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Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan

Confederate Military History, Volume 9

BY COL. J. STODDARD JOHNSTON.





     Brigadier-General John Hunt Morgan made one of the most unique records of the war between the North and South. He was born in Huntsville, Ala., June 1, 1826. When but four years of age, he was carried by his father to the vicinity of Lexington, Ky., where he was brought up on a farm and received a common school education. He was the oldest of six brothers, all of whom, except one, who was too young to bear arms, did military service for the Confederate States. It is said he was a lineal descendant of the celebrated Daniel Morgan of revolutionary fame. In the war with Mexico, young Morgan raised a company of which he was made captain. But peace was made before he had entered upon active service*(see note below). It is stated that upon the disbanding of this company, Morgan indemnified out of his own means every man for the time that he had lost. Soon after the Mexican war he engaged in the manufacture of bagging and jeans for the Southern market. At the commencement of the war he was detained at home by the illness and death of his wife.

As soon as he could do so, he secretly collected a band of twenty-five men, and leaving his home made his way to Green river and reported to the Confederate officer in command there as ready for duty. He was soon commissioned as captain of Kentucky volunteers and placed under the command of Gen. Simon B. Buckner. He was stationed with some other cavalry upon duty on Green river. He immediately began his wonderful career, keeping the enemy between Green river and Bacon creek in a constant state of alarm. After the fall of Fort Donelson he was attached to Hardee's command and told to watch the movements of the enemy. This he did, and in a series of daring adventures alarmed the enemy even in the vicinity of Nashville. On the earnest recommendation of General Beauregard, Morgan was appointed colonel of the Second Kentucky cavalry April 4, 1862. A short time before Bragg's Kentucky campaign Morgan, leaving Tennessee with less than 1,000 men, penetrated a country in the hands of the Federals, captured seventeen towns, destroying all government supplies and arms in them, dispersed 1,500 horne guards and paroled nearly 1,200 regular troops.
 

     In his official report of these operations made to Gen. E. Kirby Smith, Morgan says that he left Knoxville with 900 men and returned with 1,200, having lost of the number that he carried into Kentucky in killed, wounded and missing about 90. During this raid he had destroyed military stores, railroad bridges and other property to the value of eight or ten million dollars. In this expedition he had greatly mystified the enemy by an instrument hitherto unused in offensive warfare. This was a portable electric battery. It was only necessary to take down the telegraph wire, connect it with his portable battery and head off and answer all messages passing between Louisville and Nashville. On his retreat Morgan took possession of the wires on his route and countermanded all the orders that had been sent to intercept him. In recognition of his great services he was, on the suggestion of General Bragg, commissioned brigadier-general December 11, 1862. His exploits made it necessary to garrison every important town in Kentucky and Southern Ohio and Indiana.

         His most wonderful exploit was the great raid through those States from the 2d to the 20th of July, 1863. With about 2,000 horsemen and four cannon he crossed the Cumberland river near Burkesville. Moving rapidly forward he met and defeated Wolford's Kentucky Union command. At Brandenburg on the Ohio his bold raiders captured two steamboats. Then, while one half of the command crossed the Ohio and attacked about 1,000 men on the Indiana side, Morgan with the other half turned his artillery on two gunboats that had come down the river to prevent the crossing, and drove them off. Then crossing the river Morgan dispersed or captured the whole Federal force. Next he captured Corydon and about 1,200 citizens and soldiers who tried to defend it. No pillaging was allowed. Only provisions for men and provender for stock were taken.
 
 

At last, after passing through fifty-two towns, nine in Kentucky, fourteen in Indiana and twenty-nine in Ohio, and having captured nearly 6,000 prisoners and damaged public property to the amount of ten million dollars, Morgan and his men were captured. Some were sent to Camp Morton, Indiana. Morgan and his chief officers were taken to Columbus, Ohio, where they were treated like common felons. But Morgan and six of his officers, with no tools but case knives, cut their way through the solid stone, tunneled underground and made their escape. In 1864 Morgan was again in the field giving his enemies any amount of trouble. On the 4th of September, 1864, at Greeneville, Tenn., he was surrounded by the enemy, and in attempting to escape was shot and instantly killed. Such was the sad fate of this illustrious cavalry leader.
 
 
 
 

Hunt-Morgan House
201 N. Mill, Lexington, KY
Home of Gen. Morgan, built by
John Wesley Hunt in 1814. The
Morgan's Men Association help
maintain this historic landmark
as well as  a  museum on
the second floor.


Note: According to author, James A. Ramage, in his book, "Rebel Raider: The Life of General John Hunt Morgan", John enlisted in Co K, 1st Regiment of  Kentucky Mounted Volunteers on June 9, 1846. Also enlisting was his brother Calvin and uncle, Alexander Morgan. All three were merely privates in the ranks eventhough his uncle was offered a commission, he preferred to stay beside his nephews. On Feb 22, 1847  they arrived at Buena Vista, Mexico and joined Gen. Zachary Taylor's forces. Here they were outnumbered by the Mexican Army by over three to one. They fought dismounted and were reported to have acted with "promptness and bravery" operating with "coolness and skill". On Feb 23, 1847, the U.S. forces faced a massive attack by Santa Anna. Under "hot and incessant" enemy fire they "stood as firm as the rocks of the mountain". After the Indiana and Illinois infantry retreated, the Kentucky and Arkansas troopers had to fall back to prevent being surrounded. It was at this moment that Uncle Alexander Morgan and five others of Company K died. Alexander was reported to have fought the Mexican lancers "until litterly cut to pieces".  After returning back to Kentucky, June 19, 1847, Morgan raised a company of cavalry in hope of returning to the army. By the time he reached Mexico for this second tour of duty, hostilities had ended.   Back to footnote.



 
 
 
 
 

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The "Gen. Morgan's Grand March" (by C. L. Peticolas, 1864 Richmond, Virginia, dedicated to the officers and privates of Gen. Morgan's Command) midi file from "The Borderland Collection", Copyrighted 1998; Scott K.Williams,All Rights Reserved.