Early in the fighting on January 19, 1862, Confederate General Felix K. Zollicoffer lost his life, not realizing he was approaching a Union officer, rather than a fellow Confederate soldier. The early loss of their leader, combined with intense fire from the Union Army, caused Confederate forces to fall back, ultimately retreating into Tennessee. In all, there were over 800 casualties after the day’s battle.
Zollicoffer was one of the first Confederate generals to be killed in combat. During the battle, his body was placed under a white oak tree. Zollicoffer Park, part of Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument, preserves the famed “Zollie Tree,” sown from the original white oak where Zollicoffer’s body was placed during the battle.
The decisive victory for the Union Army at Mill Springs led to the total collapse of the eastern sector of the Confederate Army’s defense of the Upper South, helping to boost morale and keep Kentucky under Union control.