Henderson County, Kentucky History


October 20, 2002
The Gleaner
By Frank Boyett

Suspicious death of Confederate soldier from Henderson County remains mystery

He was young. He was brave. And he died an untimely death. His name was OWEN GLASS, JR. He was only 21 years old this week in 1862, when he was shot down by Union Army soldiers on the road between Henderson and Morganfield.

How he came to die disturbs me because I've been unable to find out exactly what happened. Most weeks when I write this column I simply report facts - objective truth, as near as that can be determined. But every now and then something subjective happens. Something a little strange. Sometimes the event I am researching grips me in a visceral manner, and compels me to dig until I get the full story. It's almost as if the souls of those I am writing about demand that their stories be told. Or maybe it's just a hunch. After 25 years in this business I've learned to pay attention to hunches. Whatever the explanation, OWEN GLASS has been much on my mind as of late. This is what I know about him.

He was born January 14, 1841, the son of one of Henderson's earliest doctors. The Kentucky Adjutant General's report on Confederate soldiers says he joined the artillery battery commanded by CAPTAIN RICE E. GRAVES on December 1, 1861, while in Bowling Green.

Graves Battery defended the southern land approaches to Fort Donelson, Tennessee, during the battle of February 14 - 16, 1862. The Adjutant General's report notes that the unit offered "splendid fighting" during the battle that "was commented on by the enemy" as well as Confederate brass.

GLASS was in the thick of it, according to the Henderson Reporter's account of the battle. "A ball struck one of his coat buttons, and glancing, flattened against the side of the cannon he was assisting to work; another ball cut the toe of his boot."

The young man was captured February 16 when Fort Donelson fell, and sent to the military prison in Indianapolis called Camp Morton. But he didn't stay there long. As early as April 1862 he was planning an escape with FRANK AMPLIAS OWEN, who wrote a chapter in General ADAM RANKIN JOHNSON'S memoirs called "The Partisan Rangers."

GLASS had to be left behind because the prison guards made a change in routine at the last minutes, but he escaped alone a few weeks later, FRANK OWEN wrote. "A braver boy never wore the Confederate uniform than OWEN GLASS; he would have made his mark had he lived."

After his prison escape, GLASS went to Canada for a while, but then returned to Kentucky to rejoin the Confederate Army. GENERAL JOHNSON, in another section of his memoirs, noted that GLASS "later joined my force and was one of our best and bravest men until he was murdered after his capture near Morganfield."

The Adjutant General's report makes the same allegation, that GLASS was "murdered by U.S. Troops."

GEORGE SMITH, a local farmer who kept a detailed diary during the Civil War years, wrote that he visited Smith Mills "and while there I saw the body of OWEN GLASS, who was killed by the cavalry near JOHN HITE'S (farm) murdered by a band of armed men who style themselves Union soldiers. I could but shed a tear o'er the fate of the brave boy lying before me .... I trust his spirit is in a better world where wars cease and armed hosts are never seen."

I have been unable to find an account of GLASS' death on October 25 that gives the Federal point of view. The editor of the Reporter had heard that account, but declined to print it. He also declined to print the Confederate version, apparently for fear of the Federal Army.

"There are two or three stories afloat in regard to the particulars of the affair," the Reporter said in its October 30 edition. "Under the circumstances we (do) not choose to give either of the statements ....

"OWEN GLASS was a young gentleman of no ordinary mind, of considerable intellectual attainments, a genial disposition, and a noble heart. He was esteemed and honored by all who knew him. He was brave to recklessness - his conduct on the bloody field of historic Donelson attracted the attention of GENERAL (SIMON BOLIVAR) BUCKNER. But OWEN is no more. Death, with him, has set 'all things even.' His memory will ever live fresh in the hearts of those who knew him best. But let us drop the curtain and bid OWEN farewell."

GLASS is buried in the family plot at Fernwood Cemetery. His grave bears no indication that he gave his life for the Confederacy.


Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2002 HCH&GS