Throwback Thursday – Fort Underwood

Bowling Green has a rich Civil War history. Held by both Confederate and Union troops throughout the war, local families told accounts of the hostilities raged against the city and its people. One of the most popular stories is of the Underwood family in Mount Ayr.

Readers can enjoy a more detailed history of the family in Josie Underwood’s Civil War Diary, put together by Nancy Baird and published in 2009. For a brief version, visit the Kereiakes Park area, the former site of Fort Underwood.

According to the Bowling Green Daily News, the Underwood family net worth was over $100,000 prior to the Civil War. They owned over 1,000 acres in Mount Ayr area and had one of the most exquisite antebellum Victorian homes in the city.

Josie Underwood’s diary tells the family’s story of escape and return. Her father, Warner Underwood, was a former congressman. Her uncle Joseph was a State Supreme Court Justice and U.S. Senator.

The family was Unionists who believed in abolition. When the war raged over the Tennessee state line and Confederate troops took the city, the Underwood farm was one of the best places to set up camp. Over 500 rebel troops occupied the farm.

Rebels chopped down trees for fortifying the area, their officers lived in the Underwood home, and it was even said that Confederate General Albert Sydney Johnston personally sent a letter to the Underwoods threatening their lives should they remain in their home.

Fort Underwood was constructed to defend the Barren River and Glasgow Road. It mounted six cannons and was a lunette fort in a v-shape.

In mid-1862, Union troops took the city back after five months of occupation. But the rebels left the city in ashes on their way out, burning the bridges and many buildings downtown, and burning the Underwood home along with it.

The Underwoods returned to their farm only to find everything in ruins. They’d gone from being one of the wealthiest families in the county to nearly penniless.