location
above the confluence of the Salt and Ohio Rivers would control both rivers for the Union. Since the
railroad did not run through West Point at the time of the Civil War, Gen. Sherman realized the
importance of securing a land route for the movement of troops and supplies. A fort at West Point
would insure control of the rivers and keep land and water routes open for the Union Army as well as
protect Louisville from any attacking Confederate forces trying to use those same routes.
After the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky in the Fall of 1862, the war moved south. The artillery and
munitions at Fort Duffield were ordered returned to Louisville in December of 1862 and the fort was
left undisturbed except for an occasional guerrilla raid.
This impregnable fortress, some 300 feet above the city of West Point, Kentucky was never challenged.
however, its strategic position no doubt played an important roll in the Civil War in Kentucky.
Fort Duffield Heritage Committee
City of West Point, Kentucky
The Sons of Union Veterans at WestPoint KY are named after Civil War Fort Duffield. Come join us and become a member of Fort Duffield Camp #1.
An Application can be found here.
There is an addition to the application, an original copy of your birth certificate must be attached. We can assist with records of your Civil War ancestor.