The Burns House Historical Marker
This marker commemorates a home that served as future President James Garfield's headquarters in the Battle of Middle Creek. Garfield chose the house as his headquarters because of its location. While the home was demolished many years after the war, the marker shares the significance of this location in the battle, which was a victory for the United States Army and Garfield.
The front of the marker for The Burns House: Garfield's Headquarters Following the Battle of Middle Creek. It contains information and photos pertaining to the history of the house, including its owner John Burns.
The back of the marker, A History of the Garfield Place, describes in detail the history of the Burns House and how it became the Garfield Place. It also tells the history of the house after Garfield left until it was demolished around 1982.
A close up of the back of the marker describing how the Garfield Place was used as one of Prestonsburg's first museums that contained Civil War memorabilia.
John Burns was the original owner of the house and an attorney in the town. He supported the Union army and his law partner supported the Confederate army. He fled soon after building the house in fear of being charged with treason.
The Garfield Place as it stood in the 1960s. It was demolished and a bank built in its place. The marker is near the original site of the house.
Backstory and Context
John M. Burns, an attorney in the area, built the house that would become the headquarters for the Union army following the Battle of Middle Creek. Burns also served in the state legislature and eventually became a circuit judge. When the Union army arrived in Prestonsburg, Burns fled to Louisa, Kentucky.
The battle that occurred at Middle Creek began on January 10, 1862. James A. Garfield, who later became president, led the Union soldiers into battle against an experienced Confederate force led by Brigadier General Humphrey Marshall. Following the battle, Garfield chose the Burns’ house which was a few miles from the battlefield as a headquarters because of its location at the mouth of Middle Creek, where it met the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River.
Following the victory, Garfield was promoted to Brigadier General, and the United States maintained control of this area. Garfield was known for supporting enslaved persons who came to the army's lines and supported the abolition of slavery.
The home itself was demolished around 1982, but a marker was placed in the area where the house stood that includes a picture of the house as it appeared in the 1960s and a map of the area identifying the distance from the house to the battlefield, and a picture of John Burns, the original owner. On one side is the information on the people who have owned the house through the years and how it was used to house memorabilia and theatre productions about the Civil War.
Fitzpatrick, Franklin D. The Historic Battle. Middle Creek National Battlefield. Accessed February 25, 2018. http://www.middlecreek.org/history.htm.
Hall, Duane. The Burns House/ A Brief History of the Garfield House. The Historical Marker Database. August 26, 2016. Accessed February 25, 2018. https://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=97224.
Podolak, Janet. President James A. Garfield: Civil rights activist ahead of his time. The News-Herald. August 12, 2012. Accessed February 25, 2018. http://www.news-herald.com/article/HR/20120812/NEWS/308129980.
The John M. Burns House, Garfield's Headquarters Following the Battle of Middle Creek. The Samual May House and Archive. Accessed February 25, 2018. http://www.oocities.org/rlperry.geo/GarfieldHeadquartersPage.html.