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LEBANON JUNCTION - It was late summer, 1864 near the end of the Civil War.
The Union army had pushed the Confederacy to Georgia and General William Sherman was set on capturing Atlanta. With cavalry and artillery, Sherman assaulted the city, but to no avail.
Failing to secure Atlanta, he set his sights on the Macon and Western Railroad, which Confederate troops in northern Georgia had heavily depended upon for supplies.
By cutting the railroad, Sherman hoped to force the Confederates to retreat, so he ordered over 60,000 troops to march west, then south. On August 31, Union and Confederate soldiers met up at Jonesborough, Ga. (now Jonesboro) near the critical railroad line and the Battle of Jonesborough ensued.
Among the Union soldiers on the battlefield was Henry Mattingly of the 10th Kentucky Infantry.
On Sept. 1, Mattingly and his division were ordered to the front lines to face the Confederate 6th and 7th Arkansas Infantry. As the forward command was given, soldiers advanced from all directions, fighting hand to hand combat.
With the enemy directly in front of his unit, Mattingly led the charge through the enemy lines, through the bullets and bayonets, and captured the Arkansas infantry’s flag.
It was estimated that 3,149 casualties were left following the Battle of Jonesborough,1,149 from the north, and 2,200 from the south, but Mattingly was not among them. He survived to return home to Kentucky, eventually settling in Bullitt County.
For his bravery, President Abraham Lincoln awarded Mattingly the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the armed services of the United States.
When Mattingly first returned to Kentucky he settled in Marion County. There he met his wife Amanda Tucker and they were married soon after. In the 1870s Mattingly and his wife moved to Pitts Point (now the Fort Knox military reserve) in western Bullitt County. He and his family then moved to Shepherdsville where Mattingly died in 1893.
After Amanda buried her husband in Pitts Point, she and her children moved to Lebanon Junction where she remained until her death in 1926.
In 1966, Henry Mattingly’s children requested that his remains be moved from Pitts Point and placed next to his wife in the Lebanon Junction Cemetery.
Until recently, the simple headstone marking Mattingly’s grave made no mention of him being a Medal of Honor recipient. This disturbed Jose Rosario of the Bullitt County History Museum, so he decided to do something about it.
Rosario, a veteran himself, spent two years researching Mattingly’s life and trying to get “Medal of Honor” inscribed on his grave. Rosario contacting the US Department of Veterans Affairs, Fort Knox, Mattingly’s descendents and countless others to make sure Mattingly got the proper recognition for his service.
Rosario’s tireless efforts finally paid off in October when federal authorities contacted him to say that Mattingly’s grave would receive the “Medal of Honor” inscription.
“We can declare that he was another hero that has failed to obtain the proper recognition,” Rosario said. “Finally after more than 100 years, Pvt. Mattingly has received the recognition he deserved.”
Mattingly’s service, and the new inscription on his grave was recently celebrated with a wreath laying ceremony in the Lebanon Junction Cemetery, where dozens were on hand to honor Mattingly, including local officials, representatives from Veterans Affairs, Fort Knox, US Rep. Brett Guthrie’s office, and generations of Mattingly’s descendents.
Mattingly’s great-great-granddaughter, Rita Mattingly Black spoke on behalf of her family to honor her ancestor’s life and his service.
Black was reminiscent of stories she had heard about Mattingly’s life from her mother, who had heard stories from her great-grandmother, who was a small child during the civil war.
“It makes me proud to be descended from a Civil War hero,” Black said. “Even though I never met my great-grandfather I would like to thank him.”
Jason Raley, who is the great-great-grandson of Mattingly, said it was nice to see Mattingly finally honored.
“It was long overdue,” Raley said. “This event should make people remember the sacrifices our soldiers make.”
Lebanon Junction mayor Butch Sweat, who gave the opening remarks of the ceremony, said the city was honored to have such a national treasure.
“His life indeed has made Lebanon Junction very proud,” Sweat said.