Confederate General John Hunt Morgan’s Raid through the Indiana Territory

Morgan’s Raid through the Indiana Territory 

This story is one of the most interesting phases of the Civil War and was one of the most well-known Confederate campaigns conducted by General John Hunt Morgan (Morgan’s Raid) through Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana during the summer of 1863. 

Photo of Confederate General John Hunt MorganThis daringly executed foray deep into enemy territory did little for the cause of the Confederate Army but was looked upon as a nuisance.  The raid in Indiana lasted for only a few days but it did cause a great deal of excitement and a considerable inconvenience to the people of Southern Indiana.  The local interest in his raid lies in the fact that Morgan and his men traversed Scott County from west to east over the route of the old historic Cincinnati Trace, then called the Lexington-Salem State Road, and that he and his men spent one of the four nights they camped in Indiana in Lexington, the county seat at the time for Scott County.

To add further interest in our story, is derived from the fact that General Morgan and the Morgan family of Scott County were related.  One of Scott County’s original pioneers, David Morgan, father of Nathan R. Morgan came to the county in 1820 from Bourbon County, Kentucky.  Although the exact relationship between the two families, it is believed that that David Morgan, the first cousin of Calvin C. Morgan, was the father of John Hunt Morgan and were both grandsons of Gideon Morgan, who died in 1830, had immigrated from New Jersey to Virginia sometime before the Revolutionary War and was a kinsman to General Daniel Morgan (1736-1802) of Revolutionary War fame.

It is told, that before General Morgan and his Raiders came through Scott County that he had sent word to his Indiana kinfolks that he wished to visit them while in the County, but was prevented from doing so by the constraints of war.

John Hunt Morgan, son of Calvin and Henrietta Hunt, was born June 1, 1825 in Huntsville, Alabama from whence his father and Grandfather, Luther Morgan, had emigrated from Virginia.  When he was three (3) years old, his father moved the family to his mother’s hometown of Lexington, Kentucky, where he grew up.  In the war against Mexico he served as a First Lieutenant in a cavalry regiment.

Following his service in the War against Mexico, John Hunt Morgan returned to Lexington, Kentucky and engaged in manufacturing and became quite wealthy.  His home can still be seen there in Lexington, Kentucky.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, in 1861, he and his four brothers (Calvin, Charlton, Richard and Thomas) joined the Confederate Army.  His two sisters were married to Confederate Generals, sister Ditty was married to A.P. Hill and Henrietta to General Basil W. Duke, who accompanied his brother-in-law on his famous ride and later wrote his authoritative History of Morgan’s Cavalry. 

IN 1862, following the Battle of Shiloh, John Hunt Morgan was made a Colonel and later a General.  His men, collectively and in detached bands, became famous for partisan warfare throughout Kentucky and Tennessee, raiding towns, robbery trains, destroying railroad property and committing deeds of violence exempt from criminal punishment and excused by the state of war.

It was said that Morgan’s Raid through Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio was probably done with deliberate intent of creating a diversion from the movement of General Braxton Bragg and his troops from Tullahoma to Chattanooga, Tennessee.  However, Morgan disobeyed Bragg’s (1817-1876) instructions to confine himself to Kentucky and started his forlorn trip which was doomed to failure.

On May 26, 1863 Morgan had 2,460 men, two three-inch Parrott guns and two twelve-inch howitzers.  Two brigades under him were principally composed of men from the Second, Third, Fifth, Sixth and Eleventh Kentucky and the Ninth Tennessee Cavalry Regiments.  They were commanded by General Basil W. Duke and Bushrod Johnson.

On June 11, 1863 they left their headquarters at Alexandria, Tennessee and on July 2 crossed the Cumberland River at Burkesville, Kentucky.  In a battle at Columbus, Kentucky on July 4th, they lost sixty men when they unexpectantly encountered Federal Troops.  On July 5th they fought and captured the Federal garrison (military base) in Lebanon, Kentucky.  It was during this battle that John Hunt Morgan’s youngest brother, Lieutenant Thomas Morgan, was killed.

On Tuesday, July 7th, Morgan’s advance guard reached Brandenburg, Kentucky on the Ohio River, just a mere forty miles below Louisville.  On July 8th, his men captured the steamers “J.T. McCombs” and the “Alice Dean” and were successfully ferried across the river into Indiana.  They proceeded to loot the town of Mauckport, two miles down the river from their crossing.

From Mauckport the Confederate cavalry drove to Corydon where stores were raided, the Country treasury was robbed, private homes pillaged, and women were forced to prepare meals for the unwanted guests.  General Morgan made his headquarters at the town’s main hotel, Kintner’s.  Meanwhile, over 500 horses were taken from their owners in the nearby countryside in exchange for poor worn out horses.

