History of Fort Mitchell
The original town of Fort Mitchell was incorporated in March 1910, and at that time, it included the area between the Dixie Highway (then called the Lexington Pike) on the east and the present site of the Fort Mitchell County Club on the west, and between St. John’s Cemetery on the north and Maple Avenue on the south. In May 1927, the residents to the south of the original town chose to incorporate as the town of South Fort Mitchell. Through subsequent annexations, the two towns became contiguous and, 40 later, during the general election of 1966, their electorates approved a merger, with the combined towns now known as the City of Fort Mitchell.
The City was named after “Fort Mitchel” (through an oversight, the name of the town was spelled with two L’s). The exact location of Fort Mitchel is believed to have been on the hill between the end of Summit Lane and Barrington Road near the Dixie Highway.
It was one of 23 Civil War forts and batteries manned by the Union armies and located on the hills and ridges of Northern Kentucky. Their primary function was to protect the City of Cincinnati from invasion by Confederate armies. Cincinnati was extremely important to the Union because it was the largest meat packing, manufacturing, and river harbor city in this part of the nation.
It was common during the Civil War to name encampments after the living as well as the dead. Fort Mitchel was named after General Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel, a general in the Union army. General Mitchel was born in Goss, Kentucky, and received his training at West Point, graduating fifth in a class which included Robert E. Lee.
In addition to a distinguished military career, Mitchel was a professor of mathematics and philosophy at Cincinnati College and was instrumental in helping to establish Cincinnati College’s Law School. In 1836, he established Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel’s Institute of Science and Language, located on the corner of Broadway and Third Street in Cincinnati. Sometime between 1842 and 1845, he founded the Cincinnati Observatory, which at the time of its founding on Mt. Adams housed the second largest telescope in the world.
Following the outbreak of the Civil War, he accepted the rank of brigadier general in the Union Army and was involved in organizing the Northern Kentucky defenses of Cincinnati. In 1862, he led his forces from Shelbyville, Tenn. to Huntsville, Ala., where they surprised and captured the city and gained control of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. After this campaign, he was promoted to major general and was transferred to South Carolina, where he took command of 4,500 Union soldiers. Unfortunately, his command was decimated by yellow fever. General Mitchel died while serving at a second Fort Mitchel, also named for him and located in South Carolina inside Hilton Head Plantation.