Kentucky had declared itself neutral in the Civil War, but when Confederate General Leonidas Polk learned the Union were openly recruiting there, he moved an army into the state, occupying the stronghold of Columbus overlooking the Mississippi. Union General Ulysses S. Grant was sent with a force in steamboats to keep Polk pegged down, but on arrival, decided to attack the less well-defended Confederate forces on the Missouri banks of the river. Unexpected, the Union troops stormed the Confederate camp, but raw and unused to battle, they then, in Grant’s words, became ‘demoralized by their victory’. As they prepared to withdraw with captured munitions, Confederate reinforcements arrived across the river on steamboats. Bombarded by the Columbus batteries (including the cannon ‘Lady Polk’), Grant’s forces were soon beating a hasty retreat. The battle was inconclusive, but Polk claimed a victory, having repulsed Grant’s assault.
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