The same day, July 9th, Federal Troops under General Edward Hobson reached Brandenburg, crossed the river, and subsequently began their pursuit of Morgan’s and his raiders.

We had left off as the confederate troops of general Morgan’s had reached the town of Corydon the evening of July 10, leaving eleven (11) wounded soldiers to be cared for by the citizens of the town, they began their advancement on Salem as they marched in two columns.  Morgan delayed a few hours in Palmyra while one column of his troops looted Paoli and another Greenville, in Floyd County.  After dispersing of the home guard at Salem they occupied and thoroughly plundered the town.  Men were seen, it is said, riding around carrying all sorts of booty.  One cavalryman had a bird cage with three canaries in it, and others had bolts of calico tied to their saddles.  However, no examples of personal violence or cruelty were reported.

Leaving Salem in two columns they headed for Lexington.  One column crossed the Jeffersonville and Indianapolis Railroad at Henryville, in Clark County while the other went by the way of Canton, New Philadelphia and Leota and, at approximately six o’clock, they arrived at the same railroad in Vienna.

At Vienna, the railroad station and the telegraph operator were captured before the operator could give the alarm.  General Morgan put one of his own men, Lieutenant Ellsworth who knew how to operate the telegraph, in charge of the office.  He listened on the wires until he had learned all the news to be obtained from Louisville and Indianapolis, including the fact that orders had been issued to the Militia to fell timber and blockade the principle roads which the invaders would likely to travel to the east.  According to Duke “our rapid marching had, hitherto, saved us this annoyance.”  They also learned in this manner that the Union forces under Hobson had crossed the Ohio River and were only a few miles behind them.

They learned that the state was virtually swarming with soldiers and that every train entering Indiana was bringing additional forces.  The Raiders did all they possibly could to hamper the pursuit of the Union Cavalry, such as burning all the bridges.  Their system of horse stealing was almost perfect.  They would dispatch men from the head of each brigade to go five (5) miles into the country on each side of the road.  They would seize every available horse and fall in at the rear of the column.  In this manner the Confederate troops swept the countryside of all horses for ten miles, leaving their own worn-out animals for the use of the Union forces.

According to Goodrich in his Illustrated history of Indiana (1875), a Scott County farmer ruefully said, “many are the farmers through this county who have bewailed the day when they ‘swapped’ their fine, fat, sleek horses for the worn-out, sore backed jades of the Rebels!”  The fine blooded Kentucky horses, however, which were left behind in Indiana, though worn-out, were such good stock that the breed of Indiana horses was greatly improved.

At both Henryville and Vienna the railroad depots were burned, the tracks torn up and the telegraph wires cut.  At Vienna they also burnt the water station, the turntable and a railroad bridge which spanned Pigeon Roost Creek.  All of these structures were built of wood, as was custom tin that period.  In Vienna they also robbed the stores and private homes.

According to an article in the Scott County Journal of September 1924, written by Alice Jones, Morgan’s Raiders reached Lexington on July 4, 1863.  “On the fourth of July, 1963, the little town of Lexington had arranged a celebration of the nation’s independence.”  The boys too young for the army and the few elderly citizens dragged the old brass cannon that had been presented to the county by General Charles Scott, to the eastern slope of graveyard hill and greeted the early dawn with war-like thunder until the powder ran out.

“Beside the courthouse in the center of the public square surrounded by a grove of Locust trees a platform was set up with benches facing it.  A bench from the courthouse hall was on the platform for the speakers and prominent citizens who would be participating in the simple program.”  There was no special music for too many boys had gone over the hill to the strains of “The Girl I Left Behind Me” and the drummers and fifers had followed.

“The audience was small, consisting mostly of women.  Someone read the Declaration of Independence and a minister prayed and then introduced a Union soldier, a refugee from the South.”

“In a few simple words this soldier told what it meant to be a Union soldier below the lines and the many hardships he endured before reaching the Union army.  Sitting immediately behind him was a southern sympathizer from Kentucky who had fled north when his neighbors had made it too warm for him in neutral Kentucky, and perhaps a half of a dozen Rebel sympathizers, ‘Copperheads’ as they were called.  The soldier spoke in warm praise of Mr. Lincoln and Governor Morton and convincingly of the success of the Union Army.”

“The Kentucky rebel sprang to his feet and shouted, “you are a liar! There are many Yankee bones bleaching on the southern soil and there will be many more before this unholy war will be beaten and the glorious south will be triumphant!”  A Copperhead on the platform jumped up shouting, “Hurray for Jefferson Davis!”  At that point the women rose as one and started for the platform.  One elderly lady, who had two sons in the army, pointing her parasol and pushed her way through the crowd said, “let me get him.  I’ll pull every hair out of his head!”  The Rebel was hustled off the platform by his friends and hurried away from the crowd… as the meeting broke up in some confusion.  During this program, General Morgan and his Raiders were making their way towards Lexington.

The confederate troops of General Morgan and his Raiders were making their way towards Lexington.  The lanterns were still burning that night in the courthouse yard when a messenger came riding over the hill telling the people that Morgan was within two miles of the town.  As the Raiders came over the hill, the town’s light could be seen by the riders twinkling like campfires and the old brass canon lay at the foot of the hill where it had been last used.  Morgan entered the town peacefully and without force.

His men patrolled, and a few came into the square and formed a line.  As no citizen seemed to object or resist, Morgan and his staff rode up to the only hotel in town and ordered supplies and feed for his horses.  The rest of the band came straggling in and made camp below the community.  By twelve o’clock the lights were out.  About sunrise the Madison Home Guard swept into town forming a line on Main Street.  The Captain was just preparing to give a command for a cavalry movement to show off their horsemanship and new uniforms when a citizen informed him that General Morgan and his staff were asleep in the hotel and his men were camped by the cave spring northeast of town.  Upon hearing this, the Captain and his men wheeled their horses and made haste to leave the area.

As morning progressed, the Postmaster was held up, the post office, was looted of all cash and postage stamps.  According to Josephine Shea, General Morgan and a few of his men took the mail bags down to her grandfathers Patrick Shea’s home and emptied the contents on the living room floor, opening all the letters.  Many of the letters contained money from soldiers to their families which was also stolen.  After opening the mail Morgan demanded that the Shea family cook dinner for him.

In town, three general stores were broken into and the men fitted themselves in new clothes and boots and took corn and sides of bacon. 

At about eleven o’clock the raiders left town.  Two miles east of Lexington a farmer hailed them shouting “Hurray for Jeff Davis.”  Morgan’s response was “good, now bring me your best horses and help the cause.” And they forced him to lead the way to Dupont.  The farmer eventually walked home a much wiser man.

All horses were not as easy to come by for General Morgan and his troops.  However, a lawyer living in Lexington decided to ride to Vienna on July 10th to catch a train to Seymour.  He rode a neighbor’s horse called “old Bill,” known throughout the county as having spells of temperament.  On this day, when a rider from Morgan’s Raiders intercepted him, they tried to commandeer or steal Old Bill for their cause, the cantankerous old horse would not budge.  Raider after raider attempted to mount the horse.  The raiders finally gave up and let the lawyer mount him and at which time Old Bill relaxed and moved on down the road, having displayed his loyalty.

Later that evening, General Shackford’s advance guard rode through Lexington in search of Morgan and his Raiders.  Many of Shackford’s men were asleep in their saddles, tired from the long pursuit.

In Lexington, as in many other places, the Confederates plundered dwellings and stores and appropriated horses and supplies.  On Saturday, July 11th, they moved north to Blocher, Deputy and Paris, Indiana.  The northern route was chosen because Morgan’s scouts had learned that Colonel Sering, with 2000 troops, was between him and the Ohio River.  However, Morgan’s right wing under Colonel Smith, went eastward, threatened Madison, and fought Jefferson County Home Guard at Kent and at Paris, the Raiders robbed a store before leaving the town.

From Paris they continued north to Vernon where they encountered a well-entrenched force of 500 men under Colonel Williams.  In order to conceal his weakness, Morgan sent in a demand under a flag of truce to surrender.  Colonel Williams replied, “that he was abundantly able to hold the place; if General Morgan got it he must take it by a hard fight.”

Under the cover of minor skirmishes, Morgan continued on to Dupont, eight miles south of Vernon.  They arrived there at midnight and raided the F.F. Mayfield’s new packing factory.  The Confederates also destroyed the depot and tracks of the Madison & Indianapolis Railroad.  Morgan continued on to Versailles and Osgood, burning bridges and plundering as he traveled.  Finally, he crossed the White River into Ohio on July 13th.

General John Hunt Morgan was captured and imprisoned in the Ohio State Prison at Columbus, from which he escaped on the night of November 27, 2863, and eventually rejoined the Confederate forces in the south.

The colorful career of this daring capable southern leader was brought to an abrupt end on September 4, 1864 in the town of Greenville, in eastern Tennessee.  He was betrayed by a woman, Mrs. Lucy Williams in whose home he was quartered at the time, to a group of Federal cavalry.  General Morgan, realizing the enemy had surrounded the house, attempted to make his escape through the garden behind the house, but while mounting his horse, he was shot and killed, although, it is said he had attempted to surrender.



Photo Attributes

Morgan's Map - By Original uploader was Scott Mingus at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia, Public Domain,

John Hunt Morgan -

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