When the Civil War broke out in 1861 affairs in Kentucky were quite unsettled despite a status of neutrality. Popular vote of the elections in September 1861 decided that the state would not secede and a serious effort to recruit Union regiments was under way.
During the first part of October 1861, Henry Clay Perkins bid his mother and sibblings farewell and traveled from his home in Webbville to Catlettsburg and enrolled as a private in Captain James H. Davidson’s Company B, 14th KY. Henry was only 17 years old at the time of enrollment, yet he told the mustering officer that he was 19, probably fearing that he would be rejected from the service if his real age would be revealed.
Even before the regiment was mustered into the service it already received a taste of war - recruits of the 14th KY participated in General "Bull" Nelson’s action against Confederate troops, near Ivy Creek, November 8, 1861. The Federal troops succeeded in driving the Confederates out of Eastern Kentucky, and the men of the 14th KY returned to Louisa, to receive their equipment, uniforms and basic military training.
Soon after their muster at Camp Wallace, Louisa, on December 10, 1861, the 14th KY was off on a new campaign, this time as part of the 18th Brigade, under command of Colonel James A. Garfield. It engaged the troops of General Humphrey Marshall at Middle Creek, Floyd County, on January 10, 1862. The next few months were spent in winter quarters and the weather contributed to much sickness among the men, Henry being no exception - being in the hospital in Lexington during March and April 1862.
Spring of 1862 saw a change for the 14th KY and they were assigned to the 7th Division under command of General George W. Morgan and marched to Cumberland Ford. On June 18, 1862, Morgan’s Division captured Cumberland Gap and spent the next three months fortifying the stronghold. Engagements with the enemy were rare, yet on August 6, 1862, while participating in a foraging expedition with to Tazewell, Tennessee, with Colonel DeCourcy’s brigade, the 14th KY encountered Stevenson’s division, part of Kirby Smith’ s force that was preparing to invade Kentucky.
Faced with an overwhelming Confederate force, DeCourcy’s brigade began their retreat. The ground was uneven, two fences had to be crossed and the men were being flanked on two sides - a very dangerous situation indeed. Despite orders to move quickly and on to safety, the 14th KY repeatedly stopped to fire at the pursuing enemy that was moving towards them at a quick pace. It was during this action that Henry was shot in the right leg. His comrades managed to move him off the field and the next day, back at Cumberland Gap, A. C. Miller, Regimental Surgeon of the 14th KY, amputated Henry’s right leg.
This was not the end of Henry’s adventure by any means. Not only fighting for his life in the hospital at the Gap (this type of operation had a 50% survival rate) it became quite evident that the Federal forces at Cumberland Gap were more or less sitting ducks. Surrounded by Confederate troops on all sides, food began to run short and something drastic had to be done. General George W. Morgan decided to evacuate the Gap and, under cover of night on September 17, 1862 Morgan led his division on a forgotten Indian "Warrior Path" to the Ohio River and to safety.
The men at the hospital were not so lucky - because of the anticipated hardship of this march, more than 125 men had to be left behind - only to be captured the next day by the pursuing Confederates. No doubt, Henry became one of their prisoners, most of which were paroled during the first part of October 1862.
The first sight we catch of Henry again is at Danville, KY where he reported to his regiment on December 15, 1862. He was then sent to the hospital at Camp Dennisson, near Cincinnati, Ohio, to receive a wooden leg and on December 31, 1862 he was discharged in Danville. KY. After leaving camp he had to make his way back home to Lawrence County on foot and it is said that along the way a black family helped him and gave Henry food.
His disability never seemed to slow Henry down much, though. In January 1865, he engaged in business with Colonel George W. Gallup, former commander of the 14th KY, searching for oil, gas, minerals, etc. near Blaine. He also took his sweetheart Eliza Jane Prince across the Ohio River to Ironton and married her on July 26, 1865 - a union that resulted in seven children.
In later years, Henry Perkins founded a town named Perkinstown, also called Centerville, a small lumber town on Dry Fork, near Jean. Henry and Eliza owned a house lot, a store and the saloon. The store sold everything from dresses to farm equipment and there was hard cider in barrels under the counter.
In politics Henry was a staunch Republican. He flew the U.S. flag next to his store, but only if the Republicans were in office. On July 4, the Democrats in town would steal his wooden leg, haul down his flag and leave him lying helpless. In older years, Henry grew a long white beard and wore bib overall. He liked children and would often tell jokes to them. In return, when Henry just wanted to "get away from it all," the children would saddle his horse for him and then Henry would take off riding for a while.
The war had made an impact on Henry’s health and in later years he suffered from heart trouble to the extent that the slightest exertion caused smothering. His eyesight was gradually deteriorating as well.
After his wife Eliza died in 1895 Henry married Mary Jane Auxier, who was
30 years his junior. Mary Jane took care of Henry until he died July 25,
1906 at Centerville. Henry Clay Perkins is laid to rest on top of a high
hill, in Hensley Cemetery on Needmore Road, Lawrence County, beside his wife
Eliza. His grave has a military marker.--Marlitta H. Perkins (great-great grand-daughter), P.O. BOX 384 Brice, OH 43109-0384 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
You may write to me at email Beverly L. PackLawrence County, Kentucky Veterans