A Floyd Chronicle
and Times Staff Report
Local residents are invited to mark the anniversary of one of region’s most significant Civil War battles and tour the oldest home in Prestonsburg this weekend.
The Friends of Middle Creek and the Friends of the May House will host the Battlefield Commemoration and Old Christmas from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 12.
The commemoration ceremony will start at 1 p.m. at the battlefield with Rep. Ashley Tackett Laferty and Prestonsburg attorney Jennifer Burke Elliott. The Old Christmas event will begin at 2 p.m. at the Samuel May House.
The battlefield ceremony will mark the 158th anniversary of the Battle of Middle Creek, which took place on Jan. 10, 1862, when Union soldiers charged the steep hillsides overlooking Middle Creek and clashed with Confederate soldiers.
According to information provided by the Friends of Middle Creek, the Confederate army, led by Brig. Gen. Humprey Marshall, had established camps at Hager Hill in Johnson County and at the mouth of Jenny’s Creek near Paintsville, and the Union army led by Col. James A. Garfield, worked to drive the Confederates back into Virginia in the winter of 1862.
Garfield ordered one of his regiments to march from Lexington to Prestonsburg to cut off the Confederate line of retreat, and he ordered other infantries to travel from their base in Catlettsburg to the Big Sandy valley. Several other regiments joined this group in Louisa and, led by Garfield, they continued toward Paintsville as Marshall and his Confederate troops traveled toward Middle Creek.
The battle began with a skirmish at around 1 p.m. on Jan. 10, 1862, and the fighting continued until around 5 p.m., when Marshall retreated via the left fork of Middle Creek. Garfield then traveled to Prestonsburg, where he commandeered a home owned by lawyer John M. Burns and used it as a temporary headquarters.
An estimated 97 soldiers died in the battle.
After winning the Battle of Middle Creek, Garfield was promoted to Brigadier General. Local historians say that win helped launched him to the presidency.
The May House, located on North Lake Drive, has celebrated Old Christmas for years. It is Prestonsburg’s oldest home and it’s believed to be the oldest home in the Big Sandy valley.
Built in 1817 by May, a state representative and senator whose workers built the home with bricks that were made on site. It became the boyhood home of Col. Andrew Jackson May, a Confederate organizer during the Civil War. Col. May and Col. Hiram Hawkins organized the Fifth Kentucky Infantry Regiment in the meadow below the house during the Civil War. The home, at the time, was a Confederate recruiting station.
The Friends of Samuel May renovated the historic home in the 1990s, when it was purchased by Prestonsburg and converted into a museum with a $400,000 Kentucky Heritage Council grant.
Appalachian households celebrated Old Christmas on Jan. 6, after England and Scotland switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar in 1752.
Local folklorist and musician Edith Fitzpatrick-James started hosting Old Christmas events in Floyd and Pike counties decades ago before it became an annual event at the May House in 1997. Local musicians will perform on site and reenactors are also expected to participate. Refreshments will be served.