During the summer of 1861, Eastern Tennessee and Kentucky Union loyalists arrived at Camp Andrew Johnson in Barbourville, Kentucky to seek refuge from the Confederate TN and train to fight for the Union Army. In response, Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer sent a detachment of about 800 men to Barbourville on September 18, 1861. under the command of Col. Joel A. Battle to disrupt and destroy the Union camp. The next morning, September 19, the force entered the town and found that the recruits had already been sent to Camp Dick Robinson. A Union Home guard force lay in wait. It is unclear how many Home Guard fought, the estimates have been as few as 30 to as many as 300. The Guard commanded by Capt. Isaac Black , met the Confederates and a battle ensued. After the Home Guard retreated, the Confederates destroyed the camp and confiscated supplies and arms. This became the first battle of the Civil War in the state of Kentucky.
While the Union Home Guard was clearly outnumbered, they were resourceful. To slow the Confederate advancement, the Home Guards removed boards from the bridge. Though drastically outnumbered, the Home Guard maintained their positions and fought until being forced to retreat